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Articles Home » 2010 Articles » Norum, John - 2010 Play Yard Blues
Norum, John - 2010 Play Yard Blues

ARTIST: Norum, John
ALBUM: Play Yard Blues
LABEL: Mascot
SERIAL: M72372
YEAR: 2010


LINEUP: John Norum - vocals, guitars * Tomas Torberg - bass * Thomas Broman - drums * Peer Stappe - percussion * Leif Sundin - vocals * Mic Michaeli -

TRACK LISTING: 01 Let It Shine * 02 Red Light Green High * 03 It's Only Money * 04 Got My Eyes On You * 05 When Darkness Falls * 06 Over And Over * 07 Ditch Queen * 08 Travel In The Dark * 09 Born Again * 10 Play Yard Blues



What is your best Bon Jovi moment? Mine, during 'Wanted Dead Or Alive' when Richie Sambora adds his vocals to the song, epic and just as absorbing in a live showing. Our Richie though never seemed to nail it on a solo album. Whereas when John Norum finds himself cut adrift from mainland Europe, he can nail it, in fact hammers it into the ground and it's not just the guitar, but vocally he is an untapped source when considering Europe along with a great songwriter. Yes I understand that most of Mr Norum's solo output has been while not part of Europe, but this album released in 2010, he was and still is a fully paid up member of Europe. While it may not top 'Total Control', one of the albums considered in this trio of articles, it does come considerably close and compared to 'Face The Truth', the singer to song ratio of 'Play Yard Blues' is heavily in favour towards John, which I feel is not bad thing. The album is dedicated to his late wife Michelle Meldrum Norum (Phantom Blue), the cover is also poignant with a picture of John with the couple's son.

The Songs
From the first chords of 'Let It Shine' it is plain to see John has a new outlook to his own musical direction. Gone are the dark adventures of his previous couple of releases. Maybe someone like Joe Bonamassa has opened up new horizons as the rock shines through. Mid paced so you can easily follow every lyric, every twist and turn on the frets. Although not mentioned on a less than helpful digi-pack is the absence of Glenn Hughes, but I am convinced he appears on this. This excitement and feeling is continued with 'Red Light Green High' a formidable riff that becomes encased in your memory. More 60's Cream in taste, but with a select sample of modern touches providing a clear, cutting edge to the play. Cover versions has always been in John's recording history, not for the sake of it either, and at least two of the three that appear here are no fillers, actually more than worth their place and I feel he has managed to add something to the originals. Take 'It's Only Money', a Thin Lizzy track from the 'Nightlife' album and the immense 'Travellin In The Dark' by Mountain, if we take this one first, well if you thought Mountain were a one tune band with their 'Nantucket Sleighride', then think again, this tune is just as good, possibly better in fact. John carries it off in fine style, and becomes an education for those not aware of the original artist, it makes you go away and investigate. The odd one is 'Ditch Queen', this doesn't get me reaching for any of the Frank Marino's back catalogue and for once Norum fails to impress.

When other vocalists lend a hand, it is done incredibly well; Leif Sundin is found kicking back to the old days of Great King Rat with 'Got My Eyes On You', being a fast romp through history. While on 'Born Again' we have the Hammond rocking on its rollers, it's the great John Lord all over again! By coincidence the introduction sounds like the Black Sabbath opener 'Trashed' from the same named album. Not surprisingly, these songs with the inclusion of Leif seems to be link with his performance on Brian Robertson's 'Diamonds and Dirt' from 2011. Leif has very distinctive vocals, they are smooth, understated, impressive leaving time for Norum to let rip musically on his guitar. Both tunes are high quality melodic rock with enough sneering and snorting to make an impact, and not becoming to fluffy, these guys are not wearing a hint of pink. The undercurrent is wandering to the harder end of the Rainbow. Again influences are obvious on a couple of tracks, 'When Darkness Falls', a frantic cross between Thin Lizzy and Gary Moore, which I haven't got an issue with, as Norum always pulls such a combination with poise and agility whilst utilising his own talents. I get so fed up with bands recording tunes that are described as Lizzy influenced, and on hearing they just sound so rough and lack any melody or passion. 'Over And Done' pulls onto David Coverdale without the need for silly lyrics, this is mid 80's Coverdale, not all that screaming kittie rubbish and dirty dogs of recent years.

In Summary
Clear influence? yes, down right copies? No. Not surprising the melodic rock of the early solo years has been adapted to a more blues feel, but that's not out and out blues, that maybe the album title suggests, which when I first saw conjured up 100% blues standards which I didn't find to be that appealing and would had faced this album with trepidation and concern. Don't be fooled or be put off, this is more classic rock, with an influence of blues, just as Europe have toughened up their act in recent years. In fact it's only the instrumental title track; tacked on the end that pays 100% homage to the great blue artists of the past. While the new 2013 album by Snakecharmer is being billed as a blues infused rock album and the best thing since those classic Whitesnake albums, well put it this way, Norum's album is where I would be investing my money, the former, while good, is like a unpolished Heartland album without the normal intelligent stories Chris Ousey contributes to his own albums. My closing thoughts is that this is capable of pushing Europe's recent releases in quality, in fact it could possibly edge its nose ahead in the Swedish league table of rock finery, Norum is back in Europe, excellent, Norum is back releasing quality solo albums, an even better result.

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