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Album Review: John Norum – Gone to Stay

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Review by Richard Henry for MPM

It’s been a 12 year long wait since John’s album Play Yard Blues, admittedly i think Europe released three amazing albums in that time as well, however we are back with a new album in 2022!

The first thing i noticed straight away was that this album plants me right back in classic rock territory, the last album being more in the blues rock territory, so let’s dig in and see what awaits!

Track 1 – Voices of Silence

Starting off with a music box playing I think Happy Birthday as an intro to the track, then we launch straight into a tasty riff, I sort of had a Mob Rules vibe in parts of this, you forget that John actually has a great voice, obviously in Europe he is only doing backing vocals! Great chorus and nice harmony vocals going on as well, change of key for the solo and you get what he does so well in Europe, plays a great melody and intersperses it with shred around it, tasty playing is what you always get! The track then peels off to a Mediterranean vibe acoustic outro performed by Frederik Akesson, who also co-writes a few songs on the album as well!

Track 2 – Sail On

This was released as a single for the album, a lot sludgy of a song, more down tempo and dare I say I am somewhere between a doom metal riff and Audioslave, and I think that is in part due to John sounds really like Chris Cornell vocally on this one which I was surprised at. Loving the slow groove of this track, again a heavy track, great solo as always, another chorus that will stick with you, really surprised at this one!!

Track 3 – Gone to Stay

Oh yeah, we have entered the 70s hard rock vibes with this one, groove groove and more groove, I can’t put my finger on who this song reminds me of, nice addition of the Hammond organ in this one, it’s too obvious to say it reminds me of Purple so you guys can decide on that! Lyric reference to Bag of Bones in there which was Europe’s 2012 album, some really strong vocals on this, and the outro solo on this one will have me pulling the guitar out after doing this review!!

Track 4 – One by One

Starting off with reversed vocals and a radio playing, we then fade into an acoustic song, Vocals on this one are by Age Sten Nilsen, really strong voice, we then break into full band for the chorus, this really could rival some of the 80s choruses as much as it will be instantly singable, fantastic layered nearly Beatles like vocals come in just as John takes another soaring solo, a great addition and really add to that part of the song, clever arranging there!

Track 5 – What Do You Want

Again, we have an intro to this one, which kind of reminds me of the Who, then we launch into a riff that Thin Lizzy would be proud of with a bit of an intro solo over the top! A definite harder vibe to this one, really driving riff and a great pre chorus leading into the chorus, backing vocals are on point for the verses, breakdown after the second chorus brings back the intro again, with nice slide guitar over the top, this is so far the most ripping solo on the album, really getting to let loose a bit before bringing back melody before hitting the last chorus!

Track 6 – Lady Grinning Soul

So, we have a cover of a David Bowie song, fantastic piano playing on this one, a really good cover of this one, great vocal from John yet again showing another style compared to a lot of the songs so far, lovely harmony guitars after the chorus, definitely a different song vibe wise on the album, I think it’s a really cool addition, but I can see how it maybe breaks up the flow of the album

Track 7 – Norma

Nice drum fill intro straight into a really up-tempo driving hard rock track, this has to me anyway, real Dio vibe to it, I can imagine Ronnie singing this one! The prechorus has such a build to it with all the vocals stacking up, then great two-line chorus, this is another solo where John gets to rip, although I have to say as well, great drumming by Peer Stappe on this one! You might also notice orchestral vibes on the end of this one, that would be the Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra no less!

Track 8 – Calling

Piano intro with a drone vocal, sets a really interesting vibe for this song, we go all middle eastern Gates of Babylon style on this, however it’s also crossed with a much more modern vibe on the chorus, again a really interesting song combining 70s rock and dare I say a grungier vibe on it as well, it works really well but again maybe not what you would expect to hear from John Norum? Now as I mentioned Rainbow songs, this is definitely Blackmore vibes in the solo, I loved this track!

Track 9 – Terror Over Me

Another driving track on this, with vocals from Age Sten Nilsen on this one, this one is right in the 80s vibe, sort of reminds me a bit of Night Ranger as far as the riff, great solo from John doing what he does, melody and shred all combined in his own unique style, a great singable chorus on this one

Track 10 – Face the Truth

Now some of you might be going, hang on, was there not an album called this, yeah there was indeed, this is a reworking of the title track of Johns 1992 album, now for those of you who haven’t heard the original it was an up-tempo rock track (also if you haven’t, go listen to it, great track)

So why the reworking, well this is a stripped back, bluesy almost jazzy version of the song, complete with acoustic guitars, keys, just totally stripped back, and I love it, they always say you should be able to play a great song on an acoustic and it will work, this shows that point, a really mellow solo as well, that highlights what John’s strengths are, I love it!

For me a solid 9/10, when you’re a guitar player reviewing a guitar players album and you talk about the songs and his voice more than the playing it’s because the songs are so strong and the playing is the icing on the cake!

Strong production from Norum and the songs are very well arranged, a fantastic hard rock album and definitely if you are a fan of his previous albums, you won’t be disappointed or if you’re a Europe fan who hasn’t delved into John’s albums, give it a go!

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