Columbia Reissues

Steve Perry

If emotions are a language that can be converted into sound, they’re translated articulately and eloquently by Steve Perry. He is, quite simply, a master of musical interpretation. And every note is wrenched from him with such passion and conviction that there’s little doubt life has often driven a stiletto heel straight through his heart. Even his upbeat vocals are tinged with a wistfulness that suggests hard-won happiness.Yes, Steve Perry can carry a tune — the way power lines carry high voltage. The expanded reissues of Perry’s solo ventures — Street Talk, For The Love Of Strange Medicine, and Greatest Hits — strip away the insulation and lay bare the voltage that jolted Journey into a global superpower after he joined. And exposed a talent that thrived beyond the boundaries of any band.

Perry’s self-produced solo debut, 1984’s upbeat, poppy Street Talk hit the pavement after the release of Journey’s Frontiers album. Backed by a band as tight as a vacuum-packed jar, Perry co-wrote all the material, including chart-chargers “Oh Sherrie” and “Foolish Heart.” There’s also the bright synth-rock of “It’s Only Love,” the catchy, buoyant “Strung Out” and “Running Alone,” whose sweeping majesty showcases Perry at his emotive best. The five bonus tracks are some of the album’s standouts, like the rollicking rocker “Makes No Difference,” displaying Perry hitting a stratospheric high note;“Harmony,” in which his crooning tenderly caresses the delicate accompaniment; and the tangy, horn-honking Motown groove of “Don’t Tell Me Why You’re Leaving.”

For The Love Of Strange Medicine, in contrast, sighs with longing and aching poignancy. It’s replete with ballads, but that’s not a criticism — Perry quite stylishly wears his heart on his sleeve. And Lincoln Brewster’s compatibly stunning, wailing blues guitar seems to sympathize. Together, they perform a synchronized, graceful dance on bittersweet ballads like “I Am,” “Donna Please” and “One More Time,” as well as the funky, animated harmonica-and-syncopation-saturated “Friends of Mine.”

As for Greatest Hits, it should instead have been titled The Comprehensive Steve Perry. Hardly a bunch of filler, it’s a meaty collection of hits, demos and previously unreleased material flaunting a voice that could powerfully and ardently sing about aluminum siding, lint or crabgrass. Heck, he could probably even sing with a chorus of angels. And upstage them.

~ Merryl Lentz

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