• Black Jacket Symphony – Escape

    Bijou Theatre – March 19, 2016

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Knoxville loves The Black Jacket Symphony and, once again, it showed Saturday night at the Bijou as the group performed Journey’s epic LP, Escape.

    Performing in front of yet another enthusiastic, sold out crowd, BJS blew the audience away and left them begging for more. I couldn’t understand what the lead vocalist’s name was but he did an amazing job cranking out the ten songs from “Escape” as well as a hand full of Journey’s other huge hits. Did I say he was amazing?

    Yeah, he was that good.bjsescape001

    If you ever get a chance to catch any BJS, do. Regardless of what album they’re covering. They never cease to blow me away.

    Black Jacket Symphony’s schedule and upcoming projects can be followed at BlackJacketSymphony.com.

     

  • eclipse journey coverEclipse
    Journey
    Label: Nomata, LLC
    Reviewed: June, 2011

    Ford or Chevy. Coke or Pepsi. Beatles or the Stones. These are brands who enjoy strong – if not rabidly loyal – followings. For almost thirty years, we’ve even seen intense debates about intra-brand and intra-band changes. Remember when Coca-Cola tinkered with their formula to come up with New Coke which, after a consumer uprising, led to the re-establishment of Classic Coke? In music, we’ve witnessed strong debates about replacements for key members of popular bands. Rodgers for Freddie Mercury. Sammy Hagar for David Lee Roth. Dio or Osborne.

    In February of 2008, another fierce debate was ignited with Journey fans when Arnel Pineda debuted as the bands replacement for Steve Perry. Arguments have been passionate for and against this move by the boys in the band. Many Boomerocity readers have shared their very strong opinions with me regarding Pineda as the Journey front man.

    For the record, I am a huge Steve Perry fan and believe that there is no one who can ever take away from the band’s legacy that he was integral part of as it was being created. That said, I believe that Arnel is the best, most logical choice as a Perry replacement if there is never going to be a Perry/Journey reunion. And since there is no evidence that there will ever be a reunion, Journey fans either need to suck it up and continue to enjoy the band or just wear out their collection of pre-Pineda CD’s.

    I will say this: Journey’s Eclipse just may very well start a long running debate about Journey similar to the New Coke debate. Eclipse is a dang good album. I love it. A lot. However, there is no doubt that the hit making Journey formula has definitely been tinkered with and time will tell if fans like “New Journey” or demand “Classic Journey”. Journey’s last album, Revelation, kept the formula intact and provided a sonic stage for Pineda to prove himself on. Eclipse will prove to be an evolutionary step in the changing sound of the band.

    As keyboardist said in his interview with Boomerocity (here), “It’s definitely a departure from what we’ve done before. It’s more like a concept record. I think Arnel shines. He sounds great. It’s probably one of Neal’s best albums.” I would have to agree on all counts. The lyrics are as sophisticated in their structure as they are tantric in their content. Neal Schon’s guitar work is as prodigious as ever – solidifying his postion as one of rock’s best guitar slingers.

    Ten of the twelve cuts on the disc are masterfully written by Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain. My personal favorites out of those ten are:

    Edge of the Moment is fresh, different and unique with strong hints of the “Classic Journey” for kicks. I’m sure that if the band is including this rocker in their tour set list, it will have the crowd immediately on their feet. Pineda’s vocals are bang-on and Schon’s guitar is sizzling hot.

    Tantra features Jonathan Cain’s superb piano intro as it lays a solid foundation for this most philosophical tune on the CD as Pineda dang near channeled Steve Perry – especially on the soaring high notes. You can almost sense a “Send Her My Love” under current in this song.

    Human Feel laments the lack of true interaction between people as we’re “caught in a sea of e-frustration, overloaded with way too much information”. The message concludes by telling us, “What I’m needing right now is human feel, can’t substitute love and passion with too much choice there’s no satisfaction . . .” – I stopped myself from e-mailing my friends to tell them about and opted to call instead, such is the power of the message of this song.

    To Whom It May Concern is a prayer to what I would categorize as being the Athenian “unknown god” for peace, harmony and paradise “in my lifetime”. You can envision audiences swaying in unison with their Bic’s flicked and Arnel belts out the prayer and Neal lights up his guitar strings in a sizzling crescendo.

    Venus closes out Eclipse with some of the most frenetic yet precise guitar work you will ever hear. The rapturous performance will leave the listener happily exhausted while pressing the repeat button to hear it yet again.

    Eclipse is a great album. You’ll want to own it because you will definitely enjoy the heck out of it. And you die-hard Perry fans may want to set aside your die-hard bias against Arnel Pineda because this guy is here to stay and is blazing his own musical trail with Journey while recognizing and honoring the legacy of Steve Perry. Besides, it’s a dang good album. You’ll love it!

  • Posted February/March, 2011

    Photo Courtesy of Jonathan Cain

    If you are into rock music at all, then, in all likelihood, you’re more than aware of the incredible musical legacy of Journey.  How many school dances in the late 70’s and throughout the 80’s played such great slow dance songs as Faithfully and Open Arms?

    In their concerts, these songs and many, many others are greeted with squeals of approval and delight at the very opening piano riffs on those songs as well as on Who’s Crying Now.  The closest that I came to ever experiencing anything close to that reaction was the shrieks of horror during my piano recital performances.

    But that’s a whole story of its own.

    Always a huge Journey fan, my daughter bought me the Journey: Live In Houston 1981 Escape Tour DVD this past Christmas.  I smiled as I enjoyed the performances and remembered all the thoughts and memories their treasure chest of musical gems brought to mind.  Gems that drove worldwide sales of their albums to over 75 million. What also came to mind is the idea of chatting with one of the boys in the band.

    I tracked down Journey keyboardist and co-writer of many of the band’s hits, Jonathan Cain.  He was gracious enough to grant me a phone interview. I was especially flattered that he would spend a considerable amount of time on the phone immediately after spending an hour in the dentist’s chair near his home in the Nashville, Tennessee, area.

