joey tempest

#420: Walk With Meat

RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#420: Walk With Meat

Everybody loves misheard lyrics!  “’Scuse me while I kiss this guy.”  There are entire books available with nothing but commonly misheard lyrics.  My dad used to think Gene Simmons was singing “a beach creature in the Ladies Room” on that Kiss classic from Rock N’ Roll Over.  Misheard lyrics can be embarrassing when caught singing along, but also fun.

Perhaps some lyrics are not misheard at all.  Perhaps some are intentional?

My good friend Uncle Meat pointed out a good one on Queenryche’s 1986 track “Walk in the Shadows”.  This opening song from the amazing Rage For Order album has remained a fan-favourite over the years.  Its progressive-rock-meets-technology vibe was very new for the time, though it was skeptically met by fans of pure guitar rock.  As much as Rage For Order broke new musical ground, it was also quite complex lyrically.  I even studied some of the songs (“Neue Regel”, “Chemical Youth”, and “Surgical Strike”) for a highschool English project.  But what was Geoff Tate saying in the lyrics?

What? You say you’re through with me,
I’m not through with you,
We’ve had what others might call love.

Only mildly disturbing.  Sounds like a clingy ex-lover who can’t face that his relationship is over.

You say it’s over now,
What’s done, what’s through?
You can’t stay away, you need me,
I need you.

Again, still clingy and slightly desperate.  Nothing of any depth or hidden meaning though.  It’s all right there on the page.  But wait….

Ow! You got to stay with me…(Walk with me)
Oooh! Walk in the shadows (Walk with MEAT),
Walk in the shadows (Walk with me),
Ahhh, yeah! Walk in the shadows, WOO! (Walk with MEAT),
Walk in the shadows (Walk with me),
Ah, ahh, ahhhhh! Walk in the shadows (Walk with MEAT),
Walk with me!

Listen to the end of the song.  You can clearly hear the “t” in “Meat” on every other line in the outro.  Clearly!  And notice how Geoff puts his emphasis and screams and fill-ins on the MEAT lines. He even threw in a “woo” there. How often do you hear Geoff Tate throwing “woos” into his lines? So what was Geoff Tate really trying to tell us on “Walk in the Shadows”?*

Analyzing the lyrics of the song, and digging into the album itself for more clues, I think I have finally figured out the true, hidden story behind “Walk in the Shadows” by Queensryche.  The technological theme takes us into the future.  That much is obvious from the album’s lyrics and concepts.  “I only dream infrared,” and all the high-tech artificial intelligence hints at a future that had not existed in 1986.  We are getting closer, but thankfully the robots haven’t revolted yet. Tate is obviously foretelling the future rather than singing about current events in 1986.

Some time in late ’85, when Geoff Tate was knee-deep in a vat of red wine, a bottle fell off his top shelf, hit him on the head and knocked him out cold.  He awoke in a future that is still far away, even for us in 2015.  The year is unknown – Geoff was still too loaded on wine to pick up a newspaper and read the date.  However one thing is known – the future will be dominated by Uncle Meat. Tate wandered this future landscape for some time, and witnessed things that no-one would believe. His only option was to hide these warnings in the lyrics of a concept album.  That album was Rage For Order.  “Walk in the Shadows” was the opening song.  That’s how Geoff Tate plays his cards — right there on the table.

“Walk in the shadows, walk with MEAT.”  Geoff had seen a glimpse of our planet’s glorious future.  Walk with him and you will see – the future is walking with MEAT.  You couldn’t get any clearer.  Once you hear that not-so-subtle “T” in “Meat”, the rest slowly reveals itself, like a puzzle with the edges already finished.

I for one welcome our new Meat overlord!

WALK WITH MEAT


 

* There is no evidence to suggest a connection to the Joey Tempest Conspiracy (TM).

*^ This  footnote is in no way an attempt to keep reminding you of the Joey Tempest Conspiracy (TM), in an effort to foreshadow future posts.

*^^ It actually is.

 

GUEST REVIEW: Europe – War of Kings (2015) by Jesse A. Jones

For Tommy Morais’ excellent 4/5 star review of this album, click here, and to skip directly to the comment that started it all, click here!

