Europe – Beyond The Final Countdown

Some bands are forever remembered by the masses and media (for good or bad), for 1 track. For Europe – 1986’s “The Final Countdown” is that song! A huge selling 80s pop-rock anthem with an unforgettable keyboard riff that played throughout the song, a catchy chorus, a fast guitar solo, and a return to chorus that played out til the end, making for live reaction purposes. The song and a few other hits from it [the sappy ballad “Carrie”] would put the band in that 80s keyboard drenched, over the top hair-metal category. The album (Europe’s 3rd) and title track single would be Top 10 in most countries, but it was a success story there would be no repeat of on follow up albums. Guitarist John Norum, unhappy with the direction and “poodle rock” labelling, would leave the band afterwards. The band carried on with Kee Marcello [ex Easy Action] on guitar for 2 more albums [1991’s “Prisoners In Paradise” is a fine album], before the band split up. In 2003 the band reformed with Norum on guitar and the rest of their 80s line up – Joey Tempest, John Levén, Mic Michaeli and Ian Haugland, and have been putting out solid albums since 2004’s “Secret Society”. They remain a bigger draw in Europe and other parts of the world, but some regions [like North America] have a hard time getting beyond the band’s big hit and image from ’86.
Europe albums since reforming show the band’s classic rock influences, and are heavier and darker than The Final Countdown, more align with the band’s first 2 albums, but throw in a bit of blues, more hammond organ, acoustic guitar, and you get a band trying to be more in tune with 70s greats like Zeppelin, UFO, Deep Purple and Thin Lizzy, and far beyond the 80s bands still out there [and not creating anything – if at all, … see that other big tour]. Actucally, check ouot 2008’s live release “Almost Unplugged”, which includes 4 covers [alongside Europe’s own fan favorites], most notably UFOs “Love To Love” and Thin Lizzy’s “Suicide” . Also worth checking out the band’s few official live releases “Live At Shepherd’s Bush, London”, and their 2013 “Live At Sweden Rock” festival performance. On tour this summer, with Foreigner [hmm] and Kansas in North America; I’d like to see Europe much more than the other 2, as they’re still producing great albums on a regular basis, and have much more to say than just a few hits.
If you’re not familiar, here’s a dozen Europe favorites since the band’s comeback [I purposely left off all the title tracks – which would add another 4 or 5 songs]….

Always The Pretenders
From 2004’s Secret Society, a brief light intro and the band comes rockin in. Gone is that 80s production, determined – like the rest of this album to be put aside those hair-metal days, while still coming up catchy rock tunes. A great video single from this album.

The Beast
one of the band’s heavier rockers in their catalogue, from Last Look At Eden.

No Stone Unturned
another great rocker from 2006.

a slightly more pop rock tune, paying tribute to the band’s musical ‘hero’ [judging from the video, I’d assume this was about Phil Lynott]. from 2009’s Start From The Dark.

2012’s Bag Of Bones is a fantastic album, produced by Kevin Shirley. As much as i liked the few before it, is a step up in more great songs and more diverse writing with plenty of rockers, more blues, and more acoustics. Aussum heavy track!

Not Supposed To Sing The Blues
Classic tune; the title says it.

Drink And A Smile
A short acoustic number from Bag Of Bones; sounding much like it was influenced by the acoustic Zeppelin classics.

Days Of Rock n Rolll
War Of Kings remains my favorite Europe album; it is the one that got me to rediscover the band; heavy, but not one dodgy track on this album. This one tells us no one is too old for rock n roll!

Nothin To Ya
Love the intros on the War Of Kings tracks, and the production [courtesy of Dave Cobb. Another memorable heavy rock tune.

California 405
A classic organ intro sets the tone before the the band comes in to this cool driving rocker. My fave track on this album.

I will take ballads like this over the likes of Carrie – anyday! dark, atmospheric, with a very almost psychedelic early 70s feel to it musically and lyrically. From Walk The Earth.

Turn To Dust
great mid tempo rock tune. Lots of different tracks on Walk The Earth, a bit of a 70s vibe throughout, love the Hammond organ on this. The animated video for this song is aussum, created by the same guys that did Deep Purple’s “The Surprising” video.

