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Journey: Infinity - Album Of The Week Club review

It's 1978. Journey are going nowhere, but they have a plan. His name is Steve Perry, and Infinity is the result

Journey - Infinity Album sleeve
(Image: © Sony Music)
Journey - Infinity

(Image credit: Sony Music)

1. Lights
2. Feeling That Way
3. Anytime
4. La Do Da
5. Patiently
6. Wheel In The Sky
7. Somethin' To Hide
8. Winds Of March
9. Can Do
10. Opened The Door

Steve Perry was not a unanimous choice as Journey’s new singer. But when Perry presented the bluesy Lights to the band, everyone sensed the possibilities.

Tellingly, Lights was chosen as Infinity’s opening track – an introduction to the new Journey – and it remains one of the band’s best-loved songs, as does this album’s Wheel In The Sky.

Under pressure from Columbia Records, who’d done their bit by hiring Queen’s producer Roy Thomas Baker, the refocused Journey delivered their first set of accessible mainstream rock songs. The payoff was instant.

Every week, Album of the Week Club listens to and discusses the album in question, votes on how good it is, and publishes our findings, with the aim of giving people reliable reviews and the wider rock community the chance to contribute. 

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Background

It’s impossible to talk about Journey without the towering presence of their manager Herbie Herbert, a bear of a man with a personality and reputation that, at times, has almost seemed to eclipse (pun intended) the band. 

Think Peter Grant, if he weren’t quite so intimidating and wasn’t surrounded by henchmen with fists at the ready. Herbie loved music and loved Journey. He dedicated his life to their needs and to the advancement of their career. He had a vision and nobody was gonna fuck with it, and recruiting a vocalist to the group was paramount to his plan. 

In Steve Perry, Herbert had found the proverbial needle in the haystack – a vocalist with unlimited range, unique delivery and looks that killed. The consummate frontman, in fact. There is every reason to believe that Perry singlehandedly rescued Journey from interminable underachievement. 

Other albums released in January 1968

  • White Hot - Angel
  • Excitable Boy - Warren Zevon
  • City to City - Gerry Rafferty
  • White Music - XTC
  • Attention Shoppers! - Starz
  • Double Live Gonzo! - Ted Nugent
  • Endless Wire - Gordon Lightfoot
  • I'm Ready - Muddy Waters
  • Level Headed - Sweet
  • The Modern Dance - Pere Ubu
  • Open Fire - Ronnie Montrose

What they said...

"The problem with this album is that the variation was left behind from the previous albums in favour of a more straightforward, crowd-pleasing album. Any jazz-laden roots are being left behind for pop-rock, and somehow the members who have appeared in albums of talent and quality have agreed to change." (Sputnik Music)

"Dead and buried were the jazz fusion overtones of previous offerings, and with the new songwriting combo of Perry/Neal Schon leading the march, the band set out to completely redefine their sound. Traditional pop arrangements were now adopted, cutting out the unnecessary musical fat, and allowing each band member to play to his strength (AllMusic)

"There isn't a whole lot of diversity on this album – or the rest of Journey's career for that matter. They would only really know two modes: Fast arena-rockers and melodramatic ballads. For that reason, Journey's discography becomes somewhat tiresome to sit through. But, at least on this album, no matter what mode they're in, they always manage to find a vocal hook or an instrumental texture to engage my ears." (Don Ignacio)

What you said...

James Doughty: It's difficult to overstate the effect Steve Perry's joining had on Journey. Not just with respect to his singing, but also with the effect the presence of a singer had on the rest of the band. They were admittedly reluctant towards him, and were it not for the insistence of manager Herbie Herbert they would have retained Robert Fleischmann, or recruited someone else. 

But with Infinity Perry proved he was the only choice. His songwriting ability completely redirected the style of the band from fusion noodlers to song stylists. The jump in quality to Infinity from the previous album Next is so pronounced there could have been three in between. 

The band's new direction so suited them that they were playing better than ever. Even Rolie's singing was vastly improved in his efforts to keep up with Perry. The other members of Journey were already virtuosos. Now they had a singer who was as good as they were. Wheel in the Sky became their first legitimate hit, and more than half the tracks on the album remain classic rock radio staples to this day. Journey would experience more creative peaks during Perry's tenure, notably with the Escape album, but Infinity is where they proved they belonged in the big leagues.

