Skip to main content

White Lion: Pride - Album Of The Week Club review

What's the recipe for two million sales? A Danish singer, a genius guitarist, and a production that perhaps hasn't stood the test of time

White Lion - Pride
(Image: © Rhino)
White Lion - Pride

White Lion - Pride

(Image credit: Rhino)

Hungry
Lonely Nights
Don't Give Up
Sweet Little Loving
Lady of the Valley
Wait
All You Need Is Rock 'n' Roll
Tell Me
All Join Our Hands
When the Children Cry

When White Lion arrived in London in January 1988 to play their first ever European shows, the New York band seemed to have the world at their feet, and their incendiary second album, Pride, had set the rock press in a right old tizz. 

“If White Lion didn’t exist we’d have to invent them,” Derek Oliver purred in his five-out-of-five review in Kerrang!, adding that Vito Bratta, the band’s guitar whizz kid, was “probably better than Eddie Van Halen himself”, and Danish-born frontman Mike Tramp was “blessed with a far better voice” than David Lee Roth

Over the band’s three-night residency at London’s Marquee club, some claim that White Lion outperformed Guns N’ Roses, who had blown hot and cold on the same stage the previous summer. 

After the European dates, Tramp, Bratta, bassist James LoMenzo and drummer Greg D’Angelo flew back to the US, where they then toured with AerosmithOzzy Osbourne and AC/DC

Thanks in a big way to the support of MTV, who got behind the singles from the album – Wait, Tell Me and the plaintive When The Children Cry – Pride went on to sell two million copies in the US alone. 

Every week, Album of the Week Club listens to and discusses the album in question, votes on how good it is, and publishes our findings, with the aim of giving people reliable reviews and the wider rock community the chance to contribute. 

Join the group now.

Other albums released in June 1987

  • Into the Pandemonium - Celtic Frost
  • Bad Animals - Heart
  • Join the Army - Suicidal Tendencies
  • Clutching at Straws - Marillion
  • Radio K.A.O.S. - Roger Waters
  • Keel - Keel
  • Priest...Live! - Judas Priest
  • Wild in the Streets - Helix
  • Bangin' - The Outfield
  • Sammy Hagar - Sammy Hagar
  • Dry As a Bone - Green River
  • Pleased to Meet Me - The Replacements
  • Sister - Sonic Youth

What they said...

"It’s hard to pick a favourite from so many tracks, but the power ballad When The Children Cry is a standout and possibly the most meaningful piece of 80s music alongside In Too Deep by Genesis and The Greatest Love of All by Whitney Houston." (Sputnik Music)

"Featuring ten “all killer – no filler” songs, White Lion’s Pride, while not unique for a period filled with “complete” albums, stands as a record made by a young band showing a maturity rarely found in bands at the level. Despite comparisons to possible influences, there’s no confusing a White Lion song for another band. No one sings like Tramp, and even though the guitar style may have been influenced by Eddie Van Halen initially, Bratta’s feel takes it in a different direction." (SleazeRoxx)

"Vocalist Mike Tramp might sound a little too much like Bon Jovi for his own good, but get this kids – he’s just as cute! With their sound and look, I wouldn’t be surprised if White Lion (with the right management and backing) becomes one of this year’s top teen attractions." (The Georgia Strait, via Ear Of Newt)

What you said...

Marco LG: What makes an album a classic? Selling millions certainly helps, although it cannot be enough otherwise we would consider Michael Jackson and Madonna as classic. Come to think of it, Michael Jackson and Madonna get a lot more respect than any of the hair metal bands of the 80s, from generalist music fans but also from many hard rock music enthusiasts.

Here we have a great example: an album that sold millions, generated a few chart topping singles and contains some of the most impressive guitar licks of the decade. Without a single keyboard in sight to spoil the broth, the music proposed by White Lion is heavy and melodic, it’s larger than any of the arenas they ever played (and they played a lot of those) and it’s a lot of fun to listen to. 

Yet, comments this week seem to centre more around the dated sound of the album than its musical content. So let’s start from there: Pride was released in 1987, that is the same year as Hysteria by Def Leppard and just one year after Slippery When Wet by Bon Jovi; next to those two behemoths the sound of Pride doesn’t feel too far out to me.

Musically Pride displays the influence of Van Halen in plain sight, something very typical for any hard rock band of the 80s anyway, but adds to it enough originality to avoid sounding like a copycat. The songs are big arena anthems, designed to make a large crowd sing along and clap in unison; they fit the stereotype for 80s hair metal perfectly, but they are also a very fine example of such stereotype. So, not only Pride sold millions and generated a few chart topping singles but it is also a very good example of anything fresh and exciting about heir metal in the mid-eighties.

Finally there is the nostalgia effect. I was fifteen the first time I listened to White Lion, admittedly with their subsequent effort Big Game. They blew me away and listening to their music today takes me back to a time in my life when air guitar and head banging might well have saved my life. I do still sing along and clap, ironically still by myself in my room, feeling like the world doesn’t understand me or the music I listen to. I will admit nostalgia is a very personal prism that blinds the ears to objective quality, but if Michael Jackson and Madonna can still be considered classics because of it so can White Lion.

In conclusion: Pride is a fine example of hair metal, it contains a few anthems that still work today as feel good singalongs and there is some great guitar work on display. It remains an album of its time, easily located in the mid-80s by any music fan, but it also remains great fun to listen to. It takes me back to my teenage years and makes me want to sing, and for that reason it will get a 8 out of 10 from me.

Brian Hart: Pride is a solid output by White Lion. I gotta be honest, I wouldn’t put this album in the top 10 of 80s albums. That being said, the singles are great. The production is typically 80s sounding. The album is extremely hummable. Lastly, the band is pretty solid. Vito Bratta is an excellent player, Tramp can sing, and Lomenzo and D’Angelo were a top notch rhythm section. I always thought their song Light And Thunder from Mane Attraction was killer. Overall, this is a good album I visit from time to time.

Iain Macaulay: There is no denying the guitar playing is fantastic. There are great riffs, licks and fills. And.... that’s about it for me I’m afraid to say. Regardless of the dodgy reverb swamped 80s production, which I guess is neither here nor there, who mixed this? The guitarist? The guitar seems to swell at really weird points as if he was distracting the engineer and turning up his channel for no reason than he wanted to be heard. It does not help. 

And why are the drums so buried in the mix? All the power and dynamic is lost and that’s a shame. Got to say, I remembered When The Children Cry, but not from where. And, this went double platinum? Wow!! Not a classic for me, I’m afraid.

Uli Hassinger: I hesitated to give this album a spin because I hated it back in the days. I remember posters of the singer hanging on the walls of girls' rooms in the late 80s. That triggered an urge in me to explain to them that this wasn't a true heavy metal singer, which didn't boost my chances to score every now and then.

After almost 35 years of never listening to them again, I have to admit that it isn't that bad. The singer is quite good and the guitar player seemed to be the biggest Eddie Van Halen fan around.

From a today's point of view it's possible to stand the whole album. But if I couldn't, I wouldn't be missing much. The album is far away from being groundbreaking. It's average, meaningless, late-80s heavy rock, which was in general kind of boring, and therefore paved the way for something new to come, like grunge.

The best song by far is the monstrous heavy ballad When The Children Cry. I have to admit this even if it's the cheesiest song on the record. Lady Of The Valley and Don't Give Up are the other songs which stand out. The other songs are interchangeable and not worth any longer reviews. I would score 5/10.

Carl Black: I have never heard such a sugary sweet album in my life. The whole point of hard rock and heavy metal should be an element of danger. I've had bigger scares watching Play School. It's all very nicely-nicely, and it doesn't sit right with the genre that they found themselves in. 

I can remember being really upset with my brother as he managed to get tickets to The Motley Crue, White Lion and Skid Row show at Wembley Arena, but boy, do White Lion seem out of place on this tour. The whole album seems like a cynical attempt at gaining as many album sales as possible, regardless of the integrity that was held in this type of music. Right down to the cheesy lyrics and the big multi-million-selling ballad. 

In fact, I hate absolutely everything about it. I understand that Mike Tramp is looking to become a representative of the Eurovision Song Contest, and that's about right. If ever a band or artist featured in this club were to perform on the Eurovision Song Contest, Lordi aside, it's White Lion.

Jon Peacock: Not for me. Too typically 80s; a deliberate hair metal commercial sound, aiming for chart success. I’d take Def Leppard over these guys any day.

There is some good guitar work and a few decent licks, but the production is all over the place and does it no favours. Also, not keen on the vocals at all; again, typically 80s. I don’t think I’ll be listening again. It’s a three from ten from me.

Brian Carr: Oh, the joys of 80s melodic hard rock. I always liked this one, primarily for the guitar work of Vito Bratta. He’s from the Van Halen guitar school, but I always felt like he put his own spin on it. The music business may have been rough on Mr. Bratta because he doesn’t do interviews (at least not according to Eddie Trunk). His playing is tremendous, though.

Mike Tramp’s vocals are fine and he makes an attempt at writing lyrics that diverge from 80s girls, Sweet Little Loving and Hungry being exceptions.

The songs and guitar playing are in my wheelhouse, so I’m surprised I didn’t buy it back in the day. Thanks for bringing Pride back to my attention!

