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Articles Home » 1984 Articles » Survivor - 1984 Vital Signs
Survivor - 1984 Vital Signs

ARTIST: Survivor
ALBUM: Vital Signs
LABEL: Scotti Bros
SERIAL: FZ 39578
YEAR: 1984
CD REISSUE: 1990, Scotti Bros, 5215-2-SB * 1998, Volcano, 32010-2 * 2010, Rock Candy Records, CANDY088


LINEUP: Jimi Jamison - vocals * Frankie Sullivan - guitars, vocals * Jim Peterik - keyboards, vocals * Stephan Ellis - bass * Marc Droubray - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 I Can't Hold Back * 02 High On You * 03 First Night * 04 The Search Is Over * 05 Broken Promises * 06 Popular Girl * 07 Everlasting * 08 It's The Singer Not The Song * 09 I See You In Everyone


So we're well into the 21st Century and as we write (circa 2004) it's the 20th anniversary of one of AOR's most loved classics. Survivor's 'Vital Signs' album set 1984 alight and provided the band with a commercial comeback after the equally stunning 'Caught In The Game' inexplicably stalled in the lower regions of the Billboard charts. 'Vital Signs' also ushered in new vocalist Jimi Jamison (previously with Memphis based outfits Target and Cobra), with Dave Bickler having been sidelined with a larynx condition. The split was amicable, and Bickler had a second stint with the band during the mid to late 90's. Back to 'Vital Signs' though, figures of 2 million plus have been mentioned, and a strong placing of #16 on the album charts saw Survivor right back on top.

The Songs
The opening track was apparently the last one composed for the album, and 'I Can't Hold Back' proved to be the perfect catalyst reaching #13 on the singles chart - and no wonder, building from a quiet acoustic start it develops into a banner waving anthem worthy of spearheading our beloved genre, melodies that influenced any number of their contemporaries and guitar/keys that combine for a memorable hook. 'High On You' starts with a very pop sounding keyboard motif, but Sullivan quickly puts the balance right with a trademark riff and the song is transformed and rocking. He seldom gets his share of credit in the Peterik/Sullivan songwriting partnership and it's time that changed. 'High On You' was full value for it's #9 singles placing and is still a regular feature of the band's live set. 'First Night' is possibly even better, despite only reaching #53 as a single. The classy piano ballad type intro belies the big rocker it becomes, and again it's Sullivan pouring the gasoline on the fire with a killer hook and complementing Jamison in the sublime chorus with those higher octave harmony vocals, an integral of the Survivor sound. 'The Search Is Over' was the biggest smash from this album, hitting #4 and showing they could easily keep pace with Journey in the power ballad stakes. Jamison is in fine voice and the powerful bridge in the middle adds that unexpected magic. 'Broken Promises' sets off at mid tempo with plenty of space for Jamison to stretch out vocally, yet the Sullivan hook comes to the forefront when it really counts - setting up the bridge for yet another killer chorus ... in truth they could've thrown dice to choose the singles from this vinyl, a testament to Survivor's strict policy of no filler tracks ever.

'Popular Girl' reveals Peterik's genius on keys, with a hook we've heard several times since from plenty of big name bands. Mid tempo verses give way to a winning bridge/chorus combination that leaves you wondering if it would've mattered if they chose all the singles from side 2? 'Everlasting' returns us to power ballad territory, in my opinion equal or better than 'The Search Is Over', this was a #1 waiting to happen. The vocal combination of Jamison and Sullivan drive the chorus into territory other bands can seldom reach, with Sullivan operating an octave (or 2 !?) above Jamison. 'It's The Singer Not The Song' is probably one of the top 10 most underrated rock songs ever. A melodic tribute to self belief, it surges along at uptempo on the back of yet another of those hooks that cut deep, woven around vocal melodies that go straight to your heart. 'I See You In Everyone' revisits a percussive structure Survivor made their own ever since 1981's 'Poor Man's Son', slightly slower with a real kick in that 4th bar snare, Droubay and Ellis being one of the definitive rhythm sections in the history of music. And yes, they've built a castle of melody on that foundation yet again, this could just as easily have opened the album and been a smash. Instead it closes the 'Vital Signs' album on the same high note it started on, and quite frankly, never deviated from.

