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'Traces' review: Steve Perry's back and he's just as intense as ever

Steve Perry's "Traces."

Steve Perry's "Traces." Credit: Fantasy

STEVE PERRY

"Traces"

BOTTOM LINE Oh, Sherrie, Steve Perry’s long journey has brought him back to music.

Even in Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” heyday, Steve Perry’s powerful alto stood alone in rock, one of the most recognizable in the world. Now, as Perry returns with “Traces” (Fantasy), his first solo album in 24 years, he sounds like an even more unlikely standard-bearer.

The well-crafted, eclectic songs on “Traces” all make the most of Perry’s voice, whether it’s the blues-tinged “No More Cryin’,” the Motown-influenced “Angel Eyes,” or the gorgeous ballad “We Fly.” “Call on Me” is even built on a reggae groove. (Not a typo.)

Sure, any song in nearly any style becomes a Steve Perry song once he starts singing it. And there are some excellent additions to that genre here, starting with the rocking “Sun Shines Gray,” channeling a more updated version of the catchy rock Journey produced in the “Girl Can’t Help It” days. Perry’s tributes to his late girlfriend Kellie Nash, especially “We Fly,” are so personal and laced with loss that you almost feel like you’re eavesdropping on his pain.

Of course, that has always been Perry’s talent, using his unique voice to somehow make us feel more intensely.

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