White Lion

Fight to Survive White Lion - Fight To Survive (Dead Line) 1984

1. Broken Heart (3:32)
2. Cherokee (4:58)
3. Fight To Survive (5:16)
4. Where Do We Run (3:31)
5. In The City (4:42)
6. All The Fallen Men (4:55)
7. All Burn In Hell (4:23)
8. Kid Of 1000 Faces (4:05)
9. El Salvador (4:51)
10. The Road To Valhalla (4:33)
11. Hungry [live] (4:53)
12. Don't Give Up [live] (3:28)
13. Lonely Nights [live] (4:46)
14. Sweet Little Lovin' [live] (4:!6)
15. Broken Heart [live] (4:38)
16. Fight To Survive [live] (5:56)
17. Tell Me [live] (5:49)

White Lion were formed in November 1982 by ex-Dreamer guitarist Vito Bratta and Mabel and Studs vocalist Mike Tramp, after moving from Denmark to New York in 1982. The band were immensely popular in New York and could easily pack a club. As I recall they were regulars at the L'Amour club. I'm pretty sure that I caught these guys live opening for Anthrax once at this same club. Eventually White Lion were signed to Elektra Records and recorded this debut for that label. The original band included ex-Angel bassist Felix Robinson and drummer Nicki Capozzi. However, the label didn't like what they heard and dropped the band. From what I have read, the label felt the album was "too heavy". I'm not sure what they were thinking but the music is melodic and not overly heavy, especially when you consider what was going on with the NWOBHM movement in 1982. The album was later picked up and released on Victor Records in Japan in 1984. A small U.S. independent label finally released "Fight To Survive" in the US on November 9, 1985. "Fight To Survive" was produced by German producer Peter Hauke, who gives the band a polished sound, though not nearly as polished and keyboard heavy as later releases.

White Lion are the very epitome of "hair metal" and are without a doubt, a chick rock. I know that is politically incorrect, but it's the truth. When an album starts off with a sappy song about mending a broken heart, what else can be deduced? "Broken Heart" would later be re-recorded for "Mane Attraction" and would become even more polished. For the time, however, White Lion were playing some decent hard rock. Songs like "All The Fallen Men", "El Salvador" and "In The City" all rock hard, but also have that American pomp that is straight out of the 70's. I have no doubt that Felix Robinson brought some of the Angel influence into the band. The album closes with "The Road To Valhalla" a song that builds from a typical early 80's piano ballad to a guitar heavy, power ballad.

White Lion had everything they needed to survive the early 80's; big hair, big drums, big guitars, big hooks and later down the road the big production. I sort of wish they would have built off this album and would not have continued to explore dow and dirty rock and roll instead of keyboard-saturated 80's pop metal. However, despite my opinion, it was radio hits like "Wait" and "When the Children Cry" that became the band's bread and butter.

Pride White Lion - Pride (Atlantic) 1987

1. Hungry (3:55)
2. Lonely Nights (4:11)
3. Don't Give Up (3:15)
4. Sweet Little Loving (4:02)
5. Lady Of The Valley (6:36)
6. Wait (4:01)
7. All You Need Is Rock N Roll (5:14)
8. Tell Me (4:29)
9. All Join Our Hands (4:12)
10. When The Children Cry (4:19)

White Lion are one of those bands that true metal fans are suppose to hate. They helped define the poodle-pop-metal sound that many metalheads detested in the 80's. Spandex, poofy hair, pouty lips, cheesy MTV videos, it was all part of the 80's experience and White Lion were the epitome of it. We called it "poser metal" back in the day. However, forgetting those cheesy videos and focusing on the music, it's all just rock and roll and there is plenty to like about this album. "Pride" was the band's big label debut, led by the guitar assault of Vito Bratto and those bratty vocals of Mike Tramp. The album opens with one of the harder rocking songs on the album, "Hungry". The song featured a big, hooky , sing-along choruses. "Hungry, yes, I'm Hungry, Hungry for your love...". As well Vito makes his presence known with some fiery guitar work. The follow-up song takes down the intensity slightly, but is still guitar driven and also features that big sing-along chrous, "Lonely night, lonely nights, when no one seems to care, lonely night, lonely nights, you'd better beware." It doesn't take but a listen or two for these songs to stick in your head like glue. Each and every song seems to possess that same sing-along quality. "Wait" was one of the big hits off the album and likewise has the hooky chorus with the layered vocals. "Lady of the Valley" may very well be the band's most underrated gem. The song is another hard rocker with an infectious chorus. Why it wasn't as popular as "Wait" is a bit of a mystery. The other big hit from the album is the cheesy, tear-jerking, acoustic ballad "When the Children Cry". It is probably my least favorite song on the album.

"Pride" was actually recorded twice. The version that became the huge hit was the second recording and was produced by Michael Wagener, who gave the band a slick sound that slightly robs the band of their edge. There first recordings are said to be much heavier and were recorded by Peter Hauke at 'Hotline Studio' Frankfurt, Germany. That's actually something I would like to hear.

