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Mike Tramp – Museum [Review]

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Mike Tramp – Museum
2014, Target Records
Buy the album

1. Trust In Yourself
2. New World Coming
3. Down South
4. Better
5. Freedom
6. Commitment
7. And You Were Gone
8. Slave
9. Mother
10. Time For Me To Go

Producer: Soren Andersen & Mike Tramp

Mike Tramp returns with another heartfelt and emotional collection of acoustic rock/pop tracks. Last year’s Cobblestone Street was good but I enjoyed it less than I did 2011’s Stand Your Ground. Luckily, Museum is an improvement over last year’s effort and the music is slightly more upbeat (although the album is still very mellow and slow-tempo songs).

One thing I’ve always loved about Tramp are his lyrics. You can tell they are very personal to him. Whether he’s talking about his mother, his life growing up or making a statement about society, the lyrics are very intimate and you know he means them.

Tramp’s solo material is not something I pull out (or queue up) often, but when I do, I always end up enjoying it. I think you have to be in a more laid-back mood to listen to it. There’s no hard rock to be found here. If you’re expecting something to sound like White Lion, you really aren’t going to get it. The closest he gets to rocking out are the songs “Down South” and “Slave” which are very bluesy and sound like something you might hear from The Black Keys. The music is all acoustic-driven and while I prefer good ol’ riffing on an electric guitar, whenever I sit down and listen to Tramp’s solo material, it’s always an enjoyable experience.

Museum is not in-your-face and bombastic. Mike Tramp albums never are, but this is a good disc to spin if you’re just looking to kick back and relax or possibly get a little introspective.

Highlights: “Trust In Yourself”, “New World Coming”, “Better”, “Time For Me To Go”

Sammy Hagar with Vic Johnson – Lite Roast [Review]

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Sammy Hagar with Vic Johnson – Lite Roast
2014, Mailboat Records
Buy the album

1. Red Voodoo
2. One Sip
3. Finish What Ya Started
4. Eagles Fly
5. The Love
6. Father Sun
7. Dreams
8. Deeper Kinda Love
9. Who Has the Right?
10. Sailin’
11. Halfway to Memphis

Well, it’s no surprise that Sammy’s latest release comes from Jimmy Buffett’s record label as it seems like Hagar has tried to emulate elements of Jimmy Buffett over the last decade (right down to covering his songs and touring with him). As the album cover and title would suggest, Lite Roast is a laid back and mellow acoustic affair. What’s notable is that Hagar’s longtime guitarist, Vic Johnson from the Waboritas, is featured on the cover and the album is officially credited to them both.

Essentially, this is kind of a compilation of solo/Van Hagar tracks reworked acoustically. “The Love”, from Hagar’s 1999 album Red Voodoo is excellent in this setting. I think I might actually prefer this stripped down version over the original. It’s also nice to see the inclusion of that album’s title track as Red Voodoo holds a special nostalgic place in my heart. Yes, I’m nostalgic about a Sammy Hagar album that was released in 1999.

There’s a couple of tracks that fall flat with me (okay, more than a couple). “One Sip” is from Hagar’s Buffett-inspired Livin’ It Up! album which was co-written with another Buffett emulator Kenny Chesney. That was an album I passed on and “One Sip” proves to me I was right. I doubt the original version is any better. “Sailin'” is also from that album is, frankly, a bland ballad. Van Halen’s “Finish What Ya Started” holds up well, as expected, when given the full acoustic treatment. “Dreams” also sounds good here. MelodicRock.com said this version of “Dreams” is “horrible” but I don’t get that at all. I think it holds up well.

Despite the spotty picks of tracks, one thing I like about this album is the production. It sounds like there’s not a whole lot and I mean that in a good way. It really sounds like Sammy and Vic simply pulled up a couple of stools, started playing and recorded everything live. I’m not sure if that’s what actually happened, but every track sounds like it was done that way in an intimate setting. There’s no attempt to set the atmosphere with a piano or anything. Just a couple of guys with acoustic guitars singing.

I guess it’s no surprise that I found myself most enjoying the songs that I already knew. Much of Hagar’s solo work beyond Red Voodoo has been very uninspired and, dare I say, lazy (although I LOVE “Serious Juju” from Ten 13). Lite Roast is a mixed bag of varying quality coffee grounds. There’s really only four tracks here that I think are enjoyable. The rest is kinda forgettable and boring. A Sammy Hagar acoustic album isn’t a bad idea, it’s just that the song selection is pretty poor. I’d like Hagar to revisit the acoustic setting at some point with the idea of doing a greatest hits package.

