david coverdale

REVIEW: Deep Purple – When We Rock, We Rock and When We Roll, We Roll (1978)

DEEP PURPLE – When We Rock, We Rock and When We Roll, We Roll (1978 Warner)

When Deep Purple broke up in 1976, their back catalog was ripe for exploitation for compilation by record labels.  One by one, out trickled Deepest Purple, Singles A’s and B’s, and When We Rock, We Rock and When We Roll, We Roll.  1978’s When We Rock is the least necessary of them all.

The only thing that When We Rock really has going for it is that did feature all the Deep Purple singers to date.  Ian Gillan sings the majority of tracks, Rod Evans has two (“Hush” and “Kentucky Woman”) and Coverdale/Hughes have one (“Burn”).  The shoddy package had no involvement from any ex-members of the band, and even has an incorrect track listing on the back.  “Woman From Tokyo” isn’t live, but “Smoke on the Water” is (from Made in Japan).

If music shoppers in 1978 were just looking for a handy-dandy single record set of all Purple’s radio hits, then When We Rock almost fits the bill.  “Hard Road (Wring That Neck)” is conspicuous by its inclusion, being a semi-obscure instrumental from 1969’s The Book of Taliesyn.  Swap that one out for “Strange King of Woman” and you could have had a serviceable hits set, even considering the live tracks.  After all, Made in Japan helped establish the live album as a viable hitmaker.

The only reason to own When We Rock, We Rock and When We Roll, We Roll is the cover art, which admittedly is pretty nifty.

1/5 stars

REVIEW: Deep Purple – This Time Around – Live in Tokyo ’75 (2001)

scan_20160925DEEP PURPLE – This Time Around – Live in Tokyo ’75 (2001 EMI)

This shouldn’t have been the “last concert in Japan”!

Many of the old, post-breakup-issued Deep Purple live albums are virtually impossible to find today on CD. One of those is Last Concert In Japan, which was originally released only in that country. It featured the Mk IV lineup of Deep Purple: David Coverdale, Glenn Hughes, Ian Paice, Jon Lord, and the late Tommy Bolin on lead guitar. As a matter of historical releases for my collection, I also own the original Last Concert in Japan on both LP and CD.

The tragic story goes that while some members of Purple were rejuvinated with the fresh blood that Bolin donated, others were dead tired of it all.  Reviews were spotty and word was spreading that Deep Purple were over.  Both Bolin and Hughes were in the throes of serious drug habits.  On the night of the recording of Last Concert in Japan, Bolin was shooting up and caused his arm to go numb.  Frantic attempts to get him stageworthy worked and he managed to barely play the show.  Guitar parts are sloppy and that’s what people remember because it went on LP.  The original one-record set from the show has now been expanded to two lengthy CDs, 17 tracks. It’s been remixed and remastered. Production was supervised by Purple expert Simon Robinson, so you know that the quality level is about as good as it could be.  Because of the fully expanded tracklist, some of the finer live Deep Purple moments have been restored to this album, such as a 16 minute “Gettin’ Tighter” which was too long to include on a single record.

Some flaws do remain of course. Tommy’s guitar is now barely audible in the “Burn” riff as opposed to non-existent.  However the overall experience is very listenable.  It’s a darkly interesting album to own, because within months Purple disbanded, and a year later Tommy Bolin would be dead.

If you already own Last Concert In Japan, this purchase gives you over an hour more of unreleased music. Even so, all of it has been remixed, so you are still in for a fresh listen with open ears. If you already own dozens of Deep Purple live albums (believe me, it’s possible), this one has five songs that you can’t get elsewhere in live versions.  It’s even a better listen than In Concert/King Biscuit Flower Hour (aka, On The Wings Of A Russian Foxbat) with stronger vocals. Plus you get Tommy singing on “Wild Dogs”.  Worth the double-dip.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Deep Purple – Made in Europe (1976)

Scan_20160114DEEP PURPLE – Made in Europe (1976 EMI)

In 1976, Deep Purple ended with a thud.

With no desire to carry on, the band split in 1976 after the ill-received addition of Tommy Bolin on lead guitar.  David Coverdale was eager to start a solo career where he could sing, and not “scream his balls off”.  Everybody else was just plain tired of it all.  Dutifully, the record company trotted out live albums and compilations, to keep the cash flowing.  Made in Europe, intended as a followup to Made in Japan, came first.  It was followed by Power House, When We Rock We Rock, Deepest Purple, Last Concert in Japan, Live in London, and many more.  The goal was not to provide fans with good quality unreleased music for them to enjoy.  The purpose was to make more money.

Made in Europe has since been superseded by better releases.  MkIII: The Final Concerts expanded and remixed this material, sourced from their last shows with Ritchie Blackmore.  He had already made the decision to quit, unbeknownst to his bandmates.  More recently, the Official Deep Purple (Overseas) Live Series released full shows of two concerts, Graz and Paris.  It is always preferable to have the full show, rather than a song here or there sloppy edited and mixed into a live album.  Don’t you agree?