GUEST REVIEW by academic and rock fan “Jesse A. Jones”*

WAR OF KINGSEUROPE – War of Kings (2015 UDR)

The Swedish rock band Europe stormed onto the charts in the mid 1980’s with uplifting keyboard oriented pop rock, written by singer and founder Joey Tempest, a golden fluffy-haired gifted soul.  Then their slide down the charts began.  Albums like Out of This World sold fewer and fewer copies and the band finally broke up in the early 90’s, amid rumours that even their own mothers now preferred The Hives.

Unfortunately for fans and the band, these would be the last great albums Europe would make!  The fact that mainstream rock magazines still praise Europe is shocking nonsense.  It’s hard to believe anyone buys that stupidity!  There has not been a real “Europe” in 26 years!  It’s a conspiracy involving many producers, record label execs, musicians, writers, FIFA and the worldwide media cartel as a whole.  The Bilberbergers know but say nothing, while the Rothschilds remain silent.  I have proof written on the back of a beer mat that in 1994 Matt Groening was forced to rewrite a Futurama episode that obliquely referenced the scandal.  Shadowy elements of the secret world government have stifled independent thought and critical opinions, ensuring we will all remain unquestioning and loyal, to both our governments and rock bands alike!

Well, ladies and gentlemen it is my sworn duty to tell you the truth and I will not be silenced, or my integrity bought for 30 pieces of record company silver!

The problem is the Europe of today has nothing in common with the real group Europe that topped the charts in 1987.  Literally. Committing a conspiracy of great scale, they have been secretly and knowingly touring with an imposter singer since 1989!  Their last horrible and fake albums (lifeless and without soul) were not written by the real Joey Tempest.  Without Joey’s talent and unique abilities, the band is a lost joke; twisted and sad – imagine, it would be like Deep Purple without Nick Simper – just unthinkable!

The truth remains shrouded in mystery.  The only details now known, thanks to a covert informant “C.A.”, is that the imposter Joey forced out the real Joey sometime in 1989, using a complex web of lies and half-truths. Plastic surgeons and vocal coaches helped the fake Joey in his goals, and were paid off for their silence, or disappeared.  Some say that the real reason that the late celebrity plastic surgeon Dr. Fredric Brandt suffered from depression was keeping this whole thing secret.  Then, having successfully replaced Joey without anyone noticing, Europe continued to tour with a new voice and face fronting the band, raking in millions.  It is quite remarkable that very few fans have noticed this imposter.  “Joey’s” voice changed on 1991’s Prisoner’s in Paradise album but the complicit media have either ignorantly or purposely covered it up.  Fans have wondered why Joey’s hair style and hair colour changed on that album, assuming it was just a superficial change.  Little did they know that the head and face behind the hair had also changed! Joey would NEVER let his hair go flat like that! Wake up people!

JOEY THEN NOW

Europe with the imposter have made a semi-successful go of it, edging themselves towards world domination, even placing third in Sweden’s Got Talent in 2013, but for an unknown, sinister purpose.  True fans, distinguishable from the herd by their password ‘Cherokee – marching on the trail of tears’, who know and appreciate the talents of the real Joey, have wondered what happened, but no-one listens.  As for the fake fans, how could YOU do this to the real Joey?  How could YOU not even notice this shadow of a Joey up there on stage singing fake odes to “Carrie”?  Shame on the fans, and most of all shame on the band for not stopping this charade 26 years ago!

Just look at the songs here!  “Children of the Night”.  The real Joey would never have written a song about “children of the night”,  “California 405” is the highway that O.J. Simpson was chased down – a definite clue that there was something more going on here than meets the eye!  Why would Europe specifically reference that notorious highway unless they were implying some sort of wrongdoing behind the scenes?

Just listen to the song “Praise You” on this album.  As if the real Joey would have written “Praise You”!  This rude, obscene imposter has terrible lyrics and evil facial expressions.   He is a demonic devil from hell who only cares for himself, not the fans and certainly not the spirit of the original Joey – with the voice, face and hair of an angel.  The real Joey gave the fans everything he had.  His reward was being ousted by an imposter who now receives all the love and praise from ignorant and deceived “fans” who are too stupid to notice the difference.  His only goal in this world is to lie and fool as many fans as possible while he laughs raking in the money!  No talent, no soul, no voice!  That’s the fake Joey right there.  Just listen to War Of Kings, it’s as if he and the whole band are actively setting out to destroy the affection of the fans and ruin the legacy of the band as a whole.  Well I won’t sit idly by and let this happen! No sir!

