White Lion – “Big Game” (1989)

White LionBig Game was White Lion’s third album.  I’ve already gushed like a schoolgirl over White Lion’s first two albums; Fight To Survive (reviewed here) and Pride (reviewed here).  As you can tell by those reviews, I do not hide the fact that I am an unapologetic fan of White Lion!  In particular, I really love guitarist Vito Bratta.  The masterful Vito impresses yet again on Big Game, though the album as a whole is not as good a White Lion’s previous two (more on that in a bit).

Big Game boasts what I consider to be White Lion’s best song ever, the amazing Little Fighter.  Bratta dazzles on this impeccable tune.  He peppers the song with tasty pinch harmonics, natural harmonics, finger picking, and finger tapping.  The solo on Little Fighter is… (wait for it)… MY FAVORITE SOLO OF ALL TIME!  God’s honest truth!  An absolute gem of a song — and a classic in my house!  Check it out here!  (Note: Little Fighter also has meaningful lyrics.  The song is about a Greenpeace boat called Rainbow Warrior.)

My second favorite song on Big Game is the album’s triumphant finale, Cry For Freedom.  On this cut, Bratta takes a much more modest approach.  He leaves the flash and pyrotechnics at the door — instead using a series of volume swells (one of Eddie Van Halen’s signature moves) as the song’s featured guitar “riff”.  A regal drum beat from Greg D’Angelo also helps drive this heartfelt song home.  Hits ya right in the cockles, this one does.

I mentioned earlier that I don’t like Big Game as much as Fight To Survive or Pride.  I think the reason has a lot to do with the vocals of Mike Tramp.  I regret to say that Tramp was more style than substance as a rock star.  A handsome man he was, but a gifted singer he was not.  Tramp had a very limited range both vocally and emotionally.  You see, White Lion tried to get a little more eclectic with their songwriting on Big Game, but Tramp wasn’t really up to the task.  He just couldn’t carry a fast tune or a “heavy” tune.  He was clearly at his best when the song called for simple, sincere, “nice guy” vocals.  It’s little wonder that I choose Little Fighter and Cry For Freedom as my favorite two songs on Big Game — both tunes were right in Tramp’s wheelhouse.  My score: B  

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4 thoughts on “White Lion – “Big Game” (1989)

  1. YEAH! Love this album. Vito Bratta was a great, unique, blessed guitar player. I wish he was still active in music today, but I believe he’s chosen to have a private family life and that’s cool too.

    I remember my friends not believing me about Little Fighter being about Rainbow Warrior. My best friend Bob said, “The song is about a BOAT? No way, it’s about a person obviously.”

    I too love Cry For Freedom. Weirdly enough that was played at one of our school assemblies. Obviously the lyrics were topical and relevant, I was just surprised that somebody in the AV department knew the song.

    I agree with your B rating. Now off to read your other two White Lion reviews!

  2. Agree with your rating on this one however (respectfully) not sure I’d agree regarding Tramp having a limited vocal emotion as personally think emotion was his key ingredient back when most singers were up there in range. An acquired taste perhaps, but songs such as those you mention Little Fighter and Cry For Freedom (both highlights also) thrive on Tramp’s emotion, Mike has a way of sounding sincere even when some of those 80’s the lyrics may not have required it 😉

    Felt WL tunes always worked not only for the fact Bratta and Tramp were such a strong writing duo but also because individually they shone. Really do think Mike and his voice was as important an ingredient of White Lion as was Bratta.

    But like When The Children Cry etc, songs here such as Goin’ Home Tonight (personally reckon that one should closed out the album) are (aside from more Bratta magic), built purely around emotion and Tramp did good in this fans opinion. Then things got really interesting with Mane Attraction (my fave WL record) where Mike managed to improve on this and convincingly deliver heavier vocals (and of course venturing into the hugely underrated Freak Of Nature period he proved he could hang with the heavier hitters of the day \m/).

    Hey not a slight whatsoever, great review here for an album that was very poorly received by most critics back in the day (remember Kerrang’s 2k review?). Looking back don’t think this one fared as well as its predecessors but far from the disappointment it was reported to be, nice to see it getting some props so long after the fact YEAH! Inspired these ears to give em a spin again this weekend – Good work.

    And count me in, also reckon Little Fighter remains THE White Lion song of songs!

    • Agree that Tramp does very well with the lighter tunes like “Little Fighter” and “Cry For Freedom”. I still don’t like him on the fast ones or the heavier ones as much. I haven’t heard his solo stuff yet, though I’ve read some reviews praising it. Thanks for the great comment. It’s good to know there are other White Lion fans out there!

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