The Cassette Chronicles – John Norum’s ‘Total Control’

BY JAY ROBERTS (SPECIAL TO LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE)

The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s that I have acquired through Purchase Street Records in New Bedford, MA.

The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from the 1980’s through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums.

These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.

John Norum’s Total Control (1988)

If I remember an article I read correctly, guitarist John Norum left Europe back in the 1980’s because he was unhappy over the more commercial bent of the group’s music. Given that he has been part of the lineup for years with the band’s turn towards a more classic rock sound these days, you can kind of see where he was coming from given the material that was included on this particular album.

With Norum singing lead on eight of the eleven tracks as well as playing guitar, the guitarist was clearly in as much “total control” as possible for the time. While the album’s production is clearly of the 80’s, the material does veer greatly into the heavier guitar driven sound. While keyboards do have a presence on the album, they don’t overwhelm the clearly more aggressive rocking vibe.

There are nine original songs on the album plus two covers. The cover of Thin Lizzy’s “Wild One” closes the album while Norum also covers the Vinnie Vincent Invasion song “Back on The Streets.”

The album does a nice job of keeping the blood flowing with great guitar work on tracks like “Eternal Flame” and “Law of Life,” but the downbeat and moody style employed on “Too Many Hearts” makes for a disappointing song.

When you think about it, the album is kind of a foretelling of what Europe is doing now, musically speaking. And it isn’t a bad thing either. This album is quite enjoyable and I think people will be surprised by what they hear.

Note of Interest: Swedish singer Goran Edman, who would go on to front Yngwie Malmsteen’s band for two albums (amongst many other projects), sings lead on the three tracks where Norum does not have the lead vocal.

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