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Vito Bratta: A Rock N Roll Technician That Got Lost In All The Noise

Vito Bratta is one of the most searched artists on the internet, especially around what he is doing right now. Like me, thousands of other people that visit this blog, can’t believe that a talent like Vito, just walked away from it all.

In order to understand why Vito Bratta walked away from it all and stopped writing music, I went back into the past and I started re-reading a lot of the interviews I have from him.

THE STATE OF SONGWRITING

In a “Guitar World” interview from July 1991, Vito had the following to say on the state of his guitar playing vs. song writing.

“A weird thing happened to me this year I started thinking less in terms of guitar and more about song writing. I’ve never been the kind of player to showboat, but more and more I’ve been concerning myself with structuring and orchestrating.

On the last record, everyone commented on my playing, but hardly anyone said anything about the songs. That really bothered me. This year people have been saying. “Man, that song killed me.” which I prefer. When I heard the last Van Halen record, my comment was. “It’s not Eddie any more, but the songs sure are great.” That’s the way it should be.”

Vito thought he needed to change to accommodate the expectations of the fans and the label. In the end, the fans didn’t want him to change. We loved him exactly as he was. His guitar playing made the songs.

So Vito changes the way he thinks around songwriting. The results don’t generate into sales. In 1991, success in the music business was relative to the sales of the record. The confidence and the self-doubt that comes with disappointment is enough to kill a career.

Brad Tolinski, the person who was conducting the interview mentioned to Vito that it seemed that he made a conscious effort to play differently on “Mane Attraction” and that there are less broken arpeggios and other styling’s that Vito is renowned for.

Vito answered that with the following words;

“I don’t play like myself on this record. My sound is much heavier. For example, the lead break on “The Warsong” marks one of the first times I really explored what I call those “Zakk Wylde Pentatonic’s” and “Ace Frehley Bends”. It was just a mood I was in. While on tour with Ozzy last year, we started feeling like we weren’t the hard rock band that we used to be. On this record I just wanted to rock out.”

Remember back in 2007, when Vito appeared on the Eddie Trunk show. One of the comments he made on that show, was that he realised during the “Big Game” tour, that White Lion need heavier songs that worked more in a live setting. So instead of having a mindset about writing songs, Vito now has a mindset that he needs to write better songs, heavier songs, rockier songs and songs that work in the live show.

Vito’s whole thought process is now putting unwanted pressure on the song writing process, which to me should be natural and not forced.

In the “Guitar World” interview from July 1991, Vito also said the same when Brad Tolinski mentioned, that he could understand why Vito is frustrated as the tonal subtleties of his best work, like the solos in “Wait” and “Little Fighter,” tend to get lost in an arena.

Vito responded with the following; “Yeah, I agree. But I think “The Warsong” will kick ass in any situation. The real subtle tasty stuff seems to get lost outside the studio, and that’s a real problem.”

This is an important distinction to make between bands that have gone through the stratosphere and bands that stagnated.

On the Justice tour, it was noted that Metallica fans were seen yawning during the longer complex songs from the Justice album. So what did Metallica do next? They released the monster known as the “Black” album. Shorter songs, less complex and songs that rocked hard.

All the Classic Rock bands used to perform their songs live before they recorded them. That is why all of those albums from the Seventies had songs that rocked hard in the studio and in the live arena. In the end a musician’s level of success depends on their ability to entertain. It is never about their level of technical proficiency. Bands like Kiss, Motley Crue, Metallica, Van Halen and Bon Jovi are mega successful in the business because they can entertain. Are they the most virtuosic bands out there. Of course not, however they have had a career at a level that the most virtuosic artist out there dreams to have.

THE PROBLEM WITH OVERTHINKING

Brad Tolinski mentioned that the “opening track, “Lights And Thunder,” is interesting. It’s epic in length and structurally complex, yet the solo is relatively simple and minimal.”

