REVIEW: Europe – Prisoners In Paradise (1991, 2001 reissue)

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EUROPE – Prisoners In Paradise (1991, 2001 reissue)

Ugh.

I know people who love this album, and admittedly it has a couple good songs on it. However, by this time Europe had lost their identity. They were now openly pursuing a commercial American sound, and it shows. The regality of old Europe was now only audible on a handful of tracks. On some, they were attempting to milk the ZZ Top cow. This is by their own admission. On other songs, you can mistake them for Roxette!

I had always loved Europe, and could not wait for the fifth album. Three years in the waiting, when Prisoners of Paradise finally dropped I snapped it up. Produced by Beau Hill (one of my least favourite metal producers of all time, ruining almost every band he touched, hello Twisted Sister!) and mixed in “Q Sound” (remember that?) I was immediately taken aback. Europe did promise a “heavier” album, and in a sense, this has more guitars. However, heavy is not the word I would have chosen. The album is overproduced, overpolished, and contrived. With a few notable exceptions, the riffs don’t stand out and the songs just drown in a morass of gang vocals courtesy of Hill’s horrendous production.

“All Or Nothing” (co-written by Mr. Big’s Eric Martin), the opening track, is a great example of this. Yeah, sure, it’s based on guitars rather than keys. However, this is a pop song!  Track two, “Halfway to Heaven”, co-written by Jim Vallance sounds exactly like Roxette. My Roxette-loving sister adored this song. “I’ll Cry For You” is a way, way, way overproduced ballad. No wonder the band preferred their later acoustic rendering of it. “Little Bit Of Loving” is just a bad song, too American sounding for this band, not worthy of the name Europe. “Talk To Me” isn’t bad, and “The Seventh Sign” is at least heavier, but not a particularly memorable song.

That ended side one of the original album. Side two began with the first really good song, “Prisoners in Paradise”. This ballad-like anthem is still overproduced, but it at least breathes and is irresistibly catchy. I just don’t get that dumb, spoken word opening. “Man, I just wanna be somebody!” Come on, guys. Let’s not write down to “the kids”. (Why did bands always refer to their fans as “the kids”?)

“Bad Blood” sucks. “Homeland” is not bad, and could have fit in on the previous album Out Of This World. It’s a decent song, and the lyrics at least sound heartfelt rather than contrived. This however is followed by the absolute worst song on an already dreadful album: The ZZ Top inspired “Got Your Mind In The Gutter”. The lyrics: dumb. The riff: stale. The chorus: awful. Terrible song. We’re almost near the end, and “Til My Heart Beats Down Your Door”, although a bit too soft, has a pulse.

Europe at least had the class to write one classic great song and end the album with it: “Girl From Lebanon”. It grooves, but not in a cheesy contrived way like the rest of the album. The chorus is irresistible  It’s a great song, and the only truly 100% great song on the album.  This one has the regal Europe sound that I missed. They still play it live.

Remastered versions of the album throw on two bonus tracks, both nondescript and not memorable: “Mr. Government Man” and “Long Time Comin'”. No matter how many times I’ve played the CD, these two songs refuse to stick to my brain.

Commercially, Europe’s fifth album was a complete dud, and sounded that much more stupid in the wake of its competition. Not that Europe could have foreseen this, but Nevermind, Ten, and Badmotorfinger drove this album into the dirt. Fans were eager to soak up something more heavy, heartfelt and real. While Europe’s goal here was to “heavy up” their sound (this is the direction that metal was going in previous months anyway) they were completely lapped by the new kids on the block. And then came a decade-long hiatus.

The good news is that Europe came back with original member John Norum on guitar for 2003’s excellent Start From The Dark, one of their best records.

2/5 stars


Lineup – Joey Tempest, vocals. Kee Marcello, guitars. Mic Michaeli, keys. Ian Haughland, drums. John Levin, bass.