Gary Claydon: It's one of those albums. If I'd been 14 when this came out it's possible I'd have thought it was the dogs bollocks and White Lion and other bands of a similar ilk would have been among my favourites. So thank fuck I wasn't 14 in 1987, cos this is shite. Sure, the guitarist is good but there are plenty of good guitarists and it isn't enough to lift the material here which is, at best, mediocre.

However, I do like to end on a positive note and here it is. This isn't the worst thing I've ever heard. 3/10.

Richard Cardenas: A matter of taste. I never liked this band and I saw them twice.

Recently, I considered my age when it came out and my taste for harder rock and punk and gave it another spin. Nope. Mind you, I’ve always loved melodic, pop rock from some bands but this seemed cheesy.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve come to appreciate and enjoy music I used to think was bad. Not so for White Lion. I just can’t get into them.

Dave Suede: I had this one. I enjoyed it back in the day. But today? That 80s production is a tough pill to swallow. The guitars sound very low budget, solid state, very trebly and thin. The drums sound like large cardboard boxes – no definition.

For giggles, I’d like to hear the record remixed, maybe with a Marshall simulator or something of the sorts. 

The songs could be worse. They're decently written and better than most of their “hair” counterparts of the day. Good record, just didn’t hold up sonically that well.

Arto Tuomol: Vito Bratta has been hailed as one of the few guitarists besides EVH who actually sounds cool when tapping. The song material is good, and Wait is a killer pop metal song, but producer M. Wagener uses too much reverb on the choruses, in particular on Hungry. That's why I prefer the Ritchie Zito-produced White Lion albums. Mane Attraction is their best one.

Mark Burd: The guitar work is great here, but there’s not one song that doesn’t sound incredibly dated. While the songs are decent, there’s nothing here that propels Pride to being a highly memorable album. I’ve also got to say that the production choices are a bit strange (for any genre) in the sense that the vocals are a bit drowned out with excessive reverb and chorus effects that make them fall backseat to the guitars. 

Effects like this were quite common in the hair metal trend of the 80s, but other artists were mixed with more successful levels. This album would have been better with some crisper production on the vocals. That’s not to say they’re bad, just a bit pulled-back compared to the instrumentation, with melodies not as catchy as their contemporaries' output. I’ll give Pride a 6 out of 10.

Joe Cogan: Hair Metal in general hasn't aged well, and White Lion are among the epitome of the genre, I'm afraid. This sounded dated by the time Nirvana came out, and there's a lot more hair here than actual metal. 4/10, mainly because Vito occasionally comes up with something interesting on the guitar; it would be lower otherwise.

Joseph Biron: Rifftacular! Don’t Give Up is a masterclass in classic 80s shred style, to a major key feel good vibe. Dated? Certainly. Awesome? Certainly.

John Davidson: If I had to summarise this album in a single phrase - it lacks bite.

It’s saved from full blown Hair Metal mediocrity by some blistering guitar work, but too often the songs are based around generic melodies with predictable harmonies and even an obligatory fake live acoustic jam intro.

As a direct comparison, Tesla’s Mechanical Resonance is an object lesson in how to sound fit for the times without being dated by them. Tesla’s denim and t-shirt hard rock still sounds fresh today while White Lion’s style sounds too much of its time.

This is solid rock radio-friendly material, but every song on the album sounds like it strove to be on Slippery When Wet or High N Dry, but with added Eddie Van Halen-style guitar squeals and fret work.

The production does it no favours either. The central channel sounds slightly muffled, like they don't really believe in the singer . The drums are behind a glass partition and the bass playing gets lost with the drums. The guitars do stand out though, and that is why we’re (mostly) here.

If I heard anything from this album on Headbangers Ball (I probably did) it didn’t make a mark on me - unlike, say, Here I Go Again’, Gypsy Road or even Youth Gone Wild. But on the upside it’s no Cherry Pie and, even better, no Every Rose Has Its Thorn.

There are a couple of memorable songs to take away. Hungry opens with a choppy, Schenkerish riff that gives way to EVH soloing and sustains the song above some decent harmonies. And The Lady Of The Valley is an honest attempt at an epic that works pretty well without being a power ballad.

Beyond that, All You Need is Rock N Roll starts out strong with a lovely, curling riff, but is hampered by a banal chorus and breaks the general rule of three-and-a-half minute pop songs: they shouldn't last for five.

Low points: the lyrics on When The Children Cry are as banal as the title suggests, presumably intended for stadium play where Stars'n'Stripes flag-embossed lighters were to be held high, and the tune doesn’t do much for me either.

When you look at the other albums from 1987, there was genuine innovation going on: the sleazy drama of GN'R’s Appetite, the evolution of The Cult from gothic first nation shaman into full blown rock gawds with Electric, the Final Straw that broke Fish-era Marillion , REM’s Document providing a stepping stone into the mainstream, John Mellencamp’s outstanding polished Americana in Lonesome Jubilee and U2’s world dominating Joshua Tree.