Start From The Dark – 2004
Secret Society – 2006
Last Look At Eden – 2009
Bag Of Bones – 2012
War Of Kings – 2015
Walk The Earth – 2017

KJJ, 01/’20

Uriah Heep – The Case for Conquest

Perhaps the most controversial and debated album amongst Heep fans is 1980’s Conquest. It came at the time of more changes and feuds in the band’s personnel and with management – gone was singer John Lawton, as well as longtime drummer Lee Kerslake. In was Manfred Mann Earthband drummer Chris Slade (also on Bronze Records, under Bron management), and a young singer named John Sloman. Sloman had fronted the Welsh band Lone Star, singing on the classic “Firing On All Six” album. Sloman could also write, play guitar and keyboards, and with tall height, long blond hair and almost Robert Plant like looks and poses showed that Sloman could be a strong frontman with plenty of talent, but many would (and still do) debate if this all suited Uriah Heep (!?)
Regardless, the new-look Heep went about finishing Conquest in the fall of ’79. The new album would be a big step from the more laid back American influenced pop-rock of “Fallen Angel”; it’d be much bolder in the use of modern keyboards [and plenty], and a more polished production, making for a brighter sounding record.
The album featured 2 outstanding tracks penned by Trevor Bolder – “Fools” and “It Ain’t Easy”. Fools had been recorded for the 4th (and unfinished) album with John Lawton. It Ain’t Easy is a Heep classic ballad, starting soft and building up into a powerful song. This one was recorded with Trevor’s lead vocal originally, but before it’s release Sloman re-recorded the vocals and it is Sloman’s vocal that was used on the album version – despite the credits on the back cover. But heck, Conquest may be Bolder’s finest record [certainly up until this point] – not just for the 2 classics he contributed, but also for his bass playing, which really jumps out on this album.

John Sloman also brought in 2 tracks – “No Return” and “Won’t Have To Wait Too Long”. These had been written while Sloman was in the short-lived band Pulsar, in Canada – which also consisted of Pino Palladino, Dixie Lee [ex Lone Star], and Canadians David Cooper and Gregg Dechert. Pulsar recorded a few demos of these and others [I believe ‘Inside Out’ was another]. These demos were at one point [along with a number of photos] available at David Venton Cooper’s website. Sadly, the guitarist [known here for his work with the Ian Thomas Band] passed away in 2013, and his website has since been taken down.

“No Return” is one of my favorites on this album, a fine pop-rocker that comes in quietly, leading off the album, then kicks in with a cool fast paced chorus, Sloman sounds just swell on this song, and it would’ve made for a better choice as lead-off single. [it was also considered as an album title]. Also, a shame that over the years the credits to these tracks have not been corrected on the subsequent re-issues of the Conquest album. “Won’t Have To Wait To Long” was a very different, swingier song for Heep, but I like it.
Ken Hensley contributed 4 tracks on Conquest – the upbeat single “Carry On”, as well as “Feelings” – a solid 2 guitar pop-rocker, with a cool riff / intro and plenty of harmonies on the chorus. There’s also the laid back, atmospheric “Imagination”, and “Out On The Street” – somewhat of a ballad, a bit dark and moody, with a fast and frenzied instrumental break. I really like this one, in my top 3 on this album, and I think it’s Sloman’s best performance on Conquest.
The Conquest recordings also included “Been Hurt” [also previously recorded with Lawton] – a B-side [and one Sloman hated]. As well there was the outtake “Lying”, a keyboard heavy pop number that builds up to a memorable chorus; this one would’ve fit nicely on the album, IMO.
I really like Conquest; I thought it had a better flow than Fallen Angel, as well as a number of excellent tunes. And, although Heep missed the boat showing the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal bands how to do it, I liked the new sound that Conquest took. It’s too bad none of these songs would ever be played live again by later Heep line-ups.

Conquest charted in the UK, with help due to a budget pricing for the band’s 10th Anniversary. It was never released in North America, as if no one even tried or had lost interest in the band. After years of decline in LP sales and concert draw Heep were then non-existent in Canada and the USA…for a few years and more changes.
Following Conquest, the band recorded a cover of the pop-fluff “Love Stealer”, at Bron’s request. It was issued as a single and stiffed. Hensley then left and the band carried on for a while with Gregg Dechert on keyboards. Following a UK tour, a single, and demos for a new album the band would break up with Sloman leaving, followed by Bolder, Slade, and then Dechert.
Weather you liked this line-up or not, the Conquest album and it’s aftermath would be a significant period in the band’s history, as they would reform with a new line-up and enjoy a brief period of a successful return in the 80s.

