john norum

REVIEW: Europe – “The Final Countdown 2000” (Single)

“Oh God!  What did I just listen to?” – J from Resurrection Songs

EUROPE – “The Final Countdown 2000” (1999 Sony single)

As we edge closer to the start of a new decade, it’s the perfect time to look back at the turn of the millennium, 20 whole years ago.   Sony decided that Europe’s “The Final Countdown” would make the ideal anthem for the millennium, and so had it remixed by the guy (Brian Rawling) who did Cher’s “Believe” a year earlier.  Joey Tempest was not amused, and tried to find another mixer without success.  Drummer Ian Haughland called the finished remix a “disaster”.

The full 5:45 remix was released as a single, while a 3:47 edit version was issued on a new version of Europe’s “greatest hits”, with title updated from 1982-1992 to 1982-2000.  At least the millennium led to a performance by a reunited Europe on New Year’s Eve featuring both guitarists John Norum and Kee Marcello.

The full length remix is the antithesis to rock music.  Sped up, with bouncy synth bass and drums, it was obviously calculated for dancing.  There are keyboards, weird sounds, and samples that have nothing to do with the song.  Of the original recording, Joey’s vocals remain, but the rest sounds completely digital.  It goes on, and on.  The edit is tolerably shorter, but barely.  “The Final Countdown 2000” is an affront to rock music and everything its fans enjoy.  It is pure pandering to people who would never have bought a Europe album in the first place.  Is that what Sony felt they had to do in order to make it a hit a second time?  Imagine if Europe recorded a new version with both guitarists instead.  The song was already pop enough to be a hit again on the wave of 80s nostalgia.  It didn’t need to be mutilated to fit into a dance remix.  It surely would have done better than this (#6 in Sweden, #36 in the UK).

As a consolation prize, this CD single includes a single edit of the original song.  All it’s missing is the countdown opening.  After hearing the dance version twice, it sounds strangely sluggish (even though it’s not).  It’s like taking an offramp from the highway into normal traffic.

Possibly the worst single I’ve ever bought.  And I’ve bought Puff Daddy.

0.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Smoke on the Water – A Tribute – Various Artists (1994 cassette)

SMOKE ON THE WATER – A Tribute (1994 Shrapnel cassette – tribute to Deep Purple)

This baby can be expensive to acquire on CD, so let’s give ye olde cassette tape a spin.  It’s not been played in over 20 years.  This review is with fresh ears.

The backing band on this tribute to Deep Purple consists of:  Deen Castronovo (Hardline/Journey – drums), Jens Johansson (Yngwie Malmsteen – keys), Todd Jenson (Hardline/David Lee Roth – bass) and Russ Parish (Fight/Steel Panther – rhythm guitar).  Each track has a featured singer and lead soloist.  Let’s dig in.

First up:  “Speed King” by Yngwie J. Malmsteen with Kelly Keeling on vocals.  Keeling is on the sandpapery side of Joe Lynn Turner here, while Yngwie gets to jizz fanboy style all over the fretboard.  The star might actually be Jens Johansson’s keyboards but this is an unfortunately very cheesy version of “Speed King”.  Woah, Keeling just nailed an Ian Gillan scream!  Nice.

Kip Winger and Tony MacAlpine team up for “Space Truckin'”.  Tony goes his own way with the solos, innovating as he goes.  This is…pleasant?  There’s some kind of spark that’s missing, and when you’re playing “Space Truckin'” you need to put accelerant in the tank or you’ll fall flat.  Studio sterility has replaced spontaneity.

You gotta hope Glenn Hughes and John Norum can shock some life into “Stormbringer”.  They can!  Of the guitarists so far, John Norum (Europe) is the one who has the right feel for Deep Purple.  Glenn’s great, but doesn’t get to play bass, and here’s part of the problem.  You can hear that the backing band recorded the songs and then the featured players recorded their parts over them.  In a perfect world you’d have Glenn plotting the way on bass too, gelling with the backing band in a united groove.  That can’t happen when you record this way.

One guy who manages to inject his song with personality is Richie Kotzen.  He’s got the funky “Rat Bat Blue” and is granted both the lead vocals and guitars.  Yngwie returns on “Lazy” and he’s teamed with former Deep Purple singer and his own former bandmate, Joe Lynn Turner!  Yngwie plays appropriately on this strong but fairly bland track.  And that’s the cue to flip the tape over.

