CD Reviews

John Norum - 'Play Yard Blues' Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     September 26, 2010    
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A very cool album that I think I’ll find myself returning to on a regular basis.

Europe guitarist John Norum famously left that band on the brink of mega-success because he wasn't happy with the direction the band were taking circa their breakthrough album, ‘The Final Countdown’. Since then he's kept his integrity intact by refusing to compromise his music and basically just doing whatever the hell he wanted, which seemed to be fine with fans and critics when doing melodic hard rock like his debut ‘Total Control’, the Glenn Hughes fronted ‘Face The Truth’ and his spell in Don Dokken’s band for the under-rated ‘Up From The Ashes’, but less so on his last dark outing ‘Optimus’; even the three albums since he rejoined Europe have divided their fanbase. ‘Play Yard Blues’ has him delivering a pretty classy blues-based rock album that in the context of his well publicised influences seems to suit him well.

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There’s a definite 70’s influence at work here and John possesses a more than adequate bluesy voice to complement his guitar style, and with three cover versions among the ten tracks on offer there’s certainly quite a lot of variety. To get the covers out of the way first, ‘It’s Only Money’ is a faithful version of the Phil Lynott song with Norum doing a passable Lynott impression on the vocal, whilst my least favourite track is the lesser known Mountain song ‘Travel In The Dark’. On the other hand, as he proved on the recent Mountain Of Power CD, Norum can do the best Frank Marino impression ever, not only on his great version of ‘Ditch Queen’ but also on his originals ‘Let It Shine’ and ‘Over And Done’, which are both great slabs of authentic sounding blues-rock with brilliant guitar solos. Elsewhere ‘When Darkness Falls’ has a hint of early Whitesnake, ‘Red Light Green High’ has a funky edge and the title track is a cool blues instrumental.

The highpoints of this album are the solid hard rockers ‘Got My Eyes On You’ and ‘Born Again’, both upbeat songs with great guitar work and it’s no coincidence that both feature Leif Sundin (ex-MSG) on vocals. Aided also by bassist Tomas Torberg, drummer Thomas Broman and Europe’s Mic Michaeli on keyboards, ‘Play Yard Blues’ is an album that shows off Norum’s talent and influences as a musician. He produced it himself and has come up with a very cool album that I think I’ll find myself returning to on a regular basis.

Phil Ashcroft

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