    After living in California for 30 years, Jonathan, his wife, Liz, and his three children, Madison, Weston and Liza, moved to Nashville late last year.  I go to the Bay Area a couple of times a year on business and, while I do find that part of the country absolutely beautiful and vibrant, I must confess that I left my heart in Nashville long ago.    I started our chat about what prompted his move to God’s favorite city.

     “Well, you know, I’ve been coming here since 2000 – writing with different people and we made a lot of friends in the last 10 years.  My daughter’s doing a recording down here.  We have this friend that was writing and I heard her (his daughter) sing country and I said, ‘My god, you’ve gotta sing country!’ because she’s got a great voice.  She was messing around with different styles and I heard her sing Redneck Woman and it was like, ‘Girl! This is your deal!’

    “I wanted to get her in the studio right away so we did. She cut a couple of sides and we kept coming. Then, I got her into the songwriting room.  Now, she’s seventeen.  She auditioned for Capitol records a couple of days ago, so it’s pretty serious. We’ve got a couple of other labels and some other people interested in her.  She’s got a Carrie Underwood kind of thing going on.  She’s into the progressive country – kind of ‘crossover’ country.  She has a very strong voice and she writes some good songs.  She’s been fortunate enough to get into some songwriting sessions.  I’m getting a few licks in myself.”

    Bringing the subject back around to why he moved to Nashville, Cain said, “I started in Nashville back in ’69 with Buddy Killen (the late, legendary producer and publisher). He signed me to Dial Records. I just had a singles deal down here. I kind of come full circle by coming back here.  Plus, I guess we kind of wore out our welcome in the Bay Area. It used to be such a vibrant, musical community and I think it’s kind of missing there.”

    However, there was more than just the change in the music scene that compelled Cain to move his family to the Volunteer State.

    “The whole school thing there (in the Bay Area) wasn’t so good and we knew that the schools are great here. You just know when it’s time. I just wrote a song about it – about leaving a place and just knowing that it’s time to go. I’d been there 30 years so my kids were all excited about meeting some new friends and getting the heck out of where they were. I guess we needed a life change and now we’re getting snowed on!”  With a laugh he adds, “They say that an ice age is coming and I believe them!  That’s what everybody’s saying – it’s not global warming – it’s the ice age!”

    As a die-hard Nashville fan myself, I’ve been to the town several times and found how “celebrity friendly” it is compared to, say, Los Angeles, where there seems to be paparazzi behind every bush . . . or Bentley, so to speak.  Cain’s response reflected a refreshing matter-of-fact humility that permeated the rest of our chat.

    “It is cool. I don’t have to worry about that, being a keyboard player. It’s a different way of life. I find people here are accountable citizens for people who live here.  It’s like a welcoming spirit – more than ever. It used to be, ‘Californian’s, go home!’ but I think they see that the changes are cool. The town really has a lot of culture and it has a conscience. I love the writers that are here and to get the opportunity to sit down and to sing with these great songwriters.

    “I did a show on (satellite radio) XM with Jonathan Singleton, who wrote Red Light for David Nail. The opportunities you get are just incredible. I did a show with J.D. Souther and Brett James at Tin Pan South last year. So, it’s pretty cool to kind of sit in. My daughter (Madison) and I will do gigs. I’ll sit in at Puckett’s or the Blue Bird with her. Just the other day, she was asked to sing on a David Nail record.  That will be her first background on a big time record. So, yeah, you just get opportunities here that you never have in California.

    “We got to go to the CMA awards together. My daughter has a website (www.madisoncain.com) and she’s tweeting all the time. She got to go down the red carpet at the CMA’s and she drug me along. She actually had a little feature on the E! Channel. It was ‘Rock Dads and Their Daughters’. They interviewed me, her and the family. It was a pretty good little blurb for her.”

    One thing that many Journey fans may not be aware of is that Cain is quite the wine expert.  My pre-interview research uncovered the fact that Jonathan moved from an expert wine connoisseur to a successful entrepreneur of higher end wine.  Cain explained his venture to me.

    “I’m sort of a wine savant. I go out and find the best grapes I can and make really high quality juice. We get a lot of money for it - $50 to $60 a bottle. I really like great wine. The wine I make is not for everybody. You have to have a palette to spend that kind of money on wine.

    “I’m a ‘virtual winer’.  I don’t really have my own vineyard, per se. I get grapes from cool places and make the wine. I only do a couple of hundred cases a year. I do business here in Nashville and am trying to break out in Atlanta with it.  I’m trying to get into Chicago. I partnered with Horizon Wine and Spirits here. But that’s it. We have fun.  I like wine making and I think they’re (Horizon) awesome people. We have a lot in common.”

    One of the tragedies in Chicago history took place on December 1, 1958.  A fire broke out at Our Lady of the Angels grade school, killing 3 nuns and 92 children.  From the research I conducted on the sad tragedy, families moved away, divorces destroyed several marriages of the parents of the victims, and emotional scars remained on all who were touched by the fire.

    One of the children who was at school that day was Jonathan Cain.  The fire obviously had a tremendous impact on young Jonathan and was instrumental in leading him to immerse himself into music.  It’s against that backdrop that Cain uses to write a book.  I asked Jonathan about the yet-to-be published tome.

    “It’s a memoir.  I end the book where I’m about thirteen years old. It’s about nine years of my life that I spent in Chicago. The new consensus is to finish the story and tell everybody how I got into Journey.  I don’t know. I’m going to give it a shot in the next couple of months. It’s called Mixed Blessings. I’m probably going to self-publish. It’s been a labor of love. I’ve been at it for four or five years. I’ve got some interest. I’ve got to keep going at it. The book business is in bad shape right now. It’s not good. So, the audio books are a good way to go. There are some more meetings we’re going to have next month. So, we’ll see. At this stage of the game it’s just a neat thing to be able to say you did.”

