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EUROPE – The Final Countdown (1986, 2001 Epic remaster)
I remember back in 1986/1987, all the rock magazines were playing on the same angle: Who’s better, Europe or Bon Jovi? Hard to believe that the two bands were once considered on the same playing field, now that Bon Jovi are permanent megastars. Not to mention their music sounds nothing alike!
Everybody knows “The Final Countdown” which received a new life thanks to TV shows shows like Arrested Development. (Gob Bluth uses it as his theme song during his ill-fated magic acts.) What you may not know is that this album had three other classic singles (“Rock the Night”, “Carrie”, “Cherokee”) and 6 great album tracks with no duds. As an added bonus, this remaster also includes three live tracks from 1987’s Final Countdown World Tour. These may in fact be the same tracks as the Extended Versions release, but I don’t have that one to verify.
The synth-y title track kicks off the proceedings, its regal anthemic melody setting the mood. A science fiction themed song, the people of Earth have departed for Venus (let’s ignore that Venus is 460 °C). The lyrics…not super great on this album, but let’s not forget that English was their second language and they were still kids at the time. Regardless, “The Final Countdown” is a complete success as a song, from insanely catchy verses to chorus to intricate guitar solo courtesy of John Norum.
“Rock The Night” follows, another catchy song, this time with the guitar handling the meat of the tune. Then, the hit ballad “Carrie”. It’s a bit soft by today’s standards but is still a well written keyboard ballad with a great melody. This is followed by another great rock song, “Danger on the Track”. Vocalist Joey Tempest tells us of a journey followed by “strangers on my back”. (See, because “back” rhymes with “track”.) Again, not a great lyric, but it is a great song. Side One of the original LP was finished with the fantastic “Ninja”, which in my own personal world was a single in its own right. The lyrics: “If I were a noble ancient knight, I’d stand by your side to rule and fight.” OK then.
Apparently the phantom zone wasn’t just for General Zod.
Side Two kicked off with a riff and a smile, and probably the best tune: “Cherokee”. The lyrics here are not bad, a tale of the demise of the American Indian. However it is the riff that holds the song down, a typical Norum burner of great integrity. Still can’t tell what that voice says at the beginning of the song, though! The next track is “Time Has Come”, a mid-tempo soft one that I considered filler back then but like quite a lot now. “Heart Of Stone” has a bit more meat to it. This is followed by the fastest and heaviest song on the album, “On The Loose”, which has some of Norum’s best playing. In fact it was this song that brought Norum to my attention as a monster shredder in the first place. After hearing this song, I continued to watch his career with great interest, from solo albums to Don Dokken back to Europe. The album closed with another mid-tempo soft song, “Love Chaser”, which has a keyboard melody reminiscent of “The Final Countdown” itself, bringing us full circle. It is another great tune with killer melody and vocals from Joey Tempest.
The three bonus tracks are live takes of “The Final Countdown,” “Danger on the Track” and “Carrie”. Clearly, Europe could always cut it live. These are from the Hammersmith Odeon in 1987, and feature Norum’s replacement Kee Marcello on guitar. Marcello is no slouch, and had a different style to Norum’s, therefore adding another element to the songs.
The Final Countdown is the kind of album that I think should be owned, rather than just pick up a hits disc. You won’t go wrong with any of these ten tracks. The live stuff is just an added bonus.