Vito responded with the following;
“The lead part is simple, but I think it fits. When I was listening to some of our old records, I noticed a few lead breaks that struck me as being inappropriate. It’s not that they were bad; in fact, most of them were melodic and performed well. But in retrospect, some of them struck me as being too busy or ornate. When I first played the lead to “Lights And Thunder,” I thought, “God, I can’t play that. It’s bullshit. It’s too easy.” But everybody in the studio loved it and told me to sleep on it and listen to it again when I was fresh. The next day I came in and thought, “It still doesn’t sound like anything I would play, but it sure fits the bill.”

He is not sure and he is doubtful. He is over analysing his past work. It is all counter-productive. The interview with Guitar World was in the issue from July 1991. By September 1991 it was all over. When you overthink things too much, you second guess everything you do and in the end, you lose your fire, the motivation that kept you hungry.

THE STATE OF HARD ROCK MUSIC

In the June, 1989 issue of “Kerrang”, Vito states the following on his views of the current state of hard rock;

“I know a lot of bands who’ll write a song and their guitar players will say I’ve got to do a lead break here, I’ve got to let rip there. It’s an ego thing. When I write, I say well, the song will sound better if I have an acoustic here or a clear sounding guitar, maybe no lead. I think it’s really annoying when a melodic song is ruined by a guitar player blasting away, it grates on my nerves.”

In an issue of “Guitar World”, dated July, 1991, Bratta more or less stated the same view point as he did a few years ago.

“You can see the guitarist thinking. “Forget the song, forget the band, I just want to get my name in Guitar World.” That’s not where it’s at anymore. Everybody can play these days.

While I was living in L.A. last year, I went into a local music store to pick up an issue of your magazine, and I heard this incredible guitar player. It turned out to be some little kid with his dad! I mean, he had twice the chops I had. He came up and asked for my autograph, and I said, “Sure, one minute.” Then I snuck out the back door before he had a chance to ask me to jam.

I’ve run into kids that can play “Wait” better than I can, but what’s the point? Being a technician is only part of the equation, and I’m trying to study the other half: song writing.

I hate it when people say things like, “I know you write songs that are heard by millions of people, but are you really happy?” I mean, yeah. Don’t be absurd. I want as many people as possible to hear the band. I’m convinced that the reason people like Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton and the reason why they have endured is that they have composed memorable songs as well as solos.”

I have always said that Grunge didn’t kill the hard rock / glam rock movement. The rock movement killed itself. Hard Rock in the Eighties started off with the first wave of L.A bands. Then the second wave of L.A bands came along with the Classic seventies rockers who started to rebrand themselves to fit the scene. Then the third wave came and the fourth and the fifth further diluting the pool. Every two years, new cities got identified as the next big hub. So the Record Labels swarmed and so many inferior derivative bands got signed, that in the end, it all imploded. The real good acts couldn’t be heard from all the noise of the crap acts.

The current state of affairs in the music business bothered Vito. It played on his mind. He was a technician trying to find out how he fitted into the current climate. Should he write they way he also had or should he change and adapt so that he can meet expectations placed on him.

Unfortunately, Vito gave in to the expectations. He gave in to all the leaches that made multiple millions from his hard work.

VITO BRATTA RIG 1991

The “Mane Attraction” record was done with his trusty Steinberger guitar. In the “Guitar World” interview from July 1991, Vito said that he was planning on using something different when White Lion goes on tour as the Steinberger was starting to bother him because it was almost too easy to play.

“I’m not fighting for the notes anymore and I miss that tension. This may sound bizarre, but if you give me a Les Paul or a Strat I’m lost, and that bums me out. Lately I’ve been using an old ESP Strat that I’ve had laying around, just to get me back in shape.”

His amplification was basically the same system he has used for the last few years. The heart of Vito’s rack consists primarily of three units: an ADA MP-1 preamp, a BBE 422A Sonic Maximizer and a Digitech DSP 256 multi effects processor. The system is powered by a Carvin FET Series amplifier, and a Rocktron Hush keeps the lid on any excess noise.

“It’s a relatively simple rig, but it’s very effective. I put it together with Michael Wagener, who produced Pride and Big Game.”

