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Tramp, Mike: Cobblestone Street

In a sense, it is unfortunate that, no matter what type of music Mike Tramp makes, fans will measure it up against his work with White Lion, whose last studio album with the original members was released in 1991. Even though he released some criminally underrated albums with Freak of Nature as well as several solo discs, his last set of albums started to show a decline in creativity in songwriting. One of the biggest disadvantages was the lack of a truly inspired guitar player, with whom Tramp could write songs, and, when he chose to fill the gap with average players, the outcome was sadly less than satisfying.

Enter Cobblestone Street. This is the album Mike Tramp should have released after More to Life Than This, which I still consider his high point in his solo career. Since he was no longer writing with another guitarist like Vito Bratta, rather than trying and failing to "reform" the band in which he'd be the only original member or writing hard-rocking songs with arresting guitar solos, Tramp could have released a semi-acoustic singer-songwriter album. This way, it would have been easier for fans to embrace his new-found style and stop asking for White Lion-quality material. Writing a primarily acoustic album puts the focus on his vocals, which rightfully sound totally different than they did two decades ago. Tramp is no longer in his late-20s; he has matured and grown as an artist. On Cobblestone Street, he writes about his hometown, his childhood, and his dreams. The music is driven by his vocals, with the strummed acoustic guitars supporting, rather than creating, the melodies. The songs don't require solos, though his friend (and producer) Soren Andersen still lays down some electric leads here and there. They're nothing too special but they don't have to be. These are truly personal songs highlighting Tramp's singing and lyrics, with the occasional lead guitars providing depth and colour.

As the title track, the songs are among Tramp's most special in his career. "Ain't the Life I Asked for" perhaps documents his life story. Built around a simple acoustic guitar, he channels his heart and soul into the mix when he sings about how he feels "when [his] life falls apart" and how it "could [and] should have been better." The result is goose bumps over goose bumps. I honestly don't understand how any former White Lion fan can dislike this song. This is a much more realized and honest musical statement than the songs on the abysmal Return of the Pride or the stale, direction-less Stand Your Ground. "Angel or Devil" and "Find It in Your Heart" examine his difficult relationship with his wife; they are extremely well crafted. "Once" and "We'll Be Alright" are also slow-paced numbers and proof that he is willing to fight for his relationship and children, who he obviously misses very much. The latter recalls one of his earlier songs, "Darkness" off of Recovering the Wasted Years. Similarly, "What Are You Gonna Do?" sees him describing his life away from his children, all alone on his own. Yet, he doesn't give up and promises "to make it right," always ending his songs on a hopeful note.

I'm not a great fan of the more uptempo songs like "Caught in the Storm" and "Revolution," not because they're bad songs but more so because I feel they do not quite fit the darker and more personal material that make up the rest of the disc. That said, they make for a nice change in mood in a live setting. I had the chance to see and meet Mike Tramp only 2 weeks after his solo album had come out. He played almost the whole album to an audience of about 30 people, but he gave it his all and seemed a lot more fired up compared to the previous shows where he was promoting Tramp's White Lion or trying to recapture his past glories. Here, it was just one man and his guitar on the stage, and he played his heart out. He came down and hung out with everyone afterwards as well.

The album also features three amazing acoustic versions from his past: his reworking of "When the Children Cry" is a more faithful rendition compared to the one on Remembering White Lion, but I do miss Vito's guitar solo and acoustic tone. The version of "More to Life Than This" rivals the original; Tramp changes some of the lyrics but there is passion in his voice. The Freak of Nature cover, "92," is easily the best. It is a much more complex version, with multi-tracked vocals and elaborate rhythms. I wish he would release an acoustic disc with only Freak of Nature material; the songs certainly would lend themselves to this format.

As a matter of fact, the reason why this album is such a success is because it mirrors his life the best. It's pure, raw emotion and it's so real it comes through in his music. Support Tramp if you're a fan and go see him live if he ever plays a gig in your town.

(There was a period in my life last year when I listened to nothing but this disc for six months non-stop, and normally I listen to a lot of music. It never got old and I never tired of Tramp's voice. It's *that* good.)

Track Listing
1. Cobblestone Street 4:25
2. Caught in the Storm 4:19
3. New Day 3:32 3
4. Ain't the Life I Asked For 4:40
5. Revolution 3:54
6. We'll Be Alright 3:59
7. Angel or Devil 4:49
8. Find It in Your Heart 3:39
9. What Are You Gonna Do? 5:10
10. Once 4:03
11. Bonus: When the Children Cry (2013 Acoustic Version) 4:52

Added: July 6th 2014
Reviewer: Murat Batmaz
Related Link: Artist Facebook Page
Hits: 3552
Language: english

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