Tuesday 11 October 2022

Mike Tramp - For Første Gang (2022)

Country: Denmark
Style: Melodic Rock
Rating: 6/10
Release Date: 2 Sep 2022
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Mike Tramp is probably still best known for being the singer in glam metal band White Lion, but it wasn't his first band and it wasn't his last either, as he moved into Freak of Nature, who were very good indeed. He's been putting out solo albums for the last couple of decades but I've only heard the most reent one, Second Time Around, which contained re-recordings of songs previously on his 2009 album, Mike Tramp & The Rock 'n' Roll Circuz. It was decent stuff, firmly on the lighter side of classic rock, reminding of people like Jon Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen or John Cougar Mellencamp. It ended up averaged out to a heavy Bryan Adams sound.

This one, on the other hand, averages out to a light James Taylor sound. There are only ballads on offer and they range from Eurovision-style pop ballads to, well, not much heavier rock ballads. The best is probably the opener, Det Jeg Var, which could be a rock song if it wanted to be—it doesn't—and kept on growing on me. It didn't seem like much to start with, but I may have just needed to adjust, given that I've been listening to Behemoth and Amon Amarth, and get back into a melodic rock mindset. Halfway through, I was really digging it and, by the end, I'd started humming along.

For a while, it worked for me. Vejkort is infectious too, another rock song and one with guitars, an occasion worthy of note here because the most frequent instrument here beyond Tramp's voice is a piano. It also has oddly sticky sounding drums to keep a beat, again not something to take at all for granted here, as the drums fade in importance with the album until they're gone entirely on a closer, called Album, that places Tramp against piano and a mist of orchestration. I can't say that I didn't enjoy the soft brass that takes both Album—the song—and the album, home, but I'd expect it more on an early seventies Tom Waits release.

It's worth mentioning here that one important angle both works for me and doesn't and that's an entirely Danish lyric sheet. Tramp's prior dozen solo albums were all recorded in English but this is entirely in his native Danish. From a vocal standpoint, that's great because, as good as he sounds in a foreign tongue, there's a level of intonation in play that's difficult to find unless a language is completely second nature and has been since being a toddler. He sounds amazing here, better yet than usual. The catch is that I have no idea what he's singing, because I don't speak Danish, and it would seem that the words are important here. They certainly were for Tom Waits.

So, without knowing what the words mean, and assuming that they're rather meaningful, I have to rely on the music and that's tough here because it just isn't the focus. Whoever's performing here does the job they're asked to do, so I have no complaints. It's just that this album is all about voice and, to a much lesser degree, solo piano, and, while I can happily soothe an evening away with one of Suzanne Ciani's Pianissimo releases, I can't even dip into that listening mode here. I'm missing one of the most important angles to the album.

And that means that the second half fades for me until that brass shows up on Album and the first half shifts away from me with the title track. For Første Gang For Altid is much softer than the two openers, being a ballad that feels romantic to me. It's the most Eurovision song here, not only for its soft pop/rock ballad approach but because there's disco creeping in around the edges and ooh and aah backing vocals. They'd have lapped this up in the seventies, as indeed they did when Mike Tramp was the lead singer for pop band Mabel, who won the Danish Song Contest in 1978. It's not my sort of thing though.

And, as good as this is from a subjective standpoint, it really ends up firmly on the not my sort of thing list. I really enjoyed hearing Tramp's voice again and especially hearing it sing in his native language, but this may be the softest album I've ever reviewed and it may remain that way. I liked Det Jeg Var and Jeg Holder Fast and I'd actually put them both above Vejkort, which is as heavy as this album gets, not much of a bar in the same way that I'm sure there's a most brutal Tellytubby but it's not likely to be fronting a street gang, but the rest would seem light even for fans of Bryan Adams.

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