With only five songs, Made in Europe was hardly representative of Purple’s set at the time, but it seems a single LP was all that EMI were willing to invest in.  Producer Martin Birch was unable to get the same heavy, crisp sound that he got on Made in Japan.  This one is heavy, but that crisp sound is muffled under a blanket.

“Burn” is an apt opener, and both David and Glenn Hughes were in fine form that night.  Blackmore, Paice and Lord always are.  Yet Deep Purple sound almost…bored?  Playing by rote?  Blackmore’s guitar is also too buried in the mix.  The first of two jams is up next: “Mistreated (Interpolating ‘Rock Me Baby’)”.  While no one questions that this is one of the greatest songs in the Deep Purple MkIII catalogue, the live jam has always dragged.  Ritchie’s playing is still a delight, but they could have trimmed two or three minutes from the song.   That’s followed by a frantic “Lady Double Dealer”, never one of Purple’s finest.  Birch applies an irritating echo to the chorus, but that’s all for the first side.

The second side is dominated by 16 minutes of “You Fool No One”, the second jam.  Jon Lord takes center stage for the organ solo intro, but if you dig cowbell, this song is for you!  Could Ian Paice be the #1 cowbell player on the planet?  “You Fool No One” testifies to that.  He is absolutely the MVP on this track (for his drumming, too)!  Finally, the full gale force of “Stormbringer” brings the proceedings to an end, easily the best track on the disc.

What, no “Smoke on the Water”?  No “Highway Star”?  It appears EMI wanted to avoid song overlap with Made in Japan, so you get MkIII material and only MkIII material!  That the drawback to a set such as this which is really only about half of a proper Deep Purple concert.

3/5 stars

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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

REVIEW: Steve Vai – Passion and Warfare (1990)

PASSION AND WARFARE_0001STEVE VAI – Passion and Warfare (1990 Relativity)

Passion and Warfare was released in 1990.  I didn’t expect it to chart, but it did!  It was an exciting time for instrumental guitar records.  Joe Satriani had recently become a household name with albums such as Surfing With the Alien and Flying in a Blue Dream, but Flying had vocals on some songs.  Now his student Steve Vai was on the charts with his own solo album.

Different from Flex-able, which was basically just released demos, Passion and Warfare was a fully realized piece of art.  Some consider it to be Steve’s “real” debut album.  Some of the music dated back almost a decade.  “Liberty”, said Steve, was a melody he heard in a lucid dream and tried to recall.  Of the dream, Steve remembered saluting a flag he didn’t recognize, with an anthem playing.  “Liberty” opens the CD, which is actually a lyricless concept album.  Steve Vai is nothing if not ambitious.  There is some dialogue on and between songs (some performed by Steve’s then-Whitesnake bandmate David Coverdale), and the liner notes trace out some of the dreams that inspired the music.

Lyrics for a song that has no lyrics!

Lyrics for a song that has no lyrics!

“Erotic Nightmares” is self-explanatory.  Steve composed a chunky rock track with so much guitar that I doubt he even knows how many tracks of shredding is on it anymore.  Guitars build layer after layer, playing melodies that don’t seem possible to perform with fingers.  It’s not mindless shredding for the sake of shredding.  The “concept album” aspect means that the songs have movement and go to different places, trying to convey these ideas to the listener.  Steve used an Eventide harmonizer to give his guitar flute and keyboard-like tones.  Those bizarre sounds compounded with Steve’s impossible fretwork means this is one hell of an ambitious song and album.

Steve was using his new Ibanez 7-string guitar exclusively now.  I believe he stated in an interview that there is hardly any 6-string on Passion and Warfare at all.  It’s that 7th string that enables Steve to dig low on the groovy “The Animal”.   With the expert rhythm section of Stu Hamm (bass) and Chris Frazier (drums), there is no way this would suck.  Steve remembers to throw enough melodic hooks down to keep it listenable for laypeople.  “Answers” is less accessible, a cute dance of strange munchkin-like melodies.  There is a melody here, however, that recurs through the length of the album.  It’s an old melody, and part of it appeared on Flex-able and an Alcatrazz album as well.  Clearly these ideas had been gestating a long time before they were fully realized on tape.

After a brief dialogue snippet (a tape of a preacher that Steve recorded off the radio many years prior) comes the track “The Riddle”.  That’s right — the answer came before the riddle.  I love stuff like that.  It sounds like there are backwards guitars on this song, but who knows!  I’m sure Steve can make his guitar sound backwards.  “The Riddle” is a long epic that goes to exotic territories, and many textures.  “Ballerina 12/24” is a short transitional piece that shows off the Evontide harmonizer – the notes are moved up a few octaves making it sound unlike a guitar at all.  Then a deep breath and it’s onto the serious album epic — “For the Love of God”.  Considered by some as one of the greatest guitar songs of all time, you can hear what all the hype is about.  The melody that it is based on becomes increasingly more complex and expressive as the song progresses.  That’s not a sitar on the song either, just Steve wrenching sounds of the guitar that it was not intended to make!

