Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories

The Legend of Vito Bratta

When it comes to the Eighties and the so-called “Hair” bands, many people saw the image and failed to dig deep into the album and listen to the music. White Lion was such band that was labeled a hair band. Did they have hair? Of course they did and it was teased to the hilt. Did they wear tight clothes that looked dorky? Of course they did. They did all of that and they rocked hard.

The lifeblood of the band without a doubt was Vito Bratta. He is a dead set superstar. Even today, if you look on YouTube and you come across any White Lion clips, the majority of the comments are about Vito Bratta. Mike Tramp gets a passing mention as an average talent, however Vito Bratta is held in such high regard.

It is a shame that Vito Bratta walked away from it all and it is a shame that there is no control around their music in the digital world. On YouTube, all of the White Lion clips are by users. The clip for “When The Children Cry” is by a user called “Louvers” and it has 8,627,861 views in the four years that it has been up.

10.All The Fallen Men

Go on YouTube and the song is more or less forgotten. Mike Tramp brings it out for his acoustic performances, however the few channels that have this song, all have views less than 10,000. The song is a metal masterpiece and a perfect product of the time. Musically, you can’t get any better. The vocal melody is top-notch, however in 1984, people didn’t want to listen about “All The Fallen Men” and “El Salvador”. The lyrical themes needed to be better and that is what Mike Tramp struggled with. In 1984, only Dio could have gotten away with these kind of themes, along with the bands from the thrash movement like Metallica.

“All The Fallen Men” is written by Vito Bratta and Mike Tramp and it was released on the 1984 “Fight To Survive” album.

The intro reminds me of Dokken’s”Breaking The Chains” from 1983 and Dio’s “Evil Eyes” from 1984. It’s got a verse riff that Neil Young would make famous in “Rockin In The Free World”. Of course, Neil Young’s song was released 5 years later in 1989. Progress is derivative.

Listen to the interlude riff before the solo section. The Thrash movement would have been proud.

9. Wait

“Wait” as a song didn’t connect with me right away however the Vito Bratta lead break made me want to smash my guitar in pieces. It was my first introduction to White Lion and back in 1988, it would be a while before I heard the full “Pride” album.

You see, once upon a time there was MTV (when it used to play music clips only) and man that show had some serious traction. We were addicted to it. Once MTV put a video clip in rotation, the band associated with the video clip would be brought to the masses. If we liked the band/act, we could purchase their music. It was exciting and it got people talking.

This is what “Wait” did for White Lion, and the lead break cemented Vito Bratta as a Guitar Hero. The path that “Wait” travelled was a product of the Gatekeeper controlled music business.

“Wait” was released on June 1, 1987, however it took another seven months before MTV picked it up and started airing it. With the internet, after the initial publicity burst is over, most people are ready for the next thing. And if the songs are not of blockbuster quality, the act will not last seven months on the same 10 tracks. Look at Dream Theater, all the marketing dollars and corporate deals in the lead up for an album that had a six-week sales life.

On YouTube, “Wait” is available on two channels, with a combined view count of 335,387. On Spotify it has 615,593 streams. Isn’t that bizarre, how the song that broke White Lion in the Eighties doesn’t have the same traction today. Songs like “You’re All I Need” has 1,039,523 views on one channel and “Till Death Do Us Part” has 1,393,139 views on another. This is what fan power brings to the table.

8. Love Dont Come Easy

“Love Dont Come Easy” is the natural 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.

And did anyone pick up the Journey – Don’t Stop Believin’ vibe in the intro. Neal 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.

It is a great pop song however the audience outside of the hard rock circle don’t know about it. On YouTube, it has 595,733 views on one channel and on Spotify it doesn’t rate in the Top 10.

7. Fight To Survive

Fight To Survive – musically brilliant. It’s got that Randy Rhoads “Believer” merged with “Suicide Solution” vibe in the intro. That is the connection for me.

