REVIEW: Europe – The Final Countdown (1986)

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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.

PHANTOM ZONE

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.

5/5 stars

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28 comments

  1. For sure this album is pretty solid..I mean back in 86 they were playing the game by releasing the ballad but this album does have some solid songs as u pointed out Mike.
    The only thing that ever really bothered me was Tempest using a Hienz ketchup bottles as a mic in the Rock The Nigh vid..hahahaha….for sure Norum is a solid player ,great band even now….

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  2. Hahaha at your Phantom Zone caption. But your tag “Supermam”? WTF?

    This is a great album. I’d advise anyone interested in Europe to go and see them live. People can mock the title track but it makes an unstoppable encore. Europe having that song and ‘Cherokee’ in their backpocket means every show they do is golden!

    This is the same edition of the CD I have too! Do ‘Wings of Tomorrow’ next!

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  3. Great album. They used most the songs on this album in the movie “Hot Rod”. Check it out. Europe’s first two albums (before this one) were excellent as well.

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    1. Well Jeff it just so happens that I have a review for Wings of Tomorrow coming up soon, and possibly the first album too! Thanks for commenting. Have to see Hot Rod!

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  4. Comparisons to Bon Jovi, hmm. I remember one special week in November 1986, when The Final Countdown and Living On a Prayer were number two and nine in the UK charts respectively. It wasn’t a common occurance.

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  5. I remember my sister’s girly teen magazines had one with Joey Tempest on one side, and Jon on the other. Lord!

    My sister preferred Jon, I preferred Europe, the band.

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  6. Maybe all the comparisons were just about all that poodle hair going around…

    I recently saw this very CD in a sale bin, brand new, for $5. Now you give it 5/5. So yer saying I should have bought the damn thing? Who knew.

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  7. Hmmmm. I believe this is the weakest Europe album so far. In 1986 it was perfect, but both songs and sound got dated really fast and I don’t think this album has stod the test of time at all. Back when it came out, I loved it, though, but funnily enough I think that the two songs that I hated the most back when, Heart Of Stone and On The Loose, are the two best songs on the album today. Those, plus the title track and Rock The Night are the only one’s that still cut it, I think. Cherokee is ok also.
    Beside the extremely weak, plastic and sterile production many of the songs on here just doesn’t cut it. John Norum was so very right when he called Carrie “the most cowardly song ever written”. I agree. And stuff like Danger On The Track, Ninja and Love Chaser sounds so lame today. Plus, I really can’t stand that the keyboards are as loud in the mix as the guitars and completely takes over the Cherokee riff. Speaking of Cherokee, the voice before the song belongs to Ian Haigland and he says “We are going to play now” (Nu ska vi spela) in Swedish.
    Also, I think it’s really weird that they didn’t include On Broken Wings, the b-side on the The Final Countdown single or Where Men Won’t Dare, John Norum’s instrumental that was cut off the album.

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    1. Well now I know what the hell that is before Cherokee! And I always thought it was a woman! I always thought he was saying something like, “Let this be enough”! Turns out it wasn’t even English!

      I’ve never heard Where Men Won’t Dare. Has it ever been released officially?

      On Broken Wings is great. It took me a long time to get it. I don’t think I ever had a copy of that song until they re-released on a greatest hits CD. I’d seen it on a 7″ single when I was a kid, and I couldn’t afford it, so I didn’t buy it. D’oh!

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      1. I have never heard it either, I have only read about the song and no, it has never been released for some reason. But I know that Norum was to have an instrumental on the record but Elson and the record company removed it because it was too uncommercial and Europe were going for a world wide break with this album.
        And sorry ’bout my type-o, the drummer’s name is Haugland, not Haigland….

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        1. Quite alright! I’m not Neue Regel, I won’t make fun of a typo and call you Mastermind…

          This is the kind of rarity that you have to hope is safely stored on tape, waiting for an eventual deluxe edition or box set.

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  8. Just came to think about one thing. Back in 1985, Europe released Rock The Night as a single and it’s a different version than what later ended up on this album. Much heavier version. The guitars are louder and the drums way heavier. Mic Michaeli’s keyboard has more of a Hammond sound on it. I know that TFC was released in 1986 and it has this really AOR-ish sound that was typical for 1986, but it hasn’t exactly aged that well. They should have gone with the sound they had on the first RTN single. Also, they re-recorded Seven Doors Hotel as a b-side, very good version.

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    1. I have a compilation album called Rock The Night, and I think it might have the re-recorded Seven Doors Hotel. I will have to check and see. I’m pretty sure that I don’t have the 1985 single version of Rock the Night. I’ll have to check on Discogs.

      I’ve been slowly buying singles on Discogs in phases. This week, 5 Bon Jovi singles arrived! Next week, two Tesla singles. I also finished my early Def Lep singles collection thanks to them. I haven’t shopped for Europe singles on Discogs…yet.

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        1. Nope, it’s not that one. That one was released later. I don’t know which version of Rock The Night that is on that single, but the one I have has a live pic on the cover and only has Seven Doors Hotel on the b-side.
          On the other hand, with that single you’ll get Broken Dreams. It’s a ballad – a rather boring one, truth be told.

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        2. Well Jon, I know this is a little different from what you normally do, but if I could request a vintage single review from you…that would be the one I wanna see :)

          I don’t think I have Broken Dreams on anything. Well, yesterday I ordered a Tesla 12″ along with a green 12″ by an Irish group that Joe Elliot helped promote called No Sweat. Don’t know if you remember those guys at all? I liked this song, I think you might too.

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        3. Well, I’m a bit locked up by the categories on my site and I don’t have Singles one, but I could do one for you as a guest reviewer… If get 5 mins… ;-)

          I rememeber No Sweat. They had this one video that Headbanger’s Ball Europe used to play, but it wasn’t this one. I thought that song was pretty good and this one was too. But Tear Down The Walls? Wasn’t that title getting old already in the early 90’s…?

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        4. Yes it sure was. Also I think the song is a bit “My Generation” via Gorky Park’s version. However I with bands like this, I don’t mind having the one single I liked.

          My reader feedback is that one can always create a new category! Hint hint!

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