Europe - Prisoners In Paradise

Europe – Prisoners In Paradise

90 / 100

The 1991 album by Europe called ‘Prisoners In Paradise’ was as good as melodic hard rock got in the troubled 1990’s for the genre, overlooked by the buying public at large and harshly criticized by certain media.

Written by: DaveT

ARTIST: Europe
ALBUM: Prisoners In Paradise
SERIAL: EPC 468755 1
YEAR: 1991
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List

LINEUP: Joey Tempest – vocals * Kee Marcello – guitars * Mic Michaeli – keyboards * John Leven – bass * Ian Haughland – drums

Additional Musicians: Nate Winger, Paul Winger – backing vocals

TRACK LISTING: 01 All Or Nothing * 02 Halfway To Heaven * 03 I’ll Cry For You * 04 Little Bit Of Lovin’ * 05 Talk To Me * 06 Seventh Sign * 07 Prisoners In Paradise * 08 Bad Blood * 09 Homeland * 10 Got Your Mind In The Gutter * 11 ‘Til My Heart Beats Down Your Door * 12 Girl From Lebanon

RATING: 90/100

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In 1991, three years had passed since the release of 1988’s ‘Out Of This World’, marked by disagreements with their record label that ended up in a rejected album originally scheduled for 1990 called ‘Seventh Sign’. Epic wanted ‘The Final Countdown Part II’, Bob Rock had been the first choice as producer and, due to his commitments with Metallica‘s black album, Beau Hill was finally brought in.

With the band relocated to San Francisco, outside songwriters Eric Martin, Jim Vallance, Nick Graham and Fiona collaborated, and a good deal of finished songs from the songwriting sessions wound up in different albums and compilations over the years. Listen to the 2CD bootleg ‘Le Baron Boys’ if you want to dig deeper on this period’s demos.

The Songs

Europe adopted a ‘Melodic Hard Rock the American way’ approach for Prisoners. The album was mixed in the then brand-new technology QSound for 3D audio effects and the sound is pristine, perhaps too polished or overproduced to some ears, but not mine. You can hear assorted influences on the songs that I’ll explain to make the review easier, but don’t worry because Europe is still written all over the songs.

‘All Or Nothing’ opens with its resounding vibe that springs to mind Def Leppard on the chorus chord progression while ‘Halfway To Heaven’ includes a finger picked, synth-like riff that recalls Dokken. Noticeably, Kee Marcello’s licks are more straightforward than ever before on the recording, yet engaging.

The midtempo, near-ballad ‘I’ll Cry For You’, filled with melodic, almost pop arpeggios, stands out as an AOR achievement. It’s followed by ‘Little Bit Of Lovin’, a relative to Bon Jovi‘s ‘Let It Rock’. For ‘Talk To Me’, the guitar sound is reminiscent of the most rocking Bryan Adams while the hopeless message of the heavier ‘Seventh Sign’, oddly enough, features a chugging riff that at moments sounds like Neil Young‘s ‘Rockin’ In The Free World’.

Now, please stand up as the anthemic title track takes center stage, for its Celtic-like beginning riff and Beatles-like quality are superb. Queen influences are also present. Half ballad, half-powerful, and one hundred percent brilliant with the added value of gorgeous lyrics. One of Europe’s top songs ever, undoubtedly.

It’s true that ‘Bad Blood’ borrows the ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ riff, as it is also true that it’s a monster boogie song. The bluesy ballad ‘Homeland’ follows, and is a heartfelt tale of homesickness where Marcello’s crunchy tone shines. The next two songs are perhaps the least remarkable. ‘Got Your Mind In The Gutter’ sounds like average blues-laden hard rock while ‘Til My Heart Beats Down Your Door’ seems to drag a bit.

What better way to finish the album than ‘Girl From Lebanon’, with the enigmatic intro that seems like inspired by Santana, the dynamic riff wrapped by thick keyboard layers and that fantastic guitar solo. A song made for the 1990’s, a decade that unfortunately would not have Europe as part of the music scene beyond this album.

In Summary

‘Prisoners In Paradise’ is as good as melodic hard rock got in the troubled 1990’s for the genre, overlooked by the buying public at large and harshly criticized by certain media, that seems to condemn bands that dare to look for pastures new. Perhaps they are stuck into the AC/DC model, one that only seems to have worked for AC/DC themselves, plus maybe Motorhead and The Ramones.

After a European tour that, interestingly, started with a gig in Tokyo on New Year’s Eve 1991, Europe called it a day (or took a break, in their own words), save for a Stockholm concert on New Year’s Eve 1999. Nothing would be heard from the band as a unity until 2003’s ‘Start From The Dark’, when a new chapter that lasts until this day started for them.

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