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+ {Joey Tempest}

Known primarily as the Swedish band behind one of classic rock music’s finest anthems of the 80s, `The Final Countdown’, EUROPE represented a good bet to rival arena-rock champions BON JOVI, VAN HALEN, RAINBOW et al; in fact it became something of an albatross around their neck.
Formed 1979 as covers band Force, in Upplands Vasby in Stockholm, Messrs Joey Tempest (vocals), John Norum (guitar), Peter Olsson (bass) and Tony Reno (drums) had a few ups and downs with demos and record companies before shedding Olsson. His place taken by John Leven, Marcel Jacob would subsequently join for a few months until a swap between the pair involved YNGWIE MALMSTEEN’s Rising Force. Winning a talent competition in 1982 that had sparked up interest from thousands of rock bands, EUROPE – as they’d now become – were awarded a record deal by Sweden’s Hot Records.
Looking like some 70s glam outfit on the cover of their eponymous set, EUROPE (1983) {*5}, the Scandinavian greenhorns sounded promising but a tad edgy on such hard-rock-by-numbers `Seven Doors Hotel’ (a Top 10 hit in Japan), `Words Of Wisdom’ and `Children Of This Time’. Pursuing their debut LP into the Swedish Top 20, 1984’s WINGS OF TOMORROW {*5} was basically more of the same; energetic and workmanlike, but no hits for `Lyin’ Eyes’, `Dreamer’, `Stormwind’ and `Open Your Heart’.
When Reno was subsequently fired, allegedly due to lack of drive and commitment, Ian Haugland (ex-Trilogy, ex-RISING FORCE) took his spot at the drum-kit, while the addition of Mic Michaeli (keyboards/guitar) furnished EUROPE with another dimension.
Signed to Epic Records in 1985, the quintet themselves featured in a short movie, On The Loose, performing the breakthrough Swedish Top 5 hit, `Rock The Night’. Their first single to be released in Britain and America, the aforementioned `The Final Countdown’, gave them an international breakthrough, climbing to the top spot in the UK and Top 10 in America. An epic slice of 80s pop-metal, its clarion call of a synth riff heralded equally cheesy lyrics about blasting off to Venus, or something. Storming the charts at the same time as BON JOVI’s `Livin’ On A Prayer’, it seemed, for one heady moment, that poodle rock was taking over. It wasn’t to be though, not for EUROPE anyhow, and after a further couple of hits from THE FINAL COUNTDOWN (1986) {*6} (the hair-larious `Rock The Night’, the obligatory ballad `Carrie’ and `Cherokee’), the band were consigned to the metal ghetto. Still, with a name like Tempest, this was a man who wasn’t going out without a fight.
The loss of Norwegian-born JOHN NORUM to a solo career, Kee Marcello (ex-Easy Action) stepped in for the band’s second million-seller, OUT OF THIS WORLD (1988) {*5}, but with only one hit from five spawns, `Superstitious’ (penned by Tempest), EUROPE looked doomed to failure; 1991’s PRISONERS IN PARADISE (1991) {*4} ran on empty both critically and commercially.
With his band now out of the picture, a solo JOEY TEMPEST (born Rolf Magnus Joakim Larsson) clinched a deal with Polar Records through Polydor. Rumours that the man was planning a pomp-metal cover of `Dancing Queen’ proved unfounded, but his “singer-songwriter” set A PLACE TO CALL HOME (1995) {*5} presented hard-rock fans with a tough dilemma; whether to totally abandon him or stick with him through thick and thin times. A second set, the “country-rock” AZALEA PLACE (1997) {*4} – recorded in Nashville with Richard Dodds – was an attempt to get it out of his system.
Reverting to type, his third solo album JOEY TEMPEST (2002) {*5} saw him with a fresh backing band (guitarists/co-writers Adam Lamprell, Malcolm Pardon, Fredrik Rinman plus drummer Jorgen Wall) and a handful of songs co-penned with Michaeli. Yes, it was time for a proper EUROPE reunification – they’d performed at the millennium 2000 celebrations in Stockholm with both Marcello and Norum.
With the latter axeman chosen to enforce their mid-80s sound, Tempest and Co – plus “Final Countdown” producer Kevin Elson – finally served up album six, START FROM THE DARK (2004) {*5}. All hook-line and hair, it struck gold on home-soil, but in the main there was no “Final Countdown” song for Brits and Yanks fans to feed off; `Got To Have Faith’ and the syrupy `Reason’ were nothing to shout about. Ditto 2006’s SECRET SOCIETY {*5}.
Live at Nalen venue, Stockholm, ALMOST UNPLUGGED (2008) {*5} was exactly what it said on the tin; their best tracks tamed and melded alongside a handful of covers, namely PINK FLOYD’s `Wish You Were Here’, `UFO’s `Love To Love’, LED ZEPPELIN’s `Since I’ve Been Lovin’ You’ and THIN LIZZY’s `Suicide’.
LAST LOOK AT EDEN (2009) {*5} and BAG OF BONES (2012) {*5} were again mighty big albums at home and on the continent (Top 60 for the latter in Britain), but it was clearly going to be a hard task for them to brush off that song; yes, that song that anyone and everybody played to death on rock radio and, on TV, when an excuse for counting down time came up for grabs.
Produced by Dave Cobb (who also took a helping hand in its writing), 2015’s WAR OF KINGS {*6} pulled no punches this time around; the title track and `Days Of Rock ‘N’ Roll’ harking back to their hard-rock forefathers DEEP PURPLE, LED ZEPPELIN, BLACK SABBATH, et al. Proud as punch at re-establishing EUROPE in their own inimitable fashion, Tempest and Co toured the globe, hoping that one day a radio station would focus on something other than the apocalyptic `The Final Countdown’.
Following on from one of those obligatory DVD/double-CD cash-cows, THE FINAL COUNTDOWN 30TH ANNIVERSARY SHOW LIVE AT THE ROUNDHOUSE (2017) {*6}, Scandinavians EUROPE found it a tad tougher to win over a Brexit Britain for umpteenth set, WALK THE EARTH (2017) {*6}; a Dave Cobb production and a near No.1 in their own nation. Originally intended to be written as a concept album until that idea was unceremoniously scrapped, there was help from two unlikely pop sources, CHRIS DIFFORD and BOO HEWERDINE, on respective tracks `The Siege’ and `Kingdom United’. The usual suspect motifs (‘Purple and `Zeppelin) were again at the core sound of such grandiose hard-rock tunes, from the opening title piece to closer, `Turn To Dust’.
© MC Strong 1994-2001/GRD // rev-up MCS Mar2015-Oct2017

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