Journey guitarist Neal Schon had decided to surf the Web to check out YouTube videos of likely candidates who could front his band. Growing weary of searching, he was shocked when he finally came across a Filipino group called The Zoo, and a singer named Arnel Pineda.
"I was frustrated about not having a singer, so I went on YouTube for a couple of days," Schon reported in a Blabbermouth interview. "I was starting to think I was never going to find anybody, but then I found The Zoo and I watched a bunch of different clips and I thought, 'He can't be that good.' But he is that good, he's the real deal and so tremendously talented. I tried to get ahold of him through YouTube and I finally heard from him, but it took some convincing him to believe that it really was me and not an imposter."
A friend of Pineda had discovered Schon's message on YouTube and eagerly relayed the news.
Photo courtesy of Maui Arts & Cultural Center
Arnel Pinada (from left) is the new lead singer for Journey, featuring Dean Castronovo, Neal Schon, Jonathan Cain and Ross Valory.
"I thought it was a hoax, so I ignored it," Pineda recalled in the same article. "My friend said, 'What if it really was Neal and he wanted to offer you the chance of a lifetime?' I e-mailed Neal back and the rest is history."
So in late 2007, the once homeless Filipino was flown to California, and after three days of auditions Journey hired a singer who sounds uncannily like Steve Perry.
And thousands of fans have been rejoicing ever since.
* Journey performs at 7 p.m. Monday at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center's A&B Amphitheater. Tickets are $55, $65, 75 and $125, plus applicable fees, available at the MACC box office, 242-7469 or www.mauiarts.org.
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* Diana Krall performs at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the MACC's Castle Theater. Tickets are $55, $65, $85, $125, and $150 plus applicable fees, available at the MACC box office, 242-7469 or www.mauiarts.org.
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* "The Joining" showtime is at 7:30 p.m. Admission is $10 and $9 for students and seniors.
"It's positively baffling," noted an Orange County Register concert review. "How is it possible that this tireless Filipino spitfire could sound so eerily like Steve Perry, that rarely rivaled voice of every Journey smash? It's not just that Pineda can flat-out perfectly nailall of Perry's helium-high notes. It's more so that he unerringly mimics everything else about his voice - the tonal qualities, the phrasing and inflections, the way it can be both bell-like yet passionately gritty at the same time."
In June last year, Journey - original members Schon and bassist Ross Valory, with drummer Deen Castronovo and longtime keyboardist Jonathan Cain - released its first album with Pineda, "Revelation." The double-CD of new and rerecorded hits debuted at No. 5 on Billboard.
Touring on the strength of the new album, the band has been drawing new fans, notably throngs of Filipinos proud of their homeland talent.
Born in Sampaloc, Manila, Pineda spent some of his teen years on the streets, sleeping wherever he could, after his mother died and his father was drowned in debt. For a while he eked out an impoverished life collecting glass bottles, newspapers and scrap metal for recycling. A natural aptitude for music led to a singing career in cover bands and eventual work with the group that was posted on YouTube.
Talking with Rolling Stone about his rags-to-riches story, he reported: "For an Asian guy like me, to be in a band, you know it's so surreal. It's some sort of a miracle it happened to me. It changed my life, overnight."
The best-selling San Francisco Bay Area rock band of all time, Journey has amassed worldwide sales of more than 60 million records. The group's "Greatest Hits" collection still sells over half a million copies a year. And its timeless power ballad "Don't Stop Believing" now ranks as the most downloaded catalog track in iTunes history, attaining 2 million in digital sales. In its 1980s heyday, Journey scored 17 top-40 hits and six top-10 albums, including the No. 1 "Escape."
In its original incarnation, Journey was a prog-rocking outfit that specialized in extended jazz-fusion instrumentals. The band was co-founded by an immensely talented guitarist who had been hired by Carlos Santana at the age of 15. Neal Schon joined Santana for the album "Santana III," just before Eric Clapton tried to recruit him for Derek & The Dominos. After touring for a year, Schon and fellow Santana keyboardist Gregg Rolie decided to form a new project - Journey.
"It was like the Grateful Dead on steroids," Schon described the band's early sound in a Classic Rock Revisited interview. "It was a rock 'n' roll version of the Mahavishnu Orchestra. I was a big fan of John McLaughlin and Jan Hammer."
