SNAKECHARMER – Second Skin

To most people, Whitesnake are David Coverdale’s band. Today – and for the last 30 years or so – that is obviously the case. Whitesnake are Coverdale’s solo project more than a band now. But even though David Coverdale was the mastermind behind Whitesnake and the guy who put the band together, it’s not fair to give him all the credits for the band’s early years – the band that to me is the true Whitesnake, the band that existed between 1978 – 1984. Because without taking anything from Coverdale, Whitesnake would never have been the brilliant band it was without guys like guitarists Bernie Marsden and Micky Moody. Both of them were involved in the song writing and so was, a little later, Mel Galley (RIP). Then we had bassist Neil Murray, to me the finest bass player in rock ever – his groove was pivotal to Whitesnake’s sound and the way they were swinging. Add players like drummers Ian Paice and Cozy Powell and organist Jon Lord and it’s quite easy to figure out just what a rhythmic behemoth old Whitesnake were. I am probably far from alone in wishing for a reunion between Coverdale, Marsden, Moody and Murray. Closer to a reunion than bands like The Snakes, M3 and Company Of Snakes – all featuring Moody, Marsden and Murray we will never get, I’m guessing.

It was out of the ashes of those bands that Snakecharmer rose – Moody and Murray formed the band without Marsden in 2011 together with singer Chris Ousey (Virginia Wolf, Heartland), guitarist Laurie Wisefield (Wishbone Ash),  keyboardist Adam Wakeman (Ozzy Osbourne) and drummer Harry James (Thunder, Magnum) and they released a self-titled album the same year.  An album I quite liked when it came out but truth be told, I haven’t given it much notice since it came out which means that the seven I gave that album is probably one point too much. Since then, Moody has left the band – for reasons unknown, at least to me – leaving Murray as the sole ex- Whitesnake in the band. Moody was replaced by one Simon McBride, once hailed as “one of the best blues players anywhere” by Guitarist Magazine. I’ve never heard of him before but with a review like that, he should fit this band like a glove. So, six years later, Snakecharmer is releasing their second album – and I’m curious to find out if this album is more “Whitesnakey” than its more AOR laden predecessor.

“Sounds Like A Plan” kicks off the album and its groovy rhythm and upbeat tempo makes this rocker a winner. The late 70’s Whitesnake vibe is all there but the chorus has a more AOR-ish pop feel, but the whole things works splendidly. The single “That Kind Of Love” is mid paced with a pumping rhythm, a big groove and very memorable melodies. The chorus is also very catchy and it’s easy to see why they chose it as the first single. “Are You Ready To Fly” is on the heavier side and is a rhythm & blues infected rocker, obviously influenced by early Whitesnake – so much it actually sounds like them – and I truly dig that.  They keep their feet in the 70’s with “Follow Me Under”, a pop fueled rocker where they throw the groove right in your face. The tune reminds me of modern-day Thunder which does not hurt at all – a very good tune. “I’ll Take You As You Are” is a rhythmic and groove laden ballad that comes with a punch – like a mix of mid eighties Whitesnake and Thunder. I’d be surprised if this one doesn’t show up as a single in the future.

“Hell Of A Way To Live” shovels in a cool Led Zep-riff, a brutally groovy rhythm and a Blackmore-ish guitar with a big, fat chorus on top. It’s a crunchy classic rock tune with a kicking live feel. We get a dynamic blues-fueled ballad in “Fade Away”. The tune is big on emotion and passion and the song is completely uncheesy – a real good one. “Dress It Up” is a hit – if it had been 1993. It holds a stomping groove made for the stage and the kind of refrain that can make a crowd sing along even if they had never heard the song before. My first thought was: “80’s / 90’s Bad Company”. I thought Bad Company were great back then so this is song is a winner for me. “Punching Above My Weight” is an acoustic guitar based pop-rocker with a thrilling beat, a brilliant groove and an amazing chorus where the pop feel is glistening. “Forgive And Forget” is a mid-paced bluesy rocker with a chunk of old soul. It has a distinct swagger and a big groove that makes the song stick – very good. Closing track “Where Do We Go From Here” is a dark, pretty heavy and melancholic ballad based on blues rock. It is slow and a bit soft but it gets big and bombastic along the way only to end the same way it started. Great song.

Now with all the big words I have given the songs here it’s easy to think that this record will get a rating that hits pay dirt – and only judged by the songs, it would have because the songs are damn good, more or less all of them. However, the album suffers a bit on the production side. It’s not a bad production but it’s too smooth, clean and not enough dirt under its fingernails. See, the way Snakecharmer portraits themselves as a blues based classic rock band, the sound is too much AOR and main stream. To me, this kind of music needs a sound that’s rougher, raunchier and more fuel injected. The production lacks attitude and bite. Still, the album is better than I thought and it beats the debut, but I can only imagine how good this album could have been with the “right” production. So, next time, more balls please. That said, the album is still worth purchasing for fans of melodic and classic hard rock.

7/10

More Snakecharmer reviews:

Snakecharmer

Tracklist:

1. Sounds Like A Plan
2. That Kind Of Love
3. Are You Ready To Fly
4. Follow Me Under
5. I’ll Take You As You Are
6. Hell Of A Way To Live
7. Fade Away
8. Dress It Up
9. Punching Above My Weight
10. Forgive And Forget
11. Where Do We Go From Here

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