67 comments

  1. Any review that starts with “Ugh.” has gotta be epic.

    What is “Little Blit Of Lovin’?” What’s a blit? Some kink I’ve yet to hear of (and try)?

    I only know Europe’s hits. I’m glad somebody like you, Mike, is paying closer attention.

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  2. I bought this on LP and CD a couple of years ago but i’ve not been in the mood so I’ve never listened to it! I’ve heard quite a few of the songs on the Rock The Night 2CD comp though and I though most of them were pretty good… but I guess Girl From Lebanon is maybe the only top-drawer song here. I love Seventh Sign. What album was “Yesterday’s News” on? That’s a killer track!

    Wasn’t as keen on Start From the Dark as you seem to be. It’s pretty good, but I preferred Secret Society overall.

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      1. I wondered. Pretty strong song for a B-Side. One of my favourites of theirs.

        I’ve got Last Look at Eden but I’m not too familiar with it. It’s there for when the mood takes me and then I might catch up with the new one too. They’ve had a new lease of life since getting back together. Great band and phenomenal live act.

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        1. They’ve managed to gain the respect of people who know their rock music. Casual people will only ever know The Final Countdown, and that’s fine, but I’m even more impressed with their current work.

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    1. Yesterday’s News was supposed to be the leading track of Prisoners In Paradise, but their record company made sure it was taken off the album entierly. It was too heavy and it didn’t have single potential, but somehow it seems like everybody loves the song. PIP is one big compromise.

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  3. Like u guys said..great underrated band…..Eden record was pretty good,I ripped the audio of the live DVD and man there chops are in fine form…..

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  4. I couldn’t agree more with you Mike! I am a huge Europe fan and they really did have an identity crisis for a bit. But Last Look at Eden and their latest Bag of Bones have turned them around completely. I think with BOB they are now clearly sure of their sound. It’s by far the best yet and really worth picking up a copy. They are still highly popular all over countries across Europe and in South America. I think we have many fans here in the USA as well but they have yet to release their latest to the American market so it’s an import if anyone wants to pick it up. This latest tour (saw them in the UK) was really great with lots of great live stuff and pretty funny the only song they played from Prisoner’s was Girl from Lebanon, you called that spot on!

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    1. I loved Last Look at Eden…what a great record! I think they somehow combined their “popular” period with the anthemic keyboards with their current sound.

      And let’s face it, Kee Marcello is great, but John Norum is truly THE MAN when it comes to this band. Such an underrated player. Don Dokken knew it.

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      1. I couldn’t disagree more when it comes to Norum. I actually think the guy is overrated. Everything Norum does, Marcello can do better, but not the other way around, I’m afraid. Norum was really good in the early 80’s, but he has stagnated. lucklily enough, he plays better today than ever before. He still couldn’t hold a candle to Marcello, though.

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        1. Well, It’s just a matter of taste. We have this Marcello vs Norum discussion all the time over here. But I have always loved Marcello’s playing even tough I always liked Norum’s as well. But seeing them live so many times on their tours the last 10 years, it’s impossible not to react when Norum never ever manages to nail Marcello’s work. But Marcello had no problem cutting Norum’s solos when he was in the band.

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        2. Well true, it is taste, I probably “overspoke” by putting my sentiments in caps! Or at least wasn’t totally clear in my meaning. I just associate Norum with a lot of songs that I like!

          I suppose it never bothered me that Norum kind of played “around” the tricky bits in Kee’s solos. “Superstitious” being a good example. I hear what you’re saying though. I do need to hear more Kee, I believe you reviewed one of his albums recently didn’t you?

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        3. Yes I did. His latest one. Judas Kiss.

          http://etainmentnewsreviews.wordpress.com/hard-rock/hard-rock-reviews-2013/kee-marcello-judas-kiss/

          But he has done more. Melon Demon Divine with he and his band K2, Shine On, which was a more singer songwriter kind of pop album. And of course the two albums he made with his pre-Europe outfit Easy Action, their self titled glam rock album and That Makes One, which was very AOR-ish, with huge Toto and Journey influences.

