Tramtracks – Then? (2020) [Official Digital Download 24bit/44,1kHz]

Tramtracks – Then? (2020)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/44,1 kHz | Time – 41:11 minutes | 506 MB | Genre: Rock
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © Prommo Grande Records

The tram to Bondi might have stopped running years ago, but that hasn’t stopped Tramtracks from launching “Then?”, a fabulous vinyl recording of some of their finer tunes – though totally reimagined and produced into a contemporary prog rock sound. Released on Prommo Grande Records this selection of hand-picked tunes bears wonderful fruit.

Initially, Tramtracks (Pilt, Forbes, Hudson, James and York), a band that grew out of Forbes vision, had been thinking about how to release a CD capturing some moments from earlier albums but remained undecided about how to proceed until thoughts turned towards a vinyl release. However, “Then?” is so much more than a retrospective look at some of Tramtracks’ more catchy and nostalgic tunes from “Rain”, “You” and “Grow”.

The sound has been totally reinvented courtesy of award-winning producer, engineer, sound director, and musician David Cafe who as special guest, also contributed to each of the re-imagined tunes. Cafe has worked with some of the biggest names in the Australian music business (The Angels, Flowers, Billy Field, Doug Parkinson, Dragon, Tommy Emmanuel, Swanee, Matt Finish among others). A long-time friend and colleague of Toivo Pilt (Tramtracks, Sebastian Hardie, Windchase), the pair worked tirelessly to bring this new album to fruition.

As Toivo put it: “…when Bob, Ticker, Mr. Hudson, Dale and I started kicking around ideas for a vinyl album, I knew immediately we needed to turn to David Cafe. He was definitely the man for the job to help us work through some of our tunes to help them reach their previously unrealised potential”. On hearing the finished album, Ticker (James) said, “…this is what needed to happen to elevate these tunes. There is real emotion that now shines through in the musicianship!”. As a band, Tramtracks was made possible by Forbes who converted his office to a studio and brought the band together to release four earlier albums. Fans will recognise familiar but reimagined tunes with additional layering of guitar, bass, percussion from Cafe with a heavy focus on melodic prog style keyboards form Pilt and Forbes that make for a rich and vibrant sound.

Rising out of swirling synths, side A opens with the punchy It’s Bittersweet with a big full sound, lush keys over a prog rhythm with lashes of guitar to punctuate the sound. Then another rocker, Call It On, with its relentless feel textured by Pilt’s delicate piano. Originally a jam, Emphatic becomes an anthem for revisiting the regrets of our past and finding a new way. The restrained synth lines give way to electric piano and a delicate interplay between snare and toms before collapsing the time into a toe tapping bass riff, big guitar chords and a driving beat. This is anything but “a tired old tune”! Like so many of Tramtracks’ tunes, Cat Fink started as an improvisation and turns into a rich lush prog extravaganza of Hammond and synths sitting snugly over York’s bass lines and the big drum sounds from Ticker. Rain is Champagne is a vivid reminder of a country in drought and it’s thirst for water in this arid land. This busy six-eight rocker finishes with “the farmer’s in a sea plane” as it soars into flight. Side A closes with excerpts from another jam, Flying With Dragons, with a pretty piano melody layered over a driving guitar, bass and drum rhythm section.

Side B changes mood. Sometimes it is the simplest of melodies that are the prettiest, and so it is with Southern Sunrise which again showcases Pilt’s delicate touch with composition and melody. The tune almost floats as it subtly builds in dynamics with delicate touches of flute, synth and organ over a rhythm section that gently propels the track forward towards its synth climax. The Northern Wind has also been reworked with catchy rhythm section reminiscent of The Neville Brothers. What is noticeable is that these tunes now have space and depth that wasn’t necessarily captured in their earlier offerings. What is totally unexpected is the turn taken by the next three tracks. T.S.O.G. (The Sound of Glebe) features Ralph White on horn and saxophone. It is a sublime start offset by Pilt’s stirring synth solo before White again gives a lesson in smooth sax as it should be, layered in the textures of Pilt and Forbes keys. Perhaps the standout track of the album is the spacey and achingly haunting I Saw Your Beautiful Face, a track about loss and the wonder of rebirth. The melody works its way through a number of different feels and rhythmic changes before climaxing in a soaring guitar solo from Cafe that builds on Hudson’s original lines. In a fitting end to the album, and one for the romantics, “You” takes an acoustic turn before being given the Tramtracks treatment as it celebrates the rediscovery of relationship, that touchingly finished in a wedding in real life between Forbes and Saunders who adds vocal accompaniments to the track!

01. Tramtracks – It’s Bittersweet (04:40)
02. Tramtracks – Call It On (03:42)
03. Tramtracks – Emphatic (04:33)
04. Tramtracks – Cat Fink (04:09)
05. Tramtracks – Rain Is Champagne (02:39)
06. Tramtracks – Flying With Dragons (01:48)
07. Tramtracks – Southern Sunrise (03:42)
08. Tramtracks – The Northern Wind (03:34)
09. Tramtracks – T.S.O.G. (The Sound Of Glebe) (04:01)
10. Tramtracks – I Saw Your Beautiful Face (04:48)
11. Tramtracks – You (The Wedding Song) (03:30)


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