REVIEW: White Lion – Big Game (1989)

Before I get started on the review…

BIG GAME_0005

BIG GAME_0001WHITE LION – Big Game (1989 Atlantic)

When Big Game was released in 1989, hard rock was arguably at its 80’s commercial peak.  In comparison to the two-million selling Pride, Big Game was a disappointment at the cash register.  I believe this was an herald of the changing winds of rock, that would fully arrive in 1991.  At the time, it was more considered a sign that Big Game was weaker than Pride.  I don’t think that was the case.  Big Game remains today as enjoyable as Pride is, with plenty of great tunes to spare.

Pride‘s main weakness was its lyrics. Mike Tramp improved enough as a lyricist on Big Game that the words are no longer really an issue. He’s no Bob Dylan, but a lot of the immaturity has gone. An example is the first single “Little Fighter”. My best friend Bob assumed the song was a rallying cry about a person.  Tramp actually wrote it about the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior, which was sunk by France in 1985.  To his credit, Tramp figured out how to bring his politics to hard rock music without making it obvious to those who just want to rock out.

On the other hand, the lyrics to “Broken Home” are awkward and blunt, killing my enjoyment of the album at that moment.  While nobody in their right mind supports child abuse, the stark lyrics are simply not appropriate for a hard rock album like Big Game.  It’s impossible to sing along, impossible to ignore.  Right in the middle of Side One of the album, its momentum crashes and its not because of the music.

Fortunately, musically Big Game has more of that White Lion rock and roll that propelled them to stardom in 1987.  Anthemic rockers, lighter-ready ballads, and brilliant fluttery solos by Vito Bratta are in abundance.  Big Game doesn’t sound as dark as Pride, but it is also less heavy overall.  That said, “If My Mind Is Evil” is one of White Lion’s heaviest tunes.

Highlights:

The brilliant opener “Going Home Tonight”, an irresistible hard rocker.  The bright single “Little Fighter”.  “Living On the Edge”, a fun anthem not at all like the Aerosmith song.  “Don’t Say It’s Over”, a melancholy mid-tempo song that Bon Jovi would have given his left nut to write.  The stunning closer, “Cry For Freedom”, which is lyrically blunt but not as depressing as “Broken Home”.

I even like the Golden Earring cover, “Radar Love”.  The original is a radio classic of course, but White Lion did a pretty decent cover version thanks to Vito’s sublime guitar.  I thought the music video was pretty cool too.  Anything with a car chase, right? Thank God Mike Tramp is wearing jeans in this one. How many people did he scare away with his ridiculous pants (and dancing) in the “Little Fighter” video?

Since the album was considered a bit of a failure in some quarters, White Lion tried to change things up for the next album, Mane Attraction. That too failed to drum up sales, and after some lineup changes, they quickly disbanded.  Look for my Mane Attraction review in a matter of days.

3.5/5 stars

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44 comments

        1. Owls on my PJ pants…putting that out there. And no comment on women without pants, ’cause I know I’m a lady among the sauseege…

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        2. On the contrary, I think I feel inspired now to perhaps do a pajama pants gallery for future posting. All rock pants. I have enough to do a gallery, yes. AC/DC, Aerosmith, everything. Camo’s good for when I don’t want to be seen.

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        3. Brother, the hubs has anyone beat on AC/DC pj pants, I think. 4or 5 different pairs. Mine aren’t anything special. Just what I can get at Giant Tiger. But, when we’re home, it’s pj pants all the way.

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        4. I live in an apartment-style condo. We have a laundry room on each floor. No matter what floor I’m on, no man I have ever met in this building under the age of 50 has been wearing anything but pajama pants. Some women, but mostly men.

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        5. My mom would never let us wear pyjamas past 8:30 AM ever. Not even xmas day. Dressed and ready to fly by 8:30. I kept that up for years and years. It’s not until recently when I have started to embrace comfy pants. Screw it, who am I impressing in my own home? And it takes two seconds to put on jeans. I’m clean and showered – good enough!

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        6. You came from a pretty strict house if I remember you saying. Mine, no so strict, but to this day my mom doesn’t like me dressing comfy. Last birthday she bought me sandals and said, “This is so you don’t have to wear your stupid crocs anymore.” I love my Crocs. I started wearing them when I turned 40 and I’m not looking back!

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        7. To that I do have to say there are some rules my hubs and I live by: no track pants if we’re going out, unless we’re on our way to a med clinic, or we’re doing fix-it stuff outside. I don’t wear crocs out, but I do wear teva sandals. I don’t wear short shorts – bermudas or capris only. Those are my basics.