THE GUITAR WORLD REVIEW

Mane attraction is Top 40 stuff, for sure. But not quite as gooey as the usual radio fare more like what the Baby’s used to do. Except White Lion has Vito Bratta. Though you have to wade knee-deep through patently clichéd arena rock-ioms for that Bratta burn, when he does cut loose it’s worth turning up the volume knob a decibel or three. But in bands where song writing is the chief concern, really exceptional guitarists always end up getting be shrouded like a lace covered end table. Your little sister is gonna buy it, so borrow it when she’s watching Dance Fever. And try to figure out how Vito manages to retain his credibility.

It’s funny reading the Guitar World interview first and then the review (They both appeared in the same issue). In the interview, Vito is talking about how he wants people to say that the song knocked them out, and then you have the reviewer saying that you need to “wade knee deep through patently clichéd arena rock-ioms for that Bratta burn.”

TRIBUTE TO SRV

In the same Guitar World interview from 1991, Vito commented on his tribute to the late Stevie Ray Vaughan.

“”Blue Monday” was my way of paying tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan. I’m not really a lyricist, but I figured I could try to express my gratitude to him through my guitar. To this day I can’t even figure out why Stevie meant so much to me. He was just a guitarist, but his playing destroyed me. He was probably my favourite. You don’t really hear him in my playing, but I could listen to him night and day. I wasn’t trying to show off my blues chops. It was just a simple memorial to someone I admired very much. I don’t care if people think it’s the worst thing they’ve ever heard. It was my tribute to a great man.”

FINAL WORDS FROM MIKE TRAMP

Mike Tramp had the following to say on Vito in an interview with the website Metal Sludge; http://www.metalsludge.tv/?p=36727

“I had made a public statement that I was not willing to talk about all this anymore, and I don’t know what he is doing, but as far as Vito the guitar player and Vito the songwriter and musician, he was in a calibre all by himself. It shows in his great solos, and so many people love the way he played like Eddie with the hammer-ons and all that stuff like the Van Halen solo on “Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love.” I just love the way Vito played solos on “Wait” and “Little Fighter” and some of the others. He was like Mozart.

We tried to do new White Lions with Warren DeMartini and Paul Gilbert and all these others, and no one wanted to do Vito. He was unlike anyone else, he had his own way of doing thing, and plus he was a great songwriter. Had he remained in the business, Vito would have been bigger than Steve Vai and all those types of guys. With him the melody came before anything else, and that’s nothing but the highest praise. I loved the sound of his guitar and I loved writing songs with him and stuff like that, but we had nothing else in common, unfortunately. There isn’t any bad blood between us. It’s just frustrating that I’ve had to carry on White Lion all by myself 100 percent. I just want to set in on record once again: We were White Lion once, but never again. But as for Vito, I am surprised he isn’t a million percent bigger in the music business. I don’t have an answer. No one ever will.”

Could you imagine White Lion with Warren DeMartini on guitar or Paul Gilbert? Great players, however as Mike said, they wouldn’t touch Vito. He was better then all of them and the above words from Mike prove that. The difference between them is the mindset. Vito confused thought process with what was expected of him, instead of what he expected of himself. That is the difference between followers and leaders.

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Influenced, Music, My Stories

The Enigma That Is Vito Bratta – Will He Write New Music?

It’s 1991 and Vito Bratta is doing the rounds for the Mane Attraction album. White
Lion needed Mane Attraction to be rock solid, as the previous effort Big Game was classed as a disappointment by fans and critics. In order to understand the pressure that Vito placed on himself, we need to go back to 1989. This is what Vito Bratta said in the June 1989 issue of Kerrang magazine.

“I hate recording. I can’t stand it. I cant stand the pressures of writing and recording a record. If they told me tomorrow that i was going to go out on tour for fives years, i’d say, fine, i love it. Playing every night is what i love.” 

When Vito did the Eddie Trunk show in 2007, he had this to say about the expectations placed on them by the Record Label;

“So the record company’s saying we need another Pride.  I say, Ok, so what exactly does that mean?  The label goes we need the hit singles… I go listen the songs we gave you, on “Pride” weren’t hit singles written purposely to be to be hit singles. They were just songs that became hit singles and they were just songs we wrote.  Now you’ve got somebody telling you now you have to purposely write a hit single.  Now how do you do that?  How do you purposely write a hit single, I mean there are people out there that do that…”

It is clear that Vito hated this extra pressure layer that now existed in White Lion. So for Mane Attraction, Vito and singer Mike Tramp locked themselves in a small apartment and held marathon writing sessions. The idea was to escape all the distractions of managers, record labels and MTV.