     “I was in a school fire back in ’58 where a hundred kids were killed and three nuns.  It’s telling the story of that neighborhood and how music really saved my life – from going insane. It helped me out a lot. I’m an old accordion player. We didn’t get any grief counseling or anything like that. I think that getting that squeeze box helped me get my mind straight. It’s really about the love affair I have with music.”

    Cain continued, explaining how he got into songwriting.

    “It was challenging. I wrote my first song in 8th grade. I had a piano teacher who saw something in me and challenged me. She was actually the music teacher at school – she taught choir. I wanted to get off the accordion and start playing the piano. So, she came to the house and gave me lessons. She said, ‘You have a good imagination with your music. You should try to write a song.

    “So, we had this school play – an 8th grade play – so she said, ‘I want to leave a spot in that play for your song.’ So, I was on the spot to write the song. I wrote the song about a little girl that I had a crush on. I got up there and sang it and played it. It was copyrighted and the whole deal. That was the beginning. But it wasn’t easy. I was going to school and I was interested in the writing part – and my dad thought I could do it – so I kept writing, trying to get songs done.

    “Then, when I was playing in clubs, we had a little slush fund that we saved money for studio time.  After about a year and a half or two years, we had enough money to go into the studio so that drove me to come up with ten songs. We went into a studio down in Pekin, Illinois, and recorded these songs I had written. I had been going downtown to see this guy, Bill Trout, from RCA. He would see me at the end of the day and listen to my songs and critique them and help me. I kind of had a mentor there. I was really fortunate to have him because he was big time – for Chicago, anyway. He was a producer and had his own production company.

    “So, we made this little demo. The studio owner was sending tapes around to different people. He was quite a cool dude. He sent my demo to Buddy Killen – a big time producer and publisher – and that’s why I came here (to Nashville) in ’69 and did two or three sides with him.  We had about three years together, coming down here and doing that.

    “That was my first plane flight. I got on an airplane to Nashville from Chicago and signed a record deal. My dad was with me. He was kind of my Svengali. Dad was always believing that good things were on the horizon with me. He pretty much was my cheerleader in rock for me.

    “I always tell kids when I give seminars that you have to have a ‘vision keeper’. Somebody that buys into your plan and believe in what you want to do.  He (Jonathan’s dad) was that for me. I was blessed to have a vision keeper who was my own father.  In his mind, I was always going to be a success no matter what happened. No matter how dark or shadowy the thing got – and it certainly got like that a few times.  We thought we were off to a roaring start, getting signed at 19.  Then, it was just harder than hell after that.

    “We slugged it out. Ended up on American Bandstand – went to L.A.  It was funny.  I had a friend who had seen the band. He liked our songs and liked what I was writing. He said, ‘You should come to L.A.’ It turned out that his partner was managing Wolfman Jack and they signed me as a solo artist. So, I moved to L.A. and slugged around there for awhile – hung out with Wolfman.  We got a little indie to sign us and had a Top 40 record in L.A. called Until It’s Time To Say Goodbye.  Then, I got on Dick Clark. Wolfman knew him and Dick Clark wanted somebody different. I was on the show with Natalie Cole – 1976. It was a pretty big break for me but it didn’t matter much having a single out in L.A. on the L.A. charts didn’t mean much so I still ended up doing gigs. That kind of went by the wayside. I kept going out with my band and playing different places and continuing to right a little more rock stuff.

    “We were seen by Albert Grossman, who was Bob Dylan’s manager and Janis Joplin and Albert signed me to Bearsville in ’76 or ’77. I made an album in Bearsville called Windy City Breakdown. That didn’t go so good. Everything went wrong that could go wrong. Albert said, ‘Oh, come to Bearsville.’ And, I said, ‘Why can’t we just do it here? It would be so much easier.’ We had several studios we could have done it at.  We could have done it for nothing, you know?  But he was insistent that we go all the way up to Woodstock and record this thing.

    “We went there and the studio was in shambles. Nothing worked.  The air conditioning was out and it was the dead of summer, out in the middle of forests. The place was haunted.  We were like, ‘What the hell?’  Everything that could possibly go wrong went wrong.  Tape machines breaking. Counts were going out. Not having enough tape. So, we would make little trips to New York City and party, trying to make the best of it. We were far from focused. You take city boys and bring them out into the woods and they go nuts.

    “He (Grossman) got me to the Chateau Marmont and he said, ‘You made a piece of crap album.’ First he got me stoned – good and high – and then he told me that he didn’t like my record and he wasn’t going to put it out. So, I stormed out, telling him, basically, to stick it you-know-where. I got my lawyer and said, ‘I want the album coming out.’”

    “We printed five thousand of them and made them put it out. And, nothing happened. Then, I got dropped from that shortly after.  I got to make a demo that was fun – with some of the Toto guys.  I got close to getting some interest but they didn’t want to know about it.”

    While Cain was one of the few people to successfully flex his muscle against the notorious manager, the experience left him disillusioned about the music business.

    “I quit the business for about two years and sold stereos in L.A. I just kind of had it. My dad was, like, ‘Well, you gotta do what you gotta do.’ I remember I had Manpower gigs where I would stack beer – Budweiser. I would do anything to get my mind off of show business. I continued to write songs in my apartment there.

    “Then, I got a phone call from some guy that found me that wanted to write with me. I said, ‘Well, sure.’ I went over to his house. He had been writing with Fleetwood Mac. His name is Robbie Patton. We wrote a couple of cool songs. He was telling me about this audition for this band called The Baby’s. He said, ‘You know, you’re a rocker. You should really go there.’ I go, ‘I don’t know. Maybe.’  He said, ‘Well, show up for the audition and see what happens.’

    “So, I did. It was a song I had written, really, that I think got me the gig. It was called Stick To Your Guns. I wrote it for my dad because that was his war cry.  When I would call him up and borrow money from him, that was the last thing he would always say to me, ‘Stick to your guns.’

