Published on October 8th, 2020 | by Justin G.
John Norum: Total Control (Rock Candy, 1987/2020)
Originally released in 1987, Total Control was the debut solo album from Swedish guitarist John Norum. Norum was upset with both the image and musical direction Europe was taking with The Final Countdown, so he walked away from the band at the height of their success to start his own group. Bassist Marcel Jacob had worked with Europe a bit, so Norum reconnected with him to put together what would become Total Control. And while Norum handled most of the vocals, Goran Edman was brought in to sing on a few tracks.
Total Control is such an interesting album. On one hand, it’s very much what you might imagine The Final Countdown sounding like if they dialed they keyboards way back (and didn’t sing about ninjas). On the other hand, hearing Jacob and Edman together here is like a sneak preview of their Talisman work. In terms of overall style, this is a harder-edged melodic rock album with a decided Thin Lizzy influence. Norum strikes a good balance between accessible melodies, grooving riffs and intricate solos, and ends up being a decent vocalist to boot! Of course, any songs with Goran Edman are going to stand out. His higher vocals on songs like “Back On The Streets” (written by Vinnie Vincent, oddly enough) and “Love Is Meant To Last Forever” are an interesting contrast to Norum’s deeper vocals on songs like “Let Me Love You” and “Blind.” They complement each other and add depth to the album. Another memorable moment on Total Control is a very well-executed cover of Thin Lizzy’s “Wild One.”
Unfortunately this lineup didn’t last beyond this album, so Norum signed on with Don Dokken’s solo band before recording a follow-up to Total Control. True to the album’s title, John Norum was able to make exactly the kind of album he wanted to make here, and the end result is a melodic hard rock album that truly stands the test of time. It’s an all-time classic in terms of the Swedish hard rock scene, but has much broader appeal overall. You can slide it right into any playlist that includes later Thin Lizzy and mid ’80s Gary Moore, or one Europe’s Wings Of Tomorrow and the Talisman debut (especially the 2-disc version with the Goran Edman demos). It also fits perfectly alongside the likes of Whitesnake, Dio Yngwie Malmsteen and Vandenberg.
Reissue Notes: Total Control finally got a worthwhile reissue this year thanks to the good folks at Rock Candy. They’ve given the album a brand new remastering, which sounds fantastic. They’ve also added the full (yes, even the Japanese-only bonus track) Live In Stockholm EP as bonus material. They cover Thin Lizzy twice on that one, which is fun. The booklet is loaded with rare photos and a band new interview with Norum that sheds a lot of light into his departure from Europe and formation (and dissolution) of this lineup. In short, it looks as good as it sounds. Another Rock Candy home run.
Summary: Brilliant album, brilliant reissue