Paul Gilbert (Mr. Big) gets the vocal and guitar honours on “Maybe I’m a Leo”, which frankly is too slow and lacks groove.  Paul’s vocals, however, absolutely nail Gillan’s on the original.  Things turn stale quickly when it’s time for “Smoke on the Water”.  Russ Parish takes the guitar slot while Robert Mason (Lynch Mob/Warrant) sings.  Far more interesting is “Fireball” with Don Dokken and his future Dokken bandmate Reb Beach.  Don sounds a bit overwhelmed by the demanding song, but hits all the requisite notes.  The brilliant Jeff Scott Soto takes the driver’s seat on Mk I’s “Hush”.  This veteran vocalist (Yngwie/Journey/man more) makes mincemeat of your ears, absolutely killing it.  Soto is absolutely the vocal star on this album (one that includes Glenn Hughes)!  The final song goes to Tony Harnell (TNT) and Vinnie Moore (UFO).  They busy-up “Woman From Tokyo” a bit too much with unnecessary fills, but Moore does some really cool picking during the quiet section.

Though interesting, Smoke on the Water is far from an essential addition to your Purple collection.  There are already so many tributes out there.  The most interesting was T.M. Stevens’ Black Night which re-interpreted Deep Purple according to his New York sensibilities.  He had Joe Lynn Turner, Vinnie Moore and Richie Kotzen on his album too!  Then there is the more recent Re-Machined, featuring Iron Maiden, Metallica, and more Glenn Hughes.  Considering the CD prices these days, place Smoke on the Water fairly low on your priority lists.

2.5/5 stars

WTF Comments: Prisoners in Max’s Paradise edition

You gotta give Max [not The Axe, as far as we know] credit for this scorcher.  We don’t agree on Prisoners in Paradise by Europe, and that’s OK.  I was harsh on the album so Max was harsh on me.

I don’t know what the fuck this reviewer got stuck in his ears; a dead cat!?

Good one for sure.  Max goes on:

He complains about some songs being “pop” songs. Well what the fuck do you think this band is, Metallica??

Of course not, Max.  But have you heard of this album called Europe, by the band Europe?  Not a pop record, bud.  Not a pop record.

I don’t care. I like ’em. 

That’s cool Max.  I like ’em too.  Cool yer jets, bro!

For Max’s full comment click here.  Thanks for reading, anyway!

REVIEW: Europe – Best Ballads (unauthorized Russian release)

EUROPE – Best Ballads (1999 unofficial Russian compilation)

Ah Russian imports!  Those funky and cheaply printed covers, the lack of liner notes or label information…how quaint.  It is clear the Tempest Administration had no collusion with anyone in Russia.  Yet the Russians did hack their database and release Best Ballads anyway, a weird collection of 12 Europe songs and three solo tracks by Joey Tempest.  This CD originated during the period right before Europe’s triumphant reunion album Start From the Dark, so Best Ballads only contains music from the first five Europe discs.

Because it’s unauthorized and the Russians can do whatever they want, why not have both versions of “Open Your Heart” on one CD?  The sweeping 1988 version from Out of this World inaugurates the album, a brilliant version often forgotten in favour of the 1984 original.  What’s the difference?  John Norum played on the 1984 version from Wings of Tomorrow, and the re-recording has his replacement Kee Marcello.  The 1988 version also has more modern keyboards added.  Since both are included, you don’t have to pick a favourite.  We can all agree it truly is one of Europe’s Best Ballads.

What else is present?  The “big one” of course, which would be “Carrie”.  It’s the only track from The Final Countdown, because it was the only hit ballad from that album.  Other crucial Europe ballads:  “Dreamer” (Wings of Tomorrow), “Coast to Coast” and “Tomorrow” (both from Out of this World).  All timeless and flawless ballads.  From their first album (1983’s Europe) are a couple songs I wouldn’t have considered ballads.  In my review, I stated that “Words of Wisdom” has “an acoustic verse [but] that doesn’t make it a ballad!”  The other track, “Return of the King”, is “still pretty epic and wouldn’t be considered wimpy by anyone”.  Do they belong on a CD called Best Ballads?  Who gives a fuck; it’s just a Russian import!

You’ll even find a couple rarities included.  “Sweet Love Child” and “I’ll Cry For You (Acoustic version)” are both B-sides from the Prisoners in Paradise (1991) period.   The title track “Prisoners in Paradise” is also present but again, not really a ballad.  Either way…all the Europe tunes included are fantastic no matter how you classify them.  Each one has at least a foot in ballad territory so it all works out.

