|Swedish rockers return with "Prisoners in Paradise"|
Edge - 1991
EUROPE, the Swedish band that hit multiplatinum
paydirt with "The Final Countdown" in 1986, hasn't been heard from
since '88's "Out of This World". But that's about to change this month
with the release of "Prisoners in Paradise", their fifth record and
most accomplished effort to date. Produced by Beau Hill, the 12-song album was
recorded at L.A.'s Enterprise Studios and "took about a year, on and
off," estimates frontman Joey Tempest.
Joey, guitarist Kee Marcello, drummer Ian Haugland, bassist John Levén, and keyboardist Mic Michaeli started tracking in August 1990 after working on songs for six months in L.A. and San Francisco, took a break to fulfill a tour commitment in Asia late that fall, and decided to write more songs that spring, which delayed the album (originally slated for an early '91 release) till now. But fans will no doubt agree that it was worth the wait.
I first heard proof of that last October, when I visited the band in the studio and heard 11 songs (three of which were later cut - they may be b-sides or on the next album). Subsequently, five new songs were written, including the album's title track. "Prisoners in Paradise," Joey explains, is a reference to the band's residence in the tropical Turks & Caicos islands; their manager said: "You guys are like prisoners in paradise," which prompted Joey to write the tune, the last one penned for the record. "I think it's going to be a EUROPE classic," he says.
In contrast, the bluesy "Little Bit of Lovin'", the ballad "Homeland" (Joey: "It's about Sweden, but really anyone's homeland"), and "Bad Blood" were among the first written for the record. The latter tune, a ballsy rocker, "is about touring life. Once you do it you can never get it out of your system," says Joey.
"Seventh Sign", inspired by the movie of the same name, "is about the apocalypse," Joey notes, citing the line, "What good is war when we all go down?"
While "Girl from Lebanon" is "the closest to the 'Final Countdown' stuff," tracks like the rockin', groove-laden "'Til My Heart Beats Down Your Door" and the raunchy, ZZ Top-ish "You Got Your Mind in the Gutter" are a departure for EUROPE. "It's gonna shock a lot of people," says Joey of the latter tune, characterizing the album as more diverse and heavier overall.
"This is our fifth album and definitely the most powerful album we've done. It's more guitar-based, too, and more varied. Some of the songs are very free and heavy, but there's a new direction on some songs. There's less keyboards, more guitars," he says, nothing that both he and Mic will join Kee in playing the six-string on stage.
"Compared to the last album, it's like night and day," opines Kee. "I think we're more confident as a band. We're getting closer and know each other better every year."
This time, the writing process was more of a collaborative effort than in the past, when Joey did the bulk of it himself. "I can't work alone all the time. They have great ideas," says Joey (he did pen "Prisoners in Paradise" himself, however, and collaborated with some outside writers on a few writers on a few of the newer tunes, including Jim Vallance on "Halfway to Heaven", and Mr. Big's Eric Martin on "All or Nothing").
"We had the ideas, but we needed someone like Beau to say: 'This is alright, let's go for it,'" adds John. "He made us realize we have to take chances."
EUROPE met Beau Hill when they played at the Whisky in L.A. in 1989. Of all considered producers, "He was the person who showed the most interest in the songs and the band," says Joey.
"The vibe is so much better this time. Beau creates this relaxed atmosphere. And he doesn't have any producer's ego," praises Kee. In the studio, they endeavored to "capture a live feel, make it powerful," something they wanted the last time but it didn't work out, says Kee.
"We opened up," says Ian. "Some of the things I did on the drum tracks, some of the fills and weird things I never did before - Beau really encouraged us to go for it."
The actual recording process went much faster than the writing for the record. "We want to give the fans a lot of quality. That's why we took so long to write the songs on this album," says Joey, noting that a changeover in management was responsible for delays at the outset.
"We figured we'd rather wait and do something we're proud of instead of putting out an album because the record company wanted us to put one out," says Kee. "I hope everyone hasn't forgotten us by now."
Indeed, it has been three years since EUROPE's last release. Does this make "Prisoners in Paradise" more crucial?
"Yes, in a way, but I think every album's important," says Joey.
"Every album we do, we always do our best," Kee concurs. "For us, it's no big difference. It's always hard work."
There may be an overabundance of hard rock bands, but "I don't worry about competition, and that's not boasting, it's just that there's room out there for everyone," states Joey. "If you've got a good album, it's going to shine through. I think this album is deep, so if it doesn't happen immediately, it will happen later on. I'm convinced it's going to do very well."
To ensure that, EUROPE will hit the road this fall, starting in America in an effort to make amends for neglecting U.S. audiences their last time out (which consisted of a brief Stateside stint with Def Leppard).
"That was one of the biggest mistakes we ever made," says John, blaming their old Swedish manager for that.
"We'll probably start in October and do as much as we can before Christmas," outlines Joey. "We can do Europe in the spring, and if things go well, we can come back to the States in the summer," he says, eager to play the new songs live, especially favorites like "Seventh Sign" and "Little Bit of Lovin'".
"We did the best we could," Joey sums up. "I just hope people like it."
We're betting they will.