October 3, 2008

Journey Finds Successor to ‘The Voice’

By Nathalie Baret For the Journal

One night a little less than a year ago, Journey's ax man, Neal Schon, was surfing YouTube, scouting hundreds of singers in hopes of finding a legacy voice, a tenor rich with soul and emotion, someone who could fill former frontman Steve Perry's hard-to-fit shoes.

"Neal was hunting and probing, looking for any singer who sounded like Steve," said drummer/ percussionist and backup vocalist Deen Castronovo, calling from Tampa, Fla. "We were just seeking anybody with a great voice, and he came up on Arnel (Pineda) singing a Survivor song. So Neal punched up some more videos on Arnel, found him singing 'Don't Stop Believin,' and called Jonathan (Cain) instantly."

The call to Cain arrived at midnight, just after the keyboardist/ songwriter had settled in for the night and was enjoying a glass of red wine. "Neal said, 'Dude, get on your computer right away; look this guy up, and tell me what you think,' " Castronovo said. "Jonathan looked him up, said, 'He's fantastic! Let's fly him in.' "

Across the globe, in the Philippines, singer Pineda of the classic rock cover band the Zoo wasn't convinced it was legendary multiplatinum rockers Journey, a band he idolized, on the line. "We finally get ahold of him, and the guy didn't believe it was Neal! Arnel kept saying, 'How do I know you're not some phony? Prove to me you're Neal Schon.' "

So, that's what they did. "We had our management company contact him and confirm it."

Once convinced, the Filipino vocalist agreed to an audition. Next step, though, was getting Pineda a visa to come to the States, which Castronovo said took about a month. "Finally, when Arnel arrived, and he came in the first day to try out for the band, it was like, 'Come on, this guy is too good to be true.' Within three days, we knew he was the right guy for the job."

Pineda, who hails from Quezon City in the Philippines, grew up singing Journey songs and performing them with the Zoo in nightclubs throughout his country.

With his breathtaking tenor chops and full vibrato, Pineda raises songs from Journey's heralded catalog such as "Only the Young,""Open Arms,""Faithfully,""Separate Ways,""Wheel in the Sky" and "Anyway You Want It" to even greater emotional heights than the last series of singers who have replaced Perry, aka "The Voice."

Since Perry's 1997 exit, several sound-alike singers have upheld the front man position, including Steve Augeri and Jeff Scott Soto from the band Talisman; they even considered tribute band vocalist Jeremey Hunsicker of the Virginiabased rock act Frontiers.

But it wasn't until Pineda came along that things just clicked. "Bottom line is we got Arnel because he sang with emotion and you could tell. He was very passionate, he was real," Castronovo said.

Journey attributes 41-yearold Pineda's emotive vocals to his rags- to-now-riches life story.

"Before he started making a living doing the singingin-clubs thing, he was homeless. His mother had passed away, and his father couldn't support the whole family, so he went on his own. He was living in a park in the capital city, Manila. To survive, he'd pick up metal scraps and whatever he could find and sold them for food."

Castronovo added, without doubt, "Arnel has been a blessing. He's humbled us all, and he's made us better people and a better band."

Pineda's celebrated work on Journey's new June release, "Revelation," a three-disc CD/DVD package, has produced two singles to radio with "Never Walk Away" and "After All These Years," which scorched the Top 10 Rock and Adult Contemporary charts.

The "Revelation" set, a collectible that is sure to please Journey fans, consists of 11 new songs, including a gorgeous, long- awaited instrumental from Schon titled "The Journey" on disc one. The second disc features 12 re-recorded Journey classics, and on disc three, an in-concert performance is revealed as Pineda takes the mike during a March gig in Las Vegas, Nev. Exclusively distributed through Wal-Mart and Sam's Club channels, and via the band's official Web site (journeymusic.com), this hot-selling release has become the band's bestselling offering since its 1996 "Trial by Fire" album.

"It's a new chapter in the Journey book," Castronovo said. "So far, just by judging the response in Europe, and in America, people love the new music. And people love Arnel. When he sings our stuff, I put him up there with Steve Perry. I think we're all constantly looking up to the sky and thinking, 'Thank you, Jesus, for this talent.' "


With special guests Cheap Trick

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 4. Doors open at 6 p.m.

WHERE: Journal Pavilion. Take Rio Bravo exit off I-25, west on Rio Bravo to Broadway, south on Broadway to Bobby Foster Road

HOW MUCH: Tickets are $30-$60 and are available at Ticketmaster outlets (883-7800), at www.ticketmaster. com and www.livenation.com

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