Holly Johnson


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Fifteen years after the release of his last solo album and 30 years after his previous band Frankie Goes to Hollywood stormed across the globe with the single "Relax" and the album Welcome to the Pleasuredome, singer Holly Johnson made a noble return with Europa, an LP fans will find pleasingly familiar even if it refuses to join the nostalgia circuit. Even when the straight-up sex of "Relax" is in short supply, the song's empowering subtext fuels highlights like "Dancing with No Fear" and "Follow Your Heart," the latter delivered with a sumptuous, Frankie Knuckles-styled house beat. Single "In and Out of Love" is an easy rolling pop number that sticks in the head and provides comfort for those caught swinging toward the low end in the up-and-down world of romance, while "You're in My Dreams Tonight" is for those swinging up, as it puffs its chest and delivers a convincing "you and me against the world" set of lyrics. In contrast, "Glorious," featuring the Durutti Column's Vini Reilly, is as effervescent and sweet as a successful first date; then the spectrum of topics broadens as the title track aims to unite Europe like a common currency ("We've lived through all the changes, now we've had enough/Of being perfect strangers, now we talk to Europa") with co-writer Vangelis helping to make things more theatrical and stately. Johnson's voice is still the wonderful combination of big and warm that it's always been, while his songwriting is still a mix of fascinated, strong-willed, and wise. Being right-sized with no filler means the album is a fan-pleasing effort that can still welcome newcomers, making the only complaint about Europa the long wait for its release.

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