You can’t close a side better than with “For the Love of God”.  The second half of the album commenced with the jokey “The Audience is Listening”.  While this is a smoking track, the dialogue (performed by Steve’s actual grade school teacher) doesn’t stand up to repeated listens.  It’s amusing but it has a short shelf life.  The school room theme had some comparing it to “Hot For Teacher” by Van Halen, but there’s no similarity beyond that.  It was an obvious choice to release as a single/video, with Thomas McRocklin playing young Stevie.

“I Would Love To” was the most accessible track on the album, and it too was chosen as a single/video. This is as mainstream as Passion and Warfare gets! An uptempo rock track like this is an easy point of entry for the uninitiated. That’s not to say anything is sacrificed for the sake of simplicity. Steve’s guitar is as dropping as ever. I’m not sure where it fits into the concept of the album. The liner notes tell us that the next song, “Blue Powder”, depicts a scene “high above the trees. Everything was more vivid than I thought was ever possible. I saw things from all sides. Then I realized I wasn’t perceiving things through human eyes.” Deep stuff, but musically it starts as a slow blues. Through the fingers of Steve Vai of course, so that means different from any slow electric blues you’ve heard before. And then it goes to outer space, anyway. It’s incredible how well Steve can play the blues, as well as the space-age stuff, and make it sound authentic. “Blue Powder” also boasts a freaky-funky bass solo from Stu Hamm.


I love that they make fun of New Kids on the Block in this video

“Greasy Kid’s Stuff” serves as an upbeat track with the smoking-guitar quotient at max.  “Alien Water Kiss” is another brief demonstration of how a harmonizer could make the guitar sounds like a not-guitar.  “Alien Water Kiss” actually sounds like what it’s supposed to sound like — assuming aliens have lips.  You get the feeling that a lot of Steve’s lucid dreams were wet dreams!   “They must have sensed that my actions and thoughts were harmless, being that they induced a union between us.”  Yikes!

Sometimes Steve Vai doesn’t get too weird and just writes beautiful music.  “For the Love of God” is one such song, and so is “Sisters”.  This soft ballad showcases a side of Steve Vai that some don’t know.  His technique is flawless, but so is his feel.  It doesn’t hurt to have Hamm and Frazier playing with him, who are also able to wrench feeling from their instruments.  The final song, “Love Secrets” is just Steve, at his most bizarre.  It’s a dramatic close to a confusing concept album, that leaves you with the feeling that you just heard something really significant.  You don’t know what that is, but it has a weight to it — and that’s what draws you back.

I’ve been listening to and enjoying Passion and Warfare for 25 years now.  Although Steve’s guitar tone sounds a little thin by comparison to today’s standards, I am just as enthralled as I was in 1990.  Passion and Warfare remains a genius album, and to this day it is still my favourite.

5/5 stars

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REVIEW: Whitesnake – Greatest Hits (1994)

WSWHITESNAKE – Greatest Hits (1994 Geffen)

I don’t own this CD.  Never have, actually.  I gave it enough in-store play (only while working alone!) that I have no problem reviewing it. This Greatest Hits CD dates back to 1994, the year I first started working at the Record Store. As such, it was the first ever official Whitesnake Greatest Hits CD, the first of many. The band had been broken up for about four years at that point. Even by 1994 standards, it was only an OK release. It did contain some rare tracks, but was limited to Whitesnake’s 1984-1989 Geffen output only. For budget-priced collections, I would recommend the cheaper 20th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection because it still has all the hit singles from that period at a lower price. For fans who need more, the much better Whitesnake Gold or Silver Anniversary Collection make a more complete picture with more rarities and deep album cuts. These of course weren’t available in 1994.  Today music buyers have a lot more to choose from.

One inclusion that some listeners may not enjoy about Greatest Hits is the version of “Here I Go Again” chosen. This is not the well-known album version that most people have heard. This is the “single remix” with different guitar solos (by guest Dan Huff) and more keyboards. Some radio stations do play it from time to time, but I think most casual buyers would listen to this and say, “I don’t like it as much”.  And nor do I, but it is a rarity.

Otherwise, this album (like 20th Century Masters) contains every hit single from the period, and nothing from the blues-based records before. It does feature some other cool rarities: the B-side “Sweet Lady Luck” featuring Steve Vai, “Looking For Love”, and “You’re Gonna Break My Heart Again”. However, with the many compilations and remasters released since 1994, these songs are no longer hard to find. “Sweet Lady Luck” was even released on a Steve Vai boxed set!

Rounding out this selection of hits and rare tracks are deeper album cuts.  These are include the glossy Kashmir-esque “Judgement Day”, “Crying in the Rain ’87”, “Slow Poke Music” and the wicked “Slide It In”.  They help balance out the ballad-y hits that Whitesnake were adept at writing.