For more on Conquest, check out these interviews with John Sloman.

John Sloman

John Sloman/bands

UPDATE: GODDO (Often Forgotten Canadian Hard Rock/Metal Bands) — Might As Well Blog About It

Some of GODDO‘s early releases are once again available. UK label, Rock Candy Records has released remastered versions of the first 3 GODDO albums. “Goddo” “Who Cares” and “An Act of Goddo“. On these albums you’ll find classic GODDO tracks like “Under My Hat”, “Tough Times”, “Sweet Thing”, “There Goes My Baby”, “Chantal” and “So […]

via UPDATE: GODDO (Often Forgotten Canadian Hard Rock/Metal Bands) — Might As Well Blog About It

Kiss – Top 10 from The Eric Carr Era

The 80s saw big changes for Kiss. I really like the first 3 Kiss albums, and of course Alive; but after that albums weren’t as strong song wise, and by 1980 they’d done everything – including solo albums, 2 live albums, compilations, disco, pop, and changed drummers! The new drummer, taking over for Peter Criss would be Eric Carr. And I think Eric’s heavy Bonham influenced playing was what the band needed going into the 80s. The band would drop the make up and costumes in 83 and carry on making albums regularly. 80s Kiss albums were often marred by bad cover art, and some cringeworthy lyrics. It’s a shame the band didn’t record a live album during Eric’s time with the band, and show fans how much he added as a heavy player and an occasional singer . Sadly he passed away on November 24 , 1991. Here’s my own Top 10 of favorites Kiss tunes recorded during the Eric Carr era.

Creatures Of The Night
Creatures of the Night was Kiss at their heaviest. And it’s the title track that opens the album and comes out blazing; great dark heavy rocker, great performances, including Steve Ferris’ [Mr MIster] guitar solo.

The Oath
The first album to feature Eric Carr, and well… what were they thinking!? I actually really like Music From The Elder, but it’s an odd concept for a Kiss album, so it flopped, and many critics, fans, and even bandmembers probably don’t look back on it kindly. The Oath is a good galloping fast-paced rock track to open the album, with some falsetto from Paul Stanley on the chorus, a splash of keyboards… Very different, but a classic, IMO.

King Of The Mountain
Asylum from 1985 was a vast improvement on Animalize, I thought. Though it still had that familiarity in a few of the more ‘radio rock’ tracks in Tears Are Falling and Who Wants To Be Lonely. It’s the opener that is [again] I’ll take here. Cool drum intro from Eric Carr, great rockin tune. First LP with Bruce Kulick as well. Shitty album cover.

Reason To Live
1987’s Crazy Nights saw Kiss lighten up their sound with a more AOR approach, a bit of keyboards, and more of those 80s backing vocals. I think this album was not a favorite to many, but I liked it, especially Side 2. Reason To Live being the first single, great tune, a bit syrupy, but cool.

Nowhere To Run
This was included on the European compilation Killers, which included 4 new rock tracks. A bit of a stop-gap following the flip of The Elder. Guitars by Bob Kulick. Nowhere To Run featuring a killer riff, reminiscent of Paul Stanley’s Tonight You Belong To Me (also played by Bob K, and Rich Kid by Billy Squier – played by Bruce Kulick).

I Still Love You
From Creatures Of The Night. One of a few here co-written with Vinnie Vincent. A classic heavy ballad. One of Paul Stanley’s better vocals,

Somewhere Between Heaven And Hell
From the last album of the 80s – Hot In The Shade. A long album, and a more commercial approach with songs like King Of Hearts and the ballad Forever [uhhg!]. Like this one from Gene, a good mid paced rock tune; great chorus.

Opening track to Lick It Up. Sure, the title track was a hit and huge on MTV, but Exciter tries to [and comes close to] run on the same dark heavy energy as Creatures Of The Night. Great opener.

Little Caesar
Also from Hot In The Shade. This is one Eric Carr wrote and sang lead on. Neat rocker, a bit rougher than most of the tracks on this album. Too bad the band didn’t choose a few more of his songs here (see his posthumous solo release Rockology)

Thrills In The Night
From Animalize, which followed up on the ‘success’ of Lick It Up. Not a great album, but it had a few stand out moments, such as the hit Heaven’s On Fire and this one. Great solo intro [almost like a Scorpions song], great solo from Mark St John [RIP], and Eric Carr really pounds this song. Cheesy video, shitty album cover.

KJJ, 11/’19

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