White Lion – All You Need Is Rock N’ Roll – The Complete Albums Collection 1985-1991


Of all the bands who sauntered out of the hair salons during glam metal’s golden era New York’s White Lionwere definitely the most talented. Shunning the glitzy look in favour of a sound rooted deep in musicianship, their career curve nevertheless mirrored that of glam. From it’s hairspray heyday to the grunge inflicted demise White Lion released five albums that defined the times and they’re lovingly collected here as All You Need Is Rock N’ Roll – The Complete Albums Collection 1985-1991.

Disc One: Fight To Survive (1985)

Originally recorded for Electra Records (who fumbled the ball) Fight To Survive was finally released via indie label Grand Slamm in 1985. That, coupled with a quintessentially British sound, ensured White Lion blew up in Europe and Japan before their native America. Opening rather sedately with cascading guitars and hissing synths ‘Broken Heart’ is a slow builder that soon evolves into an all out rocker with a fine AC/DC staccato riff. Dripping with an 80’s vibe, it’s the type of song that wouldn’t seem out of place on a Brat Pack soundtrack but that doesn’t negate its majesty or inherent earworm melody. ‘Cherokee’ is another strong cut which employs that classic Maiden stampede to great effect and with great harmonies yet, as with much metal of that era, the lyrics now seem a tad pastiche.

The album’s title track has a real street level feel and it’s here that guitarist Vito Bratta makes himself known. With skills that could rival Eddie Van Halen he’s all over the fretboard like a rash and that’s primarily what set the band apart from their peers. While bands like Mötley Crüe relied upon shock value While Lion are all about well structured songs. It’s a virtuosity that helped them shape shift from the riff heavy ‘Where Do We Run’ to the bluesy ‘In The City’. ‘All The Fallen Men’ and ‘All Burn In Hell’ are more standard metal than glam with the latter in particular recalling the melodic end of the NWOBHM (think Heavy Pettin’). Hard yet lithe ‘Kid Of A 1000 Faces’ swings like a boxer as does the powerful ‘El Salvador’ which would have made the idea closer as opposed to the ballad ‘The Road To Valhalla’, a song more suited to close side one.

Fight To Survive has all the warts, and all the charm, of an independent metal release from the mid 80’s. The thin, reedy production stifles some of the bands creativity and doesn’t expose the richness of Mike Tramp’s voice. Yet the potential is more than evident in strong songs and musical flair and renders Fight To Survive a tantalising taster for their major label debut that followed…

Disc Two: Pride (1987) 

Having scored a major deal with Atlantic, 1987’s Pride found White Lion drunk with confidence and it shines through every note of their sophomore effort. Aided by a clear production and a fistful of hit singles Pridefound our quartet storming the charts. Those with a penchant for 80’s hair metal will immediately be enamoured on hearing the opener ‘Hungry’. Atmospheric and powered by Bratta’s silky guitar skills the anthemic chorus towards which it races is the stuff of pure alchemy. Employing some of the tricks learned on their debut ‘Lonely Nights’ begins rather sedately with acoustic guitars, then…POW! they land a sucker punch in a deliciously heavy riff. There’s no drop in quality as ‘Don’t Give Up’ arrives like a Tasmanian Devil in a swirl of squealing guitars before ‘Sweet Little Loving’ cranks up the sleaze factor to 11.

Like the biggest metal albums from ‘87 (Appetite For Destruction, Electric, Hysteria) Pride was pillaged for single after single (all four of which made the Billboard Top 75). Those singles appeared at the end of the album (that’s side B for vinyl aficionados) ensuring that Pride didn’t start flagging. ‘Wait’ was the lead single that sent Pride platinum and it’s easy to see why with its huge chorus and ethereal guitar solo. ‘All You Need Is Rock N’ Roll’ is another raucous stomper with Bratta unleashing some tight-but-loose bluesy leads. ‘Tell Me’ follows in a similar vein being perfect chart fodder not dissimilar to Poison’s ‘Fallen Angel’. Acoustic power ballad ‘When The Children Cry’ rounds out the album but, like Fight To Survive, you feel a rockier number would be a better closer. However, that’s just nit picking, and in a year that saw some seminal releases Pride stands tall amongst its luminaries.