In a Guitar World interview from the June 1991, Brad Tolinski asked Vito if Mane Attraction was difficult to make.

“In a way it was.  It was the first time I ever felt real pressure. When we recorded
our first record, Fight To Survive, we were real naive and just happy to have a deal. Our next record, Pride, was also very relaxed. It was written over a period of three years, so we had plenty of time to compose and experiment. Pride went double platinum, which was both good and bad. When we went to record the follow-up. Big Game, everyone told us, “Don’t worry, whatever you write will sell a million.” 

The feeling was too good on Big Game, and I think the album was soft. There wasn’t
any real fire or hunger on that record. We were playing arenas, getting big checks in the mail, getting calls that we were going platinum, and so on. The vibe was too relaxed and it showed. On top of that, we had convinced ourselves that we had to write hit singles in order to maintain our popularity, and in the end. Big Game was too contrived. It didn’t sell as well as Pride, because people knew something was lacking. It was a valuable lesson to learn. 

White Lion and Dream Theater had similar time frames for their breakthrough second albums. When you have time to fine tune the arrangements without any pressure, greatness will ensure.

So the buzz from Pride is dying down and the label wants another album. They tell the band that whatever they write, it will sell millions. It was a false reality. To me Big Game is a good progression from Pride, however I understand the comments that Vito made about the album and how the songs didn’t translate will in the live arena. In the end, all rock bands are live performers. This is what Vito had to say on the Eddie Trunk show;

““Big Game” was a setback for the Label. It didn’t sell as many. We were doing a headlining tour of Europe by ourselves for the Big Game album and they (the Label) said, “wouldn’t it be great if we played at Wembley with Motley Crue and Skid Row?” 

Skid Row went on and they were just killing the place. And Motley Crue had a great show and here we are sandwiched in between.

We realized, that night, on stage at Wembley that these songs from the Big Game album aren’t translating well in the live show because when you’ve got tens of thousands of angry British rockers out in the audience and if you don’t have a certain type of music; it just wasn’t working. So we all looked at each other on stage and said we need to throw in some of our better stuff in here. I was like what better stuff. We need to write more for who we are because these songs are not translating.  

Then we went back to the States and we told the record label, no more tours on this album.  We are going to do the album that we want to do.  And they said well considering how the last album went, they said “go ahead”.  They gave us unlimited funds.  Mane Attraction was a half a million dollar record.  They just said go and do everything that you want.”  

In the same June 1991, Guitar World interview, Vito goes onto say that the real pressure on Mane Attraction didn’t come from trying to write hit singles, but from wanting to find their original source of motivation and creativity.

“By coincidence we write songs that can be singles, because we’re still big fans of bands like Boston and Journey. But we wanted to let that other side through, the more experimental side that his its roots in music by Robin Trower, Frank Marino and Rush.

Right when we were finishing this album, the record company came to us and said, “Can you guys write another single for us?” Mike and I got so crazy that we wrote “The Warsong,” which is about as far away from a single as you can get. “

Vito put everything he had into Mane Attraction. He believed in it. He created the songs that he wanted to create. He made it clear that the band’s creativity wasn’t stifled in any way by the record label. So when it failed to connect with a large audience, I believe he threw his hands up in the air and just gave up. There was nothing more that he could give.

Going back to Vito’s comment about trying to recapture the original source of motivation and creativity.

When bands come out with ground breaking albums, they do so because of motivation. Motley Crue got sober and detached themselves from the LA scene, by moving to Vancouver. They were motivated to make a big statement. The end result was Dr Feelgood.

Metallica had a reputation as a live band and they were motivated to make an album that captured that live energy. The end result was the biggest Soundscan album.

I am not sure that music is the same if you’re popular. With success and money, comes baggage. The baggage adds an extra layer of pressures.

Music was once everything to Vito and somehow music become a pressurized boiler room that he couldn’t stand anymore.

That is why I don’t believe that Vito will write any new music. 

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Vito Bratta – He made it just to walk away

He was born in 1961.  He formed White Lion in 1983, with Mike Tramp.  He was 22 years old at the time.

Before White Lion he was in Dreamer from 1980 to 1983, a band that featured future Tyketto drummer Michael Clayton.  White Lion came to be in the following way as told by Mike Tramp in Rockeyez;

As I mentioned above, MABEL had turned into STUDS and played hard rock, I had become the leader and we went to the States and became LION. In November ’82, we played L’amour’s with DREAMER, which was Vito’s band. People started talking that he and I should play together. When Lion ended its reign in December and went back to Denmark. I returned to NYC in March and looked up Vito. The rest is history.

White Lion picked up a deal, got dropped and then released the Fight To Survive album independently in 1985.  It wasn’t until 1987 that people noticed White Lion and the talents of Vito.   The Pride album was massive.  The tour that followed, opening up for AC/DC was even bigger.

It was seven years playing in bands, before the world took notice of Vito’s abilities.

If any young guitarist or songwriter is looking to have a career in the music business, you need to be ready to put in the time.  Don’t be fooled by The Voice, Idol and XFactor.  Those shows are all about ratings and the now.  The term artist, career and longevity do not exist in these shows.  The ones that end up making it, don’t even win.

Big Game followed in 1989 and Mane Attraction in 1991.

The label gave them a big advance for Mane Attraction.  White Lion delivered with a killer album.

The label didn’t know how to market it.

An audience still existed for White Lion music.  The Hard Rock or Glam Rock movement, became a niche market, replacing the position that Grunge held before it became the darling of the mainstream.

So what does the label do, market it against grunge.  I never stopped listening to hard rock music in the nineties.  To be honest, i hated the grunge movement, however it benefited me the most.

I know it’s a contradiction, how can something that i hate, benefit me?  Easy. Instead of spending money on new music, I started hunting out all the second hand record shops and started picking up vinyl from the seventies and eighties rock music.  I had a lot of money to spend, and spend it i did.  I was a Guitar World, Guitar School, Guitar for the Practicing Musician (which then became Guitar and then Guitar One) subscriber, so if i came across transcriptions in those magazines from the newer bands that was cool to play i would check it out.  Those magazines became my filter.

Months after the Mane Attraction release, Vito and Mike just called it quits.  After sticking it out for so long, it was over.  The band was already split, with James Lomenzo and Greg D’Angelo leaving to be replaced by Tommy Caradonna and Jim Degrasso.

Mike Tramp continued with Freak of Nature.  Vito on the other hand, went home.  He had enough.  He spent his whole life to become a master virtuoso on the guitar.

He spent his whole life perfecting his art.  It brought him fame.  When it came, he just walked away from it.  He was 30 years old.

Mike Tramp described the ending like this;

We never got a chance to say goodbye to the fans. We never got a chance to make a statement to the press. White Lion was playing the last show and Vito and I just went to the airport — I went to California and he went to New York — and we just said… We didn’t even look at each other. And it wasn’t that we were fighting. And the interesting thing… [People say] ‘Well, why shouldn’t you carry on?’ [But we got] no call from the record company, no call from the managers, no call from the merchandising company… All these people were making millions of dollars off us. It’s like we just disappeared. There was never any closing. So it’s taken me many years to really understand what the fuck happened here.”

The below was from another interview that Mike Tramp gave on why White Lion ended on the famous interview website.

