Welcome to THE FIRST Album by Album Challenge of 2016. For those that are new here, the “Album by Album Challenge” is where I take a band’s entire discography and listen to every album in order of release from front to back. With my unforgiving and well-aged ear, I call it how I hear it. In some cases, I find that what I once thought was good is actually pretty crappy and sometimes crap manages to age into something pretty kick ass. And in some cases, face melting is still just good ol’ face melting.
This time around folks, we have Europe. Yes, that band that did “The Final Countdown.” If you didn’t really know, Europe is a band that is way more than “that” song. As a matter of fact, they are a band that, if you gave their material the chance, would surprise the living fuck out of you with the quality of their material. The output this band put out was absolutely amazing and like any other band, there were ups and downs. So how did Europe’s discography hold up in this Album by Album Challenge? Well, read on to find out and you just may find yourself adding some new albums to your collection.
Release Date: March 14, 1983
The Good: In the Future to Come, Farewell, Seven Doors Hotel, King Will Return, Children of This Time, Words of Wisdom, Paradize Bay, Memories,
When I first heard Europe, much like probably 90% of their American fans, it was when they put out The Final Countdown. Even then, I wasn’t a diehard fan but I sure did like them a good bit. I always knew about the Wings of Tomorrow album but up until this challenge I had never heard one lick of the self titled debut. Man, oh man. Who fucking knew that Europe kicked this much ass as far back as 1983?
This album does sound a bit dated but in all honesty, it’s a fantastic listen. Songs like “Farewell”, “Children of This Time” and “Words of Wisdom” are songs that take me back to that time when I first heard metal for the first time. Great vocals, great lyrics, and that cheesy 80’s production is just music to my ears. My favorite track off of this album is “King Will Return.” This song sounds like a lost Iron Maiden classic as I could totally hear them doing this one. This is a truly great album that all fans of classic hard rock/metal music should be listening to. What a great way to kick things off.
Wings of Tomorrow
Release Date: February 24, 1984
The Good: Stormwind, Scream of Anger, Aphasia, Wings of Tomorrow, Wasted Time, Lyin’ Eyes, Dreamer, Dance the Night Away
The Indifferent: Open Your Heart,
Wings of Tomorrow. Man, what a fucking monster of an album. It’s funny how I can totally hear their UFO/Deep Purple influence way earlier on than I thought. I thought this was something that would come later when actually they were just revisiting their own past which I think is fucking great. The first two songs on this album, “Stormwind” and “Scream of Anger” just killed my face and from there I was once again floored.
The title track is one of the band’s strongest ones but it was the Deep Purple inspired “Dance the Night Away” that really blew me away. Joey Tempest’s voice really has grown at this point and it’s so strong. Much like the debut, Wings of Tomorrow is a testament to just what a powerful band Europe was in the early stages of their long career. So where did it all begin to change? We’re about to see that next.
The Final Countdown
Release Date: May 26, 1986
The Good: The Final Countdown, Rock the Night, Carrie, Danger on the Track, Ninja, Time Has Come, Heart of Stone, On The Loose, Love Chaser
So this is the Europe that I first heard back in the day not knowing that the band already had two great albums under their belts. I, like everyone else in 1986, fell in love with that cheesy ass keyboard into of “The Final Countdown” and right away ran out to get this album. While I remember really liking it, it never really earned a slot in my top fave albums. This time around, instead of trying to build off of their Deep Purple/UFO classic influence, the band chose to go with a slick, polished production and layered vocals that had them sounding more like the 80’s glam metal bands and running fast to join the race.
30 years later, The Final Countdown, while still not one of my favorites, actually stands up really well and even better than many of their peer’s albums. The songwriting and performances of songs like “Rock The Night”, “Danger on the Track”, and “Ninja” had them writing some of the best songs of the genre. “Carrie” has to be hands down one of the best glam ballads and “Cherokee” just flat out kicks ass. While I totally favor Europe’s earlier style, I was very pleasantly surprised as to how much I enjoyed this album. This is a really great one worth having for sure.
Out of This World
Release Date: August 9, 1988
The Good: Superstitious, Let The Good Times Rock, Open Your Heart, More Than Meets the Eye, Coast to Coast, Ready or Not, Sign of the Times, Just the Beginning, Never Say Die, Lights and Shadows, Tower’s Callin’, Tomorrow
Coming off the heels of the mega successful The Final Countdown, Europe returned with Out of This World. I’m not sure just how well this album was received but I do remember the song “Superstitious” was a pretty big hit for them. This is also the first album to not feature founding guitarist, John Norum. Over all, I found Out of This World to be a much stronger release than The Final Countdown. While the album is a bit on the mellow side at times, those songs such as “Sign of the Times”, “Coast to Coast”, and “Open Your Heart” are just perfectly executed songs. I like that they re-recorded “Open Your Heart” as this version seems to have much more to it and I have to say that “Lights and Shadows” is such an epic fucking song and is without a doubt the showstopper here.
Out of This World definitely had a kind of Dokken vibe to it which I honestly liked quite a bit. The songs are catchy, the production is absolutely stellar, and while the playing is great, the loss of John Norum is very obvious when you compare the guitar work to the previous albums. Kee Marcello did an upstanding job on this one but his playing just lacks the magic and the spark that Norum’s playing has in this band. All in all, this is a really great album that I totally enjoyed listening to. I personally would love to hear this album re-recorded with Norum on guitar as I can only imagine that it will take things to a whole other level.