    “The audition went well but it was the song that stuck in their head.  So, I was the Stick To Your Guns guy. They had auditioned 40 people.  These guys (The Baby’s) were completely in debt.  It was just John (Waite), Wally (Stocker) and Tony (Brock).  They had been through it already in L.A.  They had a manager that just completely buried them.  They did a 99 city tour and he let them live like rock stars. They had roadies from England and rental cars.  After a year or two of that, you’re buried in red.

    “I got the gig.  They called me a month later. I must have went back about six times and jammed with them and played with them.  The next thing I know, I was flying off to Amsterdam to do TV shows with them because they had just released Head First. Hanging out with John and those guys was really cool because they were really the rock and roll that I always wanted to know about. John had that voice. I wished that I could sing like John. He had a swagger about him that he taught me. I learned a lot him and those guys real quick – how to be a pro and how to act like a pro; how to do an interview.”

    After the proper grooming, Cain’s education into the rough and tumble world of rock and roll went to the next level.  While the lessons learned were invaluable, the expected big payoff didn’t happen.

    “We went on tour with Alice Cooper. That was an awesome tour, meeting Alice and his wife. He flew us around on his plane and pretty much treated us gold plated. Being around him is an honor because he’s a legend. It was the Welcome To My Nightmare tour. So it was me up there opening up with The Baby’s and Alice.  The Baby’s had been doing a bunch of Midnight Specials for (Burt) Sugerman back in L.A. We were almost like the house band for Wolfman. He was so proud of me because he had seen me kick around in L.A. When he found out I got the gig, he always had us on it seemed like. God bless Wolfman!

    “It was cool.  We were just kind of bubbling under but we just couldn’t seem to get over the hump – so in debt and selling records but not really getting air play to sell enough to go platinum – you know, break the big one. I guess Midnight Rendezvous was the biggest record we had after those ballads that they had out and they didn’t even write them.  These two guys wrote them – (Jack) Conrad and Raymond Kennedy – these two songwriters from L.A.  They had worked with (Ron) Nevison, so we branched away from that Nevison thing and worked with Keith Olsen. So, we made a new album with Keith called Union Jacks.

    “Then Chrysalis (The Baby’s label) wanted my publishing. I’m like, ‘No, you can’t have my publishing. I’m only making $250 a week.’ So, I had to get a lawyer to slug it out with Chrysalis and we won and I kept it.  I was fortunate – not unfortunate as with John, who they had a lien on. They had John’s publishing. It was one of those deals like with The Police. I felt bad for John because, even when he left us and went to EMI, Chrysalis was there attaching his new deal.

    “Anyway, we had some success with Union Jacks. Union Jacks was what got me into Journey.  Journey always was kind of progressive. They heard the Union Jacks album and loved it so they wanted us to open for them. So, we showed up in San Diego and began a tour with them – 50 cities or so. I’d get to watch them every night. I started hanging out, watching the band because I was kind of curious as to what their deal was. I really liked the pieces. I liked Steve Perry voice. I liked Neal’s guitar playing. The fans were just unbelievable. They just loved that band.

    “We used to open every night. We’d do our little 40 minute set and they’d get up there and figure out how to follow us.  So, they kept changing their set around. And, finally, they hit on this much more Spartan rock and roll set than what they were doing. They really started tearing it up.

    “After the shows, Neal and I would go out drinking and jamming. John Waite would go out with us on some nights and Ricky Phillips, our bass player. Sometimes, Steve Perry would show up. We’d stick him on the drums and then we’d do all these old Motown/Wilson Pickett songs – all this old stuff and just have a good ol’ time.  Neal and I got going with each other and he would go, ‘Wow, I didn’t know you knew all those chords!’ and we’d get pretty out there and start fusing.

    Taking the conversation off course just a bit, I asked Jonathan what he feels is the most positive change in the record business that has taken place.

    “I guess digital downloads, really. The internet is somewhat honest now. You still have the sharing sites that you can’t stop – the Limelighters and stuff. I think iTunes and the iPhone have really revolutionized music in the way it’s played. The fact that Don’t Stop Believing is number two in the most downloaded songs is still outrageous to me.  We get compensated for the downloads. ASCAP and BMI are looking after us.  It’s all worked out. It’s a far cry from when our album was ripped off back in 2000. Napster got hold of it and people were getting it for free. I hate to see people giving away music. I think it’s disturbing. These young bands have to stop that or they’re not going to get anywhere.”

    I asked what Cain what he thought it’s going to take to fix all that’s wrong with the music business.  Again, his shrewd business sense kicks back into high gear.

    “The biggest problem is sustainability. You have to have a sustainable product. That means when you sign an act, they have to have a place to play. You have to get the fans out to see them. You have to make sure that the fans are kept up to date, all that stuff. That’s a whole look at how we’re going to continue the process. If you sign an act that you think is great, you have to make sure that the garden is tended to and that it will continue to flourish. It’s a brand.

    “Back in the old days, we had an army of people doing that on behalf of Journey. Today, they put a band out there and unless they have a shrewd manager and a team behind them, they just get lost in the shuffle. I think that’s a big issue. And I think that the places to play are sort of vanishing and clubs are dying. It’s not good.

    “I talked to Bill Graham about this before he died. We need a sort of circuit that you can count on. A record company’s music people need to look at making sure that these places stay open. Maybe getting creative and doing things with the malls or something. If there’s no place to play for these acts to grow then how are they ever going to get anywhere?  How are they going to get seasoned? It’s a problem – the performing venues that are available. They’re far and few between. It all takes money but it can still happen.  You have the live streaming stuff that can happen. I just don’t think that the labels are thinking progressively enough.  If they’re going to feature a band and do a live feed somewhere and get the stream on the internet and let them have their shows and let the people see what they’re going to be buying. Show them what they’re doing. There’s just too much of this cloak and dagger thing going on right now.