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        8. OK fair enough! I don’t own track pants so much as wear them, but my Crocs get worn to the drug store or gas station or whatever. And my mom’s house, which is the issue!

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    1. Dude, I’m finishing up my Mane Attraction review now…I took the chainsaw out myself for this one. I may have topped my infamous QRIII review. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

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      1. Really? You find Mane Attraction worse than this? Wow. I thought they managed to make a pretty decent come back after this one. I haven’t heard that album in ages though so I could be wrong.

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    1. I keep cracking myself up and adding more to it, it is shaping up to be quite an epic!

      Now that I’ve done the three albums I may as well finish and do Fight to Survive.

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    2. Deke I’m curious if I could get a comment from you about Tramp’s pants in the Little Fighter video. HMO can’t watch it from Scotland unfortunately. I don’t think I’m doing the pants justice.

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      1. Geezus those pants are aweful…like sumthin Roth would have thrown in the dumpster and Tramp later on dug out ……
        God and I’m supposed to try and explain some positives on Mane Attraction when I see a wardrobe malfunction like that??!
        Call him M.C Tramp Hammer!

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        1. Spoiler alert: you’ll be meeting Gord in a few weeks’ time right here, as he has given me permission to do a bit of a story and post some pics. He’s a guy who needs to be seen to be believed so I’m excited!

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  1. On a different topic, why would anyone write in pen on the inside of a CD cover? That would very much irritate me. Are these used CDs? Is that why? The only pen on a CD cover should be from the artist who created the music on the CD and is signing their John Henry on it.

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    1. I can answer that — to identify them as your property.

      If your CDs were stolen, and you found one for sale in a pawn shop, that’s how you would identify conclusively that it’s your property. Different people used different methods. Many, many, many WROTE their names on the FRONT cover. Most wrote their initials inside somewhere. Trevor had a better solution, which is he bought a bunch of small red dot stickers from Office Depot and wrote his initials on those, and stuck those somewhere unobtrusive inside the CD. They were easily removed without damaging the artwork.

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      1. Good explanation, thx!
        I guess I never worried terribly about that. Do you use any anti-theft ID in your collection? ( I mean, don’t tell me what it is specifically, that would defeat the purpose..lol).

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  2. VRRRROOOOOOOMMMM!!!! VRRROOOOOOOMMMMM!!!!
    Ah, here we go. Ole chainie is back for the ride. Mooooahahaha!
    My my my. Where do I start? well, I remember reading about this album in Sweden’s only music mag before it was released and they wrote it was the biggest pile of scheisse ever. Well, I was a White Lion fan, loved Pride and I wouldn’t hear of it, so I went out and bought the bugger anyway. Sure, Little Fighter was on Headbanger’s Ball and the song sure was no Wait, but good enuff, so I thought the mag was just getting grumpy or something.
    I smiled when Goin’ Home Tonight kicked of and thought, “Up yours, you useless writers”. Ha! Well, it all went downhill from there. Yeah, I liked Living On The Edge and I didn’t think the album was all crap, but man was I disappointed.
    I listened to this album just a couple of months ago and it hasn’t aged well. In fact, I couldn’t hear one single song that was even decent. And the sound sucks, even worse than Pride. Was Wagener on crack when he did this? And Mike Tramp couldn’t hold a tune to save his life, never could, never will. Vince Neil is Pavarotti next to him.
    This album is almost worse than Lost Highway. I’m sure this album was the last thing Vito Bratta listened to when he decided to quit music altogether. I understand that.
    Oh and about the writing on the CD booklet. I’m glad this album was useful for something…
    Was this my best chainsaw yet? :-D

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    1. VRRRRROOOM!

      I hope when you read my Mane Attraction review, you will see my perspective. I really don’t think Big Game is that bad. Sure it’s not as good as Pride in many respects, but Little Fighter is great. I prefer it to Wait, because I prefer the lyrics to just another love song.

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  3. As promised, Lebrain brings the goods. I’m-a check the youtubes for more of this stuff.

    And the writing in the booklet? That drives me INSANE!! Who frickin’ does that?!?!?!

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        1. Tom did! He embossed every CD with his initials. He gave me two of those CDs later on — a Queen tribute CD, and another tribute CD that I am forgetting at the moment. I’mma go look at Queen right now and see.

          OK, I must have apparently swapped out covers with another copy, because I no longer have the cover embossed with his initials. If I recall it was a big 1″ wide circle with his initials.

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