For today’s adventure in Traged-Cheese we here at WMMCM at venturing close to the end of rock n’ roll as we once knew it. We’re heading all the way up to 1995 and what would be one of the greatest albums recorded by a band that is still much more associated with the late 1970′s and early 80′s.
The reason for that 70′s/80′s association is pretty simple. They broke up in 1986 at the height of their success and scattered far and wide into various solo projects and the occasional super group here and there.
After grunge had forever changed rock radio in the early 90′s it wasn’t clear at all if a band that had not released and album in nine years had any chance of finding an audience much less making their way back onto the radio and the charts. Once more Steve Perry, Neal Schon, Jonathan Cain, Steve Smith and Ross Valory proved their critics wrong and Journey topped the charts with the first single, “When You Love a Woman.” In fact “When You Love a Woman” sounds like it could have been pulled right off 1986′s Raised on Radio album.
The reunion album Trial By Fire reached the #3 spot on the charts and contained four radio hits with “When You Love a Woman” even being nominated for a Grammy as Single of the Year. In keeping with the always tempestuous Steve Perry vs, the rest of the band, Journey never toured for the album and Perry left the band for good shortly thereafter.
It was a great way to go out however as it’s the hardest rocking album Journey ever did as we’ve noted here and there. There is another song that didn’t make it into your radio speakers. The reason for that might just be because it’s just too darn sad.
“Still She Cries” is one tough song. Neal Schon sets the mood with the first notes of his slow reverbed guitar and it only goes down from there. Jonathan Cain joins in with piano and then it all stops.
A very breathy Steve Perry cuts right to the point.
“Tears that she kept from me.”
Producer Kevin Shirley actually uses Perry’s breath noise as an effect in the mix. (Something Perry started to do on his second solo album For the Love of Strange Medicine in 1994.) The small, almost gasping sound, subtly heightens Perry’s emotions as the story goes along.
“Somewhere there’s broken dreams
Where love once used to be.”
Perry is at the top of his form on “Still She Cries” living every moment of the lyrics.
“Forever yours then suddenly
One kiss she can’t remember
I wish I could forget.”
Cain’s piano is countering Perry’s vocal at every turn with full chordal runs and a re-occuring descending line that fills each break of the vocal. Steve Smith on the drums has enough sense to stay on the back beat and just keep time for now. Ross Valory’s bass is as always beautifully understated. For the two verses and first chorus he keeps it very simple and tight.
Even Schon’s guitar has mostly gone awol leaving everything to stand on Perry’s vocal and Cain’s piano.
“I hear her voice in the night, cries of joy
We were good… good… good…
I still recall how we’d touch, how we’d fall
We were good… good…good…”
That is until after the second chorus.
Schon breaks out into a moody multi-layered guitar solo that’s close to as heartbreaking as Perry’s vocals have been. Valory ramps it up with a flourish of bass runs that fit so well into the feel of “Still She Cries” you almost don’t notice they are there yet you would certainly miss them if they weren’t. (Valory has always been the kind of player that can sneak in some amazing bass work and never sound like he’s doing too much.)
“Still she cries,
Somewhere… still she cries
No one knows when lovers will walk away.”
Schon throws a beautiful little guitar run right over Perry when he sings “Still she cries” filling the space with an unexpected bit of flash that makes Perry seem disillusioned and alone.
On the final chorus Perry’s vocals are doubled up giving a quiet dissonance to the harmony, as if you can hear everything worthwhile fading away with no way to grab it back.
The final blow is taken by Jonathan Cain’s piano solo. It’s hesitant and brittle while also being strikingly beautiful. In a remarkable show of restraint, there is nary a guitar in the last minute and a half of “Still She Cries.” Everything is left to ride on Cain’s piano and Perry’s vocals to the increasingly bitter end.
“All in a memory
Where our love once used to be