Interestingly, when this album was released, David Coverdale assembled a new, shortlived Whitesnake and toured for it. That version of Whitesnake included former members Rudy Sarzo and Adrian Vandenberg, both of the 1987-1990 version of the band. It also included drummer Denny Carmassi (Coverdale-Page) and guitarist Warren DeMartini (Ratt). Shame that no live recordings from this version of the band have never been released. The band disolved for several year again after this, only to reform in 1997 with a new lineup including Carmassi and Vandenberg.

This album is only mildly better than 20th Century Masters, but is inferior to the more recent, more comprehensive compilations I have mentioned. Buy at a sensible price point.

2/5 stars
WSBACK

REVIEW: Whitesnake – Live in ’84 – Back to the Bone (DVD/CD)

It’s Purple Week at mikeladano.com!  It’s all Deep Purple and Deep Purple alumni, all week.  This is Part 4…and once again we’re going Epic Review Time.  It’s Deep Purple Mk III’s lead throat, David Coverdale & Whitesnake!  This is almost a new release; it’s about four months old.

Part 1:  Shades of Deep Purple
Part 2:  The Book of Taliesyn
Part 3:  Perfect Strangers

WHITESNAKE – Live in ’84 – Back to the Bone (2014 Frontiers Deluxe edition DVD/CD)

David Coverdale has been pretty good to the fans, in terms of giving them live archival releases from the periods they care about.  In addition to cranking out studio and live releases with the current Whitesnake lineup, David has issued deluxe editions of certain albums along with the long awaited 3 disc set Live at Donnington 1990. Now it’s the 30th anniversary of the Slide It In album, so David has issued a live retrospective set from that period too.  A CD and DVD set documenting the John Sykes years is almost a guaranteed slam dunk in itself, but how does it stack up when we break it down?  Let us take a look at the DVD and CD portions in detail.

Super-Rock Japan ’84

The main program of the release is on the DVD, and the main focus of the DVD is Super-Rock Japan ’84.  It is an 11 song set taken from Japanese television.  This is the legendary four-piece lineup: David Coverdale, John Sykes, Cozy Powell, and Neil Murray.  There is no doubt that even though the band had been trimmed down, they sounded powerful.  I just really hate when an interview is inserted right between the first and second song.  There’s no reason to ever interrupt a song on a live video, but editors do it all the time!  It’s interesting seeing Whitesnake in a single-guitar lineup, but there is obviously a backstage keyboard player (Richard Bailey).  The chops of John Sykes are such a welcome addition to the Whitesnake sound.  He has a “chug” that few other guitar players have.  Cozy Powell is as on-point as ever, but David Coverdale’s young lungs are remarkable.  At peak power, David prowls the stage and humps the microphone in complete control.

The highlight of this portion of the set is “Crying in the Rain”, almost but not quite like it would be performed on Whitesnake 1987.  I also enjoyed Sykes’ guitar solo.  Sykes makes some of the best guitar faces in rock, and he resembles a young David St. Hubbins with his shaggy mane.  “Soldier of Fortune” (an abridged version) was a pleasant surprise.  On the other hand, Cozy’s looong overblown drum solo would be more appropriate to his time in E.L.P. (Emerson Lake & Powell).  David must have been taking care of business backstage.

The video quality here is very good for an 80’s television broadcast.  Sound quality, also good.  David states in the liner notes that they weren’t able to find the master audio tapes, so this hasn’t been touched up too much.  I’m satisfied; in 1984 we didn’t have 1080p TVs in widescreen.

Only three songs from this were included on the CD: “Love Ain’t No Stranger”, “Ready An’ Willing”, and “Slow An’ Easy”.  That’s too bad.  I would have paid a little more to get a 3 disc version with a full CD of this show.  Just sayin’.

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Jon Lord’s Final Whitesnake Performance

The passing of Jon Lord has been the biggest loss in rock, in recent memory.  This truly is a treasure.  From Swedish television and shot with multiple cameras, this looks even better than the Japan footage.  Shame it’s only four songs.  To have Jon there raises the bar several notches.  It’s a five-piece lineup, although the cameras spend so little time on Jon that you’d wonder if the keyboardist is offstage again!  (Jon’s wearing a white shirt in a black-topped band; he should be easy to spot but he’s not.)  “Gambler” goes directly into “Guilty of Love”, and it’s so strange to hear it with only one guitar.  With guys like Sykes and Powell in the band, they are very active on stage and the energy is plentiful.  “Love Ain’t No Stranger” is so much better with Jon than without.  You cannot understate how much difference that big bad Hammon organ makes.  Then David tells the audience that they are “Ready An’ Willing” for some sweet satisfaction!  From this brief four song set, I can at least conclude that Swedish television in the 80’s was better than Canadian television.  Strangely, on the CD, it is included as one solid 16 minute track with no breaks.