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  5. I have to disagree on a most of your comments re PIP album. Over 20 years on and this album still rocks. It’s an extremely underrated yet very solid hard rock release. It’s one of the Europe best albums ever, beside TFC, OOTW and LLAE.
    You also forgot to mention there were quite a few outtakes that were published elsewhere and strangely enough, some of them, including “Yesterday’s News” or “Break Free” are even better than most of the songs the album contains. Also, there is nothing about the fact that originally the album was supposed to sound much heavier, but demos presented to the management were turned down and the band was sent back to the studio to re-record them as in their opinion they were not enough “hits” among them. In the process, the remaining songs were further polished. In the recent interview with Kee Marcello he recalls that it was his big regret at the time, although he admitted PIP is a very good album after all.
    The production on PIP is brilliant and the music sounds very fresh and crispy. Musicianship is phenomenal and the songs are well written, rocky and extremely catchy, something that was always Europe’s trademark. Tempest’s vocals sound the best of all Europe albums and they clearly show he was in his heyday at the time.
    The band overall sounded better than ever before but unfortunately it was to be their last album before they took a long break… Sad to know Kee Marcello didn’t join them when they “started from the dark” in 2004. Imagine Europe with two guitarists and each of them playing their own original solos they created while the other one would be playing rhythm guitar at the time…

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    1. Hey man it’s all good. Different tastes, right? I appreciate the time you took to put all your thoughts down and I enjoyed reading them.

      I agree that a two-guitar Europe would have been amazing. Who knows maybe it could still happen if they ever do a “farewell” tour.

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      1. I don’t think that will ever happen. I spoke to Kee not very long ago and he told me that he’d do it in a heartbeat, but Norum refuses and apparently Tempest hates his guts. He wasn’t sure why but I suggested that it might have something to do with Kee’s autobiography “The Rock Star God Forgot” where he spilled the beans on everybody and their mother… ;)

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        1. No kidding eh! I never assumed Europe were a band with much dirt to spill, but I suppose any tight knit group will.

          I for one would like to see a 6 man Europe lineup in my lifetime. Shame.

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        2. Yeah, me too. It sure would be the perfect line up for the band. They have done it once, when the reunited for the millenium shift in 1999. Both Marcello and Norum was there that New Years Eve and they played Rock The Night and The Final Countdown together.
          I’m not sure if Kee’s book has been translated to English yet, but I have heard something about it being released as an audio book. If it’s out there, I highly recommend it. One of the best and most interesting rock bios I have read. And there were a lot more to Europe than met the eye, that’s for sure. ;-)

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        3. Ahh, I don’t think Kee’s book has been translated yet. That’s too bad. I’d rather read his, than Bobby Blotzer’s, to be honest.

          Europe somehow escaped any kind of scandals in the press, at least over here. They certainly didn’t suffer the kind of public spatting that Dokken had, while they were still together!

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        4. Well, it was the same for us. Nothing much of the stuff that happened were made public to us either. I knew some drug related stuff because I had some friends who were connected to the band in different ways, but a lot of stuff I got to know when I read Kee’s book.
          But Joe Elliott has said in many interviews that Europe were one of the hardest partying bands he had ever toured with, so it didn’t take that many wild guesses to figure what went on in that camp…

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        5. There are a handful of bands that escaped that “party” reputation in magazines here. Bands like Europe, they were generally pretty well spoken, they had opinions on things, and they didn’t really talk about booze or girls in the interviews too much. On the other hand, Poison didn’t have much else to talk about! And then CC got colossally wasted on the MTV video awards…all very public drama!

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        6. Hehe. I remember that. CC DeVille… What a useless piece of crap. Poison were never a favourite, but I kinda liked some of their stuff. But Native Tongue, the one they did with Richie Kotzen… Brilliant album. Everything had improved. I could bet a large sum of money on that neither Bobby Dall or Rikki Rockett plays a note on that album.

