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.
“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.
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.
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.