|Set the prisoners free!|
OKEJ - No.19, 1991 Translated by:
EUROPE is back after many trials and tribulations.
After an almost gravelike silence, only interrupted by headlines that have been dominated by problems, tax debts and unpleasantness, the first sign of life from EUROPE in over two years appears. The single and title track from the upcoming LP "Prisoners in Paradise". OKEJ inspects the events and directs harsh criticism at incompetent business decisions.
I wouldn't even wish my worst enemy so much trouble and agony that the guys in EUROPE have had to endure. And since I consider EUROPE to be my friends, I naturally feel a great sense of relief, when on paper, it seems like the problems are solved and the eagerly awaited album finally is done and on its way. Unfortunately it's a cup of bitterness, which I'll come back to. The album that will be released in the world, except for Japan, is not the version preferred by the band or myself. To go through all the events around this extremely unlucky LP would fill up a whole book. To make a long story short, EUROPE, whose sequel to the successful "The Final Countdown", the underestimated "Out of This World" didn't sell as much as expected, got stuck in a business carousel, where it seemed impossible to make any concrete decisions.
The nightmare began when it was discovered that the original management was more interested in EUROPE's money than their music, which led to a severely unpleasant conflict that ended with the band tearing up the contract. They've now got a new, and hopefully honorable management behind them. After two demo tapes which were flooding with well composed, nearly classic hard rock songs, it took some time before the decision to start recording was made. Then the discussions around the choice of producer had gone so far that suddenly no one seemed to be available. By pure accident they found Beau Hill whom they recorded the whole LP with - a project that was finished in November 1990! Almost a whole year ago! So why this long wait for the release?
Well, the "thinking" powers of the American record company suddenly thought it missed hit songs, something they obviously couldn't decide upon after listening through the extremely well recorded demo tapes that they had available for a long time, which the choice of songs for the album had been based on. The release was cancelled and Joey went back to writing songs, both on his own and together with Eric Martin from Mr.Big and Jim Vallance, known from Aerosmith and Scorpions circles. During the time most people involved with EUROPE were uncertain. Now no one knew when the album would come, when the marketing could start or the tours could be started.
We, who at an early stage had heard both the demo tapes and the finished album, asked ourselves. What was so wrong? EUROPE had made a great album! And sure it had singles. Still, new songs were brought forward, and just in time for the earlier release date, EUROPE went back to the studio to record four new songs and remix the rest. Here they encountered a new dilemma. Suddenly they had too many songs, so the next problem was picking out the songs that would finally go on the LP. In the beginning the result was approved. Four songs from the original album had to go, among others highlights like "Sweet Love Child", a fantastic ballad, "Here Comes the Night" and "Mr. Government Man". But the best ones were still left: "Yesterday's News" - one of the most impressive compositions EUROPE ever recorded, "Break Free" and "Girl from Lebanon". Advance tapes were made, the title was decided to be "Prisoners in Paradise", named after the best of the newly recorded songs, and finally everything seemed to be ready. EUROPE could finally rebuild their wounded career.
Then the bomb hit! The American record company made yet another decision that should be rewarded with whipping, if not strangling! With the explanation that the album would be too long (barely an hour, not at all unusual in these CD days), both "Yesterday's News" and "Break Free" were quite simply removed from the international version. "Yesterday's News" is only left on the Japanese edition. This is a horrible mistake I suspect EUROPE will pay a high price for. An explanation might clarify. "Yesterday's News", now a well-known title that I have mentioned as the best EUROPE has ever done in earlier articles, has already made good PR for the band. It was played during the concert at the Milton Keynes festival in 1989 and made the big rock magazines "Kerrang!" and "Raw" for the first time appraise EUROPE as a serious rock band, not pretty boys with synth fanfares. The bootleg tape with the song from Milton Keynes made it all the way to Japan, where the editor of Japan's biggest rock magazine "Burrn!" put it up on his "Best right now" list. An indication, if anything, but it was obviously only enough to let Japan get the masterpiece. "Break Free", on the other hand, was the only fast song among EUROPE's new material. Now that it's gone, the rest of the material is all at a similar tempo.
And if that wasn't enough, at the time of writing there's still driveling about when, where and how a video shall be recorded and which songs shall be singles. England even refuses to release the LP if "Prisoners..." is the first single. They want "I'll Cry for You", a ballad, which would be a senseless way to present a new hard rock album. So without a release in England, it will be difficult to synchronize the marketing in Europe. MTV is run by England and the big rock magazines won't be interested if the album is not available in their homeland.
Like I said, I wouldn't even wish my worst enemy all the trouble EUROPE has had to endure. But then what's left to listen to? Is EUROPE already doomed? No, not at all. "Prisoners in Paradise" is still a terrific album, and even though I'm bound to recommend buying the Japanese version on import (which would have catastrophic consequences for EUROPE's place in the charts if so happened), it's an unmissable album for those who are interested in rock. EUROPE has grown, found a new identity and is miles ahead of comparable competitors, concerning quality and musical delivery. The single "Prisoners..." is outstanding and makes you think of the big melodic hard rock bands from the 70's with its build up. Undoubtedly a daring choice for a single, but so was even "The Final Countdown". The opening song "All or Nothing", on the other hand, is a trifle that resembles Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar on Me" way too much. I thought EUROPE were above using so near old ideas. "Halfway to Heaven", like "I'll Cry for You" and "Prisoners...", dates from the return to the studio and is of fine single quality. The very best songs, though, were already present on the original version. "Seventh Sign", "Bad Blood" and "Mind in the Gutter" are sharp rockers of rough caliber. The best, without a doubt, are however the fantastic "Girl from Lebanon" and the ballad "Homeland".
Joey has evolved into a real heavy weight singer, and the same goes for Kee who has gotten a big space for his guitar. It's a bit sad though, to see Mic taking a more restrained position. I would love to hear more of his grand Hammond! Ian and John perform flawlessly in the so important groundwork.
May this long explanation to why EUROPE's album has taken so long or the describing of all the problems the band - truthfully undeservedly - has had to endure, not prevent anyone from realizing the band's greatness or judging them as losers. It takes a strong band to get out of a so hard time with their heads held up high. Now it's up to us to give them the success they deserve!