Before I get started on the review…
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.
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.