Back in 2007 my fellow GRTR! reviewer and pal Pete Whalley, and my aspiring guitar hero son Ben, made our way through a February snowstorm to Liverpool Academy. It was a fairly low key gig for the Swedish melodic rockers Europe, but it marked the beginning of their rise and rise over the next few years.
I wrote: “This was one of the finest gigs I’ve witnessed in recent years, maybe in a decade or two. The sheer energy levels, quality of musicianship and songs, was incredible.”
“The Liverpool stage may have been a tad smaller than they deserve, and with a scaled-down stage set, but Joey and co. were seemingly on a mission.”
This was the key aspect: the band had something to prove which contrasts sharply with their later incarnation. More of that later.
‘Secret Society came out in 2006 and moved the story on from the impressive comeback album ‘Start From The Dark’. As Jason Ritchie noted in his review, SFTD had polarised some of the band’s 80s fans as it was a lot heavier. They swopped swirling synths for a more fullsome downtuned guitar sound in the very capable hands of John Norum.
The guitarist had jumped ship in 1992 not long after recording Don Dokken’s solo album, he later rejoined the newly reconstituted Dokken as well as producing several solo albums during the intervening period.
Jason continued “Hard edged melodic rock and streets ahead of contemporary bands like Audioslave and Alter Bridge…”
Joey Tempest could always write a good song and there are plenty here including the hard rocking title track, ‘The Getaway Plan’, the rumbling bass-driven ‘Human After All’, and frenetic ‘Love Is Not The Enemy’. There is no filler and the album never sags, reaching its crescendo with the quite wonderful ‘Devil Sings The Blues’.
The band were always good for an impressive ballad and ‘A Mother’s Son’ ticks that box whilst other standouts include ‘Always The Pretenders’, ‘Wish I Could Believe’, and ‘Forever Travelling’ (Jason’s least favourite!). Throughout, Norum’s frequently wah-tinged guitar is a real highlight.
Tempest thought this album moved the band forward further, more melodic than Start From The Dark.
This comeback period was consolidated with 2009′s ‘Last Look At Eden’ which might also be termed transitional. The band freely returned to some of their seventies heroes for inspiration; bands such as Thin Lizzy, UFO and Deep Purple.
Europe will always say that ‘Start From The Dark’ and ‘Secret Society’ were essential to re-establish the band and update the sound, and their real aim was to return to their classic rock roots.
However as time went on with successive albums – and interestingly in the hands of contemporary American producers notably Kevin Shirley (Bag Of Bones) and Dave Cobb (War Of Kings, Walk The Earth) – the band became less distinctive and the material sounded more leaden. Norum was less creative. The keyboards still subdued. And all in the space of a decade.
Their stage shows also became more rigid. We saw them triumphant at Bloodstock in August 2009 but by 2010 they were treading water, whilst on a three way bill with FM and the mighty Foreigner in 2014, the latter – perhaps shockingly – completely overshadowed them.
The pints-high, classic rock crowd loved Europe, but we loved them more back in 2007 and ‘Secret Society’.
David Randall chatted to Joey Tempest prior to the Liverpool gig in February 2007 (14:08)
The latest Facebook Live session from Canadian singer-songwriter Josh Taerk Sunday 21 March 16:00 EST, 21:00 GMT
David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 14 March 2021 and includes the Top 10 albums at www.getreadytorock.com for that week.
UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 23 March 2021.
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