Highlight: “Finish What Ya Started”, “Eagles Fly”, “The Love”, “Dreams”

Mike Tramp – Cobblestone Street [Review]

Mike Tramp – Cobblestone Street
2013, Cleopatra Records/Deadline Music

1. Cobblestone Street
2. Caught In The Storm
3. New Day
4. Ain’t The Life I Asked For
5. Revolution
6. We’ll Be Alright
7. Angel Or Devil
8. Find It In Your Heart
9. What Are You Gonna Do?
10. Once
11. When The Children Cry [2013 Acoustic Version]

Musicians:
Mike Tramp – Vocals, Guitar
Soren Anderson – Guitar, Piano, Keyboards, Bass, Drums, Harmonica

Mike Tramp will always be best known for White Lion but he’s had quite a solid music career outside of that band, at least in terms of quality releases. The handful of his solo albums that I’ve heard have been extremely good and I enjoyed Stand Your Ground (released under the name of Mike Tramp & The Rock ‘N’ Roll Circuz) a lot as well. I was looking forward to checking out Cobblestone Street once I heard it was coming out.

Citing the likes of Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen for inspiration, Cobblestone Street is a collection of acoustic tracks and balladry. Tramp has been quoted as saying it’s the album he’s wanted to make for the last 20 years. Tramp’s voice has always worked well with the more low-key moments in White Lion’s catalog, his voice is perfectly suited to convey the pain and emotion of songs like “When The Children Cry” (which has be re-recorded as an acoustic number for this very album). Laid back, yet deep and personal Cobblestone Street has become one of my favorite releases of 2013.

There’s not a dud to be found on this release. The album is mellow and sentimental but well worth seeking out if you aren’t in a mood to bang your head. If Tramp decides to leave his rocker ways behind him, I would be completely okay with that. That’s just how much I’ve enjoyed Cobblestone Street.

Highlights: “Cobblestone Street”, “New Day”, “Ain’t the Life I Asked For”, “Revolution”,  “We’ll Be Alright”, “What Are You Gonna Do”, “Once”

http://miketramp.dk/
http://www.facebook.com/MikeTrampOfficial

Buy the album at Amazon.com

Tom Keifer – The Way Life Goes [Review]

Tom Keifer - The Way Life Goes

Tom Keifer – The Way Life Goes
2013, Merovee Records

1. “Solid Ground”
2. “A Different Light”
3. “It’s Not Enough”
4. “Cold Day In Hell”
5. “Thick And Thin”
6. “Ask Me Yesterday”
7. “Fools Paradise”
8. “The Flower Song”
9. “Mood Elevator”
10. “Welcome To My Mind”
11. “You Showed Me”
12. “Ain’t That A Bitch”
13. “The Way Life Goes”
14. “Babylon”

Musicians:
Tom Keifer – Lead Vocals, Guitar, Keyboard, Slide Guitar, Backing Vocals
Michael Rhodes – Bass
Greg Morrow – Drums, Percussion
Tony Harrell – Piano, B3, Wurlitzer, Clavinet

Producer: Tom Keifer, Savannah Keifer and Chuck Turner

The Way Life Goes is the first effort from Cinderella front-man Tom Keifer that has been in progress for the past 10 years or more (slowed down by Tom voice problems and occasional touring with Cinderella). Truthfully, you can’t really tell that this album is a collection of songs written & recorded over the last 10 years because Tom doesn’t play to trends with any of these songs. The album is a mix of what you’d expect from Tom Keifer: ballads, blues, country and rock. Even if there’s not as many uptempo or hard rockers as you would get with Cinderella, this album is not too far off from that band. If you told me this was the follow-up to 1994’s Still Climbing, I’d believe you and I’d be completely okay with that.

Tom’s voice is so recognizable, it’s really to imagine that these aren’t Cinderella songs. “The Flower Song” is my favorite ballad from the album and it sounds like something off of Heartbreak Station.”Solid Ground” is the hardest rocking song here (and great opener) where we get to hear Tom wail again and this could’ve easily found a place on Long Cold Winter. “It’s Not Enough” and “Cold Day in Hell” are also fantastic rockers. “Mood Elevator” is yet another rocker and there’s an appearance by another Cinderella member — guitarist Jeff LaBar lends a hand.

Meanwhile, “Ain’t That a Bitch” has a Tom Petty vibe and “The Way Life Goes” seems to have some ’80s Aerosmith moments with the sax and “Welcome to My Mind” is the darkest and most modern sounding song on the album. There’s also a few other songs on here that could probably make it to country radio with the right marketing. “Ask Me Yesterday” is the strongest example of this.

