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Saturday, October 2, 2010

John Norum - Play Yard Blues album review

John Norum – Play Yard Blues album review
Released on: Mascot records. Release Date: Available everywhere now!

(Album cover photo by Paul Bergen)

John Norum is a guitarist who I have a great deal of time for, he’s seriously a class act, but more than that he has previously admitted he was heavily influenced by two of my favourite all time bands in both Thin Lizzy and UFO.

His band Europe not so long ago also paid tribute top both acts in their release ‘Almost Unplugged’ and Norum himself has covered Lizzy tracks on previous solo releases and has done so again on this new one.
What I really like about the guys style is that I hear a similar sound to Michael Schenker's playing in many of his solos and licks here and there, very similar to say Brian Robertson and even Gary Moore and to be honest his voice at times is similar to both Gary Moore and Jack Bruce (Cream).

To be completely open with you I’m not a big fan of blues, so I really wondered where this album would go, as my taste in blues is along the lines of more rocky blues ala Joe Bonamassa, Jeff Healey, a little Cream some Gary Moore blues, Kenny Wayne Shepherd you get the picture.
This album was pleasantly surprising in that although Norum is showing blues elements here and there, it a rocking release!

What’s really a nice touch here also is that the album is dedicated to his late musician wife Michelle Meldrum Norum (RIP) who sadly passed away back in 2008 and the album cover features their son Jake Thomas Norum posing alongside John.
So now you have some background, on to the album!

(Jake Thomas and John Norum photo by Paul Bergen)

Opening with a very Hendrix / Cream like ‘Let it Shine’ Norum has a winner, it’s a song with a great vibe and strong chorus, great sound, with a little psychedelic bridge mid way through with the solo and then back to that catchy riff that runs through the verses.
I love it and even Europe bandmate Mic Michaeli makes his presence felt on the Hammond organ here.

In a similar vibe comes ‘Red Light Green High’ save for the solo where he switches direction a little, eases back for some smooth guitar work then back into the rockin’ blues vibe. Nice.

Very impressed by his cover of Lizzy’s ‘It’s Only Money’ next and he’s got the vocal somewhere between a Phil Lynott / Gary Moore sound, classy stuff John. This should excellent live!
Please play some US dates John …!
Guest vocalist Leif Sundin joins John on next track ‘Got My Eyes on You’ which is well written between the two of them, with more than a nod towards Lizzy again, even a little Wild Horses (UK version) like, with a great solo section that almost encompasses a sound not unlike both UFO and Lizzy. Great rocker for sure. This album is cruising for me!

‘When Darkness Falls’ is again very Lizzy like with some Robertson style licks here and there, yet his solo is all his own and rips! Yet another really strong song indeed to keep the momentum up here.

For ‘Over and Done’ next, the presence of Michaeli’s keyboards are felt again alongside a grooving blues riff, very Cream like in places.

Norum’s backing band includes Tomas Torberg on bass who keeps things steady, yet grooving throughout alongside some great rhythm from drummer Thomas Broman and Peter Stappe add percussive touches elsewhere.

Another cover next in the shape of Canadian Frank Marino’s ‘Ditch Queen’ which true to Marino’s style has a very Hendrix vibe about it, but Marino’s material never really grabbed me, so Norum makes this workable for me, probably wouldn’t have worked if I just heard it from Marino.

The sound on next track ‘Travel In The Dark’ I’ve got to say, sounds more like Joe Lynn Turner era Rainbow than anything else here, ironically it’s a Mountain track!
Norum adds more than a touch of (Ritchie) Blackmore type style here, adding the Hammond just makes it all the more so and I seriously had to pick up the album to check it wasn’t Joe Lynn Turner! Love it!

“Born Again’ brings Leif Sundin back in on vocals and is an out and out rocker, dare I say ala M.S.G. like and it’s solid ripping it up track, very tight rhythm section indeed and Norum comes into his own element, big time with some great solo work.

OK, to the title track ‘Play Yard Blues’ to close the album and sure enough, Mr. Norum indeed gives us some great blues licks!

If you’re already a fan of the man, then chances are you’ve already got the album! If you’re a fan of Europe, you may or may not have, but seriously, this is a great album and I am thankful to have a copy, so I do indeed recommend it to you all!

Rating: 4 out of 5.
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