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Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Reviews: Whitesnake (Monster Review By Paul)

Whitesnake: The Purple Album (Frontiers)

In 1983 I wanted to be David Coverdale. Yes, he of the stunningly soulful wail and the most magnificent mane. Ever since I saw the outrageously sexist cover of Love Hunter, heard the bluesy rock of Fool For Your Lovin’ and Ready And Willing and the heartfelt emotion poured into Ain't Gonna Cry No More, Whitesnake were one of THE bands for me. An absolute super group, breathtakingly good live and comprising some of the best musicians around; most impressively including two of the lynchpins of Deep fucking Purple in Ian Paice and Jon Lord. And that was before you got to the trouser snake pulse of Cov’s filthy innuendo filled lyrics. Of course, the fact that Mr C was also a member of Deep Purple Mk III and IV meant I held him in even greater esteem. For many years, Purple ranked higher than Zeppelin for me. Page? Nah, give me Blackmore any day was my mantra for a long time. The classic Mk II line-up with a certain Mr Gillan never fails to cheer me up. Plucked from obscurity when Gillan left, Coverdale and a young Trapeze artist named Glen Hughes breathed new life into the mammoth that was Purple, encouraging the band to move towards a much more soulful and funk filled sound.

The 8th Purple album Burn is an absolute classic, from the powerhouse acceleration of the title track, which rivals Highway Star as the seminal Purple track through to the steady soul filled Sail Away and the blues filled mourning of fan favourite Mistreated. There is not a duff track here. 1974’s follow-up Stormbringer, the last to feature Blackmore was also crammed full of goodness, liberally dosed with some of the late Lord’s most infectious boogie driven ivory action and Blackmore’s most delicate and blues laden fretwork. Of course, the vocal delivery of Purple on these two albums had the added attraction of Glen Hughes in addition to the mighty Cov; both deeply blues and soul based but different, the interplay between the two enhanced the Mk III sound significantly. Hughes adding not only his bass riffage but also the higher screams, allowing DC to focus on what he does best; blues tinged rock. Stormbringer contains some absolutely delicious and delicate music Purple ever released, including my all-time favourite Solider Of Fortune. After Blackmore left, Coverdale persuaded Lord to continue with the band and recruited the late Tommy Bolin to fill the departed minstrel’s shoes. The result was Come Taste The Band. Possibly one of the most underrated albums in rock, there is significant boogie action with Bolin proving to be an excellent replacement (his performance on album opener Comin’ Home is blistering) whilst Jon Lord’s space-tripping keys and Paice's drumming are as consistent as ever throughout. You Keep On Moving should be a staple of any rock compilation; it’s that good.

So where is this inane rambling of MoM’s resident grumpy old man going? Well, it’s fuelled by the recent release of The Purple Album under the guise of the latest Whitesnake line-up. To quote the man himself: “It’s a tribute; a homage. A huge thank you from me to Deep Purple for the opportunity I was given over 40 years ago”. Hmmm. Whilst I don’t think the album is a 2/10 as recently awarded by Classic Rock, it doesn't half blow. The current Whitesnake line up comprises AOR guitarists Rob Beach [Winger, Dokken] and Joel Hoekstra [Night Ranger, Trans Siberian Orchestra], Michael Devin on bass and veteran drummer Tommy Aldridge [Black Oak Arkansas, Pat Travers, Ozzy etc.] along with the Cov. The album opens with Burn, all showy riffs and smashing drums and whilst Coverdale has ensured his vocals are high in the mix, the backing vocals of the three outfield players are sugary, pearly whites beaming the whole thing is just so fucking American. The keyboards lack any soul; the sound has been polished to within an inch of its life and it just has a total absence of heart which made the original Purple so endearing.

You Fool No-One is horrible, a grating harmonica intro leading into a standard stomp sans any of the emotion that Bolin poured into the original in 1975. However, it gets much worse. Sail Away allows DC to deliver one of his better performances but the absence of Hughes on the backing vocals means it quickly degenerates into to a bar room cover. I don’t know why this album has wound me up so much. The songs are listenable and all the musicians are hugely revered in their own fields but I think the fact is that, when listening to different versions of such magnificent songs, something has to grab you by the balls to justify why they had the temerity to even attempt such foolishness. And that’s where it falls down. Possibly the best example of this is the ghastly version of Mistreated, with its absolutely emotionless guitar work. Compare this to Blackmore’s soulful outpouring, or the Moody/Marsden fretwork in the original ‘Snake offerings and there is just no contest. Might Just Take Your Life, another live staple in early ‘Snake years, at least attempts to change the delivery from Burn’s version, yet is once more hamstrung by the absence of the interplay between Hughes and Coverdale and it all becomes a little pedestrian.

Next up, a master class in butchery as You Keep On Moving is decimated (once again mainly due to the absence of Hughes’ superb vocal performance on Come Taste The Band). There is little to get the listener excited in this version, in fact it is absolute dog shite with the keyboard fills an insult to the legendary Lord. Where his playing used to fill the track and wash over you with warmth, here they just drip in and out with an absence of any sincerity. The guitar solo is average but once again illustrates the complete absence of any genuine heart or spirit. I won’t even get to Soldier Of Fortune apart from to point anyone who wants to hear a cover of it to check out Opeth's version on the deluxe version of Ghost Reveries. A tepid and strangely metalised version of Stormbringer concludes things not a moment too soon.

I just don’t understand this album. I haven’t felt such rage since 3 Inches of Blood had the fucking nerve to cover Tom Sawyer at Bloodstock a couple of years ago. Even Machine Head’s version of Witch Hunt didn't anger me as much as some of the work here. Whilst I still love much of Whitesnake's work, this has pushed me to the far edge of my long-time long distance man-crush. Even an album called The Mighty Trousersnake couldn't win me back now. It’s over. Oh, and it’s a whopping 3/10. Why David? Why?

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