Slide It In Slide Show

This is actually a cooler feature than you might think.  These contain some snippets of writing demos for Slide It In.  In some, David’s talking to someone, and there’s a single guitar.  In others there is a full band, but the lyrics are not there yet.  You can hear some of the classic riffs taking shape.  The rest of the audio has vintage interviews with David and live music.  Unfortunately at times the “slideshow” portion of this turns into little more than a lyric video, defeating the purpose of having a photo slideshow.  The real treasure here is a live version of the B-side, “Need Your Love So Bad”, with just David and Jon.  I am disappointed that it is not on the CD.  Something that rare really should be.

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Snakeskin Boots: The Best of the Bootlegs 

The main feature on the CD consists of bootleg and soundboard tapes.  I love bootleg recordings, and who can fault a band for beating the bootleggers and releasing the tapes officially?  Tapes were cleaned up as much as possible to make them listenable (David suggests the car as a good setting).  These songs were sort of arranged in the order of a live concert, so it still begins with “Gambler” and “Guilty of Love” like all the other sections.  “Gambler” sounds pretty good, only slightly muffled but with a hard pulse.  Sykes’ solo on “Guilty of Love” sends electric chills up the spine.  It’s great to hear the band so young and ferocious!

Cheeky David tells the crowd that the Slide It In album title does not refer to a banana!  “Love Ain’t No Stranger” is always a pleasure to hear, especially sung by a young David, and Sykes is shreddin’.  Then another cheeky intro: “I’d like to give you a toast.  If it’s in deep, and if it’s in long, and if it’s in hard…it’s indecent!”  That has to mean “Slow An’ Easy” is up next.  I will never tire of this excellent song.  “Walking in the Shadow of the Blues” is a nice surprise, but “Ready An’ Willing” is overplayed.

Sykes is given a couple minutes on his own to introduce “Crying in the Rain” with some bluesy soloing.  As great as this song is, this long version makes it clear why Whitesnake is a two guitar band.  They sound very bare when John again takes a long solo in the middle, and Neil Murray is left to fill the space.  David always wanted two guitar players, while John would have preferred not to share the spotlight.  “Soldier of Fortune” closes this portion of the CD, a nice version of the old Deep Purple classic.

The rest of the CD is dedicated to the three tunes from Super-Rock Japan that they chose to include, and the four songs from Jon Lord’s final Whitesnake show.  If you have a look at the tracklist you’ll notice that this means there’s a lot of repeat.

In closing

None of Coverdale’s archival releases or deluxe editions have been perfect.  Live in ’84 – Back to the Bone is probably the best of them yet.

4/5 stars

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REVIEW: Deep Purple – Live in Graz 1975 (2014)

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DEEP PURPLE – Live in Graz 1975 (2014 Edel)

Any time there is an official Deep Purple archival release coming out, diehards have to pay attention.  The current library of vintage live CDs is the Official Deep Purple (Overseas) Live Series.  A mouthful.  Live in Paris was the first in the series, followed by Copenhagen 1972 (which I missed but have to catch up on).  Graz 1975 is the third, and it has a long history of incomplete releases going all the way back to 1976!  Some songs were used on the single LP Made in Europe in that year.   In 1996, five songs were remixed and included on Mk III: The Final Concerts.  Now the entire April 3 show in Graz, Austria has been remixed again and released in its completion.

As a guy who owns virtually every single official Deep Purple release and catching up on the rest, I’m amazed at how crisp and fucking essential this new mix of “Burn” is.  The liner notes call it “surely the best version of this song, ever.” Paice and Blackmore both play with an excitement and energy that is even above their standards.  Lord too, but my God are Ian and Ritchie fueled up, laying down fill after fill that were of that moment.  Ritchie was on the verge of leaving — he was gone after only two more shows.  Even if you’ve heard this exact same recording of “Burn” from Mk III: The Final Concerts before, you haven’t heard it like this.  This new mix kills the prior ones, rendering them almost obsolete.  Ditto with “Stormbringer”, which captures all the energy that that was missing from Made in Europe.

I’m always pleased to hear “The Gypsy” from Stormbringer, an underrated track from an underrated album.  Glenn Hughes’ young pipes are achingly powerful, drowning out David Coverdale.  An unreleased “Lady Double Dealer” is the last short song before the show progresses on to long 10 minute or more jams.  Ritchie’s manic pick scrapes are deliciously perfect.  This usually isn’t one of my go-to Deep Purple songs, but this absolutely smokes any version I’ve heard before.

