REVIEW: Whitesnake – Good to Be Bad (2 CD & Japanese versions)

Here’s my second review from the The Toronto Musical Collectibles Record & CD Sale! It was Japanese import Heaven!

For the last installment of this series, click here.

WHITESNAKE  – Good to Be Bad (2008 Warner/SPV)

Whitesnake disbanded in 1990.  Coverdale did his album with Jimmy Page, but that didn’t prove to last either.  Although they’d started writing for a second album, the affair ended and David Coverdale assembled a new Whitesnake for a Greatest Hits tour in 1994.  This reformation eventually led to an album in 1997 called Restless Heart (billed as “David Coverdale and Whitesnake”.  This R&B flavoured album, a personal favourite, did not resonate with some fans of 80’s ‘Snake.

After another hiatus, and a solo album (2000’s Into the Light), David once again formed a new group of ‘Snakes, a mixture of old and new members.  After several years of touring (and lineup changes), the long awaited new Whitesnake album, Good to Be Bad, hit the shelves in 2008.  Former Dio guitarist Doug Aldrich and Winger’s Reb Beach had been a formidable guitar duo since 2002.

GOOD TO BE BAD_0003

Similarly to his partnership with Adrian Vandenberg, David has retained his writing style of co-writing with just one co-writer; in this case, Aldrich. It seems to be evident that the guys have gone for a John Sykes guitar sound and style.  You can certainly hear a lot of trademark sounds and tricks that Sykes used to do, that gave the 1987 album such a cool sound.  This isn’t to say that they don’t play plenty of their own style too, but the retro stuff is frequent.

So similar is the direction of this album to 1987, that you can play “name that tune” with all the new songs:
“Can You Hear The Wind Blow” for example directly references moments on 1987, right down to those flares that Sykes used to do.  “All I Want, All I Need” equals “Is This Love” Part Deux.  Basically, every song on Good To Be Bad is a mash-up of songs from Coverdale Page1987 and Slip Of The Tongue, and you can hear the references quite distinctly. “A Fool in Love” is “Crying in the Rain”.  “Lay Down Your Love” is “Shake My Tree”, without Jimmy Page.  Throw in a little “Kashmir” during “‘Til The End Of Time” (which seems to be based off “Till The Day I Die” from Come An’ Get It) too.

Having said that, despite the lack of originality, Good To Be Bad is still a very enjoyable listen, and a very welcome return. A world without David Coverdale’s voice is like a world without crème brûlée.  That voice is in fine form, perhaps even stronger than it was on 1997’s Restless Heart. The album has a lot more life to it than Restless Heart, although it does lack that album’s subtlety and R&B moments. The band play great, kicking it on every tune, even the ballads. The melodies are strong and memorable.  It’s just…too contrived.

The bonus live disc is the the Canadian special edition is highlights from Live: In The Shadow Of The Blues. No big deal.  It’s nice to hear Whitesnake playing “Burn/Stormbringer” from David’s Deep Purple days, and cool to hear the old 70’s classics.

The real cool version to have is the Japanese release with two bonus tracks.  And a sticker!  Can’t forget the sticker.  The bonus tracks are both remixes (a “Doug solo” version of “All For Love”, and a stripped down version of the lovely “Summer Rain”).  For $20, I wasn’t complaining.

3.5/5 stars

17 comments

  1. I totally understand your reference to the contrivances but I though it all resulted in a really strong album. And rather than just being a 1987 rehash I thought it sounded really fresh and there was a strong flavour of Coverdale/Page too so it didn’t feel like a pure retread. This is a 4.5/5 for me. They did disappoint on the subsequent tour though.

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      1. Mr. Victim beat me to it! He screamed too much and his voice was just really hoarse and shot. Their show relied too much on the singing of the other band members to hold things up.

        I prefer this one to Forevermore but I rate both pretty high too.

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        1. Well if I was doing what he does right now I’d be in rough shape hahaha! But even still, it’s no excuse. He should be picking songs that suit his current vocal abilities or singing them differently. Ian Gillan’s not going out croaking his way through Child In Time just cause the fans want to hear it.

          By all accounts his voice has got better on subsequent tours so I don’t want to rag on him too much. He’s one of my all-time heroes. It just don’t think it would do him much harm to sing in a lower register like he did on just about every album before 1987.

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        2. One of my customers returned the Deep Purple 1999 Albert Hall album because Gillan didn’t do Child In Time on it. Really?!?!

          Here’s my personal Coverdale beef. Do you think he can come up with a new intro besides, “‘Ere’s a song for ya!”

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        3. Hahah I love when he says that!

          Did the guy that returned that not think to check the back cover first? The attitude of many fans having to hear certain songs really annoys and mystifies me.

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        4. Dude, I actually had a guy return Van Halen’s Best Of. You know why? “I already have these songs.” It came out Tuesday, he returned it Wednesday, it hurt so hard to have to take it back.

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  2. I think “Best Years” from this album is a scorcher, with an excellent groove and a slew of those fun guitar flourishes you mention. I saw them on the Forevermore world tour in 2011 and their opening with Best Years was a highlight. Personally, I like this album better than Forevermore, but both of them get high grades from me.

    Realize the question was for HMO, but my only disappointment with the live show I saw was that Coverdale spent too much time screaming — probably just to prove he still could given all the rumors at the time of his having voice troubles — rather than just singing. His acapella Soldier of Fortune was awesome!

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    1. To quote my buddy Rob Vuckovich, “remember when Coverdale quit Deep Purple and said he was sick of screaming his balls off?”

      I’m going to revisit Forevermore soon and see how they compare.

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  3. I now have this CD, super-huge thanks to LeBrain! I’m not gonna read this post (or the comments) until after I play it all the way through, though. I’m a blank slate (except for the hits) with this band.

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        1. You think so? Well, I’m glad you liked that stuff. I can only be honest – it’s all I’ve got. I’ll give a listen soon and report back here, for what it’s worth.

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