BERNIE MARSDEN – Shine

Bernie Marsden ShineI wonder how many of the common hard rockers that goes “Who?” when Bernie Marsden’s name is mentioned – especially American ones. I wonder how many people out there knows that Bernie Marsden co-wrote one of the biggest rock hits of the 80’s. Yes, Bernie Marsden co-wrote “Here I Go Again” with David Coverdale back in 1982 and it ended up a pretty big hit in Europe when Whitesnake released their album Saints An’ Sinners. But it was when the new glammier looking version of Whitesnake re-released the song as a power ballad (it was mellow blues rocker originally) that it made number one in the Billboard Chart in America in 1987, taken from their  1987 album. Bernie Marsden was Whitesnake’s original guitar player and founded the band with Coverdale and guitarist Micky Moody back in 1978 and he left the band five years and five albums and an E.P. later. Before he co-founded Whitesnake, he was the  guitarist in UFO, Cozy Powell’s Hammer, Babe Ruth and Paice, Ashton, Lord. After leaving Whitesnake, he formed Alaska, a melodic hard rock band that released two albums, Heart Of The Storm (1984) and The Pack (1985) before they split due to low interest from rock fans and bad sales. Really unfair as the band really was worth some success to their name.The split with Coverdale was ugly and bedraggled and the pair didn’t have that much nice to say about each other. The pair didn’t speak for years and years and years until 2011, when Marsden joined Whitesnake, as a guest together with Adrian Vandenberg, on their headline gig at Sweden Rock Festival. Marsden himself has led a quiet existence after Whitesnake and Alaska, playing mostly old Whitesnake songs with bands such as The Moody Marsden Band, The Snakes M3 and Company Of Snakes, all of them including old Whitesnake members as himself, Micky Moody and Neil Murray and he has kept releasing albums with all of those bands albeit none of them has made a huge impression anywhere. Me, I didn’t even know about those releases before I started to write this review. But it is as a guitarist, song writer and co-founder of what we Europeans like to call “the real” Whitesnake that Marsden is mostly known for. The fact that this album is his 19th solo effort has also passed me by completely. I’ve missed 18 solo albums by this guy. Way to go, Jon…

So this is the first solo album with Bernie Marsden I have ever heard and as a Whitesnake fan – a HUGE Whitesnake 1978 – 1984 fan – I sincerely hope that Bernie will deliver the goods. Bernie Marsden is known mostly for his soulful guitar playing and his blues feel, but maybe few knows that Bernie isn’t half bad as a lead vocalist as well. Back in the day he used to sing lead on a couple of tracks with Whitesnake – “Free Flight” and co-lead on “Lie Down” from Whitesnake’s 1978 album Trouble, an album we’ll get into more here in a bit, and “Mean Business” from Lovehunter (1979), so it’s not a shocker that he has decided to sing lead on his new album. Now, I’m not that familiar with old blues songs and such, so the opening number, Ledbelly’s / Taj Mahal’s “Linin’ Track” just makes me think of Aerosmith because they used bits of that song for their “Hangman Jury” track off their Permanent Vacation (1987) album. It’s a great track and I think Bernie really nails it. “Wedding Day” is a catchy pop / blues track, very memorable, “Walk Away” is a pop rocker, very close to AOR and catchy as hell and it’s nice to hear that Bernie’s mind isn’t narrow when it comes to music. His Whitesnake roots comes alive on “Kinda Wish She Would”, a rhythm n blues rocker that would have sounded brilliant with Coverdale’s voice over it. “Ladyfriend” is a slow blues ballad that would have fit perfectly in a smokey barroom, relaxing on an armchair with a single malt in your hand. With Marsden and Coverdale burying their hatchet and patching up again, it was a no-brainer that Cov would show up on this album. They give us a remake of the old Whitesnake song “Trouble”, a bit heavier and more raw than the somewhat polished original. It’s a fabulous version and it makes me think of how good Whitesnake would be if Coverdale reformed the old Marsden / Moody / Murray line-up again. I haven’t heard Cov sing with this much depth and intensity for ages. Marsden shows his love for the softer kind of rock with “Who Do We Think We Are”, a song that is AOR and even borders to West Coast rock – brilliant! “Bad Blood” is a killer blues groover that features some really fine, gritty lead vocals by one Cherry Lee Mewis – a gorgeous country singer from Wales.

The title track runs us over with a big Deep Purple feel and a driving groove. It also holds a brilliant Hammond solo by Don Airey that would make Jon Lord smiling in his grave – it really sounds like Lord is playing. “Shine” also has Marsden trading licks with one Joe Bonamassa, really cool. The cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dragonfly” has a kind of sleepy – in a good way – feel and even though the track was written by Danny Kirwan, the song is Bernie’s tribute to both Peter Green and Kirwan. As an album, this is really, really good. And even though the album ends with a couple of what I see as fillers, this album is very a strong and even effort. Bernie hasn’t lost any of his playing skills and his efforts as a lead singer is faultless. He might not be Pavarotti but he’s never off-key and sings with a lot of soul and heart. He mixes blues, rock, AOR and hard rock without losing any credibility or momentum and all the cool guests (Coverdale, Airey, Bonamassa, Ian Paice, Mewis, Jimmy Copley, Mark Feltham) just adds to the whole experience. This album might just be one of the biggest surprises of the year. Now, give Bernie a call, David…

Jon Wilmenius (8/10)

Tracklist:

1. Linin’ Track
2. Wedding Day
3. Walk Away
4. Kinda Wish She Would
5. Ladyfriend
6. Trouble
7. Who Do We Think We Are?
8. Bad Blood
9. Shine
10. Dragonfly
11. You Better Run
12. Hoxie Rollin’ Time
13. NW8

 

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