    “Rock and roll is dying because of exactly what I said, the sustainability, the places to play, the crowd’s interest is moving away from rock because there’s Lady Gaga and Katy Perry and all this other junk. Kids are listening to rap, grunge. The alternatives are dark. Rock has gotten a black eye for being depressing, gothic and dark. Heavy metal fans have taken over the rock and roll venue and that’s fine. There’s other music out there that’s not getting heard and not getting signed and that’s unfortunate.”

    Obviously aware of the numbers side of the business, Cain adds, “Rap takes its place. It’s far more lucrative. They sell far more units than rock does. Rock is kind of out right now. It’s passé. It’s not the flavor of the month any more. These rappers have really honed in and taken MTV away from rock. I don’t think it’s going to change because they’re real avid buyers and they know what works. It’s all money driven in the end.

    “But, again, I go back to where can you play? If there’s no place to play, I don’t know where you play rock and roll unless you’re a big time band. You’ll have to play in some little dive club. So, yeah, I feel bad for the young musicians trying to make it. Kings of Leon did it. They managed to slug it out. I don’t know their story but you certainly see enough of them, I know that.

    “Now they’re talking about closing down the Hard Rock’s. They’re in trouble. The casino’s are keeping the old fogies alive and that’s good but it’s a tricky time. I think the whole business is up for grabs. I think whoever’s smart and can survive can do it. There’s sort of an upheaval going on.”

    Who IS commanding Cain’s attention these days as far as the newer talent is concerned?

    “You know, I’ve looked at a few different people. I thought that Carrie Underwood has done a nice job with her career. I’ve seen her show and it’s pretty darn good. I’ve never seen a bad show from her. As far as rock is concerned, there isn’t a whole lot out there that I even like.  I was kind of into Coldplay for awhile. I thought they were cool but they’re not really rock.

    “Probably the neatest thing that’s come down the pike is Kings of Leon, I think. They’re pure cool rock and roll – that sounds like something.  It’s got that vintage thing to it which maybe appeals to me. I like Switchfoot. I like a lot of that stuff. I like some of the Nickelback stuff. They’re a successful group that has done well with their brand. They’ve done a really good job with branding their thing. I just think they play too loud.” He concludes with a chuckle. “They’re still a good brand. They’ve done a good job staying alive in this market which says a lot about them. They’ve written some cool songs. They’re good. Young guys, but smart. I got to meet them a couple of months ago – the two brothers, Chad and Mike. They’ve done a really good job. So, that’s about it, really.”

    Wrapping up my chat with this legendary artist, I asked Cain what his plans were after Journey wrapped up its tour.

    “Chilling. If all goes right and I don’t get cold feet, I’ll go ahead and finish up my studio. I’ve got grand plans for it. I’d like to get it to the point that it’s a facility and I can go in there and try some things. Maybe do some producing and help my daughter down the road. That’s what I’m hoping to do – make a little noise here in Nashville.”

    Keep up with Journey, Jonathan Cain and his lovely daughter, Madison, at these great websites:



    www.journeymusic.com     www.jonathancain.com     www.madisoncain.com

  • Posted May 2018

    Jonathan Cain Cropped 2Quick: Who can tell me what the best-selling digital track from the 20thcentury was?

     

    No cheating. 

     

    Well, if you cheated and looked it up on the internet, you’d probably see that Wikipedia has indicated that it is Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” with over seven million copies sold in the U.S. alone.

     

    Co-written by Journey guys Steve Perry, Neal Schon, and Jonathan Cain, the tune immediately inspires and motivates whenever and wherever it’s heard. It’s not at all a stretch to say that it’s become an anthem to many.

     

    I first had the privilege of interviewing co-writer, Jonathan Cain, seven years ago (here). At that time, we talked about the band, their then-soon-to-be-released album, Eclipse, and a memoir that he was working on. 

    Fast-forward seven years.

     

    The memoir, Don’t Stop Believin’, was recently completed and it was about that book that I was given yet another amazing opportunity to chat with Cain. After weeks of trying to get our schedules coordinated, he was kind enough to squeeze in some time to chat with me just before he headed out to church with his wife of three years, Reverend Paula White

    Since our time to chat was short, I cut right to the chase by mentioning that I remembered him talking about working on his book and wondered if he felt about the finished product. 

     

    “Yeah, it’s been quite a journey – no ‘pin intunded’ – it really has been a journey. I learned a lot. I must’ve re-wrote this book ten times, you know? But, really, getting into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame changed my whole focus. From the lens of that, it was easy to look back and see how to tell the story. I think that really needed to happen before the book could come together the way it came.”

     

    When I asked if he had to do a lot of re-writing, he shot back:

     

    “Yes, sir! A lot of re-writing. Once I got the new outline and I sat down with some really great editors from the Zondervan group, we went to it. They were very comfortable and understanding in what I was trying to do and what we wanted to accomplish with the outline and structure of how we wanted to tell the tale; the most effective way to take a listener on that sort of journey I was on and still am. Ha! Ha!”

     

    I asked what he hoped people would take away from the book when they finished reading it.

     

    “You know, I hope it gives them a sense of – they get confidence. They get hope. You have to continue to walk because you may have a good season and make a million dollars. That doesn’t mean anything. This seeking – you can always be better. I feel that there’s always a way to improve. I kept looking and searching for ways I could get better and be more affective. I learned how to engineer my own records, write my own songs, and became very independent. But that took a lot of work. 

     

    DSB final1“Eventually, I learned how to tell my own story, which took a lot of work. Just because you can write a song doesn’t mean you’re cut out to be a writer. I learned where my voice was at. I learned a lot about grammar. It was like going back to school, again, really. I always sort of rambled on at school when I was writing. When I took English, I had a teacher who reminded me to ‘stay within the outline, Jon!’ I can still remember the teacher’s name who was so encouraging; encouraged me to continue to write. I ended up being the editor of our newspaper. I had actually been accepted into Northwestern University in the School of Journalism. I’ve often wondered what my life would’ve been like had I went that route. 

