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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Europe - Bag of Bones album review

Europe – Bag of Bones album review
Released on: earMusic / Edel. Release date: Available now.

Europe, such a great band and yet so underrated and overlooked, certainly here in America.
I do recall seeing the band live back in 1986 at Hammersmith Odeon as it was then and sadly experienced the 'screaming girls' syndrome at what should've been a great rock concert, for rock fans ...
Trouble is, the management behind the band at the time had seen what was happening with Bon Jovi and got Europe on 'that' bandwagon. Obviously a good move for instant hit singles and a chart topping album - 'The Final Countdown.'
Sadly, what was being overlooked was some seriously classy hard rock from this band that had already released two fine rocking albums in 'Europe' (1983) and 'Wings of Tomorrow' (1984).
The bands influences has always been the hard and classic rock of bands like UFO, Thin Lizzy, Led Zeppelin, etc. Sadly, the stance being promoted through the bands management in 1986, was giving the band a slightly different direction.
I'm sure the success was great for a while and that huge success, was indeed short lived for the most part. In trying to get back on track with the excellent 'Out Of This World' (1988)and the very clever, thoughtful even 'Prisoners In Paradise' (1991), the pop fans lost interest and rock fans tended to be put off the band by the image that had been used to promote the band.
After a hiatus for band members to 'do their own thing' they regrouped in in 2004 and released the without doubt, heaviest and possibly strongest release ever to date, in 'Start From The Dark.'
It was a great return to their origins and was followed up by an equally good, if more thoughtful rock release in 'Secret Society' (2006).
2009's 'Last Look At Eden' was backed by a massive world tour over two, almost three years and now they are back with 'Bag of Bones.'

This album is certainly a great way to tell the world, ‘Hey, come on, check this out,’ especially with Kevin Shirley’s (Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, Journey, Iron Mainden, Blacl Country Communion) great production and some guest guitar work from Joe Bonamassa.

Opening track ‘Riches To Rags’ is an excellent heavy edged up tempo rocker to get things going, certainly following the trend on ‘Last Look at Eden’ and even brings back some fond memories from the material off ‘Start From The Dark.’

The dark at times, edgy and heavy blues driven ‘Not Supposed to Sing The Blues’ and also slightly reminiscent of classic Thin Lizzy at times, grooves with class.
It’s really such a complete track, so rich!

‘Firebox’ next keeps with the heavy vibe and it even gets into a mystical groove too, tasty rocker indeed.

The title track ‘Bag of Bones’ next grows into a kind of epic monster, in the best possible sense.
Starting with some nice acoustic guitar and laid back vocal from Joey Tempest and then it picks up some and then switches back and forth in great style.
Joe Bonamassa guests on slide guitar on the title track. Nice touch.

The band has come so far, they really have and they capture so many influences, they really do. I hear nods to Deep Purple, Thin Lizzy, Led Zeppelin, UFO and others.

Joey Tempest’s vocals are well on form thrroughout, John Norum’s guitar is rocking as hard and good as ever and all the guys are on their game. Some great Hammond driving sounds from Mic Michaeli and the rhythm section of John Levén on bass and Ian Haughland’s almost John Bonham (RIP) like drums, are just solid!!

‘Requiem’ leads into ‘My Woman My Friend’ which conjures up an almost Purple like feel to it and I love it!

With ‘Demon Head’ it’s got a bluesy kind of feel to it, but doesn’t stray too far from the Europe sound, that’s been developed so well now. It’s not unlike Black Country Communion at times, no bad thing at all.

‘Drink and a Smile’ is quite different, in so much as that it doesn’t sound like Joey Tempest on lead vocals.
It’s a laid back bluesy acoustic two minute jam.

Next track ‘Doghouse’ is a track that fans that caught the band on their last tour will recognize, as it was a part of the setlist.
It’s an edgy almost Zeppelin meets AC/DC like rocker, that been twisted a little from what they played on the tour.
The guitar solo leads me to praise up John Norum some more, great stuff indeed!

‘Mercy You, Mercy Me,’ builds from a slightly restrained intro into something that’s not unlike a UFO sounding kind of rocker, then there’s a slight bridge just past the halfway mark that throws you a little before it’s gets back into its groove. Fantastic riff that drives it, love it!

Final track is ‘Bring It All Home’ is a beautiful finish to such a classy release.

Some soulful guitars, easy going piano and backing organ and smoothly sung vocals makes this a well rounded finish to yet another strong release for Europe.

It’s funny, that there seems to still be a sad stigma associated with the band in certain markets and I don’t get it, as the European – No pun intended – market has accepted the ‘new’ Europe, if you will. What is really sad is that no one in America seems willing to fly the flag for the band. The radio stations here play the same old four songs, ‘Final Countdown,’ ‘Carrie,’ ‘Cherokee’ and ‘Rock the Night.’ Satellite stations aside, the FM rock stations – As per is the norm here. – will only play the old classic hits by 80’s bands, totally overlooking some great new material from many acts from that era.
Europe is another act that clearly gets put in that category.

Do I sound like I’m having a moan, because yes I am! Radio controllers across the US need a serious kick up the rear end, to maybe be a little more open minded and seriously, more up to date!

These are after all THE ‘classic rock’ bands that make their bread and butter and they choose to ignore where these acts are today, some of whom are playing their finest material ever!

This is a great hard melodic rock album folks, do yourselves a favour and go and get yourself a copy.
This is NOT the ‘Final Countdown’ style of music, Europe still has their lighter very melodic moments, but boy do these guys rock better than ever today!

Rating: 4.75 out 5

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