Jacob Tannehill: The magic of this album to those who were not familiar with the fact that this was Perry’s first album with them, is that it sounds like a “seasoned” band, and Perry sounds like he’d been in the band longer than this though they hadn’t. 

Once I found out that this was his first album with them I immediately checked out the earlier albums, and needless to say I was disappointed. From this album on, this is the Journey I know and love. Really no clunkers on this at all!

Gary Villapiano: This is one of the finest albums ever made - for myriad reasons. We all fell in love with Steve's voice immediately... and Roy Thomas Baker's production captured all those harmonies perfectly. 

Still, the way Greg and Steve shared lead vocals remains gripping. I must also say this album captured Neil's superb guitar playing (before he got into his manic overplaying that dominates his style now).

I still blast this regularly - because it deserves it. I think it's their best.

Graham Tarry: I had, and loved, their three albums prior to this, but buying it at the time it was like a breath of fresh air. Great songs, superb production; just wonderful stuff, overshadowed by the later AOR success, this is a classic slice of US Rock.

Andrew McCourt: The ending of Feeling That Way connects perfectly with the start of Anytime. So much so that my local rock radio station used to play them back-to-back. And the vocal interplay between Rolie and Perry was a great way to introduce Perry's voice to fans.

Michael Anderson: The make or break album for Journey. Have always loved the combined songs of Feeling That Way and Anytime, and how Perry and Rollie intertwine their vocals. Fun fact: Journey started recording this record with a different lead singer – Robery Fleischman. He's a credited writer of Wheel In The Sky. You can listen to his demo of that song on YouTube. The Steve Perry version turned out much better!

Martin Millar I'm 55 seconds in and I already hate it. EDIT: Now on the second song and I'm bailing out. This is rock music minus the sex, drugs and rock'n'roll.

Emiel Lange: What an amazing album. I first heard Journey on their Escape album. Loved it so much I immediately dove into their back catalogue. This one still stands out. Maybe even better than Escape or Frontiers.

Bill Griffin: Journey had become my favourite band (and a local one too) with the release of Next, the previous album. I managed to see them on the ensuing tour without any of the new singers that were being floated out there at various shows.

As a result, I really was not happy with the new direction and I think Baker's production is terrible (odd because I love his work with Queen) but I couldn't deny the appeal of the new songs, they just weren't Journey as I knew them.

Somethin' To Hide and Winds Of March recall the first three albums and are my favourites from the album. I also hate when a record company forces a change on a band; Columbia knew what they were getting when they signed them. That was another bone of contention; Rush got the same pressure from their label, basically told them to piss off (as politely as possible, being Canadians) and made the record they wanted to make knowing full well it might be their last. Journey caved.

The other thing that made me dislike this direction was for about three years, it seemed as if they were the headliner for every concert I went to. I really got tired of seeing them (though they played Nickle & Dime on the Infinity tour which I don't remember them playing on the Next tour. What an incredible instrumental.)

Pete Mineau: I remember discovering the first three Journey albums after I found out the band was comprised of Santana and Zappa alumni. I liked the jazzy, fusiony jamming of those early albums.

Just out of high school in 1977, I joined the navy. As luck would have it, I got stationed in California. Coming from a desolate part of the Midwest, I was in awe of the L.A. radio stations! In early 1978, Journey's Infinity was being played all over the place out there! It had a different sound and feel than their earlier releases. I found it more in the vein of REO Speedwagon, Styx and/or Foreigner who were also quite popular at the time. I immediately went out and bought the 8-track tape version of it.

I was sad when I found out that Ansley Dunbar was fired later that year after Infinity came out, but I continued to follow Journey through their next few releases. I was disappointed when founding member Gregg Rollie left the band, but happy to find that his replacement was Jonathan Cain, as I was a fan of The Babys.

After 1981's Escape I pretty much gave up on Journey. I found them leaning on ballads too much and I was getting into a lot of New Wave music that was popular at the time.

But back to Infinity, it's a good album that brings back a lot of memories. I always thought La Do Da should have been released as an A-side single rather than the B-side to Anytime. (Feeling That Way and Anytime should have been released as a double sided single, in my opinion.) The album has a pretty nice flow to it, but I find the last four songs on it forgettable. Over all, I'd give it a 4 out of 5 rating.