Why couldn’t you have done in “White Lion” what you’re now doing as a solo artist? And, why did “White Lion” have to break-up?
A – It’s almost like I’m going to have to answer the last question first. Even though there’s two people in there writing the songs, the 80’s were a phenomenal decade. Unfortunately, most people wanted to be rock stars, instead of trying to build a longevity. That includes the manager and the record co. Nobody, after the first record succeeded, really was concerned about what the band was doing and where the band was heading. The concern was really how quickly can we get the next record out and how can we get on the next tour. As things like that happen, you start to get the negative things. The second record does not have the same numbers, as the first. We don’t have the same hit on the second one. By the time you get to the third album, the band is not the same band that started out in the basement of Brooklyn, New York. We’ve been influenced by money. We live in four different places. I live in California. Vito lives in Staten Island. And the other guys are scattered somewhere else. When we try to catch up on the third and final record, it becomes a rescue mission, instead of a true and honest record from a band. So much money is put into it, it’s bound to fail. The record co. I think has basically let go of the band, because they have signed the next two follow-up bands, to White Lion. And, at that time, there’s no hope. Mike Tramp would not be able to make the decision and write the lyrics in 1988 when everything was 200 girls backstage between every show, big tour buses and big arenas. You write those lyrics when you sit in your little house, and the phone doesn’t ring and no friends are coming around. You get into what I call my own little war room, where you create, and bring out your true feelings.

Money is where the innocence ends and the arguments start.

I believe Vito wanted to come back with a new band.  Vito said in the Eddie Trunk interview that it was hard for him to write songs for another band that wasn’t White Lion.

Other interviews I had heard, showed Vito being not too happy about the music business and how they (the people around them) where exploiting White Lion to make millions, while the band would make less than what their accountants made.

Any chance of coming back took a back seat, as he became a carer for his parents.  This time Vito, couldn’t just leave his home and tour, without knowing what he would be paid.  With age, comes a different mindset.  Priorities are different.

 

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Vito Bratta – Eddie Trunk Interview – 17 February 2007

VITO BRATTA – so the record company’s saying we need another Pride.  I say, Ok, so what exactly does that mean?  The label goes we need the hit singles… I go listen the songs we gave you, on “Pride” weren’t hit singles written purposely to be to be hit singles. They were just songs that became hit singles and they were just songs we wrote.  Now you’ve got somebody telling you now you have to purposely write a hit single.  Now how do you do that?  How do you purposely write a hit single, I mean there are people out there that do that…

Vito was a songwriter who created songs that he wanted to create.  That is why the music sounded magical.  I always hated it, when a band’s creativity was stifled or chained just so that the labels can chase dollars, and by doing that the labels end up losing because the band becomes lost.  If a band becomes lost, the audience will know.  In the seventies, the bands did what they wanted.  The labels were scared to say anything to the artists.  Then the artists got rich, joined with Wall Street bankers and everything changed.

VITO BRATTA – “Big Game” was a setback for the Label.  It didn’t sell as many.   We were doing a headlining tour of Europe by ourselves for the Big Game album and they (the Label) said wouldn’t it be great if we played at Wembley with Motley Crue and Skid Row? 

Skid Row went on and they were just killing the place.  And Motley Crue had a great show and here we are sandwiched in between.

We realized, that night, on stage at Wembley that these songs from the Big Game album aren’t translating well in the live show because when you’ve got tens of thousands of angry British rockers out in the audience and if you don’t have a certain type of music; it just wasn’t working.  So we all looked at each other on stage and said we need to throw in some of our better stuff in here.  I was like what better stuff.  We need to write more for who we are because these songs are not translating.  

Then we went back to the States and we told the record label, no more tours on this album.  We are going to do the album that we want to do.  And they said well considering how the last album went, they said “go ahead”.  They gave us unlimited funds.  Mane Attraction was a half a million dollar record.  They just said go and do everything that you want.  Now the problem was that by the time it came out, that whole scene was over with.  

A half a million dollar record, and once it came out, it was over in 4 months.  These days you can record an album for 10,000.  Then again why would you.  Just record your best songs and release more frequently.  White Lion where missing for 18 months from the music business.  It was the worst decision ever made.

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White Lion – Big Game + killer Vito Bratta moments

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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).

Stand Outs

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.   

Little Fighter

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 

Final Word

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.

 

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White Lion – Mane Attraction

Vito Bratta – White Lion – Mane Attraction Review

Back Story

After the success of Pride and Big Game, Bratta and Tramp took time out to demo songs for Mane Attraction. All up the writing and recording process took two years. To me this is the most mature White Lion album. Mane Attraction was more thought out compared to Big Game, which was an album that was recorded and released in a very quick fashion as the label wanted to cash in on the band.