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        7. I think you’re at least partly right about that. I have a Poison related review coming in the next few days. Native Tongue was by far their best release, but like you I kinda like some of their stuff. CC Deville is possibly in the running for worst guitarist in a platinum band.

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  6. I both agree and disagree with you on the subject of this album. First of all, I think Beau Hill is a genius compared to Ron Nevison who ruined Out Of This World and every other album he touched. Beau Hill did a good job with both Ratt and Winger, I think. But he was totally wrong for Europe. Europe always had their roots in 70’s hard rock and the glammier L.A. sound that this album has suits them bad.
    Also, out of the four “newly” written songs for this album, only the title track is really good. I’ll Cry For You is crap, Halfway To Heaven is a decent pop song and All Or Nothing is a poor attempt to try to get a hit with the Pour Some Sugar On Me ish chorus. But there are som really good songs on here, many of which are the ones you mentioned. Little Bit Of Lovin, Talk To Me, Bad Blood, Got Your Mind In the Gutter and Girl From Lebanon, all great stuff.
    But this album could have been so much better. I have a CD with 15 demos of unreleased tracks from the PIP sessions and many of those songs are nothing short of brilliant. If their useless record company hadn’t fucked things up, then Europe would have had a true killer on their hands. For example, Yesterday’s News was supposed to be leading track of the album and the title of the album was originally gonna be Break Free after a real thunderbolt of a song of theirs.
    And let’s not get me started on Kee Marcello vs John Norum. Kee Marcello is superior to Norum 24/7, every angle. Kee has a style of his own, something that Norum has never had. When he doesn’t sound like Gary Moore or Michael Schenker, he sounds like Zakk Wylde, but I have yet to hear how Norum sounds (hope I don’t sound to mucj like neue regel here… ;)). Still, I believe that Norum today plays better than he ever had and that he probably fits Europe’s 70’s sound of today better than Marcello might do. Still, it gets really embarrassing to watch Norum try to play Marcello’s solos. He just can’t nail them.

    As for today, if anyone is into 70’s influenced hard rock, then check out the albums Europe has released after their reunion in 2004, Start From The Dark, Secret Socety, Last Look At Eden and their latest one Bag Of Bones. Here’s a link to my review on that album:

    http://etainmentnewsreviews.wordpress.com/classic-rock/classic-rock-reviews-2012/europe-bag-of-bones/

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    1. Wow…so much great information here. Thank you.

      Shame about how record companies can butcher albums. And the real shame of it is, if they had released the heavier album that Europe wanted, the chances of it selling would have been increased due to the trends in music in 1991.

      I don’t have Bag of Bones yet…but your review indicates that I should fix that. Need to look into the bonus track situation.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. A little question; you have reviewed this, The Final Countdown and Wings Of Tomorrow, but not Out Of This World? How come? And have you heard Bag of Bones yet?

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    1. Not heard Bag of Bones yet.

      I also have not reviewed the debut album yet. I guess the cheap and easy answer is, “I just haven’t got around to it yet!”

      My ultimate goal is I’d like to review everything I own. But considering that my collection grows, that will never happen. Still, Out of this World deserves my attention soon.

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      1. Yes it does. Song wise it’s one of their best albums, if not the best. I have said it before and I’ll say it again, Ron Nevison should be shot on sight for ruining all those great album he “produced”, OOTW included.

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        1. If I invent time travel, I swear to god, after I save the world and stuff, I’m going to go back and fire Ron Nevison from every album he ever ruined. If you wake up one more, and you discover your copy of Crazy Nights is no longer produced by Ron Nevison, that’s how you’ll know that I discovered time travel. (Cue: Paul Stanley demo “Time Traveller”.