There is only one miscalculation on the record and that’s “A Different Light”. Looking at other reviews, I seem to be the only person that isn’t totally sold on this one. I just don’t care for the falsetto style that Tom is using here throughout the song or the poppy production of the song itself. That said, much like the rest of the album, this song has become stuck in my head at various points after listening to this album. It’s not a terrible song but it’s the weakest of the bunch and was kind of a head-scratcher for me when I first heard it.

Ultimately, I highly recommend this album to fans of Cinderella but keep in mind that The Way Life Goes is not a hard rock album through-and-through or a hair-metal throwback. The bluesy/country elements of Cinderella are here, but this is simply a rock album with a lot of soul.

Highlights: “Solid Ground”, “It’s Not Enough”, “Cold Day In Hell”, “Ask Me Yesterday”, “Fools Paradise”, “The Flower Song”, “Ain’t That a Bitch”, “Babylon”

www.tomkeifer.com
www.facebook.com/tomkeiferofficial

Buy the album at Amazon.com

Mr. Big – Live from the Living Room (review)

Mr. Big – Live From the Living Room
(2012, Frontiers Records)

1. Undertow … 5:30
2. Still Ain’t Enough For Me … 3:24
3. As Far As I Can See … 4:05
4. Voodoo Kiss … 4:11
5. Take Cover … 5:34
6. Around the World … 4:23
7. Stranger In My Life … 5:15
8. All the Way Up … 5:17
9. To Be With You … 4:35
10. Nobody Left to Blame … 5:54

Band:
Eric Martin – Lead Vocals
Paul Gilbert – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Billy Sheehan – Bass, Backing Vocals
Pat Torpey – Drums, Percussion, Backing Vocals

Producer: Mr. Big & Pat Regan

Recorded during January 2011 in Tokyo, Japan in front of a small studio audience, Live from the Living Room captures Mr. Big’s very first acoustic show. Since the show was done during and for promotion of 2010’s What If… album, seven of the ten tracks from this set are stripped down versions of songs from that album. Of course it’d be crazy for Mr. Big to do their first ever acoustic show and not perform their biggest hit “To Be With You” (from 1991’s Lean Into It). Completing the set is “Voodoo Kiss”, which comes from the same album as “To Be With You” and “Take Cover” from 1996’s Hey Man.

Technically speaking, the band is very good. That should come as no surprise. Eric Martin sounds great and obviously Paul Gilbert & Billy Sheehan haven’t lost a step over the years. But… Mr. Big has never been one of my favorite bands. Despite the fact that they are great musicians, I’ve never really felt a big connection to them outside a few songs. Still, this live acoustic album should be an enjoyable listen that’s sure to please those that are big fans of What If… and Mr. Big in general.

Highlights: “Undertow”, “Take Cover”, “Around the World”, “Stranger In My Life”, “To Be With You”

http://www.mrbigsite.com/
http://www.facebook.com/mrbigmusic

Buy ‘Live From the Living Room’ at Amazon.com

Sixx:A.M. – Codependence [single]

Sixx:A.M. – Codependence [single] (2011, Eleven Seven Music)

1. “Codependence” … 3:37

Band:
James Michael – Vocals, Drums, Guitar
DJ Ashba – Guitar
Nikki Sixx – Bass

Producer: James Michael

On the same day the band released 7 (an EP  featuring stripped down and rearranged versions of previously released songs) for download, Sixx:A.M. also released the song “Codependence” exclusively through iTunes for FREE. “Codependence” comes from the This Is Gonna Hurt sessions and while it was previously unreleased here in the United States, it appeared as a bonus track when the album was issued in Japan.

Though Japan often gets bonus tracks, sometimes those tracks aren’t really worth listening to in the first place, they’re just filler. Well, that’s not the case this time. “Codependence” doesn’t rate with the very best of This Is Gonna Hurt but I still like it. It’s much more straight forward than most of the tracks from the album making it a bit less memorable whenever James Michael is singing a chorus he can make the song sound like something you should be paying attention to. Even through the self-loathing and moody lyrics a lot of Sixx:A.M.  come off sounding like really cool rock anthems and that’s what “Codependence” is to me.

