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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”

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

KISS – MTV Unplugged

KISS – MTV Unplugged (1996, Mercury Records)

1. “Comin’ Home” … 2:21
2. “Plaster Caster” … 3:17
3. “Goin’ Blind” … 3:37
4. “Do You Love Me?” … 3:13
5. “Domino” … 3:46
6. “Sure Know Something” … 4:14
7. “World Without Heroes” … 2:57
8. “Rock Bottom” … 3:20
9. “See You Tonight” … 2:26
10. “I Still Love You” … 6:09
11. “Every Time I Look at You” … 4:43
12. “2000 Man” … 5:12
13. “Beth” … 2:50
14. “Nothin’ to Lose” … 3:42
15. “Rock and Roll All Night” … 4:20

Band:
Paul Stanley – Acoustic Guitar, Lead Vocals
Gene Simmons – Acoustic Bass, Lead Vocals
Bruce Kulick – Acoustic Guitar
Eric Singer – Drums, Lead Vocals

Additional Musicians:
Ace Frehley – Acoustic Guitar, Lead Vocals
Peter Criss – Drums, Lead Vocals
Phillip Ashley – Piano on “Every Time I Look at You”

Produced by: Alex Coletti

Basically, this is Alive Acoustic. This album is, as you could already tell, a live recording of their 1995 MTV Unplugged performance. And it’s actually a pretty historical performance too, because we got to see Paul, Gene, Bruce, Eric, Ace and Peter all performing together. It also served as a major catalyst for Ace & Peter to return (which was more than likely already in the making anyway). The album itself was a success as well, going gold.

It’s a really cool performance. It’s nice to hear these songs in an acoustic setting (the band had been doing acoustic sets for the KISS Conventions so this is a tight performance) and it’s an interesting set list as well. Forget all the hype, lights, pyro and bombast– this album is a stripped down KISS proving that, despite the hate that comes from music critics, they were more than just makeup and marketing. Paul’s voice sounds phenomenal, he really hits a home run on “I Still Love You” and “Sure Know Something”.

This album definitely wouldn’t be of interest to casual KISS fans. It’s acoustic and it’s not a “greatest hits” set list by any means, but for die-hards, it’s a dream come true and I think it’s another classic live release from the band.

Highlights: “Comin’ Home”, “Do You Love Me?”, “Sure Know Something”, “Rock Bottom”, “See You Tonight”, “I Still Love You”, “Every Time I Look at You”, “Nothin’ to Lose”, “Rock and Roll All Night”

www.kissonline.com

Buy MTV Unplugged at Amazon.com

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