Big Game White Lion - Big Game (Atlantic) 1989

1.   Goin' Home Tonight (4:59)
2.   Dirty Woman (3:27)
3.   Little Fighter (4:17)
4.   Broken Home (4:45)
5.   Baby Be Mine (4:10)
6.   Living On The Edge (4:48)
7.   Let's Get Crazy (4:00)
8.   Don't Say It's Over (4:11)
9.   If My Mind Is Evil (4:52)
10. Radar Love (6:02)
11. Cry for Freedom (5:45)

After the multi-platinum success of "Pride" and a long, successful world tour the pressure was on and the band for a new album. "Big Game" was the answer to that call. Musically, the band pretty much sticks to the same formula that made "Pride" such a success, though I think there are less immediately catchy songs, save for "Little Fighter", "Cry for Freedom" and "Dirty Woman". Unfortunately the production is ultra-slick, robbing the band of much of their raw grit and heaviness. This was pretty common by the late 80's. The guitar work of Vito Bratta is certainly the standout element in White Lion. He injects his signature licks and tricks throughout the album. Check out the Van Halen-esque guitar work of "Dirty Woman" or the solo in "Don't Say It's Over". "Little Fighter" was one of the more successful songs off "Big Game" and is an ultra-catchy pop rocker with some fire-y guitar work. "Cry For Freedom" was the other big hit and is definitely one of the highlights of the album. The song takes a slightly more ethereal approach. The song has a light and airy feel, and would probably be labeled a ballad, though it's not the typical sappy ballad that was common in the 80's. "Broken Home" on the other hand fits right into that mold. "Radar Love" is a Golden Earring cover, and one that also was successful from the album. Their cover of the song stays pretty faithful to the original and, of course, features more stellar guitar work from Vito.

Despite being considered a "typical 80's hair band", the lyrical themes are less focused on their crotch and seem to evoke a strong positive attitude. The themes seems to be fighting adversary, looking inside for inner strength, freedom, being strong, etc. Mike Tramp's raspy vocals really seem to help evoke the emotion that the lyrics demand.

Mane Attraction White Lion - Mane Attraction (Atlantic) 1991

1.      Lights and Thunder (8:09)
2.      Broken Heart (4:07)
3.      Leave Me Alone (4:26)
4.      Love Don't Come Easy (4:10)
5.      You're All I Need (4:25)
6.      It's Over (5:17)
7.      Warsong (6:56)
8.      She's Got Everything (6:53)
9.      Till Death Do Us Part  (5:30)
10.     Out With the Boys (4:33)
11.     Blue Monday (4:20)
12.     Farewell to You (4:24)

"Mane Attraction" was the last White Lion album before the band split, though they later reformed. This album offers a mix of good hard rockers and a slew of sappy radio ballads. The album opens with one of the bands heaviest and longest songs in "Lights and Thunder". The production is less slick than past albums, so this song has a meatier guitar tone. That song is followed up by one of the band's sappiest, most-sickening radio love ballads "Broken Heart". The song, which was originally recorded on the band's debut "Fight to Survive", is undeniable catchy but just seems out of place between two solid rockers. "Leave Me Alone" is another rocker with a bit of a groove and my second favorite song on the album right behind "Lights and Thunder". This song is again followed up by another ballad, "Love Don't Come Easy". These radio love ballads are the type of songs that would get hair bands radio hits, but would make most fans of heavy metal and hard rock want to puke. They are just so sappy. One of the standout cuts on the album is "Warsong", that ebbs and flows from heavier parts to a melodic breakdown in the middle of the song. I also quite enjoyed the cheesy rocker "Out With the Boys". The lyrics are pretty cliché, but fun at the same time. "We were out with the boys, we were out to make some noise". The song also features a hot solo from Vito. "Blue Monday" is a blues instrument that give Vito Brato a chance to strutt his musical muscle. The last track seems to be written as a goodbye to friends and fans and celebrates the good times and good fortune of the band. Overall, a decent effort from White Lion though I personally prefer the harder rocking songs.

Return White Lion - Return of the Pride (Airline) 2008

1.   Sangre De Cristo (8:44)
2.   Dream (5:08)
3.   Live Your Life (4:52)
4.   Set Me Free (4:59)
5.   I Will (4:14)
6.   Battle At Little Big Horn (7:32)
7.   Never Let You Go (4:50)
8.   Gonna Do It My Way (4:24)
9.   Finally See The Light (4:55)
10. Let Me Be Me (4:00)
11. Wait [live] (4:38)
12. When The Children Cry [live] (5:09)

After the demise of White Lion in 1992, Mike Tramp continued to record and release solo albums and even recorded an album in 2005 under the name Tramp's White Lion. "Return of the Pride" is suppose to be the rebirth of White Lion. However, besides vocalist Mike Tramp, there are no other members from the classic line-up. Without guitarist Vito Bratta, who completely dropped out of the music scene for decades, "Return of the Pride" can hardly be considered a come-back album. Vito had a charisma and as style that is absent from this album, so it doesn't quite sound like White Lion. It would be like Van Halen recording an album without Eddie Van Halen playing guitar.

However, having said that, "Return of the Pride" isn't a horrid album either. Actually, it's quite likable. Mike Tramp is still a charismatic singer who manages to evoke a lot of passion in his delivery, even twenty years past his commercial prime. His voice is a little raspier for the wear, but it seems to work in his favor. As well, the songwriting isn't far off from what White Lion were doing in the early 1990's. For the most part, the songs are fairly short and catchy. There are a couple epic song length songs in "Sangra De Cristo" and "Battle of Little Big Horn", both of which are melodic hard rock numbers. "Dream" is definitely one of the standout cuts on the album. It's a melodic power ballad with sappy keyboards, but is one of the songs that recalls the band's big-hair 80's days. "Set Me Free" builds from a bluesy ballad to a straight-forward hard rocker with some nice solo work. There are a few faster tracks as well like "Live your Life" or "Let Me Be Me".

So, despite the fact that "Return of the Pride" would have been better released as a Mike Tramp solo album, it's still a good listen. Though nostalgia dictates that most fans would love the classic line-up, I don't begrudge Tramp his right to keep the White Lion name and legacy alive. Perhaps a true reunion with Greg D'Angelo (drums), James Lomenzo (bass), Vito Bratta (guitars) and Mike Tramp will happen in the future. For now, White Lion Mach II will have to make due.

The American release has two live bonus tracks, live versions of two of White Lion's biggest hits.

White Lion
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