REVIEW: Whitesnake – The Purple Album (2015 Japanese & deluxe editions)

WHITESNAKE – The Purple Album (2015 Frontiers,  Japanese & deluxe editions)

One old school buddy of mine, Rob Vuckovich, was a huge David Coverdale fan back in the 1980’s, but mostly a Deep Purple fan. He took great pride in telling me that he went to see Whitesnake on the 1987 tour. He held aloft a sign that said “PLAY PURPLE”. David reportedly acknowledged his sign by saying, “We’re not doing any of that!” What changed?

Jon Lord’s dying wish to his friend David Coverdale was to somehow reform Deep Purple MkIII. “Life’s too short and too precious to hold any animosities,” learned David after Lord’s passing. He reached out to Candace Night, wife of Ritchie Blackmore, and eventually spoke to the Man in Black about a Lord-less reunion. Blackmore was intrigued and David started working on updated arrangements for the tunes. He didn’t want to sing them in the same way that he did in his 20’s. The situation with Ritchie didn’t work out, but David did not want the work he had gone to on the new arrangements to go to waste. He approached his band and asked them what they thought about a Deep Purple covers album. The response was instant. Joel Hoekstra (guitar) in particular was pumped.

The result is The Purple Album. Sourced from Coverdale’s three albums with Deep Purple (Burn, Stormbringer, and Comes Taste the Band), 15 songs were selected. It’s hard to argue with the selection, either. There are chances taken. “Holy Man” is a damn hard song to sing, and it was originally performed by Glenn Hughes, not David. And four, count ’em, four songs (on the deluxe) from Come Taste the Band, perhaps the most underrated album in the Purple canon.

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The sound is “Snaked up” as David says, which means modern guitars and technical shredding. To his credit, David really let his band play instead of copying Deep Purple. Joel Hoekstra is a hell of a guitarist, able to shred. He has brought some soul back to Whitesnake that I felt was missing from their two studio albums with Doug Aldrich. Other songs are stripped down, such as the now-acoustic “Sail Away”. This song is dedicated to Jon Lord and it’s certainly among the best songs on The Purple Album. It’s very “live” in the studio.

Is it necessary? Hell no, but David’s entitled to do what he wants. Nobody else is keeping these songs alive except for Glenn Hughes now and then. Jon Lord would be delighted with the quality of it, but he would surely be saddened that Deep Purple MkIII has never reunited. Since that was indeed the case, David and Whitesnake worked very hard on plenty of new parts and licks for their own arrangements. Reb Beach sings many of the Glenn Hughes lead vocal parts (quite well), and finally Whitesnake feels like a real band again. It’s odd that it happened on a Deep Purple cover album, but the band sound like a real band, on album for the first time in ages. Hopefully the injection of passionate young blood in Hoekstra and new bassist Michael Devin will result in new music some day.

The deluxe edition of The Purple Album comes with two bonus tracks and a loaded DVD. “Lady Luck” and “Comin’ Home” from Come Taste the Band are actually two of the best selections. It’s rare that bonus tracks are album highlights, but just because these songs are not as world-renowned as “Burn” does not mean they are not as good. They’re awesome. “Comin’ Home” is very different from the original, having a new and very Whitesnake (circa Slide It In) riff installed.

Japan usually get exclusive bonus tracks and this time it’s a different mix of “Soldier of Fortune”. The reason for the alternate mix (according to the documentary DVD, which we’ll get to) is that David was somewhat torn on which version he liked best. The original concept was a straight acoustic version, with just David’s voice and an acoustic guitar — one guitar, like in Deep Purple. That version didn’t make the album. In a last minute decision, David chose to record bass and other embellishments, and that is what you hear on the standard album. The lucky fans in Japan (or those who wish to shell out for an import!) get the original concept as a bonus track. Delightful.

The bonus DVD is a nice treat, for the 30-minute “Behind the Scenes” feature. It’s great to see the band get so much face time, talking about their love of Deep Purple. Things like this aid in your appreciation of the final album. Observations: Reb Beach does a hilarious Coverdale impression. Tommy Aldridge is still an unstoppable beast of a drummer, even today. Indeed, the new Whitesnake lineup comes across as an inspired band. It is a brand new era for Whitesnake, according to David. He is happier with their sound than he has been in years.

Then there’s the fluff, the Whitesnake EPK (electronic press kit) which is just a condensed version of the main feature. Added to this are four music videos. It’s almost amusing that Whitesnake made music videos today, but again the band get a lot of face time and that’s cool. In the music videos, it really seems like Whitesnake are a band regardless of the lineup changes. The videos are glossy, a little cheesy, but a nice little add-on.

The original rating for this album was going to be 3/5 stars. Cover albums just can’t be judged by the same yardstick as an album of original material. Having seen and heard how much passion and work Whitesnake put into The Purple Album, I’ve grown to appreciate it more. Therefore:

3.5/5 stars

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36 comments

  1. “Snaked up” — I like it. :) Very interesting review, Mike. I don’t know much Deep Purple music and am familiar with some Whitesnake so I found this educational.
    I hesitate a bit to ask this question, but… why is it that Japan usually gets exclusive bonus tracks? Is it something unique to the market or a tradition that’s developed or a global market strategy?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. >why is it that Japan usually gets exclusive bonus tracks?

      Well, because the Japanese pressing of albums but foreign bands have the lyrics translated into Japanese in booklet inserted into the album (CD) jacket for the Japanese fans. So, they have to pay a translator. Therefore the Japanese pressing is more expensive than the original album imported from overseas.
      To justify the higher price, the record companies (which are almost all Japanese companies nowadays), asks the band to include Japan-only bonus tracks.
      And often there are also Japan-only stickers in the album jackets too.