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        2. Hahaha! That would be awesome. I was recently in a conversation at Sweden Rock Festival’s music forum about Crazy Nights and it hit me just how much of a bad-ass album that would have been had the production been thicker and heavier and the keyboards only used in the background.

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        3. It could have been better. Imagine if Ezrin had come into the picture then. He would have told Paul to put the keyboards away, told Bruce to stop playing with himself, and told Gene to sing in the monster voice again.

          Regardless I know Bruce is very proud of his guitar work on that album, and I get that, he’s definitely showing off his chops.

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  8. Stumbled across this one late too after searching for anything Paradise Lost related (but nothing – not a fan of Draconian Times mike?) . Couldn’t resist delving into this discussion anyways.

    Firstly, even if not fully supportive, another great objective review.

    But gotta agree with e-tainment above, for what it was and the genre from which it hails, Prisoners In Paradise was a fantastic record! Sure there were some duds and OTT pop sugar but less so than there was on Out Of This World (regardless its quality) or the hugely overrated Final Countdown (and title track), Prisoners could’ve done far better had the unreleased material e-tainment refers to (although have only heard a few those tunes, really need get my hands on that still).

    So aside from the obvious singles that haven’t aged so well, SEVENTH SIGN is THE album highlight and throw the title track, Talk To Me, Heart Breaks Down Your Door and Girl From Lebanon and those there are absolute essential Europe IMO. And most the remainder still rates, this came at least a year too late (was said the band had finished the record but got sent back by the label to record more hit singles, but to what gain?).

    Respect this record and probably rate this the best of their original era, just a shame the final product got riddled with the fodder it did.

    On a side note agree with e-tainment too that the records since reforming have been quite tasty, personal fave still the tremendous Secret Society, but anyone looking for just a little old school kreeping into the new stuff need look no further than both Riches To Rags and Bring It All Home from the recent Bag Of Bones. Understand both those were ideas floated from the bands heyday which might explain their old-school vibe. Either way worth checking out looking forward to their new record in 2015 \m/

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    1. I don’t have Bag of Bones yet, but I did like the first three reunion-era albums a lot. In fact I think I like Start From the Dark best! I know that nobody ever picks Start From the Dark, but a few songs aside, I really like it. Of course I was just excited for some new music, with Norum on top.

      Definitely wanna check out Bag of Bones.

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  9. I am very late replying to this discussion, but I wanted to add just a few things. I was big fan of Europe when I was young (11-13 years old). I too bought Prisoners in Paradise with high expectations, and like Mike, I was sorely disappointed. My taste in music switched/evolved shortly thereafter and I completely abandoned Europe.

    Recently, however, after learning that they will be headlining this year’s M3 Music Festival (Maryland), I pulled out what old Europe albums I still have (Wings of Tomorrow, Out of this World and 1982-1992) and I ordered their two newest albums (Last Look at Eden and Bag of Bones). I’ve now come full circle and fully embrace these guys. Why, oh why, didn’t I give them another chance sooner!?

    Bag of Bones is fantastic—and I prefer it, just slightly, to Last Look at Eden (and it too is fantastic). It took a few listens to grow on me, but now I can’t quit listening to it. Definitely track it down! I also ordered Almost Unplugged and have enjoyed that one as well.

    I am only disappointed that their other newer albums are so difficult to get. Secret Society and Start from the Dark aren’t readily available and come at a high price. I’ve listened to both a few times via YouTube and hope I can eventually get both albums at an affordable price. Of the two, I prefer Secret Society.

    The point: Europe is truly a great band and have only gotten better in recent years. I can’t want to see them live and I’m looking forward to their upcoming album as well.

    Again, thanks for these great reviews Mike!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Christopher, I love this comment. The live album Almost Unplugged is definitely going to get a review here soon. That is an amazing album and I especially love the UFO cover — Love to Love.

