by Alexandra Mrozowska
– Senior Columnist —
Mike Tramp is a name that you surely recognize – from his early days spent singing in a front of a Danish teenybopper audience, through White Lion and Freak Of Nature eras to current solo work he’s pursuing since 1998 Capricorn album. But throughout this time, a lot of things has changed – first of all, it may not be easy to recognize a platinum-blonde heartthrob who fronted White Lion in a dark-haired fifty-three-year old with his fingers wrapped around the strings of an acoustic guitar. But also music-wise Mike Tramp now is miles away from White Lion or Freak Of Nature – and, sadly for his ‘80s-era fans, his new solo album Museum is no counterpart to Fight To Survive or Mane Attraction.
It’s enough to check out the opening song of the album to realize the change. First goes the acoustic-based mid tempo “Trust In Yourself” that is a neat song musically and certainly a well-crafted independence manifesto lyric-wise, but not entirely rockin’ piece… or, if not being too economical with the truth, one that is more pop rock than rock. “New World Coming” sounds somewhat folk-ish but dull, and yet is enriched with thoughtful lyrics. More interesting is “Down South” with some surprising sound effects and tasteful bluesy flavors and although the orthodox blues lovers may sneer at Tramp’s unconventional approach and modern bluesy twist to his music, the track is far from being forgettable.
As the first sounds of “Better” approach, you might have had your hopes for a sugary power ballad that will make you reminisce yourself about White Lion’s grandiose slow-ish moments. But to tell you the truth, it’s not the same league “When The Children Cry” occupied. What is more, it simply pales by comparison even with its follow-up on Museum that is a groovy acoustic song “Freedom”. If it wasn’t for the strings parts in the background, “Commitment” would be nothing special and with “And You Were Gone”, the seventh song on the album, you may have already noticed the acoustic storytelling formula starts to wear out a bit. Perhaps it was Mike Tramp that’s realized it himself, hence the funky groove and bluesy echoes of “Slave” that together with “Down South” belongs to the tight number of the record’s highlights. At this point we can only wonder how splendid Museum would have been if only the former White Lion frontman have indulged his love of contemporary blues more often …
Next is the nostalgic ballad “Mother” the lyrical aspect of which outshines the musical content again (if not to count the neat but scarce guitar solo). It’s followed by “Time For Me To Go”, a final song and, at the same time, another pop rock ennui. It’s not a piece of music that is unpleasant to listen to, but another one that is dull and awfully similar to the ninety percent of its predecessors.
Years after his band White Lion has called it a day, Mike Tramp changed more than just his hair color and the contents of his scenic wardrobe – his new solo album Museum, similarly to its predecessor Cobblestone Street, is yet another proof of this fact. It’s the same path that the retired rockers such as Bryan Adams or Bon Jovi tread nowadays, with the majority of their new songs mercilessly following the same scheme – the radio-friendly, contemporary pop rock sound that may be fine in small doses, but that is also easily forgettable and a bit repetitive. On a positive note, however, the folk-ish flavors of the album are to be praised as well as the two blues-infused tracks that are definitely above average. There’s much praise to be expressed with regard to the lyrical side of things, too (although even in his hair band days Tramp happened to distance himself from the “girls, girls, girls” babble – think of songs such as “Cherokee,” “The Road To Valhalla” or “Cry For Freedom”).
Speaking shortly, Museum is a mature, but slightly unenlightened album recorded by a talented musician who apparently focused more on his self-expression via lyrics rather than music. It may seem boring for a die-hard ‘80s rocker and may not convince every White Lion fan, but it also has its moments and (mostly lyrical) value. This being said, let’s also hope Mr. Tramp will be eager to re-visit his fondness of Southern blues with the next solo album rather than enrich his repertoire with a dose of dull acoustic ballads every listener has already had enough with his 2014 release. If it happens so, the future looks bright for the former White Lion pin-up boy, so let’s keep our fingers crossed, giving Museum at least one try in the meantime.
Genre: Pop Rock, Folk Rock, Acoustic
Mike Tramp – all instruments, vocals
1. Trust In Yourself
2. New World Coming
3. Down South
7. And You Were Gone
10. Time For Me To Go
Label: Target Records
Hardrock Haven rating: 5.5/10