This underrated album by the name of “Infinity” was released in 1978 after the arrival of new singer Steve Perry that also features the production skills of Roy Thomas Baker (Queen among others). The rest of the band remained the same with Neal Schon on guitar, Ross Valory on bass, Greg Rolie on keyboards/vocals, and Aynsley Dunbar on drums. Up to this point since the band’s formation in 1974, they had focused on a Jazz Fusion/Art Rock blend for the three previous albums with Rolie doing all the vocals. Once Perry joined, the band started their shift towards a more AOR based sound.
In “Infinity”, the emphasis is put on ballads since there are only three hard rock songs with “Wheel in The Sky” being the most memorable one and the radio hit. However guitarist Schon plays an excellent solo using the mixolydian mode on “La Do Da”. I’d say the other rocker “Can Do” is probably the low point of the album, but still a very good song.
What makes this album really special are its ballads. There’s seven of them yet all sound different from one another! The opening composition “Lights” already displays the powerful melodic singing style of Perry but the piano accompaniment is flawless too and in the middle Schon adds one of his excellent melodic solos. I consider “Feeling That Way (Part I)/Anytime (Part II)” a medley since they run into one another and that’s the way you’ll hear them on radio. The two combined last for about seven minutes. In both songs you’ll hear the singing of keyboard player Rolie. In Part I, Perry adds some quasi Queen-like harmonies during the verses and joins for lead vocals on the chorus. Excellent chord progression on the verse, check this out: C G C F G / Bb F Ab Eb / Bbm Csus4 C. This is drummer Dunbar’s sole songwriting contribution to the album. In Part II Perry comes in to sing a memorable bridge (the section with the C#m F#m D and B chord sequence) right before another melodic solo from Schon! Track number five, “Patiently” is one of my favorites here! It starts with an hypnotic arpeggio that uses the chords Em M7, then Em, and finally G7. It gives the impression that it’s going to be a dark song… but it’s not really! Singer Perry is in brilliant form here. Once again Schon shines on the acoustic guitar while Rolie doubles on piano. It’s amazing how the two never get in each others way! Believe me, it’s not as easy as it sounds to double an arpeggiated guitar figure with the piano…I tried it once and I just didn’t sound as good as Rolie does! I would sound good for a few bars but all the sudden my notes where starting to sound superfluous! Rolie sure knows how to pull this off! Anyway, gotta love the part in the middle when Dunbar’s drums come in! Guess what follows…of course, another one of those excellent solos from Schon!
“Something To Hide” is another well crafted ballad (main chords: F C Bb plus the sporadic A) that continues with their winning combination of catchy vocals with melodic guitar playing but “Winds Of March” could be considered the album’s epic since it is the longest song (not counting the medley) of the bunch clocking at five minutes. Awesome singing from Perry over this set of notes: Cm Ab Bb G, while the chorus goes like this: Eb Bb Ab Bb Ab Adim Gsus4 G. Another notable aspect is the fact that the arrangement leaves room for Rolie to play a Hammond organ solo right after an amazing harmonized guitar melody. Again, great arpeggios from Schon on the acoustic guitar.
The closing song “Opened The Door” shouldn’t be overlooked though. It’s one of the best! The melodies utilized for all the vocal parts are perfect (in the key of C, the verses alternate between Fsus4 and C7, the chorus features Dm Am Abdim Am D G D F G, while the bridge uses C7 F and Fm) but the best moment is saved for last when Schon comes in to play one of the coolest solos in the mixolydian mode you’ll ever hear! Too bad it fades before long! It will leave you begging for more mixolydian! My question is: Why is Neal Schon so underreated? A very satisfactory ending to this LP to say the least.
To cut a long story short, “Infinity” is a brilliant album. I’d say it is the best place to start your Journey collection because it accurately foreshadows all the band’s later work with Perry, yet at this point, the backing band (Schon/Rolie/Valory/Dunbar) was still the same one that recorded the three previous Art Rock/Jazz Fusion oriented albums: the self-titled one from 1975, the sophomore effort “Look Into The Future” (1976), and “Next” (1977). So, in a way or another, you get a glimpse of both eras since the vocals on those records were done by keyboard player Greg Rolie himself which you also get to hear on some of these tunes in a duet with Perry!
Thanks for taking the time to read!