LIVE IN GRAZ 1975_0005

The first long bomber is Ritchie’s blues centerpiece, “Mistreated”.  I confess I usually snooze through this one.  This version will be familiar as one of the “bonus tracks” on Mk III: The Final Concerts.  Ritchie is the main focus of “Mistreated”, and he stretches out far and wide, using bits from “Lazy”, “Sail Away” and classical melodies.  Coverdale is much stronger vocally than he tends to be on this song.  A ramshackle “Smoke on the Water” is also dull by comparison with the first part of the set.  Its highlight is a long, building and breaking Jon Lord organ solo, which leads into “With a Little Help from my Friends”.  “You Fool No One” is over 10 minutes, and it gives Ian Paice a chance to strut his stuff.  Paice is one of those drummers that it pays off to focus on and really listen to, because he is always doing something interesting.  All of this is outshined by a 20 minute “Space Truckin'”. Richard Strauss’ “Thus Spake Zarathustra” is a suitably bombastic segue, for a band of Deep Purple’s stature.  They also detour into “Child in Time”.  If you’re not wiped out by now, you will be by the end.

Gotta say that those responsible do a great job with these Deep Purple products. Absolutely no qualms about this release at all.  Not essential to anyone but fans of Deep Purple Mk III.

3.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Whitesnake – Slip of the Tongue (Deluxe edition)

WHITESNAKE – Slip of the Tongue (1989, deluxe edition)

Normally I go crazy for these deluxe editions. Many are great!  The Whitesnake deluxe editions have not been great.  This is the third and last one in my Whitesnake deluxe edition series of reviews.

Once again, instead of two CDs, you get an expanded CD and a brief DVD. The lack of decent bonus material really frustrates me because there is more in the vaults. You know there has to be more in the vaults. In fact in the liner notes, David tells us that there is more.  He name-drops several unfinished songs that didn’t make the cut, but fans would kill to hear.

SLIP OF THE TONGUE_0008Slip Of The Tongue was not the best Whitesnake album (not by a long stretch), but with 20/20 hindsight and the presence of Steve Vai, it’s fun to listen to. Yes, it’s too glossy, and yes, Vai was not the right guy to be in Whitesnake, but the result is one of those strange one-off’s like Black Sabbath’s Born Again, or Motorhead’s Another Perfect Day. It’s an album that doesn’t quite fit with the back catalogue, but has become a cult favourite.  I have long been a fan of it, simply because Steve Vai is jaw-dropping even when playing pedestrian hard rock.

SLIP OF THE TONGUE_0007For Vai fans, he plays it pretty straight here, not a lot of craziness.  There’s a broken string on one song, and some cool solos, but nothing bizarre like you’ll find on a Vai solo album.   If  you want to hear him just do some serious hard rock and balladeering without the crazy stuff, this is the CD for you. Within the scope of Whitesnake, Vai sets the album on fire; throwing in notes where you didn’t know they could fit, making sounds you didn’t know a guitar could make, and overdubbing a mountain of fills. Just check out opening track “Slip Of The Tongue” for some serious burning, via a 7-string Ibanez guitar through an Eventide harmonizer.

Song-wise, this is mostly hard rock and very little blues. The slick remake of “Fool For Your Loving” (originally from Ready An’ Willing), which Coverdale’s liner notes reveal he didn’t want to do, is inferior to the bluesier, groovier original. “The Deeper The Love”, purportedly a soul song, is actually just a great hard rock ballad with some wonderful Vai licks. The best songs are the epic Zeppelin-esque “Judgement Day”, the aggresive “Wings Of The Storm”, the hit rocker “Now You’re Gone” and the signature Coverdale album closer “Sailing Ships” which has become one of his philosophical classics.

SLIP OF THE TONGUE_0006Among the sparse bonus tracks: the B-side “Sweet Lady Luck”, which is available many times elsewhere now, on both Whitesnake and Steve Vai compilations.  Also, the US single mix (by Chris Lord-Alge) of “Now You’re Gone” is included but many fans would be hard pressed to tell the difference. The promo-only “Vai Voltage Mix” of “Fool For Your Loving” predictably throws in a lot more guitar. (I already had this on a promo single that I acquired for $2, but this is good for fans to have.)  There are two tracks from the 1990 Donington Festival, which would have been a real treat, because these songs (unlike the other bonus tracks) had never been released before. This was the first ever official release of Whitesnake live stuff with Vai. But it was also just a sneak preview of an actual 2 CD/1 DVD release of the full Donington show.  Double dipping sucks!

Then, just like on previous deluxe editions…another live track by a more current edition of Whitesnake! Honestly, this ticks me off for two reasons. One, you can get the new live Whitesnake albums with no difficulty and two, it’s from 15 years later and has nothing to do with Slip Of The Tongue. Yet these new live versions pop up on all these Whitesnake reissues. Why?

The DVD is brief and hardly as satisfying as another CD would be. You get the three original music videos, the two Donington live songs, and then another bunch of unrelated live stuff. Two live tunes from 1997’s Starkers In Tokyo acoustic show, and yet another live track from a more recent Whitesnake live DVD, which is available on its own. Again, I feel this is a bit of a ripoff. It’s nice to have these Starkers tunes on a DVD, but why not release an entire separate DVD of that show? It has nothing to do with Slip Of The Tongue, except that Coverdale played a couple of these songs live.

