REVIEW: Whitesnake – Snakebite (album)

SNAKEBITE FRONT

WHITESNAKE – Snakebite (1978, released as both album and EP)

You gotta give David Coverdale some kind of credit for name-dropping two of his old Deep Purple Stormbringer classics right there in the first song on this album/EP, “Come On”.

“I’m just a SOLDIER OF FORTUNE,
Must be the GYPSY in me…”

Maybe David just wanted to remind people who he was, that this was not just some “new” band.  Either way, it’s a very solid outing, considerably more enjoyable than David’s first two albums as a solo artist.

SNAKEBITE FRONT BACK

Snakebite was originally a 4 song EP, under the name Whitesnake.  Over here in Canada, I knew it as a full album .  North America stuck on four of the better tunes from David’s solo album, Northwinds, and released it as an LP.

The EP, or side one of the album, was helmed by Purple producer Martin Birch.  He ensured a solid sound, and Coverdale & Whitesnake provided four solid tunes.

The aforementioned “Come On” sounds like a smoove Paul Rodgers prowl, and features three players who would stay through most of Whitesnake’s history: Neil Murray (bass), Bernie Marsden (guitar) and Mickey Moody (guitar). Track two, “Bloody Mary” is driven by a boogie piano, one of the best songs on the album.  My personal favourite of the album, anyway.  It’s just impossible not to move to this one.  David’s as naughty as ever in the lyrics:

“You know that Madam Palm and her five sweet daughters”
Couldn’t give her man what the doctor ordered”

Then Coverdale gets bluesy. “Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City”, previously a hit for Bobby “Blue” Bland, ended up becoming Whitesnake’s live centerpiece.  On the original EP, it is the last track, its position swapped with “Steal Away”.  “Steal Away” is a another highlight.  Moody’s slide guitar is just pure awesome sauce.  The only thing I dislike is some really cheesy sounding electronic toms.

NORTHWINDSSide two of the LP had the earlier Northwinds material, produced by ex-Purple bassist Roger Glover. Although Mickey Moody plays on these songs, he’s the only future Whitesnake member present. The tunes are decent enough.  “Keep On Giving Me Love” was funky, like the kind of stuff Glenn Hughes was always trying to push on Deep Purple.  It’s not really outstanding until you get to the chorus.  “Only My Soul” however is a stand out. Coverdale has often done these incredible soul-searching pieces, such as Purple’s “Soldier Of Fortune”, and Whitesnake’s later “Sailing Ships”. This time out we’re treated to some very appropriate violin, and Glover on synth.  The side is rounded out by “Queen of Hearts” and “Breakdown”, the raucious rocker written about the final demise of Deep Purple.

Although David Coverdale seemed to still be searching for direction after leaving Purple, the Snakebite album (or EP, whatever you happen to own) is an enjoyable listen from front to back. Some material really showed what David was capable of, and he certainly would deliver in full in the future. Whitesnake diehards should not do without Snakebite, as it provides an interesting set of snapshots as to what Coverdale was up to, between his bouts of fame and glory.

TROUBLEThere are numerous options today to get this music.  Not only is the Snakebite album still in print on CD in North America, but you can now also find the tunes remastered.  The Snakebite EP has been added as bonus tracks to Whitesnake’s debut album, Trouble.  You can also get David’s solo album, Northwinds, remastered with bonus tracks.  Or you could just get ’em on original vinyl!  The choice is yours, but I think any Whitesnake fan would enjoy this Snakebite.

4/5 stars

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13 comments

  1. I could never get into the two Coverdale solo albums that much. He was obviously searching for direction a bit. It must have been a bit of a worry, going from being unknown to one of the world’s biggest bands and then solo again. This EP was definitely the start of a new -era for Cov.

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    1. Thank you for your insight, learned HMO!

      It’s funny — because Whitesnake were all but unknown here until 1987, every Christmas from 1987 on, I got Whitesnake albums! Suddenly they were everywhere and I had none so it was a no-brainer. Snakebite was 1989.

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      1. You’re welcome! It took me years to be able to stomach the earlier Snake after getting into ’87 and Slide It In. I got Lovehunter from the library and thought it was the wrong tape! I caught up eventually but it did take a while. It was “Ready and Willing” that eventually converted me to the “blues years”.

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        1. I got into early Snake right away. My buddy Bob picked up Saints An’ Sinners and I got Slide It In. So between the two of us, we kind of worked our way backwards. I really liked Saints An’ Sinners, once I taped it off him.

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        2. I’ve actually never been very fond of Saints An’ Sinners. Lovehunter was just a bit of a false start really. I then put them out of mind for years before finally getting round to them. When I got into Deep Purple I just started checking out loads of their family tree!

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        3. Yes, same. I even have a Captain Beyond album – thanks T-Rev. But that was as far as I was willing to go. You could go a little crazy getting too far into that family tree! Before too long you’d be collecting Joe Lynn Turner albums.

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  2. Nice review Mike. I am desperate to write about Whitesnake but after this and the other articles (Slide It In, Come and Get It etched) you’re making it tricky for me!
    I always preferred the “old” Whitesnake (because I knew it first). The 1987 stuff was fine as far as it went, but never as strong as the Marsden / Lord / Paice / Moody stuff. It is telling that Coverdale recycled his best songs (Fool For Your Loving, Here I Go Again, Crying In The Rain etc) in the later “American” albums.

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    1. Yupper – re-recording those songs was a very smart move on David’s part. I don’t think 1987 is as great as it’s cracked up to be. Songs like “Bad Boys” bug me. I think David can do better than that.

      Go ahead and do a great Whitesnake writeup! I think I’m done my Whitesnakes for the moment. Although just a warning, I do have a slew of Deep Purple reviews coming out!

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