Steve Perry "Against The Wall" - the unreleased 1988 solo album

Here is some news that I never expected to report: Steve Perry is back from oblivion! The former Journey vocalist, who sang the lead on almost all of the San Francisco arena-rock supergroup’s well-known hit songs, is about to release his third solo album, titled Traces, on October 5, 2018. This is Perry’s first solo album since For The Love Of Strange Medicine in 1994, and his first studio work since the weak but platinum-selling 1996 Journey album Trial By Fire. After the recording of the latter album, Perry was sidelined by a hip injury suffered in a hiking accident. Perry was then unable to tour with Journey because he put off having the necessary surgery, and the band subsequently replaced him. Perry is now finally returning to the recording business after two decades of invisibility. And, now that he has publicly resurfaced in the internet age, Mr. Perry has launched an official website and opened social media accounts.

There was also a long hiatus – a decade, to be exact – between Perry’s first two solo releases. His solo debut Street Talk was released in 1984. During the ten years between that album and Medicine, Perry also worked on another solo album in 1988 (shortly after Journey temporarily broke up in 1987). Perry recorded 11 tracks for this album, which was to be titled Against The Wall, but the album was shelved by Sony after that company acquired Columbia Records, and it has still never been properly released. However, the 11 tracks later turned up in different places: three of them were issued as bonus tracks on the 2006 reissue of Medicine, seven were included on the 1998 Perry compilation Greatest Hits + Five Unreleased, and the other – “It Won’t Be You” – was a B-side on the 1994 “Missing You” maxi-single. Ultimate Classic Rock suggests a sequence (listed below) in which to play these tracks to piece together the album.

The intended Against The Wall album was mostly made up of emotion-laden ballads that bear less resemblance to Journey than to Rod Stewart’s ‘80’s hits. This would seem to be a good way to showcase the indescribable range and emotional power of Perry's vocals, which are among the most impressive in rock music. Most of these songs have a bombastic presentation that makes them sound like they were recorded for movie soundtracks. The instrumentation tends to be synth-heavy, although these songs are generally not as bland as the synth-pop tunes found on Street Talk. However, they do often suffer from overblown slickness, and (not surprisingly) Perry sometimes tends to over-emote. Among the heart-aching ballads, the ones that work the best are “What Was” and “It Won’t Be You”, on which Perry’s vocals are more controlled, and the piano and string arrangements are more tasteful.

The album does sometimes show a sense of humor, particularly on “Can’t Stop”, a rhythm-and-blues number where Perry playfully expresses an obsessive love for a woman. Unfortunately, the song’s excessive production polish makes the instrumentation sound slippery when it ought to be a bit gritty. The same can be said for "Friends Of Mine", the hardest-rocking track in the bunch.

The Against The Wall album tracks are generally too melodramatic for their own good. If the album had been properly finished, some of its flaws might have been ironed out, and it probably would have achieved at least moderate commercial success if it had been released in 1988.

Steve Perry “Against the Wall” (Columbia, unreleased) 1988

Track List (in no official order):

1. Against the Wall -- (from Greatest Hits + Five Unreleased)
2. Summer of Luv -- (from Greatest Hits + Five Unreleased)
3. If You Need Me, Call Me -- (For the Love of Strange Medicine 2006 reissue bonus track)
4. What Was -- (from Greatest Hits + Five Unreleased)
5. Forever Right or Wrong (Love's Like a River) -- (from Greatest Hits + Five Unreleased)
6. Can't Stop -- (For the Love of Strange Medicine 2006 reissue bonus track)
7. Once in a Lifetime, Girl -- (from Greatest Hits + Five Unreleased)
8. Melody -- (from Greatest Hits + Five Unreleased)
9. When You're in Love (For the First Time) -- (from Greatest Hits + Five Unreleased)
10. It Won't Be You -- (B-side of “Missing You” maxi-single)
11. Friends Of Mine -- (For the Love of Strange Medicine 2006 reissue bonus track)


CyregO said…
Hello Rarebird's Rock and Roll Nest, just a brief observation: it seems to me that 'It Wont Be You' should not be included on this lost album.

To explain: while the 10 confirmed songs on "Against the Wall" were all written and composed around 1988 in collaboration with Randy Goodrum, as was the "Street Talk" album some years before, this one was co-written with Adrian Gurvitz and Tony Brock (Gurvitz playing the guitar, synth and keyboard bass, and Brock having programmed the drums). Unfortunately, I don't have the exact year of this recording, but I think it dates from around 1991/1992, when Steve was experimenting with different musicians such as Clif Magness, Dick Wagner, Nuno Bettencourt, or the now infamous Phil Brown... and before he met Paul Taylor in 1992/1993 and they started writing the "For the Love of Strange Medicine" album together.

It was released for the first time in August 1994, as a B-side of the FTLOSM's 'Missing You' single, Steve Perry pointing out that 'It won't be you', along with 'Melod'y, were "some of [his] favorite unreleased material".

One thing's for sure, however: in the booklet of his 1998 "Greatest Hits + Five Unreleased" compilation album, he doesn't classify this writing demo neither as part of the "Against the Wall" 1988-89 sessions, unlike the other seven on this album (including 'Melody'), nor as part of the FTLOSM 1993 sessions, like 'You Better Wait' and 'Missing You'.