This one comes to you by request of Jompa Wilmenius!
EUROPE – Out of this World (1988 Epic)
So here I am, in the same place that I was 26 years ago when I first heard Out of this World, by a band I just loved: Europe. It was late August of 1988. The location is a quaint wooden cottage north of Kincardine, Ontario. I bought this album at the local records & tapes store while on summer vacation. The problem with August in Kincardine is that it was a crummy time to be on vacation. It started to get cool in late August, dark and rainy. That August was a damp one, and I have lots of memories of being in this exact same location trying to wrap my head around Europe’s then-latest.
From the first single, it was obvious to my friends and I that Europe had mellowed somewhat. It seemed odd to me that a band of Europe’s stature would release something mid-tempo and softer as a first single. But there was no questioning the quality of “Superstitious”. It remains one of Joey Tempest’s greatest compositions. This song has it all: A soulful vibe, anthemic Europe keyboards, an absolutely blazing guitar solo by Kee Marcello, and plenty of organ to go with this darker mellow vibe.
I don’t think this video did them any favors.
That considered, I expected the next song “Let the Good Times Rock” to sound more like upbeat, “old” Europe (which to me was The Final Countdown). Although it has some cool guitar hooks and fun lyrics, it’s more of a laid back dark n’ dirty grind. This furthered the feeling that Europe were softening a bit.
None of us were then aware that “Open Your Heart” was a remake of a song from 1984’s Wings of Tomorrow. Kee didn’t play on the orginal, so it’s cool to hear his take on it. Even though this song was a ballad, it was undoubtedly hit single quality. When this song failed to get any airplay here, I began to worry that Europe’s fortunes in this country were over. I could not fathom how the song had not become a massive hit. Europe were being ignored by the mainstream. It was a shame. I still think the re-recorded version is great. As I said in my review for Wings of Tomorrow, “I prefer the re-recorded version, because it includes an additional guitar part, really cool and catchy, immediately after the acoustic intro.”
“More Than Meets the Eye” has nothing to do with the Transformers, but it does consist of more dark, keyboard-oriented radio rock. It’s a very good song, but again, I was craving something more upbeat. There was still hit single potential here. “Coast to Coast” is equally good, but very soft. This is a mournful organ-backed anthem. It’s peaceful, just like this cottage by the lake. Quality-wise, this is top-notch. However we are now five songs into the A-side, without a really truly upbeat sounding rock song. The young me found this all a bit too depressing, though today I don’t mind the laid back vibes.
Then, finally! “Ready or Not”! A smoking rock song. Everything the album needed. When Joey sings, “Then rock me just a little more,” that’s exactly how I felt! Coming from Canada, I often wonder how Europe’s Swedish fans, who had been on board much longer, felt about Europe’s new musical direction.
Side B commenced with the elegant keyboards of “Sign of the Times”. The song feels highbrow, and perhaps musically it was too sophisticated for the tastes at the time. It’s an excellent song, another keyboard-drenched anthem. The shame of it is, the production (by Ron Nevison) robs the song of so much power. Some things he captures quite well, such as Mic Michaeli’s organ. Other things are weak by comparison. Kee’s lead tone sounds cold…just like this cottage used to be in late August…and the rhythm guitars are not present enough. The song could have had much more dynamics, heavy and soft, if the instruments were just recorded a little differently.
“Just the Beginning” isn’t anything special to me, a chorus without a song. This one you can skip, there are better songs to be had. “Never Say Die” is pretty good. It too lacks that upbeat feel that I’m craving on a Europe album, but it’s good enough for me. It has some great parts even if the whole isn’t all it should be. The organ and guitar solos, for example, are a lot of fun. Unfortunately “Lights and Shadows”, which follows, is just filler.
“Tower’s Callin'”, the penultimate song, is back to quality songwriting. Even though the song has a cool groove (badly recorded once again) and a killer chorus, the lyrics are completely incongruous to the mood of the music! The songs seem to be about an air disaster:
All set ready to go but little does he know
He ain’t comin’ back no more, no
All set ready to fly into that deep blue sky
Like so many times before
Now the tower’s callin’, there’s no reply
And there’s nothin’ they can do
Now the night is fallin’ before their eyes
Still no one’s comin’ through, callin’ F12
Or am I reading this with too much 2014 perspective? Perhaps the song is supposed to be more Twilight Zone in nature, a disappearing plane?
The final track is “Tomorrow”, a Joey Tempest piano piece that once again has to be one of his best compositions. It does close the album on a sad, rainy note…much like that August in ’88.
It’s obvious that I can’t separate my listening to Out of this World from feelings of nostalgia. For that reason, take my rating with a grain of salt. Although many may feel differently, I like this album. It has a weaker second side and way too many ballads, but Ron Nevison robbed the guitars of their thunder. The songwriting shines through on many tracks, as does the talent of the players. For those reasons: