WHITE LION – Big Game [Rock Candy Remastered & Reloaded]
Today – August 10, 2019 – is the 30th year anniversary of the release of WHITE LION‘s classic album “Big Game”, and we’re celebrating it at 0dayrox with the ‘Remastered & Reloaded‘ reissue by Rock Candy Records, the best sounding version you can find of this great LP including 3 bonus tracks.
For me, “Big Game” is the band’s peak album, both musically and songwriting, along with so many wonderful memories that still takes me back to my youth when I listen to it today. This is a disc that is never too far away from my player.
I could write a novel about how much “Big Game” was an influence in my teen years. White Lion were one of those bands that had a following. Guitar player Vito Bratta was all over the guitar magazines at the time (some writers billed him as the next Eddie Van Halen), but still many don’t mention them today when it comes to being one of the awesome bands in the late 1980s-1990s.
Whether fans lumped them in with the “One Hit Wonder” hair bands (which the band had several hits, debunking that theory), thanks to the power ballad infomercials on television, or just because they had a limited run, White Lion are one of the most underrated bands of that rock era.
Vito Bratta‘s melodic guitar work, Mike Tramp‘s signature style of vocals, and Greg D’Angelo‘s drumming on their records (let’s not forget James LoMenzo‘s solid bass work) showed a solid unit of musicianship; adding radio friendly songs, along with a heaviness that could appeal to the hard rock fans as well as the Top 40 radio listeners.
The problem with any commercially successful album is that at some point its follow up will be compared and judged not only economically, but also creatively. This was exactly the position White Lion were to face with the release of their third album “Big Game”.
The band had spent almost a year touring the world presenting previous LP ‘Pride’, and was immediately ushered back into the studio by their label and managers who were eager to capitalise on the success, so there was pressure to write and record in double quick time.
Working once again with trusted producer Michael Wagener, and recorded in Los Angeles, the band jumped head-first into material, written by Mike & Vito and arranged over an intense three day session. That they came up with a number of quality songs is testimony to their talent and tenacity.
“Goin’ Home Tonight” is perfect for the opening of the album as a whole, with its great riff along with the catchy chorus that I had sung along with many times.
Track two “Dirty Woman” has the typical 1980s sleazy rock lyrics that is a salute to the sunset strip in California, with bands like Ratt, Poison, or the David Lee Roth era of Van Halen in mind. And rocks.
“Little Fighter,” the first single from the album, is what made me run out and buy the album after seeing the music video on MTV. Many did not realize that the song is actually about a GreenPeace boat which was intentionally sabotaged and sunk by the French Secret Service. I used this song in my college English class for an assignment, where we had to find either a poem or a lyric about a not known event in history. I remember the teacher being impressed with the words, which shows the songwriting skills of Bratta and Tramp.
The name “Little Fighter” at the time, would have been great for a ’80s pro wrestler, where the song could have been used. The guitar work, along with the dynamics, makes it unique. This song was, for a while, my “Eye of The Tiger” — a theme song for me when it came out.
The ballad “Broken Home” is next, coming off of the three rocking songs. The lyrics, covering the social issues of child abuse, is another thing I liked about the band. The guitar solo comes in a little heavier, with a strong emotion that intensifies the song.
The next two tracks happen to be among my favorites from the whole band’s catalog. “Baby Be Mine” has a great groove with poetic lyrics to it. This song takes the typical guy trying to chase the girl, with the dynamics of a lighter music tone at first, then kicks it hard during the chorus. The song stops coming out of the bridge after the solo, fooling the listener that the track is done, then kicks back in with emotion and power again. This song is jam fest. The production at the end of the song gives an extra feel, along with the drums cutting out except for the cymbal crashes into the fade out.
Then “Livin On The Edge” has a bluesy hard rock edge to it. Much like “Little Fighter,” it gave me the strength and grit to go through whatever I was dealing with at the time. The song is an anthem to us underdogs to just keep moving and chug away until a break comes.
“Let’s Get Crazy” starts off similar to “Detroit Rock City” by KISS, with a distant opening before the song kicks in. Overall, the song is like a tribute to Van Halen‘s “Hot For Teacher,” with Vito‘s skillful fingers all over the fret board. This is a four and a half minute train ride that steams through with a catchy sing along chorus.
Another favoriter comes with “Don’t Say It’s Over”, a winner, radio friendly song with a quick ending, as opposed to a fade out. The melodic solo by Bratta is superb.
With “If My Mind Is Evil” the band show its diversity. The lyrical phrasing is different than the other songs.
The creative cover of Golden Earring’s “Radar Love” comes in at track ten, and became a successful single for White Lion. It’s by far a more hard rocking version than the original, highlighting Bratta’s guitar and the drumming of D’Angelo. Even though it’s a cover, this is a great version to prove critics wrong about the underrated musicianship of the band.
The final track, “Cry For Freedom,” goes back to the social issues. The rhythm groove makes the song for me, and after the five minute mark, when the listener thinks the song is over, the song fades back in with a short instrumental jam, where drums goes into a march playing style, which fights since the song is about war. This is a really good ender on the album.
At the time of “Big Game” release, White Lion had it all for me — quality musicians, powerful songs, and a strong vocalist / frontman in Mike Tramp – in a time where many bands needed a good looking, long haired singer to front the bands for the image aspect, but his voice was unique which set him apart from the pack.
They mixed ballads with rockers and radio friendly songs, along with solid lyrics and catchy choruses, and I think “Big Game” was the perfect collection coming off of the success of ‘Pride’.
Rock Candy’s treatment on “Big Game” is a bit quiet. Everything sounds fine, yet I would preferred a more ‘punchy’ output. Anyway, it blows out of the water the flat original CD edition.
And we have 3 bonus tracks; two hot live recordings, and the little gem “When The Children Cry (Live in Rehearsal)”. It does not sound like a live track, but more like studio recording (and I like this way), featuring the famous song in an ‘electric’ version, with drums, bass and electric (great) guitar.
“Big Game” is mandatory in your ’80s collection, oh yeah.
01 – Goin’ Home Tonight
02 – Dirty Woman
03 – Little Fighter
04 – Broken Home
05 – Baby Be Mine
06 – Living on the Edge
07 – Let’s Get Crazy
08 – Don’t Say It’s Over
09 – If My Mind Is Evil
10 – Radar Love
11 – Cry for Freedom
12 – Wait (Live)
13 – All Join Our Hands (Live)
14 – When The Children Cry (Live In Rehearsal)
Mike Tramp – vocals
Vito Bratta – guitars
James Lomenzo – bass
Greg D’Angelo – drums
BUY IT !