REVIEW: White Lion – Pride (1987)

Enjoy this first of two White Lion reviews. Stay tuned for the second in a couple days!

PRIDE_0001WHITE LION – Pride (1987 Atlantic)

I’ve had some fierce arguments with some rock fans about this album.  Regardless of its flaws, I steadfastly defend it and especially the talents of one Vito Bratta, the best guitarist to never become a guitar hero.  After the breakup of White Lion in 1991, Bratta retreated from public life and music completely.  Some have argued to me, “If he was such a talent, he’d still be around.”  Such talk is ignorant of the facts.  Bratta spent many years as a caregiver to ill parents, and whatever decisions he made have to be respected.

I mentioned that this album is flawed, so I’m going to get that part out of the way first.  There are two things about this album that suck.  One is the production, by the normally awesome Michael Wagener (engineered by Canadian “Gggarth” Richardson).  It’s really muddy, echoey, and annoying.  It is indicative of the times.

The second thing that drives me nuts are the lyrics.  I know Mike Tramp is Danish and English is his second language, but there were three guys from New York (Staten Island and Brooklyn) in the band that could have helped.  As Exhibit A, I present you “Lady of the Valley”:

Lady of the valley
Can you hear me cry
In the stillness of the night
I have lost my brother
In the fights of the war
And my heart has broken down

I always stumble over that “In the fights of the war” line.  That’s one of the “serious” songs, something that White Lion tackled frequently (improving over the years).  For their flaws I’ll at least respect Mike Tramp’s willingness to present a personal point of view on specific issues (“Little Fighter”, “Cry For Freedom”, “Warsong”, “El Salvador”).  Unfortunately Pride is loaded with songs about young girls and what Mike Tramp would like to do with them.  Below, Exhibit B:

Keep your engine running high
When you take my love inside
But hold the trigger on my loaded gun (“Hungry”)

Little miss Dee’s got a dirty mind
All around the boys she’s one of a kind
If you wanna good time you can take her home
Cause everyone knows she is good in bed (“Sweet Little Loving”)

I’ll stop there.

Musically, and performance-wise, Pride is a joy to listen to.  What an untapped well of talent Vito Bratta is.  In the guitar magazines, he was noted for having captured some of the magic of Eddie Van Halen, and I agree with that.  Bratta has definitely mastered the Van Halen book of rock.  His riffs are much like Van Halen’s, with one guitar playing the rhythm and flicking in and out with tricky little licks.  It sounds difficult as hell.  “Hungry” is the most Van Halen-like.  The difference is that Bratta sounds like a much more schooled player.  Everything sounds meticulously planned and written.  When he takes a solo, it’s a combination of Van Halen and neoclassical discipline.  And every song is absolutely loaded with fills and tricks.  Pride is very busy guitar-wise, in a good way.

“Hungry” is a great song, a dark Dokken-esque opener.  Also similar to Dokken is the second track, the mid-tempo “Lonely Nights”.  It’s another strong track, and I find Mike Tramp’s raspy voice similar to Jon Bon Jovi’s from time to time.  Bratta executes a fluttery solo, and then it’s on to the next one, “Don’t Give Up”.  Again, I find the lyrics tedious.  I like positivity, but I don’t find, “Don’t give up, even when it’s tough,” to be very profound.  Thankfully this uptempo banger is another winner musically.  Once again I struggle to keep up with Bratta’s stunning fretwork.

“Lady of the Valley” is pretty impressive.  It’s the “epic” I suppose, 6 1/2 minutes in length.  The riff is choppy and smoking, and the rhythm section of James LoMenzo and Greg D’Angelo is spot-in.  Then Bratta gets his echoey acoustic guitar out and the song mutates.  An anthemic chorus tops a great song.

Side Two of the album was packed with singles:  the hits “Wait”, “Tell Me”, and “When the Chrildren Cry”.  “Wait” and “Tell Me” are both songs that Bon Jovi would have given their nuts to write.  Tramp’s raspy vocals are absolutely perfect, as was his blonde mane, and the girls went wild.  “When the Children Cry” was and still is an impressive acoustic performance.  Even in 1987 I was impressed that White Lion chose to forgo drums and backing instrumentation.  This simple, quiet song is the template for what Extreme would do three years later with “More Than Words”.  Bratta was a guitar player able to pull off such an arrangement without sacrificing integrity.

The album is rounded out by “All Join Our Hands” and “All You Need Is Rock N Roll”, two odes to the greatest music ever invented.  “All You Need Is Rock N Roll” is quite cool, beginning with what sounds like a drunken acoustic jam, and ending with with some killer bluesy playing from everyone.  Both songs are great.  I have always felt that the album tracks were as strong as the singles; like an album of 10 singles.

Shame about the sound and the lyrics, though.

 3.5/5 stars

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52 comments

  1. Have this album but haven’t listened to it much yet. It’s in the “to do” pile!

    Have you heard the Freak of Nature records?

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    1. No I have never heard any Tramp, Freak of Nature, or White Lion “reunion” records (which I don’t count as White Lion since Tramp’s the only member involved.)

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      1. Oooh you should seek out the FoN albums: they’re superb. Particularly the first (self titled) one. Let me know if you need the tunes.

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        1. Yup. Love that first record. Features heavily on my docking station*.

          *I wish I could say turntable -sighs-

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        2. Still wondering what HMO has against Tramp’s face. After watching that Freaks of Nature video, it’s his samurai hair I have issues with!

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        3. I avoided all videos of them for fear that it makes me laugh and/or roll my eyes so much that I’ll never be able to listen to the album again!