In Summary
Twenty years down the line there's still plenty of life in the Survivor camp and that of their fan base. They're still playing live to big audiences in many different states, they've intensified their efforts in the studio with reports of 6 new tracks loaded into the chamber recently, and they've just wrapped up a few days of intensive filming for a Starbuck's commercial - featuring the band both visually and musically, using 'Eye Of The Tiger' with revised lyrics. In the middle of all this, the official Survivor website has been revamped and relaunched in considerable style at Frankie Sullivan's website can be found at, focusing more on the man and his music. Both sites support bulletin boards populated by great folk who love the band first and foremost, and good music in general. Why not go over there and have a look around? You'll discover that AOR/melodic rock is far from dead, in fact ready for a comeback spearheaded by the band that practically defined the genre.

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#1 | rocklover on January 28 2008 11:52:37
hi there,

well what can you say about this band, It's a great band Survivor I have all the cd's except Reach it just doesn't do it for me Reach, I listened to it once and it's just not the Survivor sound from the past it's a shamehelpless. But my favorite albums are vital signs and when seconds count wow what great songs. I really like Jimi Jamison voice but I always wandered what they would have sound like these songs with the voice of dave bickler, rolleyes. Because he has a fantastic voice it's a shame he had problems with his voice Sad. Oh well Survivor is great and i'm excited to see how Mcauley will doclap

They still rock!
greetz rocklover
#2 | jeffduran on January 28 2008 18:51:36
This is a no brainer-one of the AOR classics. The pre-Jamison debate will always arise as to what line-up is the best. I think the debut, 'Premonition', 'Eye Of The Tiger', and 'Caught In The Game' are smoking records but this and my favorite 'When Seconds Count' make my Top 20 AOR of all time.Thumbs Up
'Reach' for the 'Fire Makes Steel' bootleg instead of that rubbish released a couple years back.
#3 | Eric on January 29 2008 01:50:17
Yeaahh...'Premonition' always will get my vote but god -I still love the bouncy pomp of 'Popular Girl'..Thumbs Up
#4 | george_the_jack on June 03 2008 16:20:05
An album that makes you a maniac with the 80's decade.There is nothing less you can do. Classic!
#5 | Jez on June 13 2008 09:31:04
Major Survivor release and probably my favourite from their entire catologue. No low points and loads of highs. One of the best from '84
#6 | sabace on August 03 2008 16:05:33
another great lp!
#7 | rostoned on August 03 2008 16:21:20
Mega classic. Period.
#8 | jeffrey343 on January 06 2009 18:40:26
This came out my freshman year in college. At that time, the only Survivor album I had heard in its entirety was 'Eye Of The Tiger', plus 'Take You On A Saturday' (B-side of EOTT single) and 'Caught In The Game' (radio and MTV). The singles from this one were inescapable; good thing I really liked them. As great as they were, I think the best songs are actually 'Broken Promises' and 'Popular Girl'. I haven't played this one as much over the years, probably because I almost OD'd on it in college and still hear the hits on radio to this day.

After having the perspective of hearing all the Survivor albums for many years, it is interesting to think about how the change in vocalists and styles (this is definitely a lot slicker than 'Caught In The Game' ) would be dissected on a forum such as this. I think it is similar (maybe not as drastic, though) as Van Halen between 'Diver Down' with Roth and '5150' with Hagar. But you can't argue with the success they had with this one.
#9 | rkbluez on March 22 2010 02:37:32
Premonition is Survivors best album IMO...followed by the s/t and then Caught In The Game...Vital Signs is cool for what it is...but they went way too poppy for my taste...where Premonition had mellow songs they still had and edge to them that's missing on VS...I like Bickler's vocals better also...the best CD they did with Jamison is the mighty Too Hot To Sleep which has a little bit more of an edge like their earlier stuff.
#10 | reyno-roxx on March 22 2010 18:34:58
Pretty much agree with everything Steve says above...although I prefer the self titled album over 'Premonition'.
#11 | gdazegod on July 14 2013 14:27:32
YouTube Video:
#12 | super80boy on April 05 2014 19:49:58
This solid as a brick album kicks off with two big time single tapped songs that launched into the top 20 and still see plenty of radio play…and it just keeps the high caliber single worthy songs coming, one after the other. No kidding on the comment of no filler songs on this LP… Vital Signs really let people know that Survivor could be just as good as their more popular rock brethren at the time, Journey, Foreigner and Styx.
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