WHITESNAKE – The Purple Album

Whitesnake purplealbumI was a late Whitesnake-bloomer. See, I was raised on Sweet and Kiss through out my childhood and as I didn’t have any older siblings, I had to find out about bands myself. It didn’t really work out all that great because I more or less missed out on all the other hard rock bands in the 70’s. Then I discovered Ramones and The Clash. Then came The Rolling Stones, Beatles and Jimi Hendrix before Iron Maiden and Saxon made me come full circle with hard rock. That said, I never gave up on any of those bands just because I discovered new stuff and I still listen to – and  love – all the above mentioned bands. When it came to David Coverdale and Whitesnake, I knew OF them, but I just wasn’t interested enough to bother with them. Deep Purple? Well, I knew “Smoke On The Water” and such, but it would take me up to their reunion in 1984 before I gave them a real listen and became a big fan. By then I had already discovered Whitesnake. The video for “Guilty Of Love” was shown on Sweden’s first real hard rock show and I was completely floored. Me and my friends watched that video over and over again, probably ten times a day and I wondered, was this the band I had neglected for all these years? Needless to say, the day Slide It In (1984) was released, I bought it and fell in love right away, it’s still my favourite Whitesnake album, and within a month I was the proud owner of Whitesnake’s whole back catalogue and they became my favourite band. Their concert in Stockholm in April 1984 was my first real concert. But unfortunately, the Whitesnake I loved so much wouldn’t be around for long. While waiting for Whitesnake’s next release, changes within the band were made and one by one all the members dropped off. Mel Galley broke his arm and never returned to the band, Cozy Powell left to join Keith Emerson and Greg Lake in Emerson, Lake & Powell and Jon Lord joined the reunited Deep Purple, leaving Coverdale, guitarist John Sykes and bassist Neil Murray as a three-piece for a while. With the addition of former Journey drummer Aynsley Dunbar, the band went into the studio to record their new album and the result was, to my ears, extremely disappointing. Gone was the groovy rhythm & blues based hard rock swing and instead the band had gotten heavier, harder and both more metal and more pop. I wanted to love that album, 1987, so much but this wasn’t my Whitesnake. Besides, David Coverdale had gone blonde! Some moron had also decided that Whitesnake’s old snake-logo – probably the best band logo ever! – had to go and it was replaced with a new lame, mainstream one. Nice job! The band that recorded the album had gotten the boot before the album was even released and a new band was formed, sporting Adrian Vandenberg and Vivian Campbell (Ex-Dio) on guitar, former Ozzy and Quiet Riot bassist Rudy Sarzo and drummer Tommy Aldridge (Ex-Ozzy). The album featured horrible new recordings of old killers “Here I Go Again” and “Crying In The Rain” and the band looked like a glammy pop metal act, more in common with bands such as Ratt or Europe, than their old, way cooler long brown hair, leather jacket, t-shirt, jeans and sneakers. Of course, the album sold like crazy in the USA, a first for old Cov and the tour was sold out everywhere. The follow-up, 1989’s Slip Of The Tongue, was even more disappointing and wasn’t anything more than a sister album to its predecessor. Trying to make the same album all over again has never worked for no band and it didn’t work for Whitesnake either, Slip Of The Tongue wasn’t the success they had hoped for. Campbell had also left the band and was replaced by Steve Vai, a phenomenal guitar player, but he fit Whitesnake as well as Britney Spears would fit Motörhead. Vai got to play all the guitars on the album as Vandenberg had hurt his hand and couldn’t play. After the tour, Whitesnake went on a hiatus (better word for splitting up…). The next time we saw Coverdale was in 1993 when he hooked up with Jimmy Page for the brilliant, but short-lived project Coverdale/Page.

In 1994, Whitesnake went out on a short reunion tour that featured Warren De Martini (Ratt) beside Vandenberg on guitar and Denny Carmassi (Heart, Montrose) on the drums. But it would take up until 1997 before anything new appeared. The album was called Restless Heart and was billed as David Coverdale & Whitesnake, but in reality it was, of course, Coverdale’s solo album. But he toured the album as Whitesnake with Vandenberg, Carmassi, Brett Tuggle (keyboards, ex-David Lee Roth), Steve Farris (guitar, ex-Mr Mister) and bassist Tony Franklin (ex- The firm, Blue Murder) before putting the band on ice again. In 1999, Coverdale released his solo album Into The Light, that flopped despite the fact that the album was brilliant. So what to do but to grow your hair out again, dye it blonde and reform Whitesnake – the wrong version. Because everyone that was hoping on a reunion with Micky Moody, Bernie Marsden and Neil Murray would become disappointed. We still are. Instead, David teamed up with guitarists Reb Beach (Winger) and Doug Aldrich (ex-Dio, Lion), bassist Marco Mendoza (Thin Lizzy, Blue Murder), Tommy Aldridge and keyboard player Timothy Drury in 2002, released a live album and in 2008, the band (now holding Uriah Duffy and Chris Frazier in the place of Mendoza and Aldridge) released a new album, Good To Be Bad. I was sceptical at first, but it turned out to be a very good album. The follow-up came out three years later, was called Forevermore and was even better, in fact it turned out to be Whitesnake’s best album since Slide It In. Michael Devin and Brian Tichy were the new bassist and drummer for that one. Which leads us up to now. The news that Cov’s right hand and song writing partner Doug Aldrich had jumped the ship reached us and he had been replaced with Night Ranger’s Joel Hoeckstra. Not long after that we got the news that a new album was on its way. That recording went quick, I thought, but soon we got the explanation: The guys had recorded an album full of reworked Deep Purple songs. I call that a Deep Purple cover/tribute album. What a let-down. It wasn’t as I was jumping up and down in sheer joy. But I couldn’t help being curious of how it would sound.

