Released on June 21, 1987 (Atlantic Records)
In the past 17 or so years, I have grown into a pretty big Mike Tramp fan. The solo side of Mike Tramp that is. Back in 2000, I picked up several copies of his debut solo release Capricorn for a downtown music store I owned and the house copy rocked so hard in-store that it ended up in my car player and eventually everywhere I went. Capricorn was just one of those right releases for the right time in my life. This would be a reoccurring theme in my life — Mike Tramp popping up at just the right time.
Fifteen years earlier, I was just out of high school and managed to get my hands on a cassette copy of White Lion’s Fight To Survive. As a singer myself, I have to admit that it took me a minute to get used to Tramp’s voice but the songs were just so good! By then, the world was full of Eddie Van Halen clones but most were pretty much just speed and no soul. Guitarist Vito Bratta was a breath of fresh air, full of chops but also full of choice melodies. Fight To Survive featured several songs that helped to lift me up during what would turn out to be a trying time in my life. The fact that , bass player for one of my all-time fave bands Angel, was involved in the band at the time, didn’t hurt either.
Fast forward a couple of years and I’m at home after a crappy day at work, freshly married with a kid, and there’s a knock on the door followed by “Dude, open the door, you gotta hear this!” Turns out what my pal Bryan wanted me to hear so bad was the then new White Lion release Pride. Knowing I was already a fan, Bryan just had to grab the cool factor by being the one to turn me on to the band’s sophomore release. Sure enough, after a rough year to date, Pride was not only a must listen but also helped jump start my attitude and self-esteem.
By now the world knows the story of the Pride album. How it barely made a dent in music until MTV started playing debut single “Wait” in regular rotation almost six months after its release. By then tracks like “Don’t Give Up” and “All You Need Is Rock An’ Roll” were part of the soundtrack giving me the push out of bed in the morning to take on the world. Still young and with no money, I had rock and roll and for some of us, that’s almost as essential to life as blood and oxygen. Throw in the inspirational story of Tramp moving to a new country and it was story I could relate to. As a military brat, I’d spent half my life moving to a new country. The fact that White Lion literally had to fight to survive only to end up with one of the biggest albums in the world only adds to the tale. This is the stuff of Rocky Balboa, only in the form of rock and roll.
The beauty of Pride lies not just in the amazing musical performances contained on the album, but the songs themselves. Every ’80s rock fan is familiar with singles “Wait” and “Tell Me” with themes based on the struggles of young love already made popular by bands like Bon Jovi but third single “When the Children Cry” was a whole other animal. Where typically ’80s bands stuck to a formula of a syrupy love ballad for a second single, White Lion saved the soft ballad for their third single and it was a far cry from being a tender love song. With its darker theme filled with a call for the young to save the world from the ashes of war and hate, ”When The Children Cry” proved White Lion a band with more underneath the hair than just loud guitars and looks. The serious themes of struggle and survival are prevalent on the album with tracks like “All Join Hands” and “Lady Of The Valley.” But despite some darker topics, Pride is chock full of catchy melodies with tons of hooks piled on for good measure.
Kicking off with the ferocious guitar-driven “Hungry” (a title perfect to kick off an album by a band named White Lion), the band immediately sticks out claws and fangs full force with a four minute mix of power, melody, sing-a-long vocals and a guitar solo to die for. Even with the magnificence of the other songs on Pride, it is hard to imagine any other tune kicking off the record.
“Lonely Nights” introduces the story telling side of White Lion, where the band exhibits a talent for presenting real to life motifs that connect with the audience. This keen ability would show up again in second single “Tell Me” and to a point in the album’s first single “Wait.” The one variance to this might be “Sweet Little Loving”, a catchy tune that is part tale / part fun rocker.
Featuring ten “all killer – no filler” songs, White Lion’s Pride, while not unique for a period filled with “complete” albums, stands as a record made by a young band showing a maturity rarely found in bands at the level. Despite comparisons to possible influences, there’s no confusing a White Lion song for another band. No one sings like Tramp, and even though the guitar style may have been influenced by Eddie Van Halen initially, Bratta’s feel takes it in a different direction. Matter of fact, if there is a shame to the story of Pride, it only lies in the fact that years later the world is not able to hear Bratta himself perform the songs. You can take any talented guitar player and put him on stage and the job might get done, but only one person can make it feel like it completely should.
While the world may never see the real White Lion take the stage again, it is still blessed with the continuing musical legacy of Mike Tramp. I’ve was honored to host Mike at my previous venue on a couple of occasions and the experience was priceless. His ability to connect with an audience via acoustic renditions of tracks from not only White Lion but Freak of Nature and his solo work is an experience not to be missed. To hear Mike talk about music, whether standing barefoot in a wet parking lot or over lunch, is just as amazing and real.
But maybe sometimes the story is easy to tell when it’s real. And in my opinion, that is the real Pride of White Lion’s second album.
02. Lonely Nights
03. Don’t Give Up
04. Sweet Little Loving
05. Lady of the Valley
07. All You Need is Rock ‘n’ Roll
08. Tell Me
09. All Join Hands
10. When the Children Cry
Mike Tramp – vocals
Vito Bratta – guitar
James Lomenzo– bass, background vocals
Greg D’Angelo – drums
Produced, engineered and mixed by Michael Wagener
Mastered by George Marino
White Lion‘s “When The Children Cry” video:
White Lion – When The Children Cry (Official Music Video) HD Widescreen
White Lion‘s Wait” video:
Label: Atlantic Records Album: Pride Promo Only Music Video Mike Tramp — Lead vocals Vito Bratta — Guitar James LoMenzo — Bass guitar Greg D’Angelo — drums
White Lion‘s “Tell Me” video:
© 2006 WMG Tell Me (Video)