     

    “But all that just goes to when I wanted to write songs, I focused in on that early on. I realized I wasn’t going to be a virtuoso. But, I think in the end, it’s confidence, perseverance, it takes work to get somewhere. Just because you think you got somewhere doesn’t mean that’s the end result, as my father said. It’s just a stepping stone. That was his big line: ‘It’s only a stepping stone.’ I’m, like, ‘Dad, how far do I have to go to prove it to you,’ and he’d go, ‘I’ll tell you when you get it.’

     

    “When Journey came along, he looked at me and said, ‘That’s what I said. That’s what I meant. That’s what I mean.’ Pretty cool, Dad. That’s why I dedicate the book to him. 

     

    “It’s also, I hope all the young fathers out there take note and pay attention to the gifts your child has the way my dad did and lift them up in those areas they’re excelling in and recognize it. Give them confidence it’s possible.” 

    Cain makes it crystal clear in Don’t Stop Believin’ that his dad was a huge influence and encourager to him. I asked him how he thought his dad would feel about the book.

     

    “It is a legacy of our family; of the generations that he was part of. He brought me to the fiddle with my grandfather and it turns out that my great grandfather played the violin. My uncles played. So, that legacy that he shared is well represented in the book. I’m only a part of him so I think he would be very happy with it.”

     

    During our first chat, Jonathan talked a bit about the infamous Our Lady of the Angels school fire back in 1958 when he was an eight-year-old student at the school. Tragically, ninety-five people perished in that (ninety-two kids and three nuns). It was clear in the first interview that the fire still scarred Cain. In reading the book, he clearly articulates his thoughts and feelings about that tragic day. I asked him if writing about it was cathartic for him.

     

    “You kind of understand it and accept how it changes your life; how out of pain something new is born. It’s in the Bible. There’s a Scripture that says, ‘Out of pain something new is born’ (Isaiah 66:9). That’s exactly what happened. There was a fire – a different kind of fire, if you will – that my father planted in me that was one of desire and not of destruction and death and sadness and sorry. And it’s like, ‘Here, learn this way. I got a plan.’ The Lord showed me it. What are you going to do, you know?

     

    “I think out of the ashes God can do something beautiful. I think that is the message of life, you know? These ashes will be turned for good. ‘They’ll be something good, Jon, come out of this.’ I just had to believe it, wait, pray, work, focus, and win when I could. And it wasn’t always easy.”

     

    In Cain’s book, he mentioned an acquaintance of mine: renowned concert promoter and fellow Chicagoan, Danny Zelisko, Ministering to others 9780310351344who had this to say about the Journey keyboardist, whom he’s known for a lot of years and whether or not he’s changed:

    “Well, I don’t know that he’s changed. To me, he’s pretty much the same guy he’s always been. We met originally – I did a show with his ex-wife. He was in Journey, but I wasn’t promoting Journey, yet, because there was another promoter that had the booking relationship with the band. Their old agency asked me to do a date with his wife. We did it at a place called in Tempe (AZ). I think it was called, ‘After The Gold Rush’. It used to be Dooley’s. 

     

    “We got on real well. God, I think I met him when he was with the Babys. I don’t think we got into anything, then. But, anyway, he grew up not far away from where I grew up in Illinois. We shared a lot of Chicago stuff. We’ve always gotten on real well. His mom was my – she’s dead, now – but she was my daughter’s godmother. He bought them a place not too far away from where I live. At one point, he asked me to help his dad get a job out here because they had to move because his mom was sick. Through a guy I knew at the New Times, I got him a job. They moved out here. She looked after my daughter all the time, his mom. Very, very much family stuff. Not your typical seeing a rock star whenever he comes to town or when you do a show with him. He was in and out of Phoenix all the time because of his folks living her and his brother also lived here. He’s always been a really good friend to me.

     

    “It was interesting, when they decided to get back together and have a new singer, I don’t think they really knew at the time how many other groups would follow and do the same thing. People like to think that there’s no replacing certain members of a band but here’s a classic example of proving it wrong.”

     

    Jonathan had this to say about Danny:

     

    “Oh my god! He became part of the family! He settled my parents in Phoenix. He found them a condo. He’s almost like a brother. He’s an only child – he may have a sister – but we became brothers, in a way, and I still consider him my Chicago brother. I treated him to the World Series last year. We just had a blast.”

     

    Since we last spoke, Jonathan’s spiritual walk seems to be much more prominent and devout. I asked him what would he like fans to know about that walk?

     

    “I want people to know you are worth. I want fans to know this isn’t about religion. God isn’t about religion. It’s about the light and the hope and the love. He’s not an angry god. He’s not a judging god. He’s a good god. You can always return. 

    “I guess I went off line when I kinda stumbled. I couldn’t find a way back. I didn’t know how to get back. I was kinda just stuck. I think when I met Paula (Pastor Paula White, who is now Jon’s wife), she saw something. She saw that desire. Being a pastor, she said, ‘There’s a light on you. You’ve been running and it’s time to stop running.’ I did! My question for her was is it possible to have the love of Christ I had when I was seven years old. Is it possible? She seemed to think it was with prayer, with repentance and sacrifice and work, I can get back there and be the kind of guy that my father raised; that my father would be proud of. He loved Jesus Christ with all his heart. A pray-er and a proud man. I want to go out like him. I want to go out with the love of Christ and to be a disciple; to be a game-changer and kingdom builder; and to leave a legacy to him because of the way my father loved the Lord.

     

    “So, my point is that it’s never too late to return. He’s always there for you. He’s been there in the background. I tell people it’s like He’s pays for the suite that you’re in; he makes sure you got room service; He makes sure your room’s clean; and you just thank Him. He pays all the bills. 

