To write an introduction about Whitesnake is a waste of time and space. If you’re clueless about this band, then google because if you are, you probably have been – and still are – living under a rock somewhere. When Whitesnake now releases a new record, the first one with all originals featuring guitarist Joel Hoeckstra (Night Ranger, Trans Siberian Orchestra, Cher), the question isn’t whether they have recorded the best album of their career, equaling classics like Come An’ Get It (1981), Slide It In (1984) or even 1987 because let’s face it, that’s never gonna happen, no the question is how it will stand up to later releases after the come back, like Bad To Be Good (2008) and Forevermore (2011). I don’t even count the Deep Purple covers album The Purple Album (2015) debacle. No matter which era of Whitesnake you prefer, I think all Whitensake fans are at least a bit interested in how relevant Whitesnake are in 2019 – especially when you consider David Coverdale’s reduced vocal abilities of the last decade or so.
“Good To See You Again” is an optimal opener. It’s a pretty tough hard-rocker, driven by big Blues Rock vibes all over. It holds a bouncy rhythm, it’s raunchy yet smooth but with punch and a live feel and the refrain hits right where it should. It’ll work as a live-opener as well. The album sure started on a good note. “Gonna Be Alright” goes off on a levitating groove in a mid-pace but at the same time stompy and very rhythmic. It holds a darker mood yet it’s soothing and it brings on a very direct main melody in a Whitesnake of the late 80’s way. It holds a big refrain although it could be more striking. Still a good song. First single “Shut Up & Kiss Me” (hey, Cov, this is Whitesnake, shouldn’t it be “Shut Up An’ Kiss Me”?) took a few spins for me to get into as it felt a bit middle-of-the-road at first but this early 90’s straightforward and upbeat Arena Rock number did grow on me. Still, it’s just an ok tune – for now anyway.
Latest single “Hey You (You Make Me Wanna Rock)” might come with a title that was cliché already in the 80’s but damn what a killer of a song it is. It’s slower in pace but with a fat, beefy groove and the soaring riffage mixed with extremely catchy melodies makes this a fine marriage of early 90’s Arena Rock and chunky, bluesy Hard Rock. Its chorus is very effective and crowd-pleasing that will create both fists in air and big sing-along live. “Always & Forever” (hey, Dave, shouldn’t that be “Always An’ Forever”?) takes a nod back to the mid 80’s and a song like “Guilty Of Love”. A big pop-rock number, highly hit-friendly with Melodic Rock tendencies but also the Thin Lizzy-esque touches of the mentioned track. A big refrain with shitloads of hooks and catchiness with Whitesnake’s late 80’s in mind is the icing on the cake – a great track and a future single to be. Hopefully.
Put the 1987 version of “Here I Go Again”, “Now You’re Gone” and “The Deeper The Love” in a blender and you’ll get the upbeat power ballad “When I Think Of You (Color Me Blue)”. Yes, ole Cov is recycling Whitesnake’s past here and yes it is a bit sugary but the guys really makes it work. I have always been a sucker for a hook-filled power ballad with a huge refrain and this is one of those – thumbs up! “Trouble Is Your Middle Name” is a real belter. A bluesy verse with a fat and juicy rhythm where traces of Coverdale’s old solo track “Queen Of Hearts” shows up is followed by a heavy, metal-fueled refrain that aims straight at your jaw. It’s a really good track but I dig the verses more than the refrain. The rhythmic and meaty title-track (dude, “Flesh An’ Blood”, right?) is up next. With it’s raunchy groove and big live-feel, it must be part of their future live-set. With its blues-rock feel, complete with a slide guitar and an effective melody and catchy refrain, the song comes across as a killer mix of old and new ‘Snake. Very good.
“Well I Never” – well, hello 1990. Because that is where this stompy and rhythmic groover belongs. On a slightly darker and heavy note, this Warrant meets Whitesnake stomper takes us on a time machine ride – and I love it. The organ also makes wonders for the dynamics here. The refrain is direct and very catchy – clearly single-material. On a slower-paced note, the darker, laid-back and earthy “Heart Of Stone” brings on a big 70’s sound where Cov’s Led Zeppelin influence comes along. It’s close to “Judgement Day” in atmosphere but nods to both “Crying In The Rain” and Coverdale/Page are also thrown in here. A great song with a nasty and dirty groove. “Get Up” rocks fast but with a blues/boogie-rock vibe, ZZ Top like licks and a raunchy and rowdy outlook. A big, fat and intense groove that holds a very memorable main melody brings the song home and Whitesnake sure kicks up some dust here.
“After All” is an acoustic ballad, laid-back and stripped, earthy and gorgeous with a somewhat folky touch. The added piano, the memorable vocal melody and Coverdale singing in his lower register – very good, David – provides the tune with depth. A necessary breather and a really good tune. Closing track – if you don’t get the deluxe edition – is “Sands Of Time”, another majorly 70’s influenced track with the band embracing their inner Zeppelin again complete with an Eastern touch over the guitars. It’s an epic track with an enormous groove and my favorite track of the album. Speaking of the deluxe edition, if you get that you’re two tracks richer. “Can’t Do Right For Doing Wrong” is a slow, bluesy groover on the threshold of balladry where Cov is revisiting Whitesnake’s past. Think if “Too Many Tears” had been recorded for Ready An’ Willing (1980) with a slightly groovier edge and you’re close. Man, how I have missed Coverdale doing this stuff. Way too good for a bonus track! “If I Can’t Have You” starts with some a’capella singing before it gets fat-grooved and rhythmic in a mid-paced Hard Rock style. It’s punchy and robust where the bottom is 70’s Hard Rock – a meaty, juicy Rock tune and I dig it. Yes, you should go for the deluxe edition!
My first reaction after a few spins is that this is the best Whitesnake album since 1987 because there are so many really great songs on here. And not only that, this time, Coverdale has looked back on his pre-glam past and the groovy, rhythm ‘n’ blues based Whitesnake is showing up more often than not. I love that. Also, with Doug Aldrich out of the picture, Reb Beach (also in Winger) is featured more, both as a writer and as a guitarist and with Joel Hoeckstra there, the couple makes for a more dynamic guitar team – not to chainsaw Aldrich in any way. But then there are production issues here. The dry, compressed sound here takes away the oxygen which suffocates the soundscape that could have been a lot warmer and crunchier which is a bummer. Not that Forevermore was a masterpiece production wise but it sure beats this record with lengths. So with points off because of the production, it also lands some because of the quality of the songs. This record proves that there is still life in the ‘Snake camp so there’s no reason for ole Cov to call it quits just yet. Well done.
More Whitesnake reviews:
1. Good To See You Again
2. Gonna Be Alright
3. Shut Up & Kiss Me
4. Hey You (You Make Me Rock)
5. Always & Forever
6. When I Think Of You (Color Me Blue)
7. Trouble Is Your Middle Name
8. Flesh & Blood
9. Well I Never
10. Heart Of Stone
11. Get Up
12. After All
13. Sands Of Time
14. Can’t Do Right For Doing Wrong (deluxe edition bonus)
15. If I Can’t Have You (deluxe edition bonus)