As a taster, the band released the first video for “Stormbringer” and at first I hated it. But after a few spins, I noticed that part of me really likes it, while part of me thinks that this version is sacrilege. The song is heavy in its original form, but this is way heavier, almost too heavy, but somehow it fits the song. But there are too many effects on it – and that annoys me. Second taster was a video for the ballad “Soldier Of Fortune” and even though it has tendencies towards power balladry, this new version is awesome. But I’m getting ahead of myself here. The obvious, but kind of predictable, opener is “Burn”, of course. A really good version, actually – ballsy, rootsy, but they have tuned it down to fit Coverdale’s voice. It takes a bit getting used to, but we have to remember, the guy isn’t 60 anymore… “You Fool No One” is ok, but it’s too stale and too metal and it lacks in both rhythm and blues. “Love Child” falls totally flat. The original is super groovy, but this has no groove what so ever. It sounds sterile and without both warmth and sexiness. This song is being slaughtered and Tommy Bolin is probably turning over in his grave. But they nail “Sail Away” completely. There’s so much feel over the song and the backing vocals are fantastic! “The Gypsy” has always been a favourite of mine and Whitesnake does a good version of it, but I miss the loose feel of the original and it feels a bit uptight. Ritchie Blackmore’s original solo is fantastic, but this solo lacks emotion. Also, the synthesizer is out-of-place, big time, “Lady Double Doubler” has gone metal here and it sounds as it could have been from the 1987 sessions and the break in the song as been arranged in an 80’s pop metal way. But even though it couldn’t hold a candle to the original, it’s really not that bad. I was a bit dubious to whether Cov would be able to sing “Mistreated” as his voice, in all honesty, is a mere shadow of its past glory, but I’ll be damned if he doesn’t nail this sucker after all. Also, the whole band gets the hang of it and grooves like crazy. The guitar solos still gets on my tits, though. “Holy Man” is a surprise because the original is sung by Glenn Hughes, however, I really like this version and it’s really cool to get to hear Cov sing this. “Might Just Take Your Life” has a nice groove and it’s an ok version, but I miss the funkiness of Glenn Hughes. His bass playing was more important for Deep Purple’s sound than one might think. “You Keep On Moving” works surprisingly well. David sings the hell out of it and the band is really moving. It do sound a bit strange without Hughes’ voice, though. “Lay Down, Stay Down” doesn’t work at all. It sounds rushed and more like a standard hard rocker from Slip Of The Tongue, than a blues groover from the 70’s.

For the deluxe version, there are bonus tracks, of course. But I’m not sure if those are worth the extra bucks. “Lady Luck” kind of works, it’s ok, but it lacks groove, especially in the guitar department. I guess you have to be Tommy Bolin to do Tommy Bolin justice. “Comin’ Home” is being more or less assaulted here. They have managed to turn a bona fide 70’s hard rock groover into a late 80’s second-rate take on “Guilty Of Love”. I hate to diss brilliant musicians, but Reb and Joel are really off the map here. We also get an acoustic version of “Soldier Of Fortune”, only vocals and guitar and to be honest, this is even better than the album version. It’s naked, raw and stripped and that’s the way it should be played, if you ask me. So, that’s that. Even though, this is an underwhelming album, it’s not as bad as I thought it would be, but I still can’t see the reason why Coverdale would want to release an album like this. Like anyone would pick this record if they wanted to hear these songs. Has Cov’s stagnated song writing wise? Are they just lazy? Or do they actually believe that this is what Whitesnake’s fans want – now that they have proven that there’s still life in the old reptile with their two latest albums? I mean, these are really brilliant musicians, all of them, but they are so wrong for these songs. Songs like these needs rhythm & blues, soul, passion, heart and I’ve no doubt that the guys can get that with their own stuff, but for old Purple tracks, they’re too technical, too metal. It’s reassuring that Coverdale sounds just fine here, even though it’s easy to hear that he can’t reach the high notes anymore. They should have bided their time and released a brand new record with brand new songs instead of this. And I’m still crossing my fingers that David will come to his senses and reunite with Micky Moody, Bernie Marsden and Neil Murray again – if only for one album and one tour. If I have sounded too negative here, I can say that this is not a crap album, it sure has its moments, but whenever I wanna hear the song they covered here, I will pick my old Purple albums instead, because they are really superior to this.

Jon Wilmenius (5/10)

Tracklist:

01. Burn (Burn, 1974)
02. You Fool No One (Burn)
03. Love Child (Come Taste The Band, 1976)
04. Sail Away (Burn)
05. The Gypsy (Stormbringer, 1974)
06. Lady Double Dealer (Stormbringer)
07. Mistreated (Burn)
08. Holy Man (Stormbringer)
09. Might Just Take Your Life (Burn)
10. You Keep On Moving (Come Taste The Band)
11. Soldier of Fortune (Stormbringer)
12. Lay Down Stay Down (Burn)
13. Stormbringer (Stormbringer)
14. Lady Luck (Come Taste The Band)
15. Comin’ Home (Come Taste The Band)
16. Soldier Of Fortune (Alternative mix) (Stormbringer)

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One comment on “WHITESNAKE – The Purple Album

  1. I’ve only had a quick listen through this but I totally agree with you. A weird release this one. There’s some good versions on it but a lot of them totally remind you how absolutely incredible the musicians in Purple were. Was nice to hear a fresh spin on these songs though, it’s just a shame it didn’t all work better.

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