An Ongoing Journey
Photograph by John Poppelwell
Don’t tell Ross Valory how The Sopranos ends. The longtime bass player from Journey knows it has something to do with his band’s hit song “Don’t Stop Believin’ ”—but he hasn’t seen the crime series’ now-famous final episode yet.
“Don’t say anything!” pleads Valory over a cheeseburger at Blackhawk Grille. “I love that show, but I’m only on season four, and I’m determined to watch the series in order.”
The 59-year-old Danville resident hopes to catch up on The Sopranos during Journey’s coast-to-coast tour with Heart and Cheap Trick. Valory’s days with Journey go back to when the band formed as part of the San Francisco scene of the early 1970s. Its popularity exploded, peaking with the mega platinum Escape album in 1981 and its subsequent sold-out world tours. “It was first class all the way, every day,” says Valory, who grew up in Lafayette. “It was a big party.” The party petered out a bit in the mid-’80s. Due to creative differences with lead singer Steve Perry, Valory was fired—and replaced by current American Idol judge Randy Jackson. “That was very painful at the time,” says Valory. “In hindsight, I was saved the slow death that the band went through over the next years.”
Although the band fell off a creative cliff for a while, Columbia Records’ 1988 release of Journey Greatest Hits sold more than 15 million copies. The royalties assured Valory a more-than-comfortable lifestyle and the freedom to tour and record with several bands, including an up-and-coming singer named Michael Bolton. Valory rejoined Journey in 1996 and has spent the past decade gigging with former band mates and a rotation of lead singers, following Perry’s departure in 1997. When the 2007 Sopranos finale shot Journey back into the pop culture mainstream, retail giant Wal-Mart signed the band to an exclusive distribution deal.
“We had this great deal set up, with one problem,” says Valory, laughing. “We needed to find a lead singer.”
The band turned to YouTube to find its current voice, Filipino singer Arnel Pineda. He nailed Perry’s classics and put his own stamp on an album of new material, Revelation, which debuted at number five on the Billboard charts this summer.
“It’s a terrific record,” says Valory. “It’s fun to still be a part of this after all these years. But, it’s even cooler to be creating new material that our fans are going to love.”
Journey plays the Sleep Train Pavilion in Concord on September 24.
Check out these songs from Journey's new album, Revelation:
"After All These Years" Track 6, Disc 1 of Revelation
"Don't Stop Believin' " Track 2, Disc 2 of Revelation