Mike Tramp – Second Time Around (Album Review)

At some point in our lives, each of us will require a second chance—and a good ‘ole Rock-n-Roll song is no different. For this very reason, Mike Tramp travels back in time to inject fresh feels into some of his old favorites on the new collection, Second Time Around, which arrives Friday, May 1st, 2020, thanks to Deko/Target Records.

The former White Lion and Freak Of Nature frontman is a musical tour de force with over thirty albums to his credit. With a career spanning over four decades, Tramp (née Trempenau) is known for his unique vocal performance and energetic live delivery. Beginning in 1997, a solo career has allowed the prolific entertainer to utilize his storytelling abilities to hold his audiences rapt with the likes of 1997’s Capricorn, 2004’s Songs I Left Behind, 2014’s Museum, and 2019’s Stray from the Flock.

Into every life come moments of self-reflection, moments where we desire a second chance to redraft our artistic endeavors. For Tramp, this very idea gave birth to the new album, Second Time Around. “The songs on [the album] are some of my favorite compositions, and for many years I have gone around with a feeling that they were never given a real chance,” explains the musician.

That, however, is about to change. Fans will already be familiar with this material, which originally appeared on Tramp’s 2009 LP, Mike Tramp & The Rock ‘N’ Roll Circuz. Written during a tumultuous time of professional indecision—as the multi-talented musician tried to decide between continuing his solo career or pouring his energy into the reformulated White Lion (Tramp’s White Lion)—these songs continue to hold a very special place in Tramp’s heart, though, in hindsight, they had failed to attain their utmost glory.

Self-producing this creative reincarnation, alongside longtime collaborator and friend Soren Andersen, Tramp selected ten songs that have stood the test of time, and dove headfirst into creating his 12th solo album. Understandably, he handles vocals, electric and acoustic guitars, as well as piano on the LP, where he is joined by Lead Guitarist Oliver Steffensen, Bassist Claus Langeskov, and Drummer Morten Hellborn. Additionally, the album features guitar work from Andersen, Jay Boe on the Hammond B-3 organ, 12-string acoustic guitar work by Marcus Nand (on “Back To You”), backing vocals from Emily Garriock Langeskov, and Lars Rahbek Andresen playing piano on “Highway.”

There’s a joyous revelry as Second Time Around opens into “All Of My Life,” a glittering, autobiographical journey onto the road in the name of Rock-n-Roll. Originally a single in 2009, the track receives a rebirth with this crisp rehashing that maintains a toe-tapping beat as Tramp leads his troops into this tale of his restless heart and the trade-offs he has made in living the lifestyle of a Rock star. As a contrast, “The Road” goes for a more mid-tempo beat with deeper tones. A similar ode to the trials and tribulations of the road, this is the more somber take on the paths we choose in life, one that sees Tramp bringing in some Country influences to highlight his storytelling abilities.

An intimate moment between acoustic guitar and Tramp’s vocals starts off the beautifully melancholy “Anymore.” Here, the talented vocalist’s smooth delivery of this break-up song is highlighted by the musical minimalism of this arrangement, providing a touching moment that is a stand-out on the collection. If for some reason you’re not a fan of these tender moments, well, get back in the mood to rock with “Come On.” A shimmering dance through the rain, Tramp shows a pinch of twang as he bops through the delicate melody.

Next, stomping good times are had on the gritty rocker “Between Good And Bad” before organs trill as bluesy guitar builds into “Lay Down Your Guns.” Embracing his inner-hippie, Tramp crafts a jam in the name of peace—inner, interpersonal and beyond. Then, sunshine blooms in the piano work that opens the bright bop of “Highway,” bluesy, groovin’ guitars build the stomp into rocker “No Tomorrow,” and the celebratory feels return for the infectious “Back To You.”

Ultimately, the collection ends with the touching “When She Cries.” Piano and acoustic guitar anchor this deeply personal, pivotal moment, as Tramp weaves a ballad in remembrance of the day that his daughter Isabel was born. It is a highlight on an album of great tracks with refreshing new arrangements, performed by a cast of talented musicians. It should be noted that Langeskov’s backing vocal work is a perfect complement to Tramp and his range, providing a thoughtful and beautifully placed echo throughout.

On Second Time Around, the arrangements are solid, Tramp’s vocals are stronger than ever, and he proves himself an exceptional musician and storyteller. While it might have been nice to see him draw from a wider range of material, especially considering his extensive oeuvre, these ten tracks work beautifully together to set a mood. Surely it’s no surprise how Tramp has maintained such a lengthy, international career, as his music is universally relatable, peppered with calming, classic influences, and delivered with a love and passion for his craft. Just a crisp, clean, and fun Rock-n-Roll record, Cryptic Rock gives Second Time Around 4 of 5 stars.

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