But what about those Joey Tempest “bonus tracks”?  Surprisingly good and un-Europe.  “Under the Influence” flies close to adult contemporary levels.  “Lord of the Manner” could have been a hit for Rod Stewart, but that’s not a bad thing!  This is more like soft rock than balladeering.  “Elsewhere” sounds more like a ballad, enhanced with strings and all the accoutrements.  All good songs and worth checking out.

Europe’s Best Ballads is not a bad little CD, but being an unofficial release, it’s difficult to reason out a rating out of 5.  I did the best I could.

/5 ЗВЕЗДЫ

REVIEW: Don Dokken – Up From the Ashes (1990)

scan_20161027DON DOKKEN – Up From the Ashes (1990 Geffen)

“The best revenge is to live well.” — Don Dokken’s liner notes.  Passive aggressive much?

Dokken imploded in 1989 not with a bang but a whimper.  Rather than remembering the live album they finished with (Beast From the East), people recall the animosity and bitter attacks in the rock press.  George Lynch and Mick Brown began Lynch Mob, while Jeff Pilson formed War & Peace. Don Dokken meanwhile was cooking up a hot new band.  The only issue was the name.  The ex-members, who owned a stake in the Dokken name, refused to let Don use it.  They also shot down the names “Dokken II” and “DKN”.  (Reportedly Dokken was told if he wanted to just use the vowels “OE” for his new band, that would be fine with the others!)  Don was understandably upset that he couldn’t use his own last name for his name, so he opted to bill himself as Don Dokken the solo artist.

His solo band was a killer.  Fresh out of Europe with a smash hit album under his belt, John Norum joined on guitar.  Billy White from the thrash metal band Watchtower was the second guitar player, giving Dokken a double guitar lineup (or three if you count Don himself).  King Diamond’s Mikkey Dee was aboard on drums, several years away from joining Motorhead (and now Scorpions).  Rounding out the band was veteran Accept bassist Peter Baltes, who played with Dokken in their earliest days.

With all this burning anger coupled with tremendous instrumental firepower, one might expect Don to come back rockin’ harder than ever.  His solo album Up From the Ashes was a down-ratchet from Dokken, slightly, with an emphasis on melodic rock.  It did however continue the core Dokken sound, with some biting and very Lynch-like guitar riffs.

Entering with the kind of jagged riffs that made Dokken famous, “Crash ‘N Burn” sounds almost exactly like Don’s old band.  Hard rock, smooth vocals, and six-string acrobatics.  There is no familiar Jeff Pilson backing vocal, but Peter Baltes and John Norum get the job done.  The incredibly impressive guitar histrionics are clearly not George Lynch, but fans will love what John and Billy White cooked up.  A strong follow-up called “1000 Miles Away” sits in a comfortable mid-tempo rock zone.  It’s not a ballad, it’s not a rocker, but it’s somewhere in between.  Hit material.  The album’s single was a track called “Mirror Mirror”, with a stuttery Van Halen riff.  The lyrics are very telling:

“Mirror mirror, on the wall,
Seven years, I survived them all,
Mirror mirror, tell me more,
If that was love, then love is war.”

Dokken had a roughly seven-year long life as a recording band, so think what you will.

A lot of Up From the Ashes fits into a nice little hard rock box, a little smoother around than edges than classic Dokken, but strong as ever.  “When Some Nights” has a similar vibe to “1000 Miles Away”, and there are many others.  No real weak songs abide within.  There are only a few that are head and shoulders standouts.  Among these is “Living a Lie”, a sharp Norum co-write with a Europe-like sound.  Also up there, “Give It Up” is a brief blast of rock.  “Stay” leans in a slightly more pop direction, successfully so.

Drony ballads are less impressive.  “When Love Finds a Fool” is fortunately the only one, which does at least boast some impressive musical contributions from all the players.  The momentum is killed by starting side two with this slow Scorpions-wannabe.  Another issue is a slightly damp production, which makes the drums sound woefully underpowered.  This is a shame since Mikkey Dee is such a drum demon.

With Up From the Ashes, Don re-established himself.  Nobody could accuse him of leaning on George Lynch.  With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, this band really should have been called Dokken.

3.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Europe – Almost Unplugged (2009)

scan_20161012EUROPE – Almost Unplugged (2009 MVD Audio)

Almost Unplugged“?  The devil is this?

This was a special show in Sweden, with Europe playing some of their best material (with a few covers) in a largely acoustic setting.  There are strings, but there are also keyboards and electric guitar.  The best of both worlds!

The band were riding a high wave then, which has really not dissipated since.  They had done a couple well received reunion albums (Start From the Dark and Secret Society) and were working on music that many fans consider a peak (Last Look at Eden).  Europe have long been an under appreciated band, but Almost Unplugged should win over even the staunchest critic.

