White Lion – Return Of The Pride (2008)

White Lion – Return Of The Pride (2008, Frontiers/Airline Records)

  1. Sangre De Cristo
  2. Dream
  3. Live Your Life
  4. Set Me Free
  5. I Will
  6. Battle Of Little Big Horn
  7. Never Let You Go
  8. Gonna Do It My Way
  9. Finally See The Light
  10. Let Me Be Me
  11. Wait (live)*
  12. When The Children Cry (live)*

Band Lineup:
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

White Lion official website
Mike Tramp official website
White Lion MySpace page
Frontiers Records

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.

Bottom Line:
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’

Sunday Spins – 7/20/08

Combine a day off with temperatures climbing past 95 degrees and high humidity and you get a nice Summer day in Rhode Island. It’s a day to relax…..forget all the errands, all the housework, and just do what you want. My wife and kids are doing just that and, with a check of any “man of the house” duties, I am free and clear to do my own thing too. Time for some music…..

Judas Priest – Nostradmaus (2008): I worked overnoght shift last night/this morning (12am-8am) and I played this twice on the MP3 player…..a nice way to kill almost four hours! I still think there is more to like on this album if you push your expectations aside.

Ayreon – 01011001 (2008): I’ve been in the music room since about 10am this morning and I have spun both discs of this album twice. I bought this latest Arjen Lucassen masterpiece the day it came out earlier in the year but I haven’t really listened. I gave this a couple of spins and put it in the pile, it’s excellent but there is so much going on musically that you really need to sit down and listen, it’s not background music at all.

White Lion – Return Of The Pride (2008): I admit to liking White Lion back in the day and I still give their albums a spin from time to time. I followed Mike Tramp’s solo career not as closely but a new album under the “White Lion” banner had me interested. I’ve had this since it came out and only gave it a couple of spins.

U.D.O. – Mastercutor (2007): I am a very stupid man! I passed on this album time and time again all of last year and I finally broke down and grabbed it back in January. Probably one of the best albums released in 2007 and that means it would have easily been in my Top Albums list. Rene…..you were right, excellent CD!

The Who – Quadrophenia (1973): My current obsession with The Who has nothing to do with the current accolades the band is getting from VH-1 and other media outlets, it’s due to hearing a block of TOMMY songs during a “block party weekend” while on my vacation. Nothing is better than the local stations playing 3 or 4 tunes in a row from a certain band! ‘5:15’ has been one of my faves Who grooves for years.

KISS – Creatures Of The Night (1982): My second favorite KISS album and probably their most metallic.

CD Scavenger Hunt – 2 month update!

It’s hard to believe that the last CD Scavenger Hunt was way back at the end of April but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been out on CD safaris! I have been visiting the local shops but money has been tight (for everyone I think!) so I have only been picking up the major releases and a couple of used ones along the way.

I re-read all the Scavenger Hunts from this year over the weekend and I found two glaring omissions:

Benedictum – Seasons Of Tragedy (2008) – $13: I picked this up back in March when it received it’s U.S. release. The album was released everywhere else in late January ’08 but I wasn’t paying import prices for a Rainbow cover that’s the bonus on the European release. I became a fan of the band when I heard UNCREATION (2006) so I agonized over a month & a half wait, LOL!

Anvil – This Is Thirteen (2007) – $20: I picked this up back in March as well thru CD Inzane. The band are selling the album themselves thru their website but at a price of $25 (includes S&H), I found CD Inzane to have the best price with shipping and I was impressed by the quick delivery. My version is the limited edition version that the band is selling as they currently are without a label.

So now we’ve caught up on the really late CDs, lets move on to the rest that I’ve bought since the end of April…..

Sledgehammer Ledge – s/t (1992) – $20: I found out about Sledgehammer Ledge about a year ago when I found this album on CD Baby. I liked the samples so I added it to my wishlist and that was that. A couple of months ago, I decided to update my wishlist at CD Baby and I saw that this CD was out of print so I started checking Ebay. Turns out that this disc was going for $20-$30 at auction so I waited to see if CD Baby would restock. I finally got fed up and used BUY IT NOW to buy the album for $15 plus the $5 for shipping.

Dokken – Lightning Strikes Again (2008) – $13: Another case of the European edition being available before the U.S. release…..I ordered the Euro edition from an online shop I usually frequent but there was a stocking problem so i cancelled my order. With shipping, the total cost was going to be $20 but there was a bonus track called ‘Sunset Superstar’. I decided to wait the extra month and saved the seven dollars but it would have been nice to have had the Euro edition right away.

Brother Firetribe – Heart Full Of Fire (2008) – $10: I’ve been wanting to check out Brother Firetribe since 2006 when I read many positive reviews on their album FALSE METAL. I’ve never heard much fron the band except for a few samples and some songs at their MySpace page but I couldn’t pass up the sale price and I grabbed my copy when I picked up the new Dokken.

White Lion – Return Of The Pride (2008) – $13: I’m a sucker for ’80s Hard Rock bands that were big on MTV and White Lion is no exception. My high school years were filled with songs like ‘When the Children Cry’ and ‘Wait’ so I have a soft spot when it comes to White Lion. I waited to buy this album because I read mixed reviews but I found this a few weeks after it’s initial release with a sale sticker attached! It rang up $17 but the sale sticker got me $4 off! I still haven’t listened to it…..

Royal Hunt – Paradox II: Collision Course (2008) – $10: Another album that has been out in Europe and Japan since late 2007/early 2008 and didn’t get a U.S. release until the end of May! I wish these albums could get released in all the territories around the same time! I couldn’t pass up the sale price and I’ve been a Royal Hunt fan since 1997 so I’m very interested in how new frontman Mark Boals (ex-Yngwie Malmsteen) sounds.

Journey – Revelation (2008) – $11.88: If you’ve read the site before then you know I like me some good ol’ American AOR whether it’s Foreigner, REO Speedwagon, Sammy Hagar, or Journey. I’ve always liked Journey since I was a kid and I have very vivid memories of the radio and TV ads for the Providence tour stop on the FRONTIERS tour with the big emphasis on the band’s name (JOURNEY!!!) and a montage of their hits. Anyway, the new album is a 3 disc set available exclusively thru Wal-Mart with the debut of new singer Arnel Pineda on the new album, a CD of re-recorded hits with Arnel, and a live DVD from Las Vegas 2008. That’s major value for such a low price!