The road to success was slow until the fourth album, "Infinity" (1978), which redefined the group's sound with the introduction of the distinctive vocals of Steve Perry. Loaded with FM radio staples like "Lights" and "Wheel in the Sky," "Infinity" sold over a million.
Like other successful bands of the 1970s and '80s, Journey's sound was built on the double thrust of Perry's upper-register vocals and Schon's melodic solos. By the time of the fifth album, "Evolution," Journey had been transformed into arena rock superstars. The hits kept rolling with "Departure" and the hard-driving radio smash "Anyway You Want It" and the funky "Walks Like a Lady."
With "Escape," released in 1981, they rocketed into the stratosphere, charting three hit singles - the epic "Don't Stop Believing," "Who's Crying Now" and "Open Arms." To date, the album, which spent nearly three years on the charts, has sold over 9 million copies in the U.S. alone.
Six years later they broke up. "We were kind of at the top of our game when we split," Steve Perry told Billboard. "I'll take responsibility for the breakup. The merry-go-round was going real fast. Musically, we'd said everything we were going to."
In a GQ interview Schon explained: "Steve Perry just came up and said, "I'm burnt, I'm toast, I need to take a rest." And so in the middle of a tour, he just pulled out, and everybody went home. I'm hearing that we're gonna be off for maybe a couple months, but it turned out to be close to eight to 10 years."
Journey eventually reunited and released "Trial By Fire," which entered the charts at No. 3. The band was all set to capitalize on the album's success when Perry announced he wouldn't tour (because of hip problems that began on a strenuous hike in Hawaii).
Two vocalists, Steve Augeri and Jeff Soto, subsequently fronted the band until Pineda was discovered.
"We feel reborn," Schon told Blabbermouth. "I think there's a lot of chemistry between the five of us. Everyone's so stoked about it. We feel very fortunate to have found Arnel."
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In 2000 acclaimed pianist/vocalist Diana Krall became the first jazz artist in 25 years to have a recording nominated for Album of the Year. Teamed with celebrated producer Tony Lipuma, Krall's album, "When I Look in Your Eyes," won her a Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Performance and secured her international success.
Crossover success followed as she performed in the Lilith Fair and her songs cropped up everywhere from episodes of "Sex in the City" to films like "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil." Krall has subsequently topped both the pop and jazz charts, played sold-out amphitheatres in multiple countries and sold millions of records worldwide.
Born in British Columbia, she began playing piano when she was 4 and by high school was sitting in with Vancouver Island jazz groups. Her father collected old 78 (rpm) records and Krall grew up with a love of jazz and was enthralled by artists like Fats Waller, Nat King Cole and early Bing Crosby.
Starting her career as a pianist, a number of years passed before she felt confident enough to sing.
"I didn't think I was any good," Krall revealed in an interview in Australia's The Age. "When you're listening to Sarah Vaughan or Ella Fitzgerald all day, it's pretty evident there's a difference between that and me. Maybe it was 2000 before I felt comfortable with what I was doing. It was a long process."
Known for singing standards, in 2004 she released "The Girl in the Other Room," her first album to focus on her own songwriting, with six tunes cowritten with husband Elvis Costello.
Krall's latest album, "Quiet Nights," released at the end of the month, includes three songs by Brazilian bossa nova legend Antonio Carlos Jobim. "I think this record is a love letter but very sensual, more on the erotic side. It's definitely late night," she said in an Associated Press interview.
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Maui's Ebb & Flow Arts continues its adventurous multimedia programming on Saturday at The Studio Maui with a new work, "The Joining," by acclaimed jazz musician Emil Richards.
"The Joining" combines painting with music in real time. Along with Richards, some of Hawaii's finest jazz musicians will participate including bassist Bob Harrison, John Zangrando on woodwinds, and percussionist Paul Marchetti. Painters will include Tony Walholm, Piero Resta and Michael Takemoto.
Over the years Richards has performed with such renowned musicians as Ravi Shankar, Frank Sinatra, Igor Stravinsky, Sarah Vaughan, George Harrison and Frank Zappa.
The show will also feature the premiere of Peter Swanzy's stage composition, "23.448," with dancer and suspension artist Nastassia Weit, Zangrando on woodwinds and original videography. The program will conclude with jazz selections performed by Richards and the ensemble.
* Contact Jon Woodhouse at firstname.lastname@example.org.