“Got to Have Faith” opened Europe’s reunion album Start From the Dark, so it works triumphantly as a concert opener.  Here, it is laid back, bluesy with slippery guitars.  “Forever Travelling” from Secret Society follows hot on its heels.  The string quartet adds drama to this song, which works naturally in the acoustic setting.  From the same album is the killer track “Devil Sings the Blues”, highlighted by some splendid John Norum electric guitar noodling.

Every time Europe does a cover, it becomes an album highlight.  The acoustic “Wish You Were Here” is beautiful and not at all overdone.  Thin Lizzy’s “Suicide” is full on electric, and pretty spot-on, especially considering that Lizzy were a two-guitar band while Europe has a guitar and a keyboard.  Covering Led Zeppelin is always risky but “Since I’ve Been Loving You” is surprisingly great.  Joey doesn’t try to copy Robert Plant, but he certainly can sing the blues just fine.  (Hey!  Maybe the devil really does sing the blues!  Oh, you devil you!)  Just as importantly, Norum plays some electrifying guitar blues over this monster of a cover.  The most brilliant cover however is a UFO song:  “Love to Love”.  More than any other, this one sounds like Europe owned it.  It’s very well suited to their dramatic rock stylings, and they absolutely kill it.  If there was one track worth buying the CD for, you just found it.

The Europe originals that make up the bulk of the album span the entire history of the band.  From the first LP is “Memories”, which in its original version was a brutally heavy stampede.  Here, it is an acoustic gallop, just as aggressive, but with subtlety.  The piano ballad “Dreamer” comes from the second album, an unsung classic that was a few years shy of fame.  The fame and fortune finally came on 1986’s The Final Countdown, and of course the title track is played.  In its acoustic version there is no synth hook; it instead played by the string quartet.  It’s trippy to hear it done like this; a little strangeness for fun.  “Superstitious” (from 1988’s Out of This World) sounds more natural in this format.  It’s also refreshing to hear Joey’s voice crack in a couple places.  That means this is really truly live.

One should always familiarize with the originals first, but even if you don’t have them, Almost Unplugged should be well enjoyed by any discerning rock fan who doesn’t mind when the acoustics come out.

4.5/5 stars

scan_20161012-2

WTF Search Terms: Joey Tempest’s Real Hair edition plus bonus WTF Comments!

JOEY

WTF Search Terms XXIX: Joey Tempest’s Real Hair edition

Good day, eh? Welcome to the latest edition of WTF Search Terms: those whacky things people type into a search engine that somehow lead them here! I find that certain topics go in waves. For example, a popular question often searched for is “Can Marilyn Manson suck his own dick?” (Answer: No.) These things come and go like trends. Nobody will search for Manson’s dick for months, and then suddenly in one week, I’m getting multiple hits for Manson’s wang using different phrasing. Of course, that could still just be one person, trying and clicking in vain that it will be a different site this time….

Lately, Joakim Larsson, better known as Joey Tempest, the lead singer (or not?) of Europe, has popped up in search terms, and in the comments!  Remember a few months back, when we were visited by Joey’s supposed spouse, Miranda Larsson?  This time, in fact, Joakim himself stopped by to say hello:

JOAKIM LARSSON

Woah!

Before you start kneeling and cawing “We’re not worthy, we’re not worthy!”, let’s have a closer look. Joey apparently uses a Yahoo email address, and according to the IP address, lives in Virginia. His IP address is also an exact match with a previous comment left by “Miranda Larsson”, also living in Virginia. But wait…according to Wikipedia and its source material, “Joey Tempest currently lives in London with his wife Lisa Worthington and sons James Joakim and Jack Johnston Larsson. He does not have any social media pages apart from the official ones for Europe listed on their website.”

Conclusion:  Sadly, I do not think the real Joey Tempest has ever had the fortune to stop by here at mikeladano.com.  I guess I’ll have to remain content with a bitchy Kenny Hotz comment from a couple years ago.

These recent comments came with a spate of WTF search terms!  Seems I’m not the only one wondering about Miranda and Joey and…well…and just see for yourself.  Enjoy these Joey (and one for bandmate John Norum) WTFs!

1. joey tempest miranda

2. miranda larsson tempest

3. is joey tempest married with miranda

4. joey tempest and wife

5. joey tempest satanist

6. joey tempest real hair color

7. john norum hair piece

And, the winner this time:

8. joey tempest a woman


Come back regularly for more WTFs!

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