Top positive review
A different WL album from its predecessors and its follow-up
on September 6, 2003
Big Game, the third White Lion album released in 1989 on Atlantic Records, is by many ways different from its two predecessors, the debut Fight To Survive, and Pride, the band's breakthrough record from 1987. Also, while it contains some of the best White Lion songs such as "Broken Home", "Cry For Freedom", "Goin' Home Tonight" and the heavy rocker "If My Mind Is Evil", overall it sounds less focused than the band's last effort Mane Attraction (1991).
After the enormous success of Pride touring with bands like KISS, Y&T, Aerosmith and Ozzy Osbourne for over a year, most of the songs on Big Game were written on tour. Because the label pressured songwriters guitarist Vito Bratta and vocalist Mike Tramp, the counterparts didn't have much time on their hands to really sit and release a fully focused album. Atlantic Records was obviously aware of the fact that anything this band would release after the amazing Pride would sell at least a million - and it did. But it lacked the punch Pride had. Big Game is the only WL album that didn't have big hits except "Little Fighter", a beautiful song dedicated to the Rainbow Warrior, a ship which was sunk in the Gulf War.
Despite all these disadvantages, Vito did manage to write some of the most melodic guitar solos complemented by his awesome two hand tapping technique and his articulate phrasing. Simply incredible. I may sound biased here, since Vito Bratta is my all time favourite guitar player and songwriter. But the fact still remains. He was a very different guitarist compared to his contemporaries. His tone was one of a kind and even the smallest riff contained the strongest melody. If you like melodic guitar playing with a very clean tone and have never heard of Vito Bratta, then be ready to discover the most underrated guitarist of the 80's. Vito unfortunately was one of the few players out there that never got the attention he deserved. Be it Fight To Survive, Pride, Big Game or Mane Attraction, he played some of the most tasteful and articulate guitar I've ever heard, from classical rock to melodic 80's metal.
Mike Tramp's lyrics on some songs are perhaps not what White Lion was about. I believe the reason for songs like "Dirty Woman" and "Baby Be Mine" was again the lack of concentration due to the incessant touring. The duo didn't find the time to complete the album like they did on Pride and Mane Attraction.
"Goin' Home" opens the album with its slow but haunting melodies supported by Tramp's somewhat sad voice. Obviously it's a song about the band being on tour all the time and needing a break. The solo in the song is possibly one of the greatest Vito has ever played. Even though Vito has been off the music business for over 11 years now, interesting enough I still see posts about this solo on various guitar forums. It is a slow, emotional and haunting solo and it sounds so natural. Nothing forced there. Tramp's lyrics on the song "Broken Home" depict the tragedy of a family from a little child's point of view. I think it is safe to say his deep voice never sounded more hauting before. The song shows a surprising change in tone as Vito enters with his sharp solo and I must admit my eyes filled with tears many, many times on this one. "Little Fighter" was the band's big hit from Big Game and while the video of it wasn't all that interesting Mike and Vito's collaboration on songwriting truly shows here. The two of them were simply incredible. They were perhaps the greatest duo in the 80's writing unbelievably beautiful songs from making you happy with laughter and cry with sadness. No matter how hard I try I cannot stress the importance of White Lion in my life. My musical tastes have changed and progressed heavily over the years but I still consider White Lion and all their albums special.
"Cry For Freedom" shows Tramp's vulnerable side. Tramp has always been one to speak his mind about social and political changes happening in the world. The lyrics of this song were written about what was going on in South Africa during the apartheid. Also the video of this song happens to be one of my favourite WL videos. Too bad it never got airplay on MTV back in the day simply because they were too busy playing "party hard drink a lot" glam songs. This is one of the biggest aspects of White Lion that set them apart from their contemporaries. They wrote "All The Fallen Man", "El Salvador" and "The Road To Valhalla" on their debut Fight To Survive; "Lady of the Valley", "When The Children Cry" and "All Join Our Hands" on Pride; and "Lights & Thunder" and "Warsong" on Mane Attraction. As for Big Game, they offered "Little Fighter", "Broken Home", "If My Mind Is Evil" and "Cry For Freedom". "If My Mind Is Evil" is perhaps the heaviest on the record showcasing Bratta's technique. Vito was never one to show his chops but his solos on this album definitely prove what he was capable of. The album also contains a cover song called "Radar Love" with a beautiful drum solo by Greg D'Angelo. Also I must address the fat bassline in "If My Mind Is Evil", bassist James Lomenzo never expressed himself better. Great rhythm section overall.
I personally rank BG after Pride and Mane Attraction but by no means consider it a poor effort. On the contrary, despite its weak points, it at least tried to bring new perspectives on the table, which again makes White Lion simply more than a "hair band".
I recommend checking out Pride for its heaviness and in your face type of sincerity, Mane Attraction for its focused and polished song writing, Fight To Survive for its unbelievably heavy approach and last but not least Big Game for its versatility and Vito's beautiful melodies enriched by Tramp's deep and emotional vocals.