Wednesday 6 May 2020

Mike Tramp - Second Time Around (2020)

Country: Denmark
Style: Melodic Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 1 May 2020
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I remember Danish singer Mike Tramp from his time with melodic hard rockers White Lion, but I don't believe I've heard any of his solo albums, which he started to release after disbanding Freak of Nature in the late nineties. I see that this new album isn't exactly a new album, being ten tracks from an earlier thirteen track album, the self-titled release from Mike Tramp & The Rock 'n' Roll Circuz in 2009, recorded afresh with almost the same line-up. Why I'm not entirely sure, but that earlier album may only have seen release in Denmark.

I haven't heard that Rock 'n' Roll Circuz album, so can't speak to why this second crack at it, but Second Time Around certainly sounds good. The mix is excellent, the instruments vibrant and Tramp's voice clearly elevated above them all. And the songs are pretty good too. Some of these, especially the opener, All of My Life, could play on my local classic rock station without seeming remotely out of place.

All of My Life is a first person story song that puts Tramp emphatically in traditional American rock territory. It's a little like Jon Bon Jovi and a little like Bruce Springsteen, but the vocal is more emphatic than either, so I'd call out John Cougar Mellencamp as the most obvious comparison, just with lines that actually rhyme.

The new order of tracks adds in the other common elements early on. The Road has less working man rasp and more alternative rock, so it reminds a little of REM, especially through one familiar melody. Anymore, which title should have been two words back in 2009 and highlights just how much Tramp's time in America has gone to his brain, is a softer song, bringing in an acoustic guitar, a broken relationship and a country vibe.

Come On mixes all of those ingredients together, which recipe ends up being rather like a heavier Bryan Adams song, and that becomes the default sound for the album, with songs varying the formula by adding little touches here and there: a la la la chorus on Lay Down Your Guns, an AC/DC riff on Back to You, a piano on Highway. If you liked Bryan Adams albums like Reckless and Cuts Like a Knife, you'll dig this album too.

The songs that shone out for me are the ones that attempted to do something different, with All of My Life the exception because it's just a damn good melodic rock story song. Between Good and Bad is the first one to not sound American because the bedrock is clearly Thin Lizzy, right down to a notably confident bass and a staccato Jailbreak-style riff. No More Tomorrow is the other one I'd call out, because it's a lot more lively, led by an intricate riff and backed throughout by a cloud of keyboards that set an ambience.

My least favourite song is easily the ballad that closes out the album. It's called When She Cries and, while it isn't much softer than the other tracks on this album, it's the only one that doesn't seem to be fully formed. It's more like a rehearsal that shows promise but needs more work before it would be ready to share outside the band. It feels odd that a song like that would make a released album but even more so when it's over a decade old and this is the second time it's been on a "new album".

It's the only poor song here though, to my thinking, though there were three other songs on The Rock 'n' Roll Circuz that didn't make this redux. All in all, it's good to hear Tramp's voice again, even if it's on older material.

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