I'm sure the name John Norum needs little introduction to many of you. Having found the type of fame most people can only dream of with Europe in the early eighties, culminating with 86's 'The Final Countdown', he walked away from it all.
Far from happy with the poppy keyboard orientated direction the band was headed in, he jumped ship to pursue a solo career that focused more on the guitar. Since his reunion with Joey T and the boys at the now legendary millenium gig in Stockholm he's continued to release solo albums alongside working with Europe. 'Play Yard Blues' is Norum's seventh solo outing and surely the one that revels in the sounds of a well played guitar more than those which came previously. He's come along way since 1987's pop/rock tinted 'Total Control' album that followed his departure from Camp Europe and 'Play Yard Blues' is a mature, exciting and totally engrossing piece of work from a guitar player's guitar player.
Getting the ball rolling with opening track 'Let It Shine', Norum wastes no time in letting us know that we're gonna be getting exactly what it says on the tin, or in this case digipack. Our six string hero has gone all Gary Moore on us and unleashing some serious blues with fret work that would warm up even the coldest day in hell. 'Got My Eyes On You' brings about some of the rockier moments here, heavier and less bluesy than the other tunes it shows the rock heart is still beating strong before 'When Darkness Falls' sets a little more of a steady commercial groove. Something more akin to that early, bluesy Whitesnake feel. You know, the kind of stuff they did before Steve Vai got involved I mean. Catchy hook and loveable chorus Norum's vocals soft yet powerful drawing you in with a deeply personal and passionate sense of delivery.
Three of the ten tracks are covers. Dressed up grand but far from over stated they fit in perfectly between Norum's self penned compositions. Thin Lizzy's 'It's Only Money' from 74's 'Nightlife' album is first out of the traps. A very respectful tip of the hat, faithful to the original yet with its own modern identity. Later we're offered Mountain's 'Travel In The Dark' and the blistering 'Ditch Queen' from Canadian underdogs Mahogany Rush. Each one revealing clearly just how much of a fan John still is of all the great music he grew up with in the seventies.
Last track 'Play Yard Blues', though relatively short at only four minutes, is a magical instrumental journey where time seemingly stands still as you slip away inside the music, hypnotised by Norum's combustible soloing; it's a perfect end to an album whose creator should be extemely proud. Self produced in his hometown of Stockholm, with a small ensemble of musicians including Europe bandmate Mic Michaeli providing some keyboards (suitably restrained), 'Play Yard Blues' lays down just over 40 minutes of rock for the more serious fan of quality guitar work. Standout tracks ''When Darkness Falls' and 'Ditch Queen' contribute vastly towards the ever surging blues groove and deliver a solid package. This is what guitar playing is all about!