1991 – The Year of Change

1991 was a funny year. It has been written that all the labels and radio stations jumped on the grunge explosion and totally ignored the rock audiences during this time. That may be true; however other factors also played a part in the fall of hard rock, glam rock, glam metal, etc. The Metal Evolution series and its episodes on glam more cover this area in depth. Even Mike Tramp summed it up in an interview during one of his solo tours.

“Grunge didn’t kill commercial metal. Rather, commercial metal committed harakiri by copying itself so much that there was nothing original left. The eighties killed the eighties. In the end, every band cloned each other and copied each other so many times and there was no originality left at the end of the eighties and people just wanted an alternative. “

It happens with every scene. It starts off as a niche scene, one artist breaks out to the masses and then the labels are all chasing similar artists so that they can cash in. The market then becomes over saturated. Seriously how many bands started with the term White. Whitesnake was the original and then you had the rest. White Lion, White Tiger, White Cross, White Heart, White Diamond, White Eagle, White Russian, White Sister, White Trash, White Vision, White Widow and Whitefoxx.

The Competition

Mane Attraction was released in April 1991 as well as Temple Of The Dog’s tribute album to the Mother Love Bone singer Andrew Wood who died of a heroin overdose. In March Mr Big released Lean into It with the number 1 hit To Be with You. Skid Row released Slave To The Grind in June and Lollapalooza is launched in July. Metallica releases the Black Album and Pearl Jam releases Ten in August. Guns N Roses Use Your Illusion I and II and Nirvana’s Nevermind are released in September.

You can see that the album was already up against some stiff competition in the rock circles with Skid Row, Metallica (the biggest selling album of the SoundScan era), Mr Big and the GNR circus releasing big career defining albums and the rise of the Alternative Seattle Scene.

The Album

I remember borrowing the CD from a school mate as I was short on cash. Back in those days, people in my area where not sharing their music as the people that purchased the music felt cheated as to why they forked out $30 for a CD (yes that is how much we paid for CD’s in Australia) and the copier would fork out $3 for a blank cassette and dub it.

Regardless after much persuasion and promises that my mate could copy my Motley Crue collection, he coughed up the CD and I took it home. I remember putting it on my Sony CD Player, plugging in the headphones and just laying back.

Stand Outs

Lights and Thunder – It kicked things off. This was written as a fuck you to the label that was pushing the band to write hit songs. Coming in at 8 minutes long it’s far from a charting song. The album is produced by Richie Zito who is a guitarist himself, and in my view is the reason why Lights and Thunder sounds so heavy.

Let me take you to a place
Where everybody knows your face
There¹s no King and there¹s no Queen
And everything is like a dream
You can live in harmony
With those who were your enemy
You can do just what you want to
No one here will ever hurt you

No one bothered telling the above to all war mongers that kicked off the Gulf War and the Balkan War.

War Song – Again this is the band writing for the band and not listening to their label about writing ‘hit songs’. This song has many different styles into one 6 minute plus song.

What are we fighting for?
When the price we pay is endless war
What are we fighting for?
When all we need is peace

As Axl Rose sang in Civil War, “I don’t need your Civil War; it feeds the rich while it buries the poor”.

It’s Over – It blasts out all sleazy and bluesy from the speakers with its 12/8 feel. Fans of Ready N Willing and Saints n Sinners era Whitesnake would be happy with this song. To me it shows Bratta at his blues pop best if there can be such a term.

Blue Monday – gives Vito a chance to show off his Jeff Beck/Eric Clapton/Gary Moore blues muscles by paying tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan who died in a helicopter crash while the writing process was happening.

Clichéd Songs with Great Bratta Moments

Broken Heart – Maybe they saw how Whitesnake got traction by reinventing Here I Go Again, Fool For Your Loving and Crying In The Rain, maybe they thought the same thing would happen with this song. Maybe the record company thought the band handed in a weak record and wanted a single for it. Either way, the song is catchy, I just wish that Mike Tramp re did the lyrics.