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        4. I’d beg to differ. I think that FoN were a really crappy band. Tramp was always a lousy singer, but sounds even worse when he tries to be grunge.

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        5. Nope. He actually released a White Lion album called Return Of The Pride. What a dork. He played Sweden Rock with his new White Lion after that album and they blew. Just like ROTP did. However, he did release a solo album called Capricorn which was quite good. Would have been better with a different singer, though. ;-)

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        1. Hahah, WHAT?

          In the second White Lion review I’ll be discussing Tramp’s PANTS…but I never had any issues with his face!

          Plus…LoMenzo!

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        2. I don’t know… I can’t articulate it… his face just annoys me. And the less I know about his pants the better. Although I have seen a photo of him posing when he was a teenager in tiny wee shorts. It was extremely upsetting and is now seared into my mind’s eye.

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  2. Great review! White Lion and Tesla were the two bands I dug the must during that time period and I think it had a lot to do with the authentic musicianship and acoustic/electric guitar interplay. Other “hair” bands used acoustic guitars too, of course, but Tesla and White Lion blended the two styles—often times simultaneously—to much greater effect. And each band wasn’t afraid to go dark and epic—Tesla with “Modern Day Cowboy” and “Flight to Nowhere” and White Lion with “Lady of the Valley” and “If My Mind Is Evil.” If Mike Tramp had been less of a pretty boy, I suspect White Lion would have garnered a tad bit more respect.

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    1. Tesla, yeah, absolutely! I was into both bands at the same time. Both of them had some kind of musical integrity that only comes from being excellent at your instruments.

      For me, I thought Love Song by Tesla was friggin’ epic. Frankie Hannon’s solo blows my doors off every time!

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  3. Yeah I agree with John watching those videos is a chore. I can see HMO’s face hate here, I don’t have a problem with it. If I didn’t know any better I would have thought Tramp but on a dark wig and played the chick in the video. The thing that always bugged me about some of this style of music, is that the singer always looks so infuriatingly earnest. Like I’m wearing these tight pants and my hair looks fantastic and I write these very serious lyrics, as I fix the camera with my sultry stare and pump my hips in an air humping motion.

    Tinseltown Rebellion baby!!

    That being said the songs were damn catchy and I liked this at the time.

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    1. OK, I get the face hate since you put it that way. In no way though does it out-weight my pants hate, which we will discuss in further detail next review. I promise.

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  4. Like everyone well most people back in 88 I bought this…it was ok,I mean I think 88 was when they kicked in with the sales!
    Overall Mike I’m with u on the lyrics(dumb) and the music good……production totally weak to the point I could not even fathom on listening to it now!
    That second record Big Game whoa man what a dud! Bought it and the only song I remember now is the Golden Earring cover!
    Now the third Mane Attraction just cooks that 8 minute opener Lights & Thunder was a scorcher..i dug this one immensely at the time and well the public did not……..too bad,the songs were crafted much better sound and production was good..and than they fizzled!

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    1. Nice one buddy!

      However not to put a spoiler on it…we may disagree a bit about the next album!

      I have not listened to Mane Attraction in a while, in fact I don’t even have it ripped to my computer. I always found it a bit soft (except for some of the songs you mentioned there). So maybe I’ll have to get it out of the pile for reviewing.

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  5. I totally adored this album when it came out. Loved it. But it hasn’t aged allt hat well. As you mentioned, the production is really bad. Sounds like a demo which is weird as Wagener produced it. Wagener is a metal guy. What the fluck happened? He did Skid Row for chriss sake.
    But what has always annoyed me the most is Mike Tramp. I mean, I get it why the chick loves him, but the guy can’t sing for shit. He must be one of the lousiest singers ever. It’s beyond me that three killer musicians like Bratta, Lomenzo and D’Angelo would wanna back up someone like him. The lyrics is also really embarrasing, but there are some really great songs on here. Not the ballad, though. Really, really crap.
    I think that Pride is the only decent White Lion album. Their debut, Fight To Survive had its moments but was uneven and the follow up, Big Game… Jeez. That’s a horrible album. Not one decent song on the entire album. Mane Attraction was ok, though.
    Such a shame a talent like Vito Bratta quit music. The three of them could have continued with a new singer. Could have been great.

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    1. Jon, just letting you know, get the chainsaw ready for tomorrow. You won’t agree with me too much :)

      Tramp was a really pretty boy, and he was the perfect frontman for that era. He fit into the pants, and his hair was perfect. Who didn’t want hair like that back in 87? I know I did (although I was told I looked like LoMenzo; I was fine with that).

      Vito Bratta is such a tremendous talent and I can’t stress that enough.

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      1. Oh Lord. You’re reviewing Big Game? Holy cow! It’s up there with Lost Highway in my book.
        Ok, the chainsaw is roaring in the background as we write. :-D

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        1. You hate it THAT much? I don’t want to get into this til tomorrow but I’m honestly surprised. Obviously it’s not as good as Pride, but still!

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        2. In intrigued! This outta be good.

          I promised Deke I’d look at Mane Attraction too. I’ll try to give it a listen this afternoon. I have not listened to it in many years.

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        3. Mane Attraction is for White Lion what Prisoners In Paradise was for Europe. A good album, but a huge compromise. At least when you consider how they’re sounding. Standard L.A. melodic hard rock. They shouldn’t sound like that.

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    1. White Lion were not really all that notable in the grand scheme of things. The bassist ended up in Megadeth for a while though. The drummer was in Anthrax on their first single.

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