It was a good year, and against that level of competition it's no shame really that White Lion weren’t in the races. Overall, it’s not bad, but no heather was harmed in the process of making this album. 6/10.

Arne Johns: So much better than your average hair metal. This is solid, commercial hard rock, with great melodies, fantastic guitar work - and even though the lyrics are a bit simple, they at least try to say something more than party, party, party. I think Tramp's voice is good, too. And it’s got Lady Of The Valley. What a lovely song. I loved this album in ‘87. And still do.

Jacob Tannehill: Great album. There are so many great songs on this album. Would they all flourish is today’s world? Naaah. Boy, is it still a fun listen. The singles were great. Vito Bratta’s playing was great to hear in that day and age, and Mike Tramp can sing rockers and ballads equally.

Wait - what a refreshing tune for the times.

Lady Of The Valley - outstanding melodic mixed with a little heaviness.

Tell Me - probably my favourite song on the album. A cool rocker, with a sweet edge.

All You Need Is Rock 'N' Roll - a great anthem for the times.

The only drawback to this album is the overall sound. It just doesn’t hold up. Very trebly and kind of tinny? I still listen to the album a lot (along with the two that came after). These guys should have been bigger than they were.

Terje Rognli: I remember getting floored by Hungry. Astonishing guitar work by Bratta. I resist the urge to listen to it now, because I will probably not consider this as a classic album anymore. But back in the days, this was really cool. Hair metal at its finest.

Bill Griffin: I remember thinking this was one of the better hair metal albums at the time, and that's still my opinion now after listening to it again. That only makes it an average album though, in the wider category of rock music. Pleasant enough, but nothing that makes me say "Wow!"

Two things I thought were strengths back then bother me now: Mike Tramp's voice and Vito Bratta's guitar playing. The singing quickly got on my nerves this time (he apparently agreed as, a few albums down the road, he lowered his tone) and EVH was still new enough when this was released to make Bratta impressive. Now he just sounds like a good but cheap copy.

Philip Qvist: Decided to give it a spin today. Verdict? It's full of great 80s hair metal music, and it's a pretty good record for the time, but I doubt it would be regarded as a cool album these days.

Still, it is a very good album that deserves a spin from time to time. Singer/guitarist Mike Tramp is the main attraction, but co-songwriter and lead guitarist Vito Bratta steals the show. He should be regarded right up there with the great guitarists of the 80s, but he isn't, which is a shame.

As for the songs on Pride? Well, there are no duds, although the songs do sound repetitive after a while. Hungry, Lady Of The Valley, When The Children Cry and All You Need Is Rock 'N' Roll are my four picks from Pride.

Solid, late 80s Hard Rock Album - nothing wrong with that. I give it somewhere between 7 & 8.

Alex Hayes: What a strange coincidence. I was only listening to this album last Thursday. White Lion are one of a number of 80s metal bands that first came to my attention through articles and reviews in either Kerrang! or Metal Hammer magazines (Tesla and Great White are another couple of examples). I would occasionally be intrigued enough to take the plunge and start checking their albums out for myself.

In White Lion's case, that was initially through 1989's Big Game (the band's third album, and still my favourite), before working my way back to Pride. I must say, it was very rare back in the day that I found myself disappointed, and this was definitely not one of those occasions.

This album is such a glaringly 'of its time' example of 80s hair metal, both in design and execution, that I almost feel it should come with some kind of public health warning for anyone subsequently raised on 90s-era grunge and alternative metal. There's no nihilism and manufactured teenage angst here, just feel good anthems bursting with guitar pyrotechnics and is – bar the occasional foray into more thoughtful social concerns on tracks like When The Children Cry – loaded with the kind of clichéd lyrics that were so typical of the era.

It was music that was created for the pure enjoyment of it, in other words, and therefore will always hold a special place in both my heart and memories. For all its faults, and it certainly had them, the hair metal scene of the 80s was terrific fun to grow up alongside and nothing can ever take that away from either myself or all the other fans that still feel the need to espouse its merits to detractors.

Oh, and those guitar pyrotechnics I mentioned earlier? On the White Lion albums they are simply jaw dropping in places. Vito Bratta stands out as one the finest guitarists of that period. The solo on Wait alone displays an incredible level of technique. In an age redolent with guitar maestros, he could hold his own against anybody.

Is this album a little dated and cliché ridden nowadays? For sure. Does it hold up well when measured against the likes of Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, The Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd? Not really to be honest. I don't care though. It helped to soundtrack some very happy teenage years for me and I'll always gratefully sing its praises for doing that.

Final Score: 6.17⁄10 (110 votes cast, with a total score of 679)

Join the Album Of The Week Club on Facebook to join in. The history of rock, one album at a time.