|White Lion Return Of The Pride||Frontiers Records|
I fully expect this to be one of the more discussed albums of this year. Already the debate has covered Mike Tramp's use of the band name and now it is time for the music to speak for itself. I wonder how many people will get hung up on the name White Lion rather than the music within? Too may I fear.|
White Lion was one of those bands that seemed forged on a partnership between Tramp and guitarist Vito Bratta and it is regrettable that the pair couldn't find a way forward after all these years. So Mike decided to use the name of the band he formed and has been a part of since day one, and that's fair enough. So many others do the same and if people chose to get hung up on this example, then that is perhaps not entirely fair.
The music sees Tramp return to the energy and direction of the old band, but I wouldn't say that it directly compares to any past White Lion record. Again, will people accept that or refuse to see past it?
Rather, I see Return Of The Pride as a mixture of influences from past releases with the addition of a new spirit.
What I hear most prevalently is the sound of Mike's own solo work, albeit in a harder edge style akin to that you'd expect to hear from White Lion.
I also hear a little of Mike's post WL band Freak Of Nature here – especially on a couple of tracks with a more contemporary slant and of course I do hear some classic White Lion in the mix.
I hear influences from Pride and also from my favourite album from the band – Mane Attraction.
This is also the most varied record that Mike has delivered. The style and tempo and length of the tracks are all quite varied and perhaps the diversity is something that makes the album a grower, rather than an instant hit.
Not every song is a classic and not every song worked the first time I heard it. But I have had quite a lot of time to live with this album and above and beyond all other comments – it is as catchy as it could be, with each song in it's own way offering a hook to sink your teeth into.
I'm a long time fan of Mike's writing style and his records – so I see Return Of The Pride as an extension of that and can't see why other Tramp fans won't be equally as impressed.
Track By Track:
Sangre de Cristo is one of two epics on the record, this one closing in on 9 minutes in length and featuring a fairly progressive slant as far as time changes. I guess Lights And Thunder could be the song's distant cousin, but it stands alone with it's fast pace and choppy guitar riffs.
Dream for me is almost a sequel to Mane Attraction's Love Don't Come Easy, especially in the chorus, albeit with a more contemporary guitar sound.
Live Your Life is the first track I found hard to get into and probably still is my least favourite of the album. The uptempo breezy rocker has a punkish sound amplified by the thumping bass line and lead guitar sound. Sometimes I feel the chorus feels a little simple for my taste, especially after the more intense opening tracks, but it still hangs in your brain.
Set Me Free is another track that features a haunting intro that builds to a hard edged guitar riff that then drives the song forward. It is Broken Heart for a new millennium and one of the more classic White Lion sounding tunes of the new record.
I Will is one of my favourite tunes of the new album. A sentimental uptempo melodic rock anthem, it is something a little different from Tramp – who I am not used to hearing such breezy and uplifting fare from!
Battle At Little Big Horn is the second epic of the record and is lyrically just as intense as the opening salvo. This track is a little darker, a lot heavier and is over way sooner than the 7 minute plus time frame should indicate.
Never Let You Go is the first proper ballad of the album and is a classic piano lead sentimental ballad with a strong and very likable chorus.
Gonna Do It My Way is another track which sounds like it could have been lifted from Pride, until the song moves on a little, then I figured it as something that sounds like it could have come from Mike's solo records. It has the mix of both influences and the simple chorus defies the intensity of some other tracks on the album.
Finally See The Light is another breezy pop rocker with a chorus that sticks in your head. It is a bit of a singalong song with some 80s keyboards creating a retro feel.
Let Me Be Me is another uptempo and rocking track with a mix of styles similar to Gonna Do It My Way. It's breezy, it's simple, yet it's also very catchy.
Take Me Home is a European Bonus Track and sees Mike stripping it right back to an acoustic and occasional electric guitar accompanying his raw vocal. A very nice ballad with additional orchestration. A nice way to close the album.
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