But why take my word for it? It’s FREE. Go download it and listen.

http://sixxammusic.com/
https://www.facebook.com/sixxammusic

Sixx:A.M. – 7

Sixx:A.M. – 7 (2011, Eleven Seven Music)

1. “Lies of the Beautiful People” … 3:58
2. “This Is Gonna Hurt” … 4:46
3. “Life Is Beautiful” … 4:08
4. “Help Is On the Way” … 4:05
5. “Sure Feels Right” … 4:08
6. “Pray for Me” … 4:28
7. “Accidents Can Happen” … 4:09

Band:
James Michael – Vocals, Keyboards, Drums, Strings, Guitar
DJ Ashba – Guitar
Nikki Sixx – Bass

Producer: James Michael

One good thing about the digital age of music is how quickly a project can be announced to the public and then released. It was late November when Sixx:A.M. announced an acoustic EP was on its way and just a few weeks later it was digitally released on December 13th. I think it’s an iTunes exclusive but I’m not positive.

I’ve always been a fan of Sixx:A.M. Despite a few odd moments, The Heroin Diaries was good overall and This Is Gonna Hurt (which was released earlier this year) is absolutely fantastic with not a single foul track to be found. They’re a great live band as well. So when they announced they were re-working previous songs into an acoustic EP, I knew it was going to be good.

The whole acoustic thing isn’t really appropriate labeling though. The band has since backed off a bit on calling 7 an acoustic EP, preferring to say the songs are “stripped down”, which is the accurate statement. It’s not as if this is an “unplugged” performance. The production is still here, electric guitars as well, but the arrangements are different and acoustic instruments feature more prominently.

I like how James Michael didn’t lower his voice to a whisper just because the songs are “stripped down” and the tempo has changed. He’s still soaring on these songs when appropriate and he continues to prove himself as one of rock’s best vocalists.

I think “This Is Gonna Hurt” is a particularly beautiful song and stands out the most on this EP. The band has taken it in a completely different direction here and have turned it into a haunting piano-based ballad. Given Sixx:A.M.’s strong sense of melody and dark, emotive lyrics you can pretty much switch any of there songs from rocker to ballad or ballad to rocker and come out with great results.

The final words I have to say is that these were all great songs in their original form. They are all given a twist here on 7 and I consider the whole experiment a huge success. Sixx:A.M. itself has been a huge success in my eyes. They are one of the best bands to come along in the last 10 years and I’m anxious to see what else they have planned.

http://sixxammusic.com/
https://www.facebook.com/sixxammusic

WHITESNAKE – Starkers In Tokyo

Whitesnake – Starkers In Tokyo (1997, EMI Records – UK Import)

1. “Sailing Ships” … 4:37
2. “Too Many Tears” … 4:13
3. “The Deeper The Love” … 4:09
4. “Love Ain’t No Stranger” … 3:15
5. “Can’t Go On” … 3:50
6. “Give Me All Your Love” … 3:21
7. “Don’t Fade Away” … 4:26
8. “Is This Love” … 3:09
9. “Here I Go Again” … 4:46
10. “Soldier of Fortune” … 4:22

Band:
David Coverdale – Vocals
Adrian Vandenberg – Guitar

Producer: David Coverdale

Starkers In Tokyo is a really cool live acoustic album that was recorded on July 5th, 1997 in Tokyo, Japan at an EMI Japan studio. It’s a very intimate setting with a small, restrained crowd (Coverdale cracks a few jokes about the reserved crowd and reveals himself to have a weird sense of humor).

This special show was put on at the request of EMI Japan in an attempt to help promote the Restless Heart album so it’s no surprise that three songs from the set list are from that album. Also, there are two songs from Slip of the Tongue. All five of those songs were written by Coverdale & Vandenberg. I’m surprised David didn’t go for some earlier Whitesnake material for this acoustic setting but I’m sure the Vandenberg factor played a role in that. Apparently, David hadn’t totally disowned the group’s late ’80s work just yet and was content to fill this album with ballads.

The album is really good, I’ve given this one multiple spins since winning it. It’s no secret that Coverdale is one of my favorite rock vocalists of all-time and this album is a great example of why. If it was anyone else singing these songs, it wouldn’t be half as good and that’s not a knock on the songs, it’s praise for Coverdale. And while I think Slip of the Tongue is just maybe the weakest Whitesnake album, “Sailing Ships” and “The Deeper The Love” come off really good in an acoustic setting. In fact, every song here does except “Here I Go Again”, which just doesn’t sound right without the bombastic production behind it.

It’s not the set list I would have chosen but this is another great entry into the Whitesnake discography.

Highlights: “Sailing Ships”, “Too Many Tears”, “The Deeper The Love”, “Love Ain’t No Stranger”, “Can’t Go On”, “Don’t Fade Away”

www.whitesnake.com
www.myspace.com/whitesnake

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