If you thought a classic record couldn’t be bettered then Pride adds five edits and remixes of the singles which were plucked from the album.

Disc Three: Big Game (1989) 

Having completed a gruelling tour (including stints supporting Kiss and AC/DC) White Lion went straight into the studio to try to re-capture the magic of Pride and, showing little signs of fatigue, the resulting album, Big Game, managed to keep the torch aflame. Perhaps attesting to its colourful cover their third long player is a more eclectic effort than its predecessor and pulls different textures and genres into its orbit. ‘Goin’ Home Tonight’ is a high octane opener, a tale from the road that’s powered forth by sheer effervescence as the funky ‘Dirty Woman’ follows and shimmy’s coolly from speaker to speaker. Songs of deeper lyrical astuteness would often pop up on White Lion albums and this time it’s in the shape of ode to Greenpeace ‘Little Fighter’, one of four singles from the record that saw some serious chart invasion.

Once again produced by Michael Wagener Big Game is afforded a bolder production than Pride with all the instrumentation now standing bolder in the mix. Most notably the rich hues of Mike Tramp’s voice are more evident and he sounds like New Jersey-era Jon Bon Jovi, which is no bad thing. ‘Let’s Get Crazy’ is the perfect vehicle for Bratta’s guitar and, bearing a similarity to Van Halen’s ‘Sinner’s Swing’, it’s easy to hear why he was often compared favourably to Eddie. Releasing CD length albums in the age of vinyl means that Big Game could have benefited from some judicial pruning. Weighed towards power ballads and medium paced rockers it’s sometimes a long listen that could have been much more punchy. A cover of Golden Earrings ‘Radar Love’ is a real highlight with the rhythm section providing a solid beat over which Bratta lays some fine solos.

Disc Four: Mane Attraction (1991)

Despite being another solid album full of haunting hooks and musical virtuosity Mane Attraction failed to do the same business as it’s two predecessors and that’s more a reflection of the changing zeitgeist rather than any discernable drop in quality. Grunge struck and, waiting in the wings like a party pooper was Kurt Cobain who popped the glam bubble with his kooky album full of sorrowful songs. By the time Mane Attraction hit the streets in ‘91 White Lion’s shtick seemed outdated and that’s a shame because it’s an album that found the band updated yet holding onto their core sound. This desire to push the envelope is evident in the first three tracks: the eight minute opener ‘Lights And Thunder’ on which the band build a huge sonic structure, a re-recorded (and much improved) ‘Broken Heart’ is punctured with electric shocks while the fun and funky ‘Leave Me Alone’ name checks MC Hammer’s ‘U Can’t Touch This’ (really!).

A change of producer in the shape of Richie Zito armed White Lion with a harder sound. The trademark syrupy sweet power ballads are still present in ‘You’re All I Need’ but when they rock out on tracks like ‘Warsong’ and ‘Out With The Boys’ it’s with added gusto and extra punch. They bluesy nature introduced on ‘She’s Got Everything’ is amped up on the Stevie Ray Vaughan tribute ‘Blue Monday’. A fitting homage to the departed Stevie, it’s an ethereal instrumental that shows a more delicate side to Vito Bratta’s playing. ‘Farwell To You’ proved to be a prophetic album closer as Mane Attraction was the last album to feature bassist James Lomenzo and former Anthrax drummer Greg D’Angelo (who was replaced by future Megadeth Sticksman Jimmy DeGrasso).

Mane Attraction was a fine note on which White Lion brought down the curtain on its classic line up and this reissue adds an edited version of ‘Lights And Thunder’.