Some will say, “Well you are wrong.  His hair and voice change with style and age.”  No.  Look at his eyes.  They are not the same eyes, you can see the yawning chasms of hellfire deep in those pupils.  Joey tried to warn you what was happening.  Read the lyrics to “Stranger on the Track”!  Make sense now?  Joey was warning you that “danger” was on his back and nobody listened.  Joey stood for love and the truth!  Long live love!  Long live the truth!  One day Joey will return and prove this all to be true, with the original angelic voice of Europe!

It is hard though to bear this burden, sometimes even I start to doubt, but then I only have to look down at the words tattooed on my thigh; words of inspiration, words of power, the real Joey’s words and I find the strength to go on, in his name.

Rock now, rock the night
‘Til early in the morning light
Rock now, rock the night
You’d better believe it’s right.

No rating

* Professor Emeritus of Applied Conspiracy at the University of Punkeydoodles Corners and author of ‘Paul Is Dead: The Amazing Beatles Conspiracy’, ‘Lennon Lives! Why John Isn’t Dead’ and ‘George! Satan’s Favorite Beatle’.

GUEST REVIEW: Europe – War of Kings (2015) by Tommy Morais

It’s been two years since Tommy Morais contributed a review here.  It is with great joy that I celebrate Tommy’s return, and that of the rock band Europe!  Please join me in welcoming back Tommy, a great reviewer originally from the province of New Brunswick, Canada.

NEW RELEASE review by TOMMY MORAIS

 

“Europe establishes itself as a modern classic rock band”

WAR OF KINGSEUROPE – War of Kings (2015 UDR)

After the bluesy affair that was Bag of Bones, the band Europe returns to a heavier sound and approach on War of Kings and ultimately, a more Europe-sounding album. The band has essentially transformed itself from its glam metal roots to essentially become a modern classic rock band. I’ve always been a fan of albums like Wings of Tomorrow and Out of This World, just as l am a fan of Last Look At Eden and their recent albums. If anyone cares to listen there’s more to this band than “The Final Countdown”, the occasional hit song and power ballads. For anyone who’s been keeping track, they know that the last few Europe albums have been very enjoyable and saw them release some of their best music thus far in their career (Last Look At Eden, Start From The Dark, Secret Society).

The title track opens up, and it’s every bit as epic sounding as you expect it to be.  It’s a raunchy, slow down and dirty metallic number. Europe makes it clear from the get-go that they’re going in a heavy direction. “Hole in my Pocket” is a more light and upbeat track, and whereas the first track sounded more metal this one is more energetic AOR rock (with a blistering John Norum solo). “Second Day” is one of the highlights for me: the lyrics and the feel of the song are inspiring and Joey Tempest’s voice sounds like some part deep on him is aching and it’s brilliant. “Praise You” is a slow tempo rocker, not-quite ballad with a bluesy feel (Norum’s playing is just magnificent here) with hard rock tempo changes… this track really surprised me! “Nothin’ To Ya” is in a similar vein as the title track in that it goes for an epic feel but there’s orchestration on in the background that makes it interesting.

“California 405” is a cool mellow, almost easy-listening song. “Days of Rock ‘N’ Roll” is probably the closest sounding thing to a “The Final Countdown” here, and that is based on the joyous riff it possesses. Another solid rocker.  “Children of the Night” is a dark sounding tune with some excelling guitar playing, something almost fit for the late great Ronnie James Dio. “Rainbow Bridge” has an exotic sound; it makes me feel like l’m about to enter some place like Morocco.  It’s this album’s “Kashmir”, very different and very cool.  “Angels (With Broken Hearts”) could almost be considered a ballad but it’s really a slow, here-comes-the-heartache piece with the music doing the biggest talking. “Light Me Up” is not bad at all, but it’s my least favourite song on War of Kings and not the best way to end the album.