SLIP OF THE TONGUE_0004The booklet by Coverdale is a real treat, revealing much previously unknown tidbits to tease your friends with. I had no idea that Adrian Vandenberg for example managed to play a little bit of backing guitar on the album. Previous issues of the CD stated that Vai handled all guitar duties, but that has turned out to be false. Also, Coverdale talks a bit about Glenn Hughes, and why you can barely hear him sing on this CD, even though he’s credited on backing vocals.

Frustratingly though, Coverdale also mentioned all those unfinished and unreleased songs from these sessions: “Kill For The Cut”, “Burning Heart”, “Parking Ticket”, and so on. These were all titles that I read about 25 years ago in Hit Parader magazine, and wondered why they didn’t show up on album B-sides. The booklet reveals that they were never finished, but that is no excuse — they should have been presented here as bonus tracks instead of this unrelated live stuff. The Sabbath deluxe editions have tons of unfinished songs on them. So do some of the reissues of the early Whitesnake albums, such as Come An’ Get It.  This CD should have been the same.  Unless David is hanging onto these songs for some kind of anthology box set in the future, I can’t figure out how they arrived at the selections for this reissue CD!  It’s maddening.  Do it right, or not at all.

Decent album, great liner notes, top notch and generous packaging, and great remastering job. Crap bonus material.

3/5 stars

More WHITESNAKE at mikeladano.com:

WHITESNAKE – 1987 (Deluxe edition)
WHITESNAKE – Come An’ Get It (EMI 1981, 2007 remastered)
WHITESNAKE – Forevermore (2011 deluxe edition, Frontiers)
WHITESNAKE – Good to Be Bad (2008 Warner/SPV)
WHITESNAKE – Live At Donnington 1990 (2CD/1DVD) (2011)
WHITESNAKE – Snakebite (1978)
WHITESNAKE – Slide It In (EMI, UK, US mixes, 25th Anniversary Edition)

More VAI too:

VAI – Sex & Religion (1993 Relativity)
ALCATRAZZ – Disturbing the Peace (1985 EMI, 2001 Light Without Heat)
DAVID LEE ROTH – Skyscraper (1988 Warner Bros.)
DAVID LEE ROTH – Sonrisa Salvaje (“Wild Smile”, 1986 Spanish recording, remastered 2007 – Warner)

REVIEW: Coverdale/Page – Coverdale/Page (1993)

COV PAGE_0001COVERDALE-PAGE:  Coverdale-Page (1993 Geffen)

Following the demise of Whitesnake and the failure of Zeppelin to mount a 1991 tour in support of their first box set, it was almost inevitable what happened next. It was something that many Zeppelin fans feared. Lead Snake David Coverdale, who was once derided as “David Coverversion” by Robert Plant, joined Plant’s erstwhile bandmate Jimmy Page in a new supergroup. Geffen’s John Kalodner (John Kalodner) helped facilitate this move which should have generated sales over 10 million units. Unfortunately another thing also happened in 1991: grunge.

The shame of it is that Coverdale-Page is a stunning rock album.   For years it haunted my bargain bins, simply because of the hard rock stigma that permeated the 1990’s.  Many fans refused to listen to it, others simply chose to mock superficial elements of it, such as Coverdale’s man-shrieks.  The fact that Page was looking and sounding great should be enough to warrant multiple listens by any serious rock fan.  He hadn’t released any new material since 1988’s Outrider.  As for Coverdale, it was a chance to get back to his bluesy rock roots, something he expressed a desire to do shortly after Whitesnake’s dissolution.

The studio band weren’t hacks either.  Ricky Phillips had played bass with Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain in Bad English, and he’s been in Styx for ages now.  Drummer Denny Carmassi was in Montrose (that’s him on the cover of the classic 1973 self-titled record) among many stellar bands, and he later did a stint in Whitesnake itself.  Coverdale and Page co-produced the album with veteran Mike Fraser.

Finally, the most important elements were also in place:  the songs.  11 songs, most in the 5-6 minute range, make up Coverdale-Page.  Those expecting or even hoping for a Zeppelin album were bound to be disappointed.  Despite the “Coverversion” nickname, Cov the Gov is his own person and persona.  Singing over Pagey’s classic Zeppish riffs does not a Zeppelin make.  Rather, Page and Coverdale comingle over their common ground, and naturally there are elements that have a Whitesnake aura.  To expect otherwise would be folly.

“Shake My Tree” was the perfect opener.  Pagey’s tricky little licks have that familiar sound, immediately.  Then the great lothario Cov the Gov starts howlin’…the stage was set within the first minute of the album.  The closest comparison I can think of would be “Slow An’ Easy” in terms of overall vibe.  Just replace Moody’ slide guitar with Jimmy’s intricate chicken pickin’.  David’s lyrics were as naughty as ever.  It must have burned Robert Plant’s ass to have to sing it when he reunited with Jimmy later on himself.  He seemed to be freestyling it quite a bit with David’s lyrics, barely sticking to the words at all!

