For some reason, there are still people out there who consider Europe a teeny bop bubblegum band, but nothing could be further from the truth!
First of all, they never were. Europe were always a band with their roots in the 70’s. Their major influences are Deep Purple, UFO, Thin Lizzy and Led Zeppelin, as well as both Sweet and Slade in their heavier years. Their songs were always 70’s oriented but with a twist of pop. Their Achilles heel was always the production! Musical morons like producer Ron Nevison did their best to take off the rougher edge of Europe’s sound, but if one listens closely to their song structure you’ll find that Europe were never a pop band, but a bonfide melodic hard rock band.
After their reunion in 2004 their albums have become better and better with every release. Their latest effort, Last Look At Eden from 2009 was their strongest release to date, a full blown hard rock album with clear Purple and Zeppelin influences in both songs and Tobias Lindell’s killer production.
So how does a band top a killer like that? Well, the answer spells Kevin Shirley. The guy is probably the hottest rock producer today and has made wonders for bands like Journey, Iron Maiden, Black Country Communion and his remix of Deep Purple’s Come Taste The Band is nothing but a strike of genius. Europe and Shirley are a match made in heaven, no doubt. In fact, Europe’s sound here is pretty similar to what you can hear on a Black Country Communion CD. It’s raw, edgy, dirty, but still big and clear and he has made Joey Tempest sing in a different way here. Normally, his voice is clean and somewhat boyish, but here it’s raspy and very soulful, still with a high range. Maybe the biggest surprise on this album.
The songs are brilliant, every single one of them! ”Riches To Rages” is a fantastic opening track, ”Not Supposed To Sing The Blues” is the first single, a killer song but not a given hit and it’s not a far cry from BCC, ”Firebox” has a majestic groove and a catchy chorus, the title track is a great, bluesy hard rock song that features Joe Bonamassa (BCC) on the slide and ”My Woman, My Friend” is a heavy blues number that starts out as a slow blues / jazz thing – Brilliant.
”Demon Head” is heavy as in Deep Purple heavy, ”Drink And A Smile” is a short acoustic groover, ”Doghouse” is a hard rock killer and ”Bring It All Home” is an amazing ballad. Beautiful but completely without cheese. But how can the song ”Beautiful Disaster” be a Japan only track? It’s a brilliant rock ’n’ roll song, featuring a brilliant honky tonk piano by Mic Michaeli. It should have been on the album as an original, not a bonus track. That’s all I have to complain about.
With this and their previous album, Europe has finally come full circle with their sound and it fits them perfectly. I’m so happy to state that finally we have one reunited 80’s band that doesn’t go all nostalgia on us, but keeps moving forward and doesn’t live on old glories. Respect. Europe has never been better. That’s a fact!
Jon Wilmenius (10/10)
1. Riches To Rags
2. Not Supposed To Sing The Blues
4. Bag Of Bones
6. My Woman My Friend
7. Demon Head
8. Drink And A Smile
10. Mercy You Mercy Me
11. Bring It All Home