For what it is I quite enjoy War of Kings, and it offers a solid collection of songs. Joey Tempest’s voice has aged like a fine wine where you can tell he’s comfortable and confident in his abilities, and this is possibly the best he’s ever sounded in all honesty. John Norum is a very talented guitar player and he has his shining moments in his riffs and solos, and puts a little blues out there as well. Europe are competent musicians and it certainly comes across as such, and maybe even more so now that they have moved past the “glam” and “hair” metal tags. I feel like since their comeback in the early 2000’s they’ve truly become a modern classic rock band in sound and spirit (don’t worry they still love and play the classics and hits live).

While it’s true that you only get one first impression, l wish more people would give Europe a chance, because they’re not the same band they were during the 80’s and they’ve become better musicians as time passed by. I think a lot of classic rock fans who didn’t like Europe during their most successful years especially might enjoy this a lot more than they’d ever think. Maybe some were hoping for a nostalgia trip but the keyboards and power ballads are not to be found here, this is a more mature Europe and a very fine one at that. For that reason l think some would like this a lot more. And if you were a fan all along then what are you waiting for? Pick this up and give it a spin. I praise Europe for giving us a true great hard rock record in 2015.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Europe – Europe (1983)

EUROPE_0001EUROPE – Europe (1983 CBS)

Summer 1989.  My buddy Bob showed up at the door.

“Mike!” he began.  “They have a Europe album you don’t have down at Sam the Record Man.  You should get it, but it’s only on record.”

I knew Europe had albums prior to The Final Countdown, but I had never seen nor heard them.  Since my primary format was cassette back then, I passed on the vinyl version.  A few weeks later, Europe the album showed up in the new Columbia House catalog, so I ordered it on tape.  I had reasoned out that this was their first album, but the 1989 date on the back made it look like a new release.  In fact Martin Popoff even reviewed it as such in Riff Kills Man!, stating that the poodle hair and keyboards were “gone” and replaced by sheer heavy metal.  He’s right about the heavy metal, even if he had the order of the albums wrong.  Europe resembles the band of “Carrie” and “Rock the Night” only superficially.  This is a metal album, and a damn fine one at that.

The regal, thunderous riff of “In the Future to Come” should warn away anyone expecting power ballads.  This speedy UFO/Priest hybrid certainly took me by surprise.  Singer Joey Tempest’s voice was not the soulful powerhouse it would later become, but he was just a kid at the time.   The metal here is pure: no frills, no excesses, just steamhammer rhythm and a howling lead singer.  Throw in some ace John Norum guitar work and you have something to talk about.  His double-tracked solo might be reminiscent of Thin Lizzy.

“Farewell” is straightforward heavy metal, on the hard rock side of things.  Some may be off-put by the flat lead vocals, but I say, “Hey, it’s rock n’ roll.”  The song slams and the chorus is memorable enough for me.  Then “Seven Doors Hotel” changes the scene with a haunting piano opening…but it’s merely a fake out.  The speed metal riffing and wailing Norum are back.  Norum makes his Les Paul howl like Joey does at the microphone.  Even though there’s some neoclassical finesse to some of the music, I hear a bit of Phil Lynott in there too.

My favourite song then and now is probably “The King Will Return”.  The lyrics aren’t very good, but English wasn’t Joey’s first language.  I still enjoy the words, as it’s one of those medieval story-telling songs that I’m a sucker for.  This softer song is still pretty epic and wouldn’t be considered wimpy by anyone.  Side one was closed by the Norum instrumental song “Boyazont”.  I don’t know what a “boyazont” is, but who cares?  Norum instrumentals are usually ballsy and catchy, and this is no exception.

The second side is commenced by “Children of this Time”, which continues much in the vein of songs like “In the Future to Come”.  Then for a respite, “Words of Wisdom” has an acoustic verse.  That doesn’t make it a ballad!  No, this picks up speed for the chorus and continues to storm the gates of Valhalla like the rest of the album.  It’s a bit slower in pace, but the drums still hit like hammers while Joey howls at the thunder.  I think I can even hear timpani.  “Paradize Bay” (not sure why they spelled it with a z) is one of the album’s strongest cuts.  It’s a relentless battering ram with a chorus that hints at the grandness of Europe in the future.  Norum’s solo is sloppy but delicious.  “Memories” then closes the album on a frenetic note.  There are plenty of  “woah woah” vocals to go around, and drummer Tony Reno seemingly pulverizes his kit.  There’s another voice singing with Joey on the outro of the song; is this John Norum?