“Waiting On You” would have been a radio-ready single.  It has that kind of smoking hard rock riff, a killer of a chorus, and great vocals.  Coverdale’s no poet, but I dig his words.  “Ever since I started drinkin’, my ship’s been slowly sinkin’, so tell me what a man’s supposed to do.”  Well, let me tell you David.  1) Drinking and boating is against the law, just like drinking and driving.  2) Put on your goddamn life vest!

I hesitate to call “Take Me A Little While” a ballad.  I mean, it is a ballad, but it’s also a pretty good bluesy workout for David.  It’s a little classier than the average “power ballad”, because hey…it’s Jimmy Page.  It doesn’t sound like other ballads by other bands, because not too many bands have Jimmy Page.  His playing and writing are unlike anyone else’s, he is one of the most recognizable musicians in rock and roll.

“Pride And Joy” was the first single, and what a single it was.  It starts off swampy and acoustic, before Jimmy’s big Les Paul announces its presence with some big chords.  Then David’s back in lothario-land, seducing “daddy’s little princess, Momma’s pride and joy.”  Despite the lyrics, the song’s still a stunner.  “Over Now” is also cool; a thinly veiled attack on Tawny Kitaen.

You told me of your innocence,
An’ I believed it all,
But your best friend is your vanity,
And the mirror on the wall.

It doesn’t get any nicer from there, but musically this is one of the most Zeppelin-ish songs.  While you can’t compare it to any specific song in the Zeppelin oeuvre, but it’s there in that slow relentless drum beat, the orchestration, and Pagey’s unorthodox guitar.

The closest thing to filler on Coverdale-Page is “Feeling Hot”.  It’s not outstanding, but it does show off the faster side of Jimmy’s playing.  It’s akin to “Wearing and Tearing” but with naughtier lyrics.  Once again it is Jimmy’s playing that I’m tuned in to.  That continues with “Easy Does It” which begins acoustically.  Like most acoustic moments on the album (and like Zeppelin), Jimmy’s guitar is recorded in layers, giving it real heft.  This all changes halfway through the song, when Jimmy’s Les Paul once again takes center stage.  Then it transforms into a bluesy prowl.

Possibly the most commercial song is “Take A Look At Yourself”.  Not a bad song, but definitely the most “pop rock”.  It’s probably closest to a Whitesnake song such as “The Deeper The Love”.  Had the year been 1990 or even 1991, “Take A Look At Yourself” would have been a top charting single everywhere.  David seems to have cheered up with new found love here.  However the heartbreak is not over.  “Don’t Leave Me This Way” is about as earnest as it gets.  At 8 minutes, it’s also the most ambitious song.  It’s the centerpiece of the album.  It sounds at once like it’s the most sincere song, showcasing some of Jimmy Page’s best post-Zeppelin guitar work.   As for David, he’s never sung better.

“Absolution Blues” begins similarly to “In The Evening”.  Fading in are layers of atmospheric guitars as only Jimmy plays them.  These give way to the fastest, heaviest song on the album.  It’s also one of my favourites.  You you can hear the elements of Jimmy and David separately, but working together.  The song goes through numerous changes before returning to that riff.  If you thought Jimmy Page had already written every great riff in Led Zeppelin, think again.  It’s “Black Dog” sped up to ludicrous speed.

Album closer “Whisper A Prayer For the Dying” is as cheerful and uplifting as the title alludes.  It’s has an epic quality and length like “Don’t Leave Me This Way”, but this time the lyrics are less personal and more topical.  David laments the innocent casualties of modern warfare, and refers to politicians as “bodyguards of lies”.  While certainly not profound, it’s refreshing to hear Coverdale change the bloody subject away from the female of the species every now and again.  Profound or not, I’m certain that it was heartfelt, and musically it kicks ass.  It’s also a perfect album closer for a dark and brooding record like this.  So there.

Hugh Syme (Rush) did the artwork.  Say what you will about the bland cover itself, but I like the way he used the “merge” sign much like the “object” was in the artwork for Presence.  And like many Zeppelin albums, there are no pictures of the artists anywhere.

The year 1993 was not a kind one to singers of Coverdale’s ilk.  Most of his competition had been replaced by Chris Cornell, Eddie Vedder, and Kurt Cobain.  One way or the other, the Coverdale-Page tour was not doing enough business and the plug was pulled.  David has since mentioned that he and Page had more songs, enough to get started on a second album.  He’s also expressed a desire to release those songs on some kind of deluxe edition reissue.  I hope that happens.  I’d buy Coverdale-Page again.  It would only be the third time.

4.5/5 stars

More COVERDALE at mikeladano.com:

Snakebite – Come An’ Get It – Slide It In – Whitesnake (1987) – Live at Donnington – Good to be Bad – Forevermore

More ZEPPELIN too:

Self-titled box setBox Set 2The Complete Studio Recordings