White Lion – Return Of The Pride (2008, Frontiers/Airline Records)
- Sangre De Cristo
- Live Your Life
- Set Me Free
- I Will
- Battle Of Little Big Horn
- Never Let You Go
- Gonna Do It My Way
- Finally See The Light
- Let Me Be Me
- Wait (live)*
- When The Children Cry (live)*
Mike Tramp – Lead Vocals
Claus Langeskov – Bass
Jamie Law – Guitars
Troy Patrick Farrell – Drums
Henning Wanner – Keyboards
Produced by: Mike Tramp & Claus Langeskov
Total Time = 63:29
When singer Mike Tramp announced that a new White Lion album would be released in 2008, many in the Hard Rock community thought that a reunion of Tramp and guitarist Vito Bratta was on the horizon. Bratta still had a controlling interest in the White Lion franchise and Tramp needed his involvement and/or permission to use the band name without any problems. Unfortunately, Vito decided to continue his reclusive life away from music and Tramp was able to use the brand that they both made famous with hit singles ‘Wait’ and ‘When the Children Cry’.
So what does White Lion 2008 have to offer? An updated sound for one thing. Mike Tramp has maintained a solo career all these years, as well as, having another band called Freak Of Nature. Both outlets are Hard Rock but they contain a more modern and heavier style than the slick and polished classic White Lion hit machine. Overall, there are classic White Lion influences and a lot of that has to do with the familiarity of Tramp’s singing voice but there also some melodic touches that add an ’80s inspired flavor to the aggressive contemporary Hard Rock the new White Lion is creating.
The album starts off with the 9 minute progressive epic ‘Sangre De Cristo’ that combines acoustic interludes and harmonies with a faster rough guitar base. With their pedigree, you don’t really expect White Lion to start with such an adventurous song but the band is following a similar formula, at least length wise, as they did on 1991’s MANE ATTRACTION with ‘Lights And Thunder’. ‘Dream’ is a mid-paced track that takes us back about 20 years for a quick look back at prime White Lion with big harmonies and a crunchier guitar sound. You can hear the miles added to Tramp’s voice from years of service, it’s got a gritty depth to it instead of the high pitch golden voice from songs like ‘Wait’ and Jamie Law’s guitar solo is particularly good. I’m not sure about ‘Live Your Life’, it sounds like a Green Day song with it’s Pop-Punk style and the simple repetitive chorus, not my cup of tea. The chorus sticks in your mind as easy sing-a-long fun but the song is out of place after the two opening songs.
More old school White Lion shows up on ‘Set Me Free’ with it’s quiet moody intro moving into a rough and ready rocker with solid harmonies and smoldering guitar. So much has been made of Vito Bratta not being involved with the resurrection of the band but Jamie Law has done a superb job of handling the guitar duties and he is the shining star so far on this new album. Another low-key intro opens ‘I Will’ with a simple keyboard and vocal moving into a mid-tempo groove. This is another ’80s influenced song that really comes across as a bouncy, uplifting affair due to that main keyboard line but it has that modern rock sound. The topic is Tramp singing of a father/son relationship and the dedication of each to the other…..sounds like a song that would fit on his solo album CAPRICORN (1997). The second epic on RETURN OF THE PRIDE is ‘Battle Of Little Big Horn’ and, although ambitious, sounds out of place as a White Lion song. When I listen to White Lion, I expect more upbeat fare rather than this dark brooding tale of General Custer’s last stand, this is Iron Maiden subject matter! After being bored by the second epic, it’s good to hear Tramp and the band return to more familiar territory with the first ballad of the album, ‘Never Let You Go’. It’s a piano based song with a solid vocal and good harmonies at the chorus, I’d say it’s similar to the classic sound.
Jamie Law returns the focus to guitar driven rock with ‘Gonna Do It My Way’, a fast rocker that sounds like it could have come from the PRIDE/BIG GAME era. The main riff is unmistakably ’80s based and the chorus has big background vocals, it’s exactly what I expected from a new White Lion record and is one of my favorites. A quick drum intro by Troy Patrick Farrell starts ‘Finally See The Light’ and the song moves into another guitar song that has major keyboard support. Once the chorus hits, it’s an obvious ’80s influenced song with the fat harmonies and keys but the guitar tone keeps it from being totally retro. The chorus has that hook that made White Lion a late ’80s powerhouse, the only drawback is that the keys detract from another great Law solo. The original material ends with the uptempo rocker ‘Let Me Be Me’, another guitar rocker that sounds like a mix between the classic band sound and Mike’s later work, more solid guitar from Jamie Law.
The album was originally released in Europe on Frontiers Records but my copy is the U.S. release on Airline Records. This version has two live bonus tracks: ‘Wait’ and ‘When The Children Cry’…..obviously catering to the familiarity of the American audience. These songs are fine, nothing overly special…..I’d rather have the original song, ‘Take Me Home’, that is the bonus song on the European edition via Frontiers.
I honestly didn’t expect too much from this new White Lion record. With all the controversy between Tramp and Bratta, and the new band being Mike Tramp fronting all new members, I figured this would be a total train wreck. Surprisingly, there is new life in an old band and this is a solid record. Jamie Law has proven that he can handle his own on guitar and step out of the long shadow of original axeslinger Bratta and the rest of the band provides a solid base for Tramp and Law to stand on. Mike Tramp has had a decent solo career under his own name and Freak Of Nature so he is still on his game creatively by bridging what people expect from White Lion and what he has been doing since the glory days. The whole record has an updated, guitar based sound that uses the ’80s roots as a compliment, what is here is solid songs with solid performances. There are a couple of clunkers with the boring ‘Battle Of Little Big Horn’ and the Pop-Punk ‘Live Your Life’ but the rest of the originals make up for them. I could also do without the two live tracks and get the Euro bonus track instead but I didn’t do my research when the album had it’s U.S. release. I would have ordered the Frontiers version online had I looked into it more closely.
Favorite songs: ‘Gonna Do It My Way’, ‘Sangre De Cristo’, ‘Never Let You Go’, ‘Dream’