This album was self produced, and as such it sounds very raw.  But heavy!  Not all bands who self produced early in their careers managed to get results as good as those on Europe.   For 1983 and just a bunch of kids, this is damn fine work!  And it holds up.  It’s a headbanger.

5/5 stars

REVIEW: Europe – Out of this World (1988)

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:

4/5 stars

OUT OF THIS WORLD_0003

REVIEW: Europe – Rock the Night: The Very Best of Europe

EUROPE – Rock the Night: The Very Best of Europe (2004)

Europe’s successful reunion was one of the most unexpected of the last decade, but thus far four awesome studio albums have been the result. A tougher more rock-oriented Europe emerged with Start From The Dark, but not before this appropriate retrospective was released. Containing music from the first era of Europe, from their debut album to their fifth, Prisoners In Paradise, this compilation is the ideal summary of the 80’s and 90’s era of the band.

All the casual fans need to know is that all the hits are here, in their original studio versions: “The Final Countdown”, “Cherokee”, “Superstitious”, “Carrie”, and the title track. That’s enough to make this worth buying for many. But also included are great lesser known tracks, many of which were also singles: “Open Your Heart” (the original version from Wings of Tomorrow), “Dreamer”, “Sign Of The Times”, “Heart of Stone”, “The King Will Return”, and many more. Two of my personal favourites are included: The rhythmically powerful “Girl From Lebanon” and the pop yet inspiring “Prisoners In Paradise”.

The diehards are also baited with B-sides and rare tracks. Many of these such as “On Broken Wings” and “Mr. Government Man” have since been issued on Europe remasters and other compilations, but there were a couple I never had before: live takes of “Time Has Come” and “Let The Good Times Rock” from the 1980’s. There’s also a studio track that I’m unfamiliar with called “Here Comes the Night”. This appears to be from the Prisoners In Paradise sessions, previously unreleased, and it’s a decent track. Best for me was a later B-side version of “Seven Doors Hotel”, with Joey Tempest enunciating a lot more clearly.

For my personal tastes, I didn’t like Prisoners In Paradise much. I found it overproduced and way too commercial and American-sounding. Europe were always much more European sounding, like a more radio-friendly Deep Purple or UFO. So there are too many tracks here from Prisoners for me, including a few that I just hate: “Got Your Mind In The Gutter” (dull blooze-rock) and “Seventh Sign” are not that great. But, it is what it is. I preferred a lot of the songs from Out Of This World and previous albums. I would have preferred to hear “Tomorrow”, “Ninja”, or “Paradize Bay”.

But hey, it’s two CDs of Europe, right?  And Europe were and are a good band.  In North America, I don’t think they ever got any respect.  They are remembered here for the big hair, and the big anthem.  That’s too bad.  As this collection demonstrates, Europe had a lot more to offer then.  There are ballads indeed, but there is also mighty heavy metal, many grand melodies, and hard rock performed with precision.

Good liner notes, decent photos.  Good comp.

 

4/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Europe – Wings of Tomorrow (1984)

By request of the Heavy Metal OverloRd.

WOT_0001EUROPE – Wings of Tomorrow (1984 Epic)

In many ways, Wings of Tomorrow is the perfect Europe album.  It combines their early grand metallic leanings with the keyboards and anthemic sheen they would later become known for.   Like the first Europe album, it’s loaded with hard rockers, the odd ballad, and an instrumental guitar workout.  The same lineup from the last album was intact, with the major difference being Joey Tempest adding more keyboards to the mix.

The opener “Stormwind” is a great hard rock/metal tune, with a memorable chorus, riff, plus a tricky sounding solo from virtuoso John Norum.   Second up is the ferocious “Scream of Anger”, featuring Norum playing the heavily distorted riff through a talk box.  This is a solid burner, scorched-Earth policy firmly in place, taking no prisoners.  Tempest wrote this song with Yngwie Malmsteen bassist Marcel Jacob.

The best known song on the album is “Open Your Heart”, which a later lineup of the band re-recorded for the underrated Out of This World record.  I prefer the re-recorded version, because it includes an additional guitar part, really cool and catchy, immediately after the acoustic intro.  The original version is still a great song though, a power ballad, and probably the first great Europe power ballad.

