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With new singer and new popularity, Journey still believin' after 35 yearsby John J. Moser - Of The Morning Call
August 30, 2011
It's no small feat that classic rock band Journey has one of the top-selling iTunes song of all time in "Don't Stop Believin'" considering the song was released 20 years before the music program debuted.
Or that "Don't Stop Believin'" hit the Top 10 again in 2009 charting higher than when originally released when the cast of the television show "Glee" released a new version that also went platinum.
But the real measure of lasting appeal of the band best known for its 1970s and '80s ballad rock may be the fact that, more than 35 years after first hitting the charts and with a new singer, its new albums are still charting. Its 2008 disc "Revelation" hit No. 5 and went platinum, and its latest disc, "Eclipse," released in May, went to No. 13.
There's no question the band's popularity was helped by the use of "Don't Stop Believin'" at the very end of the final episode of "The Sopranos," the hugely popular HBO mob drama that came to an end in 2007. Other Journey songs have been used on "Glee."
But Journey drummer Deen Castronovo says in a recent telephone call that the reasons go much deeper. He says the band has "two of the greatest songwriters of my generation" in guitarist Neal Schon, an original member of the band, and 31-year rhythm guitarist Jonathan Cain.
Indeed, Schon and Cain, along with former lead singer Steve Perry, composed all Journey's biggest songs. The band has 17 Top 40 hits, including "Wheel in the Sky," "Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'," "Any Way You Want It," "Open Arms," "Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)" and "Faithfully," as well as "Don't Stop Believin'."
But Castronovo also cites the 2007 addition of singer Arnel Pineda, a Filipino singer-songwriter who had limited success in his native country before Journey guitarist and songwriter Schon discovered him singing the band's songs on YouTube videos.
Castronovo says Pineda not only is able to sing the distinctive parts of Perry, who in 1998 split with the band after 20 years, but also let Journey "move in a lot more different directions as a band," including the harder rock approach it took with "Eclipse."
"A lot of people said, 'OK, you have big shoes to fill,' " Castronovo says. "Yeah, he did that, but also he has his own shoes. He's got his own style … He can do many, many genres, many styles of music.
"We don't have to rest on our laurels. We don't have to look back and say, 'OK, we need to stay with this formula and do this certain thing.' We still got a lot of life in us."
After Journey tapped its traditional sound for Pineda's first album with the band on "Revelation," Castronovo says Schon decided the band should do more of a rock record for "Eclipse."
"We've always had the ballads, we've always had these poppy songs," he says. "So we thought it would be fun to just go in and do a nice, hard-rock record like we haven't done in a long time."
He says the band went into the studio with 20 to 30 songs, and "would take one song at a time, listen to it, make whatever changes we needed to in the studio, and then go in and play it as a band live. And it came out great" the record's got that live feel and it's definitely got some drive to it."
Castronovo should know. Before joining Journey, he played in backing bands for Ozzy Osbourne, Steve Vai and Paul Rodgers, as well as in the super group Bad English with singer John Waite, Schon and current Styx bassist Ricky Phillips.
"I'm playing with the greatest musicians on the planet, in my opinion," Castronovo says. "Not just that they know their chops, and their ability to tear it up on stage" it's the songwriting. It's the music as a whole. This band is awesome. If I could play in any band, this would be the one I wanted to be in."
Castronovo has been drummer for Journey for 13 years" longer than any other drummer the band has ever had. He says his one regret is not having gotten to work with Perry, whom he says no longer has a speaking relationship with the band.
"We talk through attorneys," Castronovo says. "We don't really have a relationship with him, nor does he have one with us, nor does he want one with us. We've put out the olive branch many times, but it's a very sore subject, and I don't think either camps want to get involved in it, you know?"
But Castronovo says he remains in awe of Perry's vocal power.
"Steve Perry's a god of vocals; I'm a fan, dude," Castronovo says with a laugh. He says he met Perry when Journey received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. "It was like, 'Oh my god, I got to meet Steve Perry.' I mean, the rest of the band, they think it's crap" they know the guy. But I was freaking."
He says he understands fans who won't accept Journey without Perry.
"Obviously, if it wasn't for Steve Perry, there would have been no Journey, even though there was Journey before Steve Perry," Castronovo says. "He really put the band on the map, and we can't deny it. Some people, with us, are like, 'There's no Steve Perry, there's no Journey.' Understandable, point taken, we understand that."
But Castronovo says, "Arnel's the same way. He's one of those singers, man, that touches your heart and really makes an impact on you as a musician. The band is still a great band and we have a ton of music we still want to put out and that we want to play to the masses."
Castronovo says the new popularity Journey got from "Glee" caught him by surprise.
"I really didn't know much about 'Glee' until 'Don't Stop Believin'' got on there," says Castronovo, 46. "All I was told was that they're using it for this, like, sitcom musical thing on TV called 'Glee.' I was like, 'OK, very cool.' Saw it and I was like, 'Son of a gun, that was awesome.' It was freakin' awesome.
"And then they ended up doing 'Any Way You Want It' and 'Faithfully' and 'Don't Stop Believin',' I think, in the season finale. It was like, 'Oh come on, how awesome is this?'
"And then, of course, before that, you had 'The Sopranos' using it. And the funny thing is, I missed the damned episode. I was waiting and waiting to see it, of course. Everybody else got to see it and I missed it. I don't know why, but I missed the damned thing. I had to go see it on reruns later on."
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