     

    “Just thank Him. Tell Him you love Him. Every day. It’s got to be every day. It’s gotta be every hour. I’m constantly thinking about the Lord and the goodness that He’s brought to my life. Just the miracles that I’ve seen happen. The book is a miracle! I gave up on that thing. I was just at the end of it with it. It was like, ‘Just try again, Jon. Something’s out there.’ It’s almost like my dad telling me, ‘Don’t stop believin’’ – one of those deals. So, I did, and I made the right phone calls and I had the right people around me. The lawyers queued together on this thing. 

     

    Me moment onstage 9780310351344“Man! Wait until you hear the audio book! It’s like nothing you’ve ever heard because I’d written these autobiographical songs all these years and it came out on an album and I don’t think anybody knew what to do with it. Now, with this book out, they all matter big time. I’m putting out a CD, as well. There’ll be a CD that goes with the book on iTunes. It’s called, ‘The Songs You Leave Behind’ which is the theme of the book. It’s in the audio book. Of course, it’s what I want the readers to go away with.

     

    “They say, ‘Well, what’s the take-away from writing that book?’ I wrote the song. It’s all I know how to do is put it in words and I think it came out pretty darn good.’”

     

    Right after the release of Don’t Stop Believin’, Cain will hit the road with Journey for a monster tour with none other than Def Leppard. I asked him what fans could expect from those shows.

     

     “A lot of energy! We don’t mess around. With Def Leppard is on the same bill, this band’s gonna rock! It’s gonna rock hard! It’s gonna be a great set!”

     

    As I’ve begun asking other artists of his stature since I last spoke with him, I asked Jonathan how he wanted to be remembered and what did he hope his legacy will be.

     

    “I want to be remembered as the guy who wrote the songs that helped people dream; that helped people stay in love; that helped people have a positive effect on their life. I was the soundtrack to a lot of people’s growin’ up years. I think I was part of a musical movement that was unique; had its own sound; had its own style. I was faithful to it. I put in the time and that’s what this book sums up. It sums up the whole the ‘thank you’ to all of the people who made us who we are today. That’s all. Just a grateful, creative guy who loved his kids; who loved God; loved his wife; loved his music.”

    And what’s on Cain’s radar for the next couple of years?

     

    “I’ve got another Christian album in the works. Who knows with Journey? We might kick around some songs. Maybe get to recording something, you know? I’ve got some ideas that I’ve been sketching out. I don’t know. I’m just going to let the Lord take me there. 

     

    “I know with this Christian album, I want to do more stuff in that arena. Work on getting my voice right. Just focus in on being the best praise and worship leader I can be. I’ll be reaching out. I just wrote the title track last week. I’m going to call it, ‘Unleashed’. It’s got some warfare. It’s got a little bit of everything. It’s gone to the next level of my worship. It’s very cinematic and bold.”

     

    Keep up with Jonathan Cain and the band at JourneyMusic.com.

  • Journey with Foreigner and Night Ranger
    Show Date: September 24, 2011
    Venue: Gexa Energy Pavilion - Dallas, Texas

    To say that the Journey/Foreigner/Night Ranger concert was a blast would be selling the show far too short. I can’t find the superlatives to describe the great time I had at this show.

    Because I attended a meet and greet (courtesy of Boomerocity friend and Journey keyboardist, Jonathan Cain), I, unfortunately, missed the Night Ranger set. However, when my friend and I took our seats during the Foreigner set, I was blown away by the bands energy and persistent freshness to all the band’s great, legendary hits. While I’ll always be a Lou Gramm fan, current lead vocalist, Kelly Hansen does a remarkable job and had the 20K+ crowd eating out of his hands.

    The only possible negative of the Foreigner show as that Mick Jones was inexplicably absent. However, the gentleman who filled in (and I couldn’t catch his name, so my apologies), did a great job filling in for Jones so, no harm/no foul.

    Journey hit the stage early and with a bang, blowing the crowd away with Separate Ways. Arnel Panela’s signature long, straight, jet-black hair has succumbed to scissors but the look is quite good.

    Let me stop right here and say that, while I have been and always be a Steve Perry fan, he’s gone and fans who refuse to accept that fact need to. Steve’s horse is long-gone out of the Journey barn. Arnel is great in his own way. He delivers the Journey classics with his own subtle touches added in without taking away from the incredible legacy of the band. He’s going to make great contributions to this great band for many years to come and I, quite frankly, am looking forward to it.

    Now, back to the show.

    The crowd was on its feet the entire show, singing and rocking right along. The crowd sang along, with lighters in hand, with favorites like Faithfully and Open Arms, during which Arnel came on-stage after a brief backstage visit, wearing a Dirk Nowitzki jersey and, at the end of the song, cheered, “Go Cowboys!”. Do you think that brought a huge roar from the crowd?

    Neal Schon’s guitar work was better than ever. Tight, precise and exhilarating. Jonathan Cain’s keyboard work was phenomenal, especially during his long introduction/solo that segued into Open Arms, which drew squeals of delight from all the girls (and maybe even a few guys) in the crowd. Heck! He even demonstrated some great harmonica skills during Wheel In The Sky. Who knew?

    Ross Valory delivered effortless excellence with his bass work and is a joy to meet in person. You won't meet a friendly person. Deen Castronovo was awesome, of course. I just wish he had sang, Still They Ride, because he does such a phenomenal job on it.

    City of Hope from the band’s new album, Eclipse, was very well received and will no doubt result in Wal-Mart’s all over the metroplex selling out (Wally World has the exclusive on this CD as of this writing).

    Neal Schon generated gasps from the crowd when he gave away a beautifully crafted Paul Reed Smith guitar to some young girl who must’ve been given the go-ahead to run up on stage. My friend and I stared at each other in disbelief, mouthing, “I want one!”

