The music to Big Game was written by Vito in dressing rooms during the Pride tour. It was important for the label Atlantic Records to get a new album out so that they could capitalise on the success of the Pride album.
It was released in August 1989 and it was produced by Michael Wagener who also did the successful Pride album. The album turns 24 years this year.
Coming into this album – the White Lion story was as follows; play as many club gigs as you can with the hope to get signed. They got signed by a major (Elektra Records) and then got dumped by that same label.
They released Fight To Survive independently, which then led them to another major label (Atlantic) and the multi platinum Pride album with the hit single Wait that was on MTV rotation every six minutes.
They where promoted as pretty boys in tight leathers however amid all the catchy hooks and technical riffs, where some serious themes. El Salvador appeared on Fight To Survive, the anti war ballad When The Children Cry appeared on Pride and now on Big Game, you have the band talking about apartheid (Cry For Freedom), religion (If My Mind Is Evil), Greenpeace and the Rainbow Warrior (Little Fighter) and violence in the family (Broken Home).
Goin Home Tonight – The first thing that you hear is that wonderful 12 sting A major arpeggiated intro moving from A to E to D like Randy Rhoad’s Crazy Train. As an artist I really appreciate it when other artists bring in the major key to rock and metal music. It’s easy to remain in the dark sad, minor key.
I’ve been in this hell forever
I don’t even know how long
And there were times I thought I never
Would hold you in my arms again
Life on the road is like hell. You are living with four to five guys that you may or may not like. It’s hard enough holding a relationship without having any issues. Eventually you just want to be home, with your missus and your family.
And you will keep me warm at night
And you will make me live again
Yes I’m going home tonight and
You’ll be waiting
The history of music is littered with songs about the road. The most famous ones are Turn The Page, Home Sweet Home and Wanted Dead Or Alive. The solo is breathtaking to say the least. Solo’s when done right, enhance the song. I compare this solo to what Randy Rhoads did in Crazy Train. Again its over similar chord progressions and it has the tapping/legato feel that Randy Rhoads achieved.
In this track Vito Bratta used the Steinberger TransTrem so the song is in the key of F# instead of E. This is a great song. The issue that a lot of people could have had with the band is that they where not sure if they where a party band or a serious band. Musically the White Lion music is serious and in a way technical, however Mike Tramp’s lyrics can really let the song down. On this track it is all spot on. Even though the song is about the Rainbow Warrior Greenpeace ship, anyone can relate to it. Any person that has been down trodden, abused and down and out for the count can relate to it.
You were one of a kind
One who’d never give it up
Any musician out there trying to make it you need to be the one that never gives up.
Rise again little fighter and let the world know the reason why
That’s all we are in life, fighters. We fight from the day we are born to breathe, to grow, to learn and to be somebody. Andy Warhol said that every person will experience 15 minutes of fame in their life and that is what so many strive for these days. Fame.
Broken Home – Broken Home is a song about violence in the family. It’s another serious topic Tramp is tackling.
The acoustic guitar playing from Bratta is brilliant and smooth and you don’t even hear his fingers shifting like you do on more amateur guitarists like me. I hate recording acoustic guitars.
Lyrically the first 4 songs deal with life on the road, sex, Greenpeace and violence in the family. I like that variation in a band.
Cry For Freedom is like Little Fighter, another political song, this time about apartheid in South Africa. The below is from the September 1989 Guitar World interview.
GW Brad Tolinski: The strains of folk music in Cry For Freedom are suprising.
Bratta: It wasn’t really calculated, but what I wanted to create was something like a compilation record where every song sounded like a different band.
GW Brad Tolinski: Because of the dramatic nature of Cry For Freedom it would have been easy to play a corny clichéd solo in the upper register. You show a lot of maturity and restraint by inserting that bruising low end riff instead.
Bratta: If I wrote an entire record and didn’t hear a solo in my head, there wouldn’t be one. In Cry For Freedom I wanted to lull the listener into a daydream then shake them up and punch them in the nose. It’s hard to create the tension found on Cry For Freedom.
Cliched Songs with Great Bratta Moments
Dirty Woman – again the major key intro, this time in the Key of F, moving from F to G, then the minor key sexual boogie in the key of Dm and back to the majors for the Jazz influenced verses. So many different styles fused so effortlessly.
The Jimi Hendrix E7#9 bridge/solo/bridge/solo progression references the good old 12 bar blues vocal and response. In the second solo, where it’s got the six notes per quarter, John Petrucci used the same style of lick for Caught In A Web.
Living On The Edge follows a similar theme to Goin Home Tonight, but in this case, it’s the start of the journey. It looks Mike Tramp was referencing his life, by packing his bags and heading over the US to start his RNR dream. I see it as just hitting the road and playing show after show. As is the case with Bratta, he delivers a super melodic solo section for a mediocre song.
Don’t Say It’s Over has a killer solo section from Bratta, however its hard to get into this song. The album is all over with its mixed messages to everyone, Goin Home Tonight is about returning home to a loved one, Dirty Woman is about getting down and dirty, this one is about a break up and Baby Be Mine is about keeping the romance together. If you want to listen to break up songs, listen to Phil Collins – Face Value album.
If My Mind Is Evil has a killer heavy riff and is one of the heaviest songs White Lion has recorded. It just doesn’t do anything lyrically for me. It sounds ridiculous to be honest. Then the solo comes in, all classical and smooth for 10 seconds and then all sinister and evil. What contrasts.
Album Filler Songs
Baby Be Mine, Radar Love and Let’s Get Crazy
Its always hard to follow up an album that goes gangbusters. White Lion delivered a more mature album in Big Game, however the fans that got into White Lion via the Pride album didn’t really resonate with this album. They wanted the sugar pop hits like Wait however the band didn’t even come close to writing a song like Wait on this album.