Leave Me Alone – One thing that captures you is the Rocket Queen meets ZZ Top meets Van Halen groove. The whole intro goes for 1min and 10 seconds. The label would have been pulling their hair out with that whole minute intro. It’s a shame that Tramp had to ruin the song with crap lyrics and crap melodies. Like many White Lion songs the lead breaks from Vito are songs within a song, and this is no different. The 7#9 chords also work well.

In a Guitar World issue for September 1989 after Big Game came out, Vito was giving a lesson and had the following to say;

‘In my early years as a guitarist, another thing I found helpful was making up a chord book. I wrote down every chord, from triads to thirteenth chords. Then I sat down and worked out every possible fingering and inversion. It took me a year and a half to do – there must have been about six to seven thousand handwritten chords. Then I played through each one of them and removed the chords that sounded like shit. It would have been easier to buy a Mel Bay Chord Book or something similar, but I didn’t believe in that because I was really learning a lot in the process.’

Originality is summed up there. He could have just purchased a Mel Bay book, and learnt from that, but he did it his own way and that is how an artist can find their true voice. Books could give you the guide or the tools; however you need to take what is out there and apply it in your own unique way. I especially like the part where he played through each chord and crossed out the ones he didn’t like, keeping the ones he liked until those chords became a part of his style.

Love Don’t Come Easy – The song is a good progression from Wait. The chord inversions sum up Vito’s style. He starts off with a D5 power chord, then that moves to the 2nd inversion which is D5/F#, then D5/G and finishing it off with an Asus4 chord. In the second verse he plays an arpeggiated part.

And did anyone pick up the Journey – Don’t Stop Believin’ vibe in the intro where Schon does pull offs, Vito does tapping with hammer – ons and pull offs. That idea would have to have come from Zito as he was working with Bad English and Neal Schon in 1989.

‘Do you want it, do you need it, because love don’t come easy’.

You’re All I Need – This is Love Don’t Come Easy part 2 as the chords are identical except in a ballad format. It could have been left off the album in my view and then that magical classical trill a thon lead break appears from Vito.

She’s Got Everything – The song itself is pretty weak, until the Peter Gunn blues boogie kicks in to close the song, and then it goes into an Air on G String style guitar solo unaccompanied.

Till Death Do Us Part – the Phil Collins I Wish It Would Rain Down for pop metal. They did a good job with it. This is the full blown wedding waltz song.

Out with the Boys – ‘Out with the boys, to make some noise’. The song is average, again killer Bratta lead break. I like the bass and drum groove after the lead break.

Farewell To You – closes the album and the lyrics tell me that Vito and Mike knew that Mane Attraction was going to be their last album together.

Vito Bratta is easily the most overlooked songwriter/guitarist of the 80’s. Brad Tolinski in a Guitar World issue from September 1989, described Vito as a guitar player who understands music in a classic, rather than classical sense after commenting on his leads in Wait and Don’t Give Up.

Since White Lion called it a day, Vito has stayed away from the music business and as a fan of his style, I wish that he will be back to create music the way he likes it.

 

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Vito Bratta – Guitar World September 1989 – Axology

The below is a summary of a Guitar World article on Vito Bratta’s set up at the time Big Game was released.

On Big Game Vito used the following equipment;

1988 Steinberger guitar with two EMG pickups.  The neck position single coil is used for undistorted lines and bluesier Hendrix like passages.  The humbucker at the bridge, is used for the distorted lines.

The Steinberger just has a two way pick up selector switch and no tone knob.

On Pride, Bratta used Marshall amps, with a rack of Roland JC120’s and distortion pedals.

For Big Game, he used a Vintage 67 Marshall with a MP- 1 ADA Pre Amp in the main room for the distorted sounds and a MP – 1, with a McIntosh Power Amp and a Hartke cabinet in the bathroom for the clean sounds.

Basically the guitar signal was split, so whatever Vito played came out of both systems simultaneously.  Both systems where recorded onto two tracks and the final guitar track we hear on Big Game is a balance between the two.

Vito explained that the reasoning behind this mixture was that if offered sparkle and clarity to the distorted tracks, so that the guitar parts never disintegrated into mushy noise.  This is important as Vito’s style is known for playing arpeggio lines as substitutes for power chords.

 

 

 

 

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