The angry prowler, “Treated Bad Again”, takes us back into metal territory.  This predatory number would have fit in perfectly on something like a mid-period Judas Priest album.  Then, as on the debut album, John Norum ends Side 1 with an instrumental.  This one is called “Aphasia”, which refers to a medical condition that can render sufferers unable to speak.  Get it?

Side 2 opened with an assaulting metal riff, on the album’s title track.  It’s a jagged riff that juxtaposes nicely with Joey’s smooth voice.  “Wasted Time” sounds like the aforementioned Yngwie at first, just because of the riff, but then it begins to gallop into Diamond Head style chorus.  The guitar solo is shredder’s envy.   “Lyin’ Eyes” maintains the momentum.

All this sets the stage for the penultimate song, and possibly the best ballad Europe ever recorded:  “Dreamer”.  It’s a piano power ballad, without the saccharine overload of songs like “Carrie”.  This one’s just a classic ballad, much like you’d find on the first Europe album, but refined a bit.

Wings of Tomorrow closes with the reckless pace of “Dance the Night Away”, which sounds nothing like what its title implies.  It’s a simple metal song, fast burning riff, and plenty of solos.  It’s a shame the guitar wasn’t mixed in heavier.  You get the impression that this album would have sounded so much harder live.

I don’t know if anybody could have predicted the massive success of the next album, The Final Countdown, after labouring in obscurity for two records.  But success did come, and these early albums are a memento of a time before Joey Tempest wrote “hits”.

4.5/5 stars

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

Part 153: Russian Imports

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RECORD STORE TALES Part 153:  Russian Imports

One of the weirder items that we used to see regularly were these Russian import discs.  Their status as official releases was very questionable, the quality was cheap at best, and the guy that sold them wanted top dollar for them all.

His name was Serge, and he was a Russian model.  Seriously.  He gave me his business card one time.  He was a model, and he had the perfect Fabio hair and everything.  On the side, he’d bring CD’s over to Canada from Russia. They would usually come without jewel cases, just the CD and the paper cover art, so he could transport more of them.  The discs often ended up terribly scratched because of this.  He’d bring over “greatest hits” releases from everybody.  Springsteen, Abba, Bon Jovi, even bands that didn’t have greatest hits releases like AC/DC.  Often the Russians would throw on “bonus tracks” from live or solo albums.

The guy was a real pain to deal with, and most of the stuff he brought over was obscure European dance, trance, techno stuff that nobody had heard of over here.  He’d assume he was going to get a lot of money for them, because they were big in Europe.  But if nobody had heard of them in Canada, and they sat on my shelf for a year, no, I’m not paying top dollar for it.   So, eventually Serge stopped coming in.

I bought two albums from him that I’ve never played, but bought just “for the collection”.  One is a Kiss disc called Hit Collection 2000, the other by Europe, called Best Ballads.

Hit Collection 2000 is on a label called “DJ’s Club”.  It does not have the official Kiss logo, just a poor attempt to copy it.  There are some spelling errors on the back — I don’t know where “Detrot Rock City”  is.  The tracklist itself is pretty weird, containing newer songs like “Psycho Circus” and “I Finally Found My Way”, along with one track from each of the four Kiss solo albums.  There are three songs from Dynasty, and three rare live cuts from the Psycho Circus Live Australian disc.  This one came sealed but I didn’t even bother to open it.  Even Serge’s sealed discs often ended up scratched to pieces, I don’t know how that happens because these are clearly factory sealed.

The Europe album, Best Ballads, is notable for not depicting keyboardist Mic Michaeli on the front cover, even though he plays on the majority of songs.  The album contains ballads from Europe’s first monumental self-titled disc through to 1991’s Prisoners In Paradise.  The Russians picked some cool songs this time:  “Words of Wisdom” and “The King Will Return”, from the first album, “Dreamer” from Wings of Tomorrow, and “Coast To Coast” from Out of This World.  As usual there are three “bonus tracks”; “Under the Influence”, “Lord of the Manor”, and “Elsewhere” from Joey Tempest’s 1995 solo album A Place to Call Home.   Not that you would know this from the liner notes, since there are none.  Just a paper sleeve.

In the end I don’t think we missed Serge when he decided not to deal with us anymore.  A lot of his product sat on the shelves.  In fact I tried selling my Kiss Hit Collection CD back to the store last year, and they refused to take it.  Lesson learned!

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.