Disc Five: Live: Ritz – New York (1988)

Originally released as a VHS back in ‘88 Live: Ritz – New York is a live set that finds White Lion at the top of the tree. Like their debut album this effort is a warts and all look into the White Lion world. Thankfully the sound hasn’t been tampered with and, with a minimum of overdubs, this is an authentic live experience and subsequently the tracks have an added oomph. Both ‘Hungry’ and ‘Don’t Give Up’ and powered by adrenaline and race out of the blocks, snapping at the others heels. With Pride riding high in the charts Live: Ritz finds White Lion atop the confidence wave and they barely put a foot wrong during ‘Lonely Nights’ and ‘Sweet Little Loving’.

In the live environment White Lion become a more prestigious beast and the musicianship that set them apart from the vapidity of their peers becomes apparent. Drummer Greg D’Angelo hits exceptionally hard and Vito Bratta, at something of a homecoming gig, is simply on fire with extra verve in his playing. ‘All Join Our Hands’ and ‘All You Need Is Rock N’ Roll’ become even more of an anthem in the live environ as the power ballad ‘When The Children Cry’ caps a perfect set and even without the visuals you can almost see 1,000 lighters held aloft.

This reissue adds three tracks recorded live at rehearsals in 1991 and their slightly rough hewn edges bring this box set full circle. All You Need Is Rock N Roll. Indeed.

  • Reviewed by Peter Dennis
  • All You Need Is Rock N Roll – The Albums Collection 1985-1991 is released via Cherry Red on 26 June 2020
  • Faceboook


Disc One: Fight To Survive (1985) 

  1. Broken Heart
  2. Cherokee
  3. Fight To Survive
  4. Where Do We Run
  5. In The City
  6. All The Fallen Men
  7. All Burn In Hell
  8. Kid Of 1000 Faces
  9. El Salvador
  10. The Road To Valhalla

Disc Two: Pride (1987)

  1. Hungry
  2. Lonely Nights
  3. Don’t Give Up
  4. Sweet Little Loving
  5. Lady Of The Valley
  6. Wait
  7. All You Need Is Rock N Roll
  8. Tell Me
  9. All Join Our Hands
  10. When The Children Cry

Bonus Tracks

  1. Wait (Extended Remix)
  2. When The Children Cry (Edit)
  3. All You Need Is Rock N Roll (LP Version With Intro Edit)
  4. All You Need Is Rock N Roll (Short Version)
  5. Tell Me (Edit)

Disc Three: Big Game (1989

  1. Goin’ Home Tonight
  2. Dirty Woman
  3. Little Fighter
  4. Broken Home
  5. Baby Be Mine
  6. Living On The Edge
  7. Let’s Get Crazy
  8. Don’t Say It’s Over
  9. If My Mind Is Evil
  10. Radar Love
  11. Cry For Freedom

Bonus Track

  1. Cry For Freedom (Edit)

Disc Four: Mane Attraction (1991)

  1. Lights And Thunder
  2. Broken Heart
  3. Leave Me Alone
  4. Love Don’t Come Easy
  5. You’re All I Need
  6. It’s Over
  7. Warsong
  8. She’s Got Everything
  9. Till Death Do Us Part
  10. Out With The Boys
  11. Blue Monday
  12. Farewell To You

Bonus Track

  1. Lights And Thunder (Edit)

Disc Five: Live: Ritz – New York (1988)

  1. Hungry
  2. Don’t Give Up
  3. Lonely Nights
  4. Sweet Little Loving
  5. Broken Heart
  6. Fight To Survive
  7. Tell Me
  8. All Join Our Hands
  9. Wait
  10. Lady Of The Valley
  11. The Road To Valhalla
  12. All You Need Is Rock N Roll
  13. When The Children Cry

Bonus Tracks

  1. Little Fighter (Live In Rehearsal 1991)
  2. When The Children Cry (Live In Rehearsal 1991)
  3. Don’t Give Up (Live In Rehearsal 1991)