Who isn’t a sucker for a verse that has volume swells over a driving bass and drum groove. It is a very underrated song that got lost in all the noise.

The song is written by Vito Bratta, Mike Tramp and Nicky Capozzi. One of those rare songs that breaks away from the Tramp/Bratta team.

If you go on YouTube and search for the song you will see that it has been forgotten. However it should be remembered. This is Vito in a metal mood. The solo section as usual is unbelievable. You need to hear it to understand it. The biggest Achilles Heel for White Lion was the lyrical message. With a song like “Fight To Survive”, the message that Mike Tramp tried to get across didn’t really resonate. Which is a shame due to the fact that the vocal melody is really strong.

6. Hungry

After purchasing the “Pride” album, breaking the shrink-wrap and dropping the needle, my ears got assaulted with that riff. That intro riff. I love it. It is heavy and melodic.

“Hungry” was perfect for 1987. It fit the time and the vibe. Bratta really goes to town on this song. On YouTube, six user channels have it up for a combined view count of 274,679. The version that has the most views is the White Lion 2005 version without Vito, performing it live.

Listening to this song again I have come to the conclusion that Vito is the star in all of the songs. The guitar takes centre stage on everything.

5. When The Children Cry

I love acoustic guitar and Vito showed himself to be a true master of it. It was very reminiscent of Randy Rhoads. Of course, Malmsteen was no slouch either when it came to playing the acoustic.

A song that can have multiple meanings and my interpretation of the song is that it from the viewpoint of an older person looking at the state of the world and saying to themselves, how did we mess this up for the next generation coming through in this world.

This is the star of the show in relation to YouTube and Spotify. White Lion’s biggest hit based on fan power alone.

4. Cry For Freedom

White Lion had the balls to tackle the subject of apartheid when all the other bands in 1989 didn’t. It is unfortunate that the Eighties degenerated into a state of generic and clichéd derivative lyrical themes and subjects involving sex, partying and drugs. When bands branched away from that subject matter, it was very hit and miss.

White Lion fell into that crowd of misses as the label “Atlantic” would still push the pop metal or pop rock edge of the band. Music culture was built by artists taking a stand on a subject. The history of rock and metal is littered with bands that made big statements. White Lion made that big statement however it got missed.

It’s the guitar sound. The way it swells and hallucinates with each shifting chord change. You cant help but be drawn in.

“Cry For Freedom” is the kind of track that can be played when any uprising to oppression happens. It could have been played during the Arab Spring, the fall of the Berlin Wall or the Syrian Civil War. It never loses its power.

The “Cry For Freedom” video has 738,582 views on the 80s Classic Metal YouTube channel.

3. Lady Of The Valley

“Lady Of The Valley” is an epic song. What a classic intro riff. It is the sleeper hit of the “Pride” album. For some insane reason, Spotify will not play the “Pride” version and it plays a really bad version from some Greatest Hits package. Then you go on YouTube and one version is really sped up, however there is a version that is from the “Pride” album and at the right speed.

It was the perfect closer to Side A on the album.

The solo section that begins after the lyric “Yes, I’ve laid him at your feet” can make the hairs rise on your neck is that good. It’s a full blow metal song, even progressive at some stages. So many shifts and the guitar work is just amazing.

2. Little Fighter

My kids love this song. They associate themselves as “the little fighters” trying to rise up and get the world’s attention.

This is a great song because 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. Even Bon Jovi released a song called “Fighter” on the “What About Now” album. We fight from the day we are born to breathe, to grow, to learn and to be somebody.

1. Warsong

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. It gets the number one spot for its melodic brutality.

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”. As Bruce Springsteen sang in his cover version of the song “War”, “War, what is good for, absolutely nothing”. As Metallica sang in “Disposable Heroe’s”, “Back to the front, You will die when I say, you must die.”

We can all see the cost of war these days however we still go to war.

In the end I had a hard time picking 10 songs for this post as each song that Vito has played on all have unbelievable sections.

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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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Music

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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