      Liked by 3 people

    2. If I can jump in Danica? I always assumed it was reward for a big market (think Japan one of the countries still doing okay music sales?) but think in the comments elsewhere here someone suggested that Japan prices were notoriously high and including and keeping bonus tunes exclusive to Japan only kinda helped avoid imports and pushed their sales to be made locally? Someone else may know more (or better ;)

      Liked by 2 people

    3. THIS is gonna be the year to get Purpled! I think this is the year they will finally make the rock and roll hall of fame. They formed in ’68…they have been eligible for the hall for 27 years! This is their time for it, finally. I can feel it!

      They are (still!!!) one of the greatest guitar based rock bands ever, and I think everybody here will agree with me.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Agreed on both points. The HoF is a total sham, run by people who don’t know what they’re doing. So if they get in, fine. But if they don’t, it’s really not a big deal.

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    4. It’s actually a much simpler explanation than this, Japanese domestic releases were traditionally being undercut by much cheaper imports of the same albums, so to protect the domestic releases they asked foreign bands/labels to include something that would give domestic fans some incentive to buy the higher-priced Japanese versions.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yep, couldn’t agree more Mike.

    When got word new Whitesnake was to be a cover album this fan couldn’t care any less. But open hearing this thing am delighted with what Coverdale has done here, a copy of the album hence obtained and entered into the collection pronto ;) Although only the regular edition, yer picture here of the deluxe version looks damn fine though, hmmm… ;)

    Good review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You gotta be willing to enjoy Purple covers…which isn’t hard actually. I have two Purple covers albums here. I have Re-Machined (the one where bands like Maiden and Metallica covered Machine Head tunes) and I have a funk cover by bassist TM Stevens called Deep Purple NY. Really funky and different and cool. Worth a review in these pages.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Can’t handle technical shredding on songs that weren’t dialed in as shred songs to begin with. Vai ruined it for me when he butchered Fool For Your Loving….
    I’ve seen this but have no interest In these bands remaking the back catalogue…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Fair enough Deke my man, I know what you mean about Vai on FFYL. I could have gone either way with this album…I didn’t know which side of the coin was gonna be up. I’m glad I liked it being that I ordered it from Japan and all!!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. For sure I give you props on ordering it from Japan! Ha! Man that would be a let down to get and go Blah! It’s just these remakes,call me old(ha!) but back say 30 years ago no one was doing these kinda albums and I understand that Cov could,put out a new studio album but would anybody care? Not nowadays….

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    1. That’s the whole problem right? How do you make people care about a studio album again? But I think this lineup should make a new album…this Hoekstra guy is mega talented…I hear him on the Mitch Lafon show a lot and he’s very musically gifted. So I’d like them to do that.

      I think the best way to approach a studio album in 2015 is just to go for it — give er as Aaron would say — but keep it short, like 11 songs. Just like classic Whitesnake so you don’t get bored.

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  5. To be honest Mikey. The only way I would buy a new Snake album would be if Sykes is on it…and that ain’t happening….
    But I’m glad your digging it and it’s always a good time read @ LeBrains!

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  6. Not knowing much about the band (not like you do!), at first I thought that this was completely unnecessary. I mean, why re-do things? But your write-up makes me think maybe it was in the right spirit and so fair play to ’em, I guess. Do you find that your 1.5 points lacking was because of zero Blackmore content?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No not really, current Deep Purple has no Blackmore content. It’s just the fact it’s a covers album. It’s hard to rate a covers album too high, because well, covers. I think 3.5 is a pretty mighty score for a covers album.

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    2. Yeah agree with MIke re the rating problem that arises with ‘cover’ albums, add to that I usually avoid em like the plague give me a new studio album stop looking to other people’s songs for exposure (B-sides bonus materials and live no problems with, just full blown LP’s no interest in)…

      That said though don’t look at this in quite the same way considering Coverdale is ‘covering’ himself and giving the old material a different spin (unlike the dreaded re-records such as Def Leppard’s re-records of some back catalog singles, get their argument but just not a fan).

      So this is different again, and (surprisingly) well worth ya ear time.

      Yeah reckon the deluxe will get snapped up at some time Mike, once the price drops a tad and the pockets are fuller again ;) Man those pics ya posted are tempting…

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  7. shame there wont be a solid rock album made with hoekstra. but there is an acoustic one in the works i belive. and that may even be the best since cov cant really hit the high register properly anymore and thats all fine and understandable after singing his heart out for decades. man has done some of the best hard rock stuff out there so there is no need to prove anything in that dept anymore. but a nice blusey material sth in the vein of northwinds which is my all time fave would be great. purple album is 3/5 for me and the 3 comes for the sheer good playing aprat from that this was absolutely unnecessary from whitesnake. original epic songs are the ones that remain and live on, no one simply should retouch a classic apart from doign a better remaster. anyway ones entitled to do whatever one wishes…

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Really interesting point about covers vs. original ranking systems.
    I find that with movies, like comparing Casablanca & Dodgeball. Both would be 4.5 star movies in my books but in very different categories!

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  9. Finally afforded to upgrade to the Deluxe version. Bonus was being able hand on the standard version to a very grateful guitarist mate too but pumped to have the Deluxe version and all based on yer review and those lush pics of the packaging up above.

    Agree too the bonus tracks are a treat, Comin’ Home particularly foot stomping oh yeah baby \m/

    Thanks Mike :)

    Like

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