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Journey & Friends – King Biscuit Flower Hour Session 1978

March 1, 2011

While admittedly I’m not the biggest Journey fan, I do enjoy the occasional guilty pleasure relapse into their music. This past week happened to be one such instance of Journey relapse when I decided to check out a new archival release [digital only] that was just put up on Wolfgang’s Vault, who are the gods of digging up lost and unreleased recordings (in particular their access to King Biscuit Flower Hour broadcasts is wonderful).

This particular session was recorded at Automatt Studio in San Francisco, CA, and features the band at a crossroads in their career. While their newest LP Infinity was on its way to becoming a runaway success, it was new territory for a band whose previous three records were all categorized as progressive and hard rock.

Impressed and/or confused by the whirling organ and blistering guitar solos? Don’t be. You’re hearing Gregg Rolie (keys) and Neil Schon (guitar), two virtuosic musicians who played on early Santana albums and stuck with Journey into their much more successful commercial era (to this day Schon remains the only Journey member to have played on all of their albums). You may also notice the vocals sound a bit… different. The above track features Gregg Rolie handling lead vocal duties, because Journey’s most famous vocalist – Steve Perry – didn’t make his first recorded appearance until Infinity.

But I digress. The recording at hand is special not only because it’s a lost broadcast featuring Steve Perry as he’s still getting comfortable with the band, but the session also includes guest vocals from Annie Sampson and Jo Baker of San Francisco band Stoneground. In addition to that, Tom Johnston (singer, songwriter & guitarist) of the Doobie Brothers pops in as well as the entire Tower Of Power horn section! It’s quite a diverse lineup of musicians, and they certainly put their talents to good use.

While the 4 bookend songs on this recording are all great Journey originals off of Infinity, they pale in comparison to the studio versions. Rather it’s the 8 blues & soul covers filling out the space between that provide the real meat of this “Supersession.” These tunes are just a blast; you can tell the band is having a great time recording and put their all into it. Following a solid rendition of “Roadrunner,” their version of “Love Hurts” is unfortunately fairly underwhelming to these ears (that’s the Nazareth bias talking), but the following six songs more than make up for it. The band gets surprisingly soulful on “Hold On (I’m Coming)” and “Show Me,” while between them Perry finds some time to showcase his impressive pipes with “People Get Ready.” Then the band pulls out all the stops for the electrifying blues classics “Crossroads” and “Born Under A Bad Sign” before wrapping up the set with the two hits you undoubtedly already know by heart.

It’s truly a marvel that before their massive popularity really hit, Journey was able to get together with some friends and put out such a fun session. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like it’s available to buy from the Vault yet, but in the meantime you can stream it off the site (albeit at a paltry 96kbps bit rate). But if you’re even a little curious, I definitely recommend checking it out. Happy listening!


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