Review Summary: One of the best 80's Rock albums that no one ever heard.
Even people who like White Lion
probably have not heard this album. It was recorded for Elektra Records back in 1982, but the label thought that it wasn’t upbeat and catchy enough and refused to release it. That judgment on the album might not seem surprising to anyone who has only heard the weepy “When the Children Cry”, but other then that song, most White Lion was as upbeat and catchy as any other hair band of the time… but not this album. This release features White Lion regulars Mike Tramp (vocals) and Vito Bratta (guitars), but they still hadn’t picked up ex-Anthrax
drummer Greg D’Angelo or current Megadeth
bassist James Lomenzo. Instead they had a couple of musicians who didn’t make it past the recording of this album, and thus aren’t worth mentioning.
This first track doesn’t really prepare you for what the album is really about because it falls into too many 80’s stereotypes including being upbeat, highly catchy, and about women. It isn’t until the second track, “Cherokee”, that they step up and show what they’re about on this album. The lyrics are actually relevant as they are about the plight of Native Americans, and the music, although catchy, is still slightly morose (for an 80’s rock band). The gloomy nature of this album has a lot to do with the guitar tone that was used for the album as well as the minor chord progressions that are used a lot. The other factor would be Mike Tramp’s vocals. He has always sounded kind of whiny in his songs, but when actually singing lyrics that match his voice it makes a big impact (much like it did on “When the Children Cry”).
The next track, “Fight to Survive” only serves to reinforce that the album is not going to be a happy one. This song is slow and dark, and is about a homeless child trying to survive the world. It also showcases a creepy solo courtesy of Vito that shows off his talent as much as it adds to the overall feel of the song. This brings me to another great element of this album, the guitar playing. Vito’s riffs and solos on this album are some of his most complicated and interesting, as he hadn’t started to dumb things down in an effort to appease record executives.
Things don’t get any more happy or poppy from here either. Subsequent songs such as “In the City” only serve to continue the morose nature of the album by continuing to sing about the hardships of those around them while playing slow slightly depressing rock. When I say that the music is slow, I don’t mean to imply that they’re playing ballads, because, in fact, this album doesn’t contain a ballad at all.
As the album continues you might expect that at some point they’re going to throw in a ballad or an upbeat party anthem, but instead you get a slightly sinister anti-war song called “All The Fallen Men” followed by an angry song about being betrayed called “All Burn in Hell”. The closest this album gets top upbeat or poppy is with the song “Kid of 1000 Faces” which at least has a slightly cheery guitar riff, but it switches between that and one of the heavier riffs of the album which completely throws off any hope a label in the 80’s would have had about putting it on the radio.
I’d like to make it clear that this album is really good and goes against a lot of the conventional elements of most 80’s Rock albums, but at the end of the day there isn’t anything that wouldn’t make it sound dated to a modern listener. When you combine that with the fact that it is fairly hard to find anyway, and you have an album that wouldn’t be of much interest to anyone who didn’t already like the band and that overall style of music. If you do fall into that second category then this album really is the best of White Lion’s career and one of the lost gems of the era.