Review Summary: White Lion make a return to the scene they helped to start, but with only vocalist Mike Tramp left from the "glory days" line up.
I know that I tend to review a lot of older albums in an effort to finish off certain bands’ back-catalogs, and based on this band’s name you could be excused for assuming I’m doing it again, but I’m not. It turns out that vocalist Mike Tramp was finally able to get the rights to record under the White Lion name, and this release is the result. For those unaware, it should be noted that Mike Tramp is the sole remaining member from the band’s classic days. That means that we don’t get the musicianship of guitarist Vito Bratta nor do we get his unique riffs or excellent song writing. That also means that we don’t get the return of the original rhythm section, but unless your name is Tommy Lee and Nikki Sixx or you lost your arm and continued to play drums anyway, who really ever cared about an eighties band’s rhythm section?
Based on the fact that this album featured an all-new band except for the vocalist, I really wanted to hate it and be able to rip it apart but it’s not really bad. Despite the fact that the album isn’t horrible, it can still be summed up in one word: conventional. Without the style and musicianship of Vito, this is just another rock album that completely lacks any defining character. The riffs are standard rock riffs, the choruses are big and shallow and the rhythm section is bland. There are a few things that will be touched on that help this album rise above the 2.5 that the above description would warrant, but honestly it’s still a reach.
One great change compared to the older albums is the vocals of Mike Tramp. He has lost a lot of his whiney tendencies that were a staple of the older albums - instead his voice is strong, clear and delivered in a mid-range that won’t immediately sound dated. Also, there are a few songs such as the eight-minute opener where it seems like they were really trying to succeed based on ability instead of fan nostalgia. It has multiple sections including quiet acoustic sections, edgy rockin’ parts, and minor experimentation in the form of some of the vocal ideas. Oddly enough, the other standout track is the other long player in the form of the seven-minute “Battle at Little Big Horn”. Musically this is the best song on the album as it features classy guitar solos, an epic feel, some cool transitional parts by the bass player, dual guitar harmonies and it’s also catchy as hell. It actually almost feels like an extension of “Cherokee” off of their debut album; which is a good thing.
Sadly, the conventional nature is in full effect on every other song. A lot of them have an abundance of keyboards that White Lion used to be able to do without due to the skillful playing of Vito. While they occasionally sound ok, generally they don’t do anything to enhance the music and instead sound like they’re trying to rip off early-era Bon Jovi
. The two ballads suffer the same fate with “Never Let You Go” containing all the cheesy elements that the band used to successfully avoid, and “Take Me Home” coming off as a third-rate version of “When the Children Cry” from the acoustic main sections to the electric guitar solo.
When I heard White Lion was reforming with an all-new band I was highly skeptical of their potential to release anything good. Maybe because I came into this with such low expectations, the album turned out to be surprisingly good - even if it is nothing original and generally fails to capture the quality of the original four albums. If you are a fan of Mike Tramp’s vocals then you will probably enjoy this enough to warrant a purchase. The same could be said if you’re a big fan of the band or this style of music in general, but for the most part this is definitely a niche release that most will do well to avoid.