PRISONERS IN PARADISE
Released on September 23, 1991 (Epic Records)
One of the most disappointing albums for me back in the early ’90s was when Europe released their 1991 album Prisoners In Paradise. Twenty five years are already upon us since the release of arguably Europe‘s worst album. It had been more than twenty years since I heard Prisoners In Paradise in its entirety and I was curious to see if I would “hate” the album as much as I did when it first came out.
You see, I have always thought that Europe‘s 1988 album Out Of This World is exactly that — out of this world. It’s an almost flawless album chockfull of melodies, great hooks and some truly great singing from Joey Tempest. I also really like — and still like — The Final Countdown album so I was expecting another great album from Europe to follow up those two stellar albums. What I got back in 1991 was a band that had lost its way. A band that was trying too hard to sell too many albums by selling out with commercial bubble gum rock. Not that Europe were ever going to be considered to in the same vein as Iron Maiden or Judas Priest when it came to their song compositions prior to Prisoners In Paradise but Out Of This World had a lot of quality songs on it and although commercial sounding, the songs were well crafted and rich so to speak.
Listening to Prisoners In Paradise in its entirety after a twenty year moratorium, I now know why I hated it so much back in 1991. It simply had to do with the singles that Europe or whomever decided on their behalf to release. “Halfway To Heaven,” “Prisoners In Paradise” and especially “I’ll Cry For You” just made me cringe back then — and still to this day — as desperate attempts to get that big hit single. When I hear any of those tracks, I just think that Europe could have done a lot better. And by the way, I don’t hate any of the songs. I still listen to them and might even sing along to them (while cringing…) but they are beneath what Europe could or should do. There are however a few killer tracks on Prisoners In Paradise with one an apparent mainstay, and with good reason, in Europe‘s live set. “Girl From Lebanon” is a standout rocker that could easily fit it on some of Europe‘s albums in the “second half” of their comeback career. Funny enough, it wasn’t until I drafted my Sleaze Roxx concert review of Europe‘s show in Sault Ste Marie, Michigan, USA a couple of years ago that I realized that “Girl From Lebanon” was on the Prisoners In Paradise album. That’s how (pleasantly) different the song is from the most of the other tracks on that album. “Seventh Sign” is another killer track and it’s no surprise that song as well as “Girl From Lebanon” are some of the fastest, less keyboard, oriented tracks. I have also always liked “Got Your Mind In The Gutter” which is just an upbeat rocker from start to finish.
The rest of the tracks on Prisoners In Paradise are mostly forgetful. “Bad Blood” sees Tempest try to impersonate KISS‘ Paul Stanley when he is singing “Ba-ba-ba-bad Blood.” “Homeland” is a dull ballad missing a good melody but Kee Marcello‘s guitar solo kind of salvages what is otherwise an awful song. There just isn’t much on the album to make me want to go back to it, especially when you consider some of the quality albums that Europe have in their arsenal like The Final Countdown, Out Of This World and Last Look At Eden.
I don’t know what Europe think of Prisoners Of Paradise but it is very telling that when the group reformed in or about 2003, they decided to move away in a heavier and different musical direction from the bubble gum pop rock that was so prevalent on Prisoners In Paradise. I have to think that when Europe reformed, had they resumed with songs in the same vein as most of the stuff on Prisoners In Paradise, they would have packed it in again and would definitely not have had the second musical career that they are still enjoying to this day.
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
10. Got Your Mind In The Gutter
11. ‘Til My Heart Beats Down Your Door
12. Girl From Lebanon
Joey Tempest – lead vocals, rhythm guitar
Kee Marcello – lead guitar, background vocals
John Levén – bass
Mic Michaeli – keyboards, background vocals
Ian Haugland – drums
Nate Winger – background vocals
Paul Winger – background vocals
Produced by Beau Hill
Mixed by Beau Hill and Jimmy Hoyson
Engineered by Jimmy Hoyson
Assistant engineer: Martin Horenburg
Mastered by Ted Jensen
Reviewed by Olivier for Sleaze Roxx, September 2016
Europe‘s “I’ll Cry For You” video:
Europe’s official music video for ‘I’ll Cry For You’. Click to listen to Europe on Spotify: http://smarturl.it/EuropeSpot?IQid=EuropeICFY As featured on 1982-1992.
Europe‘s “Prisoners In Paradise” video:
Europe’s official music video for ‘Prisoners In Paradise’. Click to listen to Europe on Spotify: http://smarturl.it/EuropeSpot?IQid=EuropePIP As featured on 1982-1992.
Europe’s “Halfway To Heaven” video:
Europe – Halfway To Heaven (Official Music Video) HD Widescreen