Ulftone Records
Produced by: Mike Tramp / Mixed by: Phil Kaffel

Released: Feb. 4 / Website
Closest Relative: White Lion, Bryan Adams
GENRE: Melodic Rock

  1. Falling Down
  2. Living A Lie
  3. Mr. Death
  4. If It Ain't Gonna Rock
  5. All Up To You
  6. Endless Highway
  7. Darkness
  8. Follow Your Dreams
  9. Do It All Over
  10. Take It Easy
  11. Don't Take My Rock N Roll
  12. Always Tomorrow

This album has been a long time coming. But all good things come to those that wait and this is easily Mike's best solo work ever. In fact, as far as musical integrity and lyrical maturity goes, I rate this album his best ever work - ahead of White Lion and Freak Of Nature. People should know that Mike's a personal friend, but all connections aside, fans are going to love this, I have no doubts at all.
That's saying a lot, as I love White Lion (especially Main Attraction!)
I don't care at all if I hear any criticism of this album's score, I just love it. For those that love moody, intelligent, dark and brooding songs, this is a must buy. I gave Capricorn a very average mark - this album has better songs, better production and more intensity in every department.
But I have had the rare privilege of watching these songs grow - from their initial more stripped back form 12 months ago, to this final version, which I have had the added bonus of be able to get to know for the past several weeks.
That additional listening time is something this record demands the listener to do.
Part of the score comes from the fact I have had so long to get into this album. The songs demand the attention.
These songs - this album - needs several listens for all the melodies and hidden hooks to appear and make themselves known.
Once they do, you will never get these songs out of your head. Quite simply, collectively they are the best written songs I have heard Mike write.
The sound of the album starts where his last solo album Capricorn left off - acoustic driven in many places, softer and more reflective than his days with White Lion and Freak Of Nature.
While Capricorn was good, it did lack punch, with several songs getting off to a good start, but not quite coming through in the hooks and melodies department.
Capricorn's laid back style also left a few old fans wishing for something heavier. But good music doesn't have to be heavy or rocking to be great - the just need that extra punch!
I am more than happy to report that on Recovering The Wasted Years, everything has come together at the right time and place.
The album has a tougher, more electric guitar dominated sound, the production and mix qualities are both fantastic and above all, the songs are just wonderful.
Playing on this album, alongside Mike are Emil Bendixen (Bass and Harmonies), Kasper Damgaard (Guitar on 1, 2, 6, 7, 9, 11 & all solos), Kasper Foss (Drums & Paiste Cymbals), Dan Hemmer (Hammond B-3), Kenny Korade (Guitar - all tracks, 1st. solo on Follow Your Dreams), Guillermo Pascual (Piano), Mads Schou (Harmonica) & Oliver Steffensen : Guitar solo on Take It Easy.
This record is even darker than Capricorn, both in mood and lyrical content. But there are so many hooks, melodies and harmonies, it takes a long time to know the record off by heart. Add to that the harder edge sound and I think this will please all fans of Mike's - those that loved Capricorn's direction and those that are looking for something tougher. This is it! I just hope others will share my enthusiasm for this record. I have no doubt they will.
Track By Track:
Falling Down opens the album slowly, with an dark organ sound gradually being joined by guitars, bass and drums. It's all very soft, reflective and brooding. The song gathers a little pace to be mid-tempo at best, at all times remaining dark and lyrically intense. A fine example of the quality of song writing on the album.
A soft electric lead riff leads into the guitar dominated and more up tempo Living A Lie. Again, the tone is dark, but the song's verse and chorus are both so infectiously catchy, you can't help but get a positive vibe from the song. The rockabilly guitar tone is something repeated throughout the album and fits Mike's style perfectly.
A rich organ and harp drenched intro leads into another fabulously dark and moody mid paced song. Mr. Death features another great chorus hook, but just like the opening songs, the true melody is revealed in all different parts of the song as you get to know it. The verse, bridge, chorus and refrain all have melodies hidden within. The organ just adds to the atmosphere.
The brooding atmosphere of the album continues with the song If It Ain't Gonna Rock. The song has two parts - the slow intense guitar dominated intro and verses and the almost happy go lucky hooks of the chorus. It's an interesting contrast - especially within the one song and I think it works perfectly.
While continuing the musical sound of the album, All Up To You is a little more light-hearted and offers another song full of hooks and melodies and another infectious chorus and even a tasty guitar solo.
Like the opening song, Endless Highway is another song about life, good and bad and continues the dark and moody feel of the album. The song features a more prominent acoustic guitar, with soft electric accompaniment. Once again, the song drags you in and once the chorus hits, complete with a classic piano hook and sing along melody, it becomes an instant classic and one of the album's best tracks. A classic moody melodic rock track.
Speaking of best tracks, I have to confess to having a real soft spot for Darkness. This is the darkest and most lyrically haunting song of the whole album. The song is soft, dark, electrifying and clocks in at 6 minutes in length. I am not sure whether it's the softly sung vocal, the tortured lyric, the mix of guitars and organ or the heartbreaking feel of this song that gets to me. Maybe it's all of the above. Whatever it is, it's a classic slow ballad. This is what music is all about.
The tempo picks up considerably with Follow Your Dreams. This track is a rocker and features one of the more in your face guitar riffs and vocal melody of the album. Of course, the chorus is as memorable as the others.
Do It All Over continues the slightly more upbeat theme, with a relatively happy go lucky number. Featuring several layers of guitars (both electric and acoustic) and another great set of hooks, this one is one of the most uptempo songs of the album.
Take It Easy continues the uptempo guitar drive theme of the last couple of tracks, offering a small break from the more intense tracks. Another solid chorus with some layered harmonies and even a hint of that organ again.
Don't Take My Rock N Roll was the initial title for the album, before the more appropriate end result. As the title hints, it's a great fast tempo'd guitar rocker that's over in a flash, but doesn't at any stage become a throwaway track. The lyrics are still personal and the tone still dark.
There is no better way to conclude the album that Always Tomorrow. The song almost encompasses a summary of the whole record. It's intense, but more uptempo and drenched in a heavy blues guitar and features a really positive lyric that ends the album looking towards a brighter future.
If by accident or by design, the album's songs seem to take the listener through a journey. Starting with the beginning of the story - explaining the emotions, then heading through a dark and turmoil filled period and coming out at the end with a brighter outlook and a mood towards the future.
Genius stuff!
BOTTOM LINE: Like I stated earlier, it should be no secret that Mike's a bud, but that has no bearing on this review. Credit where credit is due. This has to find the right audience, it may not suit everyone, but for Tramp fans, I can't recall where Mike has sung, played or written better material.
It isn't the hard rock that White Lion was or the even harder edge of Freak Of Nature - it's more mature than those records.
This is a roller coaster record - it takes you on an emotional journey that when completed leaves you fulfilled like not many records can do.
It's dark, it's personal, it's moody and it's intense from start to finish. It's also bloody brilliant and will be right up there for best of 2002.
Don't don't just take my word for it - download the Soundbytes!
ESSENTIAL FOR: All Mike Tramp & White Lion fans, fans of intense, moody, intelligent rock n roll.
DISCOGRAPHY:White Lion; Freak Of Nature; Solo - Capricorn . Remembering White Lion . Recovering The Wasted Years

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