White Lion rarities:
The 'Wait' CD Single features an excellent Extended version of Wait.
The live songs 'All You Need Is Rock And Roll' and 'Lonely Nights' are both from the same concert as the bonus live concert on 2CD 'The Definitive Rock Collection' (Atlantic/Rhino).
Several other live tracks included as B sides at the time came from this concert.
The 'Lights and Thunder' CD single has an edit of Lights And Thunder (in case you think the original version is too long!)
It also features Fight To Survive - Live at The Ritz.
The 'Love Don't Come Easy' Cd Single has 'Little Fighter' (Live in Rehearsal)' and 'When the Children Cry (Live in rehearsal)' while the 12" has 'Don't Give Up (Live in Rehearsal)'. All three are from 1991 and better than and also different than "live versions". They have slightly different arrangements and show off Vito's exceptional guitar playing.
When I first saw the video for 'Wait' on Raw Power, I thought - Wow, who is this! They're going to be the next Bon Jovi! Many people thought the same, but they had to settle for being another "Hair Band" that had a huge US hit with a (Awful) ballad. They were actually a really good, hard rocking Heavy Rock band who had a good looking lead singer and a brilliant (and vastly underrated) guitarist. Vito Bratta's hooks, solos and riffs really stood out from the crowd. There were few guitarists (maybe Paul gilbert in Racer X and Steve Vai in Whitesnake) who could make a good song great and an average one at least interesting. Every album has its strengths, some suffered from production issues, but all are at the top of the 80's Pop-Metal pile. They even dared sing a few political songs, unusual for this type of band. Mike Tramp then formed the heavier Freak Of Nature, but they lacked the song quality, then he went solo (a bit Springsteen-esque) but again the songs weren't there. He even re-formed the band (with only himself as an original member) and released a really good album. The bassist and drummer went on to be in Pride & Glory and possibly Megadeth? Vito disappeared from public life.
What a shame - what a great talent never heard again.
Demo CD albums
Mike Tramp released a very limited edition Box Set of unreleased early recordings and demos of each White Lion album. I was lucky enough to get one. There is a digital version available, but several tracks off each CD are missing. There is also a 2cd "best Of" of the box set called 'Anthology 83 - 89'.
Here's my synopsis:
'Unreleased '83 - '85' contains 17 songs most of which were never recorded for an album. But it also contains early versions of 'Broken Heart' and 'The Road To Valhalla'. Most of the other songs are OK but not up to the quality of those that made the debut album.
'Pride Take One '86' has 7 tracks from the 1986 Work Tape and 10 tracks from 'Pride: The Original Recording'. Both feature an early version of 'Don't Give Up' with different lyrics called 'Turn It Up' and an unreleased song called 'Say Goodbye'. Both sets of songs are GOOD demo quality. 'Say Goodbye' is a slow number, like 'You're All I Need'. I was never a fan of their slow songs, but this is obviously a quality song that will appeal to many White Lion fans
The Original Recordings are particularly good as they are obviously what the band thought their next album would be (before they entered a studio withMichael Wagener). 'Hungry' is faster, as is 'Sweet Little Lovin', 'Lady Of The Valley' and 'All Join Our Hands'. 'Tell Me' is a different arrangement with some different lyrics.
The 'Big Game Demos' are simply the 11 songs that made the album as demos. Unlike 'Pride', they had not lived with these songs for long, and so there is little difference between the versions they demoed and then recorded. As the liner notes say, Pride took them 3 years, Big Game was recorded straight after the Pride tour - no time to write songs. PLUS these demos were produced by Michael Wagener and you can already hear the difference in production style - (unfortunately) towards a cleaner, more radio friendly sound.
BUT there are 2 bouns tracks: 'Cherokee acoustic 1991' and 'Cry For Freedom acoustic 1991' - the last time Mike and Vito recorded together. These will interest the hardcore fans. Although, "acoustic" is not really apt for the latter!
'Mane Attraction Start To Finish' is again pre-production demos. There is a rawness/heaviness to them that was replicated on the finished Richie Zito album (he produced these demos too). 'Time To Wonder' is 'Lights and thunder' under a different name. 'Back On The Street' is an unreleased song that would grace any White Lion album. A mid-tempo rocker with enough hooks to be accepted anywhere. 'Broken Heart' is less laboured than the awful re-recording that featured on the final version. It has at least a tempo closer to the original version. 'Death Do Us Part' may differ a bit, but frankly I found it so sickening that I really don't care!! there are 5 songs as 8 track demos at the end.
The 'Studs and Danish Lions demos 1981-1982' are really for completists only. The songs are similar to a lot of NWOBHM acts that were out at the time. The sound is heavier than White Lion, the songs more basic. 'When Rock N Roll Was Born' is a fun song with a Motorhead-esque sound, most of the rest sound like Girl, Briar and early Def Leppard rather than any U.S. bands. It does feature a very early version of 'El Salvador'.
'Mike & Oliver - Brothers For Life' is a collection of songs by Mike Tramp and Oliver Steffenson recorded between White Lion and Freak Of Nature. Some of these songs were even produced by Michael Wagener and Jimbo Barton. It is really only for fans of post-White Lion Mike tramp.
Fight To Survive (1985): Muddy production, heavier than their future albums. Already Vito shines (the intro to El Salvador!!), the best version of 'Broken Heart'
The bonus live tracks on a recent re-issue are the same as the versions on the 'Definitive Rock Collection' 2cd.
Their best album - full of great songs, fantastic guitar solos and THAT AWFUL BALLAD! Their best album by far.
Big Game (1989):
According to the band it was rushed. But to me the worst thing is the production - it is so diluted and soft it spoils the record. Their debut was muddy, their 2nd was raw, this is too polished. But a good album still.
Mane Attraction (1991):
Where White Lion take back control, indulge themselves in long songs, turn up the volume and do the album they want to do. Doesn't have quite as many great songs as previous albums and has a leaden rerecording of 'Broken Heart' - boy does it plod!
Remembering White Lion (2001):
Mike Tramp and friends re-record White Lion songs. This album has many names, sometimes it appears as a "best of" but of course it contains no original recordings. It lacks Vito's presence, sometimes it is a pale imitation in truth. It is interesting though, as these are raw modern takes of White Lion songs. I do like the version of 'Wait', but it is purposely different than the original. In a way an indication of what a "new" White Lion would sound like in the future....
Return Of The Pride (2008):
White Lion with only Mike? Well he makes it work! OK so we miss Vito, but this is a great mix of everything that made White Lion great. We get the long songs, the pop songs, the works. It is full of great songs. Mike Tramp has written a White Lion album rather than a Mike Tramp album. It just lacks a great 80's production - like too many recent rock releases it doesn't have the "OOMPH!"