Journey had been chugging along as a jazz-inflected rock ensemble for a few years before signing up diminutive dynamo Steve Perry as lead singer. Infinity (1978) was the first release with Perry on board, a template for later albums to follow. As before, the musicianship on the album is impeccable — Neal Schon’s overdrive guitar leads and Gregg Rolie’s gleaming keyboard lines are nothing less than high-class throughout. Still, it’s evident that without Perry’s yearning vocals, the album would be more of an exercise in technical excellence than a wide-appeal project. With a delicacy suggesting Sam Cooke at times, he turns ballads like “Patiently” and “Winds Of March” into mini-operas of rock romance. He can ride the band’s strutting groove on “Can Do” and rise to churning heights convincingly as well on “Wheel In The Sky.” No one ever accused this band of playing for the critics — tracks like “Lights” are radio-ready creations designed to melt hearts en masse. Judged on its own terms, though, Infinity is an unassailable work that inspired a host of imitators and set Perry on the royal road to stardom.

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