By JAY ROBERTS
The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from this time period 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.
EUROPE – PRISONERS IN PARADISE (1991)
Welcome to another edition of “How did I not pay more attention to this album when it first came out?”
After the release of Europe’s 1988 album Out Of This World, I kind of soured on the band a little. So three years later when they released Prisoners In Paradise, I didn’t really give it much of a second thought. I heard the title track and while it had all the earmarks to make it a “Europe-type” song, I just kind of said, “OK” and moved on with my life.
But as luck would have it, the album ended up in my collection TWICE. My friend Jeff found a CD edition of the album and I picked up the cassette on a shopping trip. Once I got around to listening to it, I definitely have to break out the wet noodle for 50 lashes due to a small musical mind.
Now, it has to be said first off that if you didn’t like the 80’s sound of Europe, you probably won’t think much of this album either. But for those of us who do enjoy all that encompasses being a child of the 80’s metal era, this album is an audio feast.
The album opens with “All Or Nothing” which is a rocking track with a vibrantly ripping guitar solo. The band sounds great and singer Joey Tempest is in fine voice throughout each and every song on the album.
Side one really doesn’t have much of a downside. I liked the chorus to “I’ll Cry For You” a bit more than the main portion of the lyrics, but still overall the song was a great listen. “Little Bit Of Love” gets your blood pumping and no matter where you turn, there’s a lot of quick stepping rock and roll for you to enjoy. “Talk To Me” and “Seventh Sign” are also staggeringly great.
When you flip the cassette over, things continue on in thrilling fashion. While the title track has all the hallmarks of a ballad in terms of the lyrical content, there’s far more “power” than “ballad” to the track.
There’s more of an edgier rocking vibe than you might be used to with “classic Europe” on the song “Bad Blood”. It’s like you are being let in on something very few know about. It might be some kind of hint of what was to come when the band reformed, but any which way you look at it, the song is a winner.
For me, the only real downside to any one song on the album was on “Homeland”. The song was pretty slow moving and featured Tempest reflecting back on life and decisions made. But I ended up restless to get on to the next song.
But in the spirit of all that is good in rock and roll, the last three songs on the album more than make up for the momentary disappointment on “Homeland”.
The song “Got Your Mind In The Gutter” has a great vibe. The rocker grabs you and there’s a great vocal turn from Tempest. And while “Til My Heart Beats Down Your Door” likely will make you think it is another ballad, it actually has more going for it than that.
While I loved most of the album, I particularly enjoyed the last song “Girl From Lebanon”. There’s just something to this song that really made it so appealing to me. As I listened to it, I couldn’t help but be struck by Joey Tempest’s vocals. They seemed almost conspiratorial in nature and made me think the track would serve as a great musical theme for a spy novel or something. Of course, the lyrics don’t really lend themselves to this idea of mine, it was just the overall feeling I got from the song in total.
In short, what I’m saying is that while I definitely should’ve listened to this album back in 1991, I’ve listened to it now. And what I found was that on what was the band’s last gasp in their first go-round, they more than delivered the goods. Prisoners In Paradise is a solid gold album that should probably be re-evaluated by a lot more people than just myself.
NOTES OF INTEREST – This was Europe’s last studio album for 13 years when they released Start From The Dark in 2004 and overhauled their sound.
Prisoners In Paradise is the last album to feature guitarist Kee Marcello.
Mr. Big front man Eric Martin co-wrote the lyrics to the song “All Or Nothing”.