      Start From the Dark might be my favourite of the reunion era, though I know most people consider that to just be the starting point from which they grew further. I have it in an amazing 2 DVD/1 CD set with Live From the Dark. If you can find that, go for it!

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      1. Mike, I’ll take your advice to heart and try to track down the Live from the Dark set. I’ve listened to Start from the Dark via YouTube a few times and I really enjoyed it—but YouTube is such a horrible way (ethically) to listen to music. I feel like a bastard when I do that, yet I simultaneously can’t get myself to pay $11.00 for an MP3 album on ITunes. So, I will eventually fork out the $$$ to get the proper album. And who knows, maybe I’ll get lucky and find those albums at Europe’s merchandise booth at M3 (though very unlikely).

        Very glad that you will be reviewing Almost Unplugged. I was listening to it again this morning on the way to work and it’s just a fantastic album. The sequencing, quality, song selection, everything about it works.

        I have to also add that I’ve watched their 30th Anniversary show on YouTube and it’s amazing. I’ll be getting that on Blu Ray.

        Europe… who would have thought?

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        1. UPDATE: Just found a used copy of Start from the Dark (only $5) at a local music store. I was hoping to find Secret Society or Prisoners of Paradise, but I couldn’t pass up SFTD. Thanks again, Mike!

          Liked by 1 person

      2. I know the chick they wrote Sucker about… ;-D

        Start From The Dark is a bit uneven, but mostly it’s bloody great. A few fillers too many, in my book.
        Checked out Bag Of Bones yet, Mike? ;)

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Reeeaally?! Oh my! I always assumed Sucker was about a generic “fan girl”. She’ll be throwing all her love around…wow.

          No Jon I have not. And I see that they have a double live coming out too. I’m sorry I haven’t sent your parcel away yet. Sometimes life happens and I get distracted but I DO have CDs here for you that I hope you will like. Sorry!

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        2. Dude, it’s ok. I have so much music to listen to anyway. And January is a busy month. So much new music to digest… I have a couple of CDs for you as well. Real ones this time.

          There are parts of Sucker that is made up. The part you mentioned, that’s just to make it all a bit more… well, it’s a bit exaggerated. It was never that bad. But she was a sucker for a guitar hero.

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        3. Mike, I’ve listened to Start from the Dark a few times now and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it! I don’t think it’s as consistent as their last two albums, but it’s still great. Europe has matured in a way that very few bands of their era have managed.

          Jon, I just discovered your site (via this one) and I love your reviews as well. You guys put a lot of thought into your opinions and you are both fantastic writers. Thanks for the hard work!

          Liked by 1 person

        4. I’m glad you like it! I thought it was a great first album after a long hiatus. Of course they have grown so much since…I was just listening to Last Look at Eden again, and it’s WOW.

          Liked by 1 person

        5. Cool, Chris. Thanks a lot. Hope you keep on visiting me as well.
          If you’re a Europe fan, there are a lot more bands that you’d might wanna check out that I have reviewed. There has been some really great new melodic hard rock that’s been coming out in teh last few years.

          Liked by 1 person

  10. This is EUROPE ´s best album and one of rock most underrated album. It is a 10/10.
    Everything you said is based on your taste.
    On this album, they achieve the best songwriting they ever did. Girl from lebanon is good, better than little bit of loving? You sir are deaf.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah but he is Dave’s brother.

        I also wonder if he didn’t go by the handle of Simao previously.

        Perhaps hr is also really a woman from Carolina. How does he/she get computer access in there?

        I noticed it took 3 years to respond though.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I don’t think he and Simeo are the same person. One was polite, one a dick.

          I would like Mustaine’s Brother to write a review of this album without basing anything about it on his “taste”. And…Go!

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        2. I will put this out there on the internet for all to read.
          I, Boppin, will never, ever, EVER write anything about Europe. Others such as yourself can keep the interesting folk. The only straight jacketed fellow I want to see is on a Quiet Riot record.

          Liked by 1 person

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