By JAY ROBERTS
The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s that I have acquired through Purchase Street Records in New Bedford, MA.
The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from the 1980’s through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums.
These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.
WHITE LION – MANE ATTRACTION (1991)
It seems a bit fitting that as the seal is broken on Year 2 of The Cassette Chronicles, I should be breaking open the seal on this week’s album selection.
Yes, this copy of the Mane Attraction album was never opened from its original wrapping after it was bought at a Strawberries record store. And yes, this is part of the Purchase Street 100 so it wasn’t me who never opened the album.
Like a lot of people, it was White Lion’s Pride album that got me interested in the band. It was pretty much based off of their three biggest songs “Wait”, “Tell Me” and “When The Children Cry”.
However, I went back to their Fight To Survive album after the fact and found myself enjoying the more dramatic and slightly heavier sound they had on that album to the more pop driven songs on Pride.
With all songs on the album written by Mike Tramp and guitarist Vito Bratta, there is a definite feel of the band trying to recapture the rawer sound that defined Fight To Survive. If you listen closely, you’ll hear that there is a deeper sound to Tramp’s vocals. He’s singing lower than on earlier records.
The opening intro on album opener “Lights and Thunder” had a gritty texture to it. The song is a pretty fast moving rocker with some cool guitar licks from Bratta. Adding an extra dimension to the track was the fact that it lasted over 8 minutes, which is not something you’d be expecting from White Lion. These various factors combined to make this one an unusually thrilling song for me.
They re-recorded “Broken Heart” from Fight To Survive for this album. This new version is decent enough but for my money, the original remains the best version of the song.
Bratta’s playing ends up being quite phenomenal on tracks like “Leave Me Alone”, a song with song unexpectedly darker overtones to the lyrics. The opening song on Side 2 is “Warsong” and it has some slick guitar sounds as well. It’s a straight up rocker (for the most part) that really lets the band as a whole cut loose and I really dug the song. Musically, I could say the same about “She’s Got Everything” though I did find it lyrically boring.
Though the band got overshadowed by the explosion of the mostly awful grunge movement, they did have a song that should’ve been a commercial hit during the time of its original release in “Love Don’t Come Easy”. The track has a great hook to it in both sound and a catchy chorus.
I do have to say that the more traditional slow moving ballad “You’re All I Need” ended up with me missing the boat. It just didn’t move me in the least. Also, the ballad “Till Death Do Us Part” has a great solo guitar opening the song but otherwise it is a bit run of the mill.
Of course, if you do want a really good ballad from the band, you should just wait until White Lion really hit their stride over the course of the last three songs on the album. The triumvirate of songs kicks off with “Out With The Boys” which is another damn the torpedos kind of rocker before the band shifts gears with what is their only instrumental track in the song “Blue Monday”. It won’t be much of a surprise that it is a solid bluesy number when you realize that it was a tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughn who died during the time that the band was in the studio recording the album. Now, I didn’t forget that I mentioned a ballad that you would like. While it inadvertantly serves as the band’s kind of goodbye song, “Farewell To You” is just a wonderful example of a ballad done right. It’s affecting, has a superb chorus and you can really feel the emotion coming off of Mike Tramp’s vocal. Hell, as you listen to the song you can probably imagine it playing over a montage for pretty much any TV show that is airing its final episode.
As I looked back at this album, I have to wonder why I fell out of musical love with White Lion. Because Mane Attraction really did have quite a lot going for it. Maybe it was because I was out of school and working full time that I had less time to keep up with all the music I loved. Maybe it was just pure laziness. I don’t know what the truth of the matter is regarding the situation. What I do know is that now that I have listened to the album, Mane Attraction makes a play for being exactly that…a showcase album for the band.
NOTES OF INTEREST – While bassist James Lomenzo and drummer Greg D’Angelo recorded this album, they left soon after it was released. Jimmy DeGrasso was recruited as D’Angelo’s replacement. He has played with Megadeth and Alice Cooper among his other credits.
The band called it quits after touring for this album. Their last show was in at the Channel Club in Boston, MA.
Singer Mike Tramp is a now solo artist who released a fantastic album in 2017 called Maybe Tomorrow. Meanwhile, Vito Bratta pretty much disappeared from the music world after 1992 due to family reasons.