John Edgar: Although the first three albums will always represent my favourite version of Journey, this particular album ended up being something special. With this album, Journey truly transformed into a different band. 

The first three albums along with this featured album and Evolution, to me, represent the best of Journey. I was never a big fan of the even more pop-flavoured hit machine that they later became. I have a bootleg of a very early performance with Steve Perry that truly indicates how unsure the band was, in regard to Perry's involvement. 

The first three quarters of the show features only songs from the first three releases, then Perry is introduced and the band performs about three or four songs from the Infinity album. Even the crowd seems a bit unenthused with the songs that involve Perry. This lack of affinity from the audience, for Perry, is a true indicator that Infinity was the first Journey music that had ever been heard by the public at large. I've spoken to many people, over the years, who thought Infinity was the first Journey album

Jochen Scholl: This album is unique in style and Sound. I love the prog elements and the steaming guitar work e.g. in Winds Of March and even in balladesque songs like Patiently or Lights. Wheel in the Sky is among the jewels of the decade. I don't like to compare it with the more successful era after Jonathan Cain joined (it's great in its own right) but in my eyes Infinity is the defining Journey album!

Jonathan Novajosky: Sometimes I think Journey doesn't get enough respect as being a great rock band. Sure, we're all tired of hearing Don't Stop Believin' and Open Arms, but they really have some great deep cuts across many albums. Infinity is a great example; and while it isn't the juggernaut that Escape is or as great start to finish as Evolution, it still stands as one of their best albums. 

The two big songs, Lights and Wheel in the Sky are classics despite being overplayed. The real standouts to me are Feeling That Way and Anytime. I love the perfect contrast of Steve Perry and Gregg Rolie on Feeling That Way, with their different pitched vocals.

Most of the songs are incredibly catchy too, which can be expected from a Journey album. La Do Da is another deep cut that doesn't get much love. Patiently is a solid ballad, but definitely not one of their best (I prefer some of their others like Still They Ride and Faithfully). A few of the last tracks aren't too special, but are by no means throwaways, making Infinity a mostly solid album throughout. 

Journey would only get better from here, releasing their two best albums in Evolution and Escape. But on its own before those two were released, I'm sure Infinity really blew listeners away every time and Anytime. 8.5/10

Mike Knoop: I bought Infinity as a teen sometime after Journey’s Escape went supernova. This album seemed a pretty safe bet given there were at least four major FM radio hits on it. I remember not liking it all that much back then; too many ballads, still too much a whiff of patchouli and flower power. Time has not changed my opinion all that much: Patiently and Winds Of Change both pick up in the second half, but you have to endure a whole lotta mope first. I tend to reach for the skip button when Can Do or Opened The Door start up.

But when Infinity’s good, it’s really good. Something to Hide is a hidden gem among their bounty of ballads and a dazzling showcase for Steve Perry. He had one of the best singing voices in rock, powerful and malleable, yet at the same time, not the slightest hint of threat to it. Like your big brother who always willingly let you tag along, not like the scary stoner brother. 

La Do Da is one of Journey's harder rockers and really brings all the best elements of the band together. Of the hits, Lights has aged the best, Wheel in the Sky the worst - too much pseudo mystical wordplay. The two songs sung with Gregg Rolie make me feel a little wistful for the way their two voices played off of each other.

Future keyboardist Jonathan Cain was a hit-writing machine, but I always had a soft spot for Rolie. I mean, the guy played with Santana for crying out loud. Same with Schon, who seemed to be everywhere in the 80s and early 90s. Not just Journey, but his supergroups HSAS (Hagar Schon Aaronson Shrieve) and Bad English, early MTV hit and power chord extravaganza No More Lies from his collaboration with Jan “Miami Vice” Hammer (where Schon sings lead!), all the way to the hair band come lately Hardline and Hot Cherie. Any of his projects were always good for at least one solid hit. Drummer Aynsley Dunbar was no slouch either, with a discography longer than a gorilla’s arm.

Of all the commercial rock bands coming out of the 70s and 80s, Journey was perhaps the hardest to hate. And when things clicked – and for about half a decade they really clicked – they were pretty easy to love.

John Davidson: OK. I didn't hate this and I frankly expected to.

The album starts with Lights, which sees Journey sounding like a white – almost barber shop – soul band enhanced with some guitar solos. I almost didn't get past this.