    The evening ended with an encore of two other Journey standards, Don’t Stop Believin’ and Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’. If Pinela ever doubted his acceptance by Journey’s multi-generational fan base, then the show last night here in Dallas should have sent those doubts well on their Separate Ways (sorry, I just couldn’t resist).

    If you ever get a chance to catch Journey in concert, DO! You will walk away feeling that you got more than your money’s worth.

  •      

    Vortex
    Neal Schon
    Label: Mascot Label Group/Music Theories Recordings
    Release Date: June 23, 2015
    Review Date: June 21, 2015

    Neal Schon's upcoming all-instrumental album utilizes rock as its foundation, while also embracing elements of jazz, classical and world music in an 18-track stunning, sonically explosive collection of original compositions.  The release is dedicated to Schon's best friend and wife, who serves as his true inspiration every day (Both "Lady M" and "Triumph of Love" were written for her, the latter of which he performed at their wedding on December 15, 2013).  

    Schon shares, "This is an evolutionary album for me.  I’ve always aspired to be a better player and push musical boundaries. And sure, I’ve sold 80-million records with Journey, and I’m proud of that, but this album is really me — all based on my guitar, which is my ‘voice.’ It’s bold. There’s love, and there’s definitely fire and an element of danger. And the energy level is off the hook.”

    That’s evident from the first, mysterious-sounding measures of “Miles Beyond,” the scalding tribute to jazz genius Miles Davis’ pioneering fusion recordings that opens the album. The tune blends Schon’s soaring leads, tectonic plates of grinding rhythm and brilliantly layered melodies within an arrangement that embraces Middle Eastern flourishes plus flashes of African drumming by Steve Smith. 

    “Schon & Hammer Now” is a furious jam between the guitarist and his longtime friend and creative foil, Grammy-winning keyboardist Jan Hammer, whose many accomplishments include charter membership in the groundbreaking Mahavishnu Orchestra.  And the two match their brilliant technique and relentless invention throughout, sparring with the grace and speed of a young Mohammad Ali.  

    Schon reveals, "Jan is all over this album. I wrote the material to give Jan room to stretch.  There are not many three minute ditties. It’s all huge, epic, bombastic…futuristic.” 

    “Airliner NS910” is further proof. It’s all speed and swagger, with Schon skywriting the song’s sweetly singing theme in the indelible vapor trail of the instantly recognizable operatic tones of his signature model Paul Reed Smith guitars. He reflects, "Since Vortex is a two-record set, it's both my ninth and tenth solo albums.  That’s where the ‘NS910’ comes from." 

    The music of Vortex originated in the hard drives that Schon is constantly filling with ideas for riffs, melodies and chord progressions at home. But they came to life at Berkeley’s Fantasy Studios, his preferred spot for recording since Journey cut the 10-times-platinum number-one album Escape there in 1981. Schon states, "It’s my home away from home.  I spend so much time there that they’ve given me my own locker.”

    Schon produced and played bass on Vortex, too, and was joined in the studio by Smith and keyboardist Igor Len. Hammer and Len also appeared on Schon’s seventh solo album, The Calling, which was followed by the blues-inspired hard rock album So U.  He offers, "Igor and Jan complement each other, and me, beautifully."  And Vortex’s “Eternal Love” is a testament to Len’s creativity. The song, a richly emotional ballad, features Len alone on piano. The guitarist observes, “He sat down and played the tune spontaneously, and it was so gorgeous and deep that I had to have it on my album.” 

    Schon offers his own reflective solo performance on Vortex with the sparsely arranged acoustic guitar meditation “Mom,” dedicated to his mother, Barbara Schon. He reveals, "Like most of the performances on this album, it wasn’t premeditated.  I’d just pick up a guitar and tell my engineer Jesse Nichols to hit ProTools.”

    The intensely creative guitar giant has always had a seemingly innate ability to make glorious music. He began playing at age five and was inspired by soul vocalists like Aretha Franklin and Gladys Knight, and blues and jazz guitarists ranging from B.B. King Albert King, and Eric Clapton to Wes Montgomery. 

    When Schon was just 15 years old, Carlos Santana invited him to join his band. Schon’s recording debut was on the classic 1971 album Santana III. He played the solo on the LP’s hit single “Everybody’s Everything.” Recently Schon has been working with Carlos Santana on a new album, co-writing songs and playing key performances including homecoming Santana concerts in Guadalajara and Mexico City that included Journey as the opening band. 

    Schon formed Journey in 1973 and has led the band through its astonishing 42-year history. Along the way Journey has sold well over 80 million albums, amongst which the band's Greatest Hits release was certified Diamond by the RIAA for sales in excess of 10 million copies.  To date sales now exceed 15 million copies.  Eight other Journey album releases have been certified multi-platinum.  Neal Schon co-wrote the timeless hit “Don’t Stop Believin,’" which now holds the title as the most digitally downloaded song in history.  Seventeen additional Journey singles were Top 40 hits,  Schon has received multiple Grammy award nominations for both his work with Journey and his solo recordings. And Journey has been nominated for the Rock ‘n’ Hall of Fame. 

    Besides solo albums and tours and his historic work with Journey, Schon has an extensive history of blue-ribbon collaborations. These include co-founding the supergroup Bad English and forming bands with vocalists Paul Rodgers and Sammy Hagar. He released two collaboration albums with Jan Hammer, Untold Passion and Here To Stay, while also performing on releases from Michael Bolton, Return to Forever’s Lenny White and many others. 

    One thing he’s never done is considered resting on his laurels. Schon reflects, "I feel more aware and alive now than I've ever been.  Part of that is the sobriety I've had for the last seven years. I’ve also evolved as a person and a player though understanding the value of being in the moment – letting things happen and not thinking too much. There's an old blues saying: ‘If you’re thinkin’, you’re stinkin’.  When you stop thinking and just play from the heart, you discover your own voice. That’s the real thing, and that’s what Vortex is about for me.”