After the release of his last album, 1999’s Soulstream, Johnson returned to his first love by enrolling at the Royal College Of Art, having first turned down an art-school place in his native Liverpool when Frankie Goes To Hollywood broke big with Relax. Lured back to music part-time for the Frankie back-catalogue reissue campaign, Europa has been two years in the making. And a very fine album it is too, Johnson in tremendous voice on a series of uplifting songs that sparkle with electronica dance rhythms without forgetting to add attractive, engaging melodies.
It has been nearly 30 years since Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s Pleasuredome appeared and made the band an almost ubiquitous presence in the UK charts during the course of 1984/5, spawning three of the ’80’s most enduring songs (Relax, Two Tribes and The Power Of Love). As for front man Holly Johnson, it’s been 15 years since he released any new solo material, but with stints on the nostalgia circuit (his appearance of Rewind Festival for example) he’s never really been away. According to Johnson, Europa is essentially a retrospective of his songwriting skills, a suggestion which makes sense from the second the album starts.