Sit down Sykes fans, because I’m a Vai kid and this is “my” Whitesnake. The fact that this lineup existed at all is miraculous. The most creative guitarist of all time joining one of the most successful commercial rock bands at the peak of their popularity? Recipe for, at the very least, interesting history. And absolutely perfect box set fodder.
So here we are buying Slip of the Tongue for at least the third time, and finally getting it (mostly) right. At a quick glance, it appears the only detriment to buying this box set is that you will not get the complete Live at Donington concert on CD. In order to fit the whole thing on one CD (disc 6), they axed all the solos. Let’s face it folks. When your band includes Steve Vai, you don’t cut the solos. You’ll have to shell out for the original triple disc Donington set to get them on CD. The good news is that the whole Donington concert is still here on video, on a fully-packed DVD (disc 7). (The DVD also includes a detailed interview with David Coverdale and Adrian Vandenberg, touching on Adrian’s mysterious 1989 wrist injury.)
The running order of the songs on Slip of the Tongue, the 30th anniversary remaster, has been slightly shuffled. It’s strange and off-putting enough that I’m keeping my old copy of the album, so I can still listen to it the familiar way. “Sailing Ships” isn’t the last song? “Fool For Your Loving” is. The bonus track versions included, with alternate solos and guitar fills, are stunning additions. Then there’s an entire CD, the “Wagging Tongue” edition, with the songs in the correct order but interviews with David interspersed. This is a reproduction of a vintage 1989 promo CD, for contemporary perspective. Disc 3, the “Evolutions” CD, is a favourite. The “Evolutions” series of tracks, now a Whitesnake reissue trademark, mixes early demos with later demos and and even later versions, so you can hear the tracks evolve as you listen. It’s deconstruction and reconstruction in one. Importantly, you finally get to hear what the album would have sounded like before Steve Vai came in to record it. Disc 4 includes 16 monitor mixes, including some superior rarities. Finally, after 30 years of waiting and teasing, we get the unreleased tunes “Parking Ticket”, “Kill for the Cut”, and “Burning Heart” (originally by Vandenberg). We also get “Ain’t Gonna Cry No More” and “We Wish You Well”. Verdict? Worth the wait. Oh, so worth the wait! There’s no reason some couldn’t have been released as B-sides in 1989, and they should have! “Parking Ticket” has a neat Van Hagar-like, and could have been a summer hit.
Disc 5 is “A Trip to Granny’s House”, actually the name of a rehearsal studio they used. These funny tapes, “Wheezy Interludes & Jams”, are informal fun. A highlight is the funky “Death Disco”, not unlike some of the stuff Purple were doing with Tommy Bolin towards the end. These tracks predate Steve Vai’s involvement, so you’ll get the purity of Adrian’s original playing.
I look forward to investing more time with this box set. Let us hope that David continues to empty the vaults. Next up: Restless Heart?