Feeling That Way starts like a second rate Elton John song, but Perry's vocals actually lift this one a little . The transition to Anytime is cheesy, though the song itself is a decent enough mid-paced Joe Walsh/Bob Seger type song . It doesn't really go anywhere but it doesn't offend.

La Do Da picks up the pace and would make an excellent instrumental. Patiently is a power ballad, but without the power. It has a decent instrumental section in the middle but is otherwise pretty forgettable. Wheel in the Sky has a better vibe, slightly scuffed up rather than super slick it has that dusty western vibe (albeit a Hollywood recreation rather than the wide open plains of Wyoming)

Something To Hide has little to offer; another mid paced rocker that sounds like a hundred other songs. Winds Of Change is another ballad with a rockier instrumental section that lifts it out of well deserved obscurity. Can Do is a lightweight party rocker of the kind Boston perfected, though not a dance floor filler .

Opened The Door closes the album. Musically it's pretty decent. The guitar work is interesting and the song structure works pretty well, but the vocals once again do nothing for me.

Neil Schon is undoubtedly a fine guitarist and there are some really good musical sections, but overall the songs lack much in the way of zip – rarely moving away from a mid-paced sway rather than a foot stomping rock. Perry is a large part of the problem. His voice dominates most of the songs, but it just doesn't work for me.

I can't help but wonder what Journey would have sounded like with a throaty Dan McAfferty-type singer who would have counterpointed the slick guitars and soulless songs with some genuine emotional heft. The rest of the band seem pretty average - the drums, bass and keyboards are thoroughly middle of the road. 

In fairness, I didn't hate this album. It isn't quite as slick and soulless as I feared but it skirts pretty close. If I want slick American rock I'd pick Boston.

Shane Reho: Let me begin by saying that I usually am one of the last to recommend anything by Journey that isn't their first album (great album, could've used a better mixing job, though). However, this album has very few weaknesses, which makes me question whether radio overkill has put me off or whether it's just the stuff after Rolie left that I can't touch. 

Luckily, radio hasn't beat this album to death. Sure, Lights and Wheel In The Sky get played a lot, but as much as Don't Stop Believin' or any of those crappy Jonathan Cain power ballads? Thankfully no. Can Do is the only song here I would say stands out for the wrong reasons, it doesn't do much and sounds like it was put on to add a couple minutes to the album. 

That aside, the rest of the album works, and it's easy to see why it made them big. The songs are great, so are the performances, especially the harmonies on Feeling That Way/Anytime and Neal Schon's guitar work on Winds of March. Overall, it isn't perfect, but it's damn good. 9/10.

Darren Burris: Great album! Feeling That Way and Anytime are just incredible! The way Steve and Greggs voices blend together is awesome! Luv all the songs when those two trade off on vocals. 

Carl Black: I've given this three spins this week and one thing still amazes me about this album, and all the other albums of this ilk (Boston, Survivor et Al) is now do they get a crunchy, guitar sound to end up sounding as light as a feather. La Do Da is a classic example. 

The album got better as it went along but apart from the above observation, nothing really leapt out and grabbed me. One improvement from Don't Stop Believing was the drumming. In the aforementioned song I always thought the drumming was overly complicated and bitty. This album has none of that. Different drummer perhaps? Doesn't really. Another very middle of the road for me.

Brian Carr: Infinity is probably the Journey album I listen to most. Strong melodies are hard for me to resist and for Journey, melody is king. Perry’s voice is the obvious example, but every time I listen to Neil Schon’s guitar work, I always come away impressed at his melodic sense - so many singable hooks are built into his leads. I really think he’s an underrated player. 

I also really like Rollie as a vocalist. He put out an album with Smith and Valory in the 90s called The Storm. It went nowhere, but fans of this type of melodic rock (like me) will really like it.

The stories of the contrived nature in which Steve Perry was added hit me where it hurts - the business world taking over music and force-feeding artists to the masses grates on me intellectually. But I just can’t deny the end result of albums like Infinity.

Roland Bearne: I love Journey! This is great, not actually heard it that often so great to spin it again. Of the "played to death" songs Lights holds up comparatively well. La Do Da is rather splendid and one could go on but it's all been said really. A nice rediscovery, and that it is all beautifully played goes without saying. Nice. Simples.

Final Score: 7.65 ⁄10 (265 votes cast, with a total score of 2029)

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