Prisoners in Paradise
Release Date: September 23, 1991
The Good: Seventh Sign, Girl From Lebanon,
The Bad: Got Your Mind In The Gutter,
The Indifferent: All or Nothing, Halfway to Heaven, I’ll Cry for You, Give A Little Bit of Lovin’, Talk to Me, Prisoners In Paradise, Bad Blood, Homeland, ‘Til My Heart Beats Down Your Door, Break Free, Yesterday’s News
Oh my. I was not expecting this album from Europe but looking at the date of this one, I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise. The thing that caught me off guard the most was just how fluffy this album was. I mean, so much of what I loved about Europe was that they really had their own identity but this time around it literally sounds like they are trying to be Bon Jovi.
Start From the Dark
Release Date: September 22, 2004
The Indifferent: Got to Have Faith, Start From the Dark, Flames, Hero, Wake Up Call, Reason, Song #12, Roll With You, Sucker, Spirit of the Underdog, America, Settle for Love
So this is a pretty big disappointment for me. While I found Start From the Dark disappointing, I’m not surprised at all by the direction that they took on this album. It was 2004 and it just sounds like that Europe was a band that was struggling to try and capture some sort of relevance. Instead of sticking to their guns and doing what they do best, they attempted to try and capture a sound that would sound relevant for the time.
I can’t really blame them for doing this because most bands of their era were doing similar things with varying degrees of success. In all honesty, none of the songs are really bad but none of them are really any good. I would never go back and listen to this album again as there was nothing about this album that was really memorable or even captivating.
Release Date: October 25, 2006
The Good: Secret Society, Always the Pretenders, The Getaway Plan, Wish I Could Believe, Let the Children Play, Human After All, Love is Not the Enemy, A Mother’s Son, Forever Traveling,
This album absolutely blew my mind. What I love so much about this album is that right off the bat, Europe has delivered a sound that is honest and true to who they are. It’s almost like they realized that trying to be relevant and hip to the times wasn’t what they needed to do. The opening track, “Secret Society” is what tipped me off that this album was going to go to a different yet really exciting place. This time around, you can really hear Europe dipping into their early UFO/Deep Purple influences on songs such as “Let the Children Play” and “A Mother’s Son” which I loved.
This also seems to be the album where Joey Tempest found his voice. Long gone is the pretty, 80’s voice and welcome to the dark, deeper, more soulful singing that is just the icing on this already rocking cake. “Forever Traveling” is such a magical song and I just love the hooks and over all catchiness of this track but it’s “Wish I Could Believe” that I found to the be the showstopper on this one. The whole questioning of belief in Christianity is a bold statement for a band like this and I love that they went there. There isn’t a single bad song on this album and I have to say that Secret Society just may be my favorite album up to this point. This is a must have.
Last Look at Eden
Release Date: September 9, 2009
The Good: Last Look at Eden, Gonna Get Ready, Catch that Plane, New Love in Town, The Beast, Mojito Girl, Only Young Twice, U Devil U, Run With the Angels, In My Time,
It’s kind of weird but it’s kind of hard to write much more about this album than I did for Secret Society. This album, much like SS is a homerun. Song for song, there isn’t a bad song on the album. The title track is such a strong opener and being a sucker for ballads, “New Love in Town” is such a great song. “Mojito Girl” has a serious groove to it that will definitely bring on the white boy overbite while nodding your head to the groove.
John Norum’s guitar playing really seems to stick out quite a bit more on this album and again, much like it’s predecessor, the album is perfectly sequenced making this a really great, fun listening experience. This album is a perfect follow up to a stellar album but in some ways is a lateral move forward. It almost sounds like it could’ve been disc 2 of SS or vice versa but hey, this isn’t a terrible thing in the least. Another great album from a terribly underrated band that everyone should give a bit of attention to.
Bag of Bones
Release Date: April 18, 2012
The Good: Riches to Rags, Not Supposed to Sing the Blues, Bag of Bones, My Woman My Friend, Demon Head, Drink and a Smile, Bring it All Home,
The Indifferent: Firebox, Doghouse, Mercy You Mercy Me,
So I have to be 100% honest and say that with Bag of Bones, while Europe maintained the quality of their sound, the songs as a whole just didn’t seem to be as strong or as interesting as the previous two albums were. Don’t get me wrong, they’re good songs but they’re just that: good. The strongest song on the album without a doubt is the title track. “Drink and a Smile” is also one of the most unique tunes they’ve done to date and I really enjoyed the hell out of that one.
For the most part, this album is just pretty much forgettable. While it doesn’t flat out suck I have to say that this album is definitely not really worth owning. It did so little after the two previous stellar albums and to be honest, Bag of Bones just sounds thrown together and not as well thought out as it’s predicesors. I would just leave this one alone if I were you. You’re not missing anything.
War of Kings
Release Date: March 2, 2015
The Good: War of Kings, Hole In My Pocket, Second Day, Praise You, Nothin’ To Ya, California 405, Days of Rock N’ Roll,
Wow. Just… wow! The first time I heard this album I was literally left speechless. Hearing this album in the context of this challenge, it’s even more powerful and mindblowing. It’s almost as if, at this point, Europe just re-evaluated where they were and where they were going and delivered an album that pulled from all of their past influences. “War of Kings” kicks things off with a sonic boom and from there it just doesn’t let up. “Second Day” is hands down one of Joey Tempest’s most monumental moments and “Days of Rock N’ Roll” is a fun homage to the good ol’ days and how we can all hope that those days will continue on. “California 405” has a cool Deep Purple vibe to it while “Children of the Night” very well could be the best Whitesnake song never made.
All in all, War of Kings is so full of fire and passion. Every song. There isn’t one single track on this album that is phoned in or lackluster. That is such a rarity in any day and age, especially this one. War of Kings is lightning in a bottle for sure and I honestly don’t think that they will ever be able to top this one. Who knows, maybe they’ll top this one and surprise the hell out of me but trust me on this one, this is an album that everyone should own. You’ll thank me, trust me.