john sykes

REVIEW: Whitesnake – 1987 (30th Anniversary Edition box set)

WHITESNAKE – 1987 (30th Anniversary Edition Rhino box set)

Back when I reviewed the original “Deluxe” edition of Whitesnake’s 1987, I said, “Great album, but this reissue could have been so much better.”  And so here we are.

Let’s get right down to it.  You already know the story of Whitesnake 1987 or you wouldn’t be here.

The main feature is the 2017 remaster of 1987, which actually sounds pretty great.  In this day and age, if you’re seeking the warmth of a vintage vinyl experience, you can go and have that experience for far less money than this box set costs.  For a compact disc, this might be as good as we’ve gotten so far.  If you look at the Audacity waveforms below, you can see the 2017 remaster (top) has roughly the same levels as a previous one from Whitesnake Gold.

I’m still hanging on to my original UK version of 1987, but for compact disc, this is probably it.


David Coverdale wanted to adapt Whitesnake to the 1980s with this album, and this lineup with John Sykes, Neil Murray, and new drummer Aynsley Dunbar was certainly able to deliver.  The album was always loud, especially compared to their 70s output.  Sykes provided the squeals that the kids wanted.  David was back in top voice.  The album they delivered is legendary for how it changed Whitesnake’s fortunes.

The running order on this box set is not the original UK or US, but the combined running order as used on the previous 20th anniversary edition.

“Still of the Night” blows the doors in, a tornado in the night, mighty and sexy too.  Whitesnake had never been this aggressive before, but “Give Me All Your Love” lulls the listener back to something easier to digest on first listen.  “Give Me All Your Love” was a successful single because it’s melodic pop rock with guitars.  But then the band scorch again with “Bad Boys”, top speed right into your daughter’s headphones!  Whether it was Aynsley Dunbar or just the songs that they wrote, the pace is high gear.

“Is This Love”, a song that David was writing with Tina Turner in mind, was another massive hit.   John Kolodner (John Kolodner) insisted that they keep it for themselves, and he was right as he often was.  For a big 80s ballad, “Is This Love” really was perfect.  It tends to work better in a stripped back arrangement, since the original is so specifically tailored to that era.  Still, Sykes’ solo on it has to be one of his best.

Speaking of hits, “Here I Go Again” is the one that Sykes didn’t want to do, and look what happened.  That humble pie probably tasted no good to Sykes when he found himself fired by Coverdale after the album was completed.  His replacement, Adrian Vandenberg (Vandenberg) actually played the guitar solo, so dissatisfied was Coverdale with the one Sykes produced.  “Here I Go Again” was of course a minor hit from Saints & Sinners, but deserving of a second shot in America with production more suited to their tastes.  Don Airey on keyboards; though Whitesnake did without an official keyboardist this time.

“Straight For the Heart” is a great also-ran that perhaps could have been another single if they kept trottin’ them out instead of stopping at four.  High speed but with incredible hooks, it’s impossible not to like.  “Looking For Love” is the second ballad, but actually originally unreleased in the US.  It’s toned down from the style of “Is This Love”, and Neil Murray’s bass is pronounced.  He was a huge part of the groove on this album, if you really settle in and listen to the rhythm section.  His bass has a certain “bop” to it.  “Children of the Night” returns the tempo to allegro and the lyrics to dirty.  I can’t imagine too many fathers of the 80s wanted their daughters to go to the Whitesnake concert if they heard David cooing, “Don’t run for cover, I’m gonna show you what I’ve learned, just come a little closer, come on an’ get your fingers burned.” Another UK exclusive, “You’re Gonna Break My Heart Again” cools it down slightly, but that Sykes riff is hot like a torch!

“Crying in the Rain” is held back to second-last in this running order, even though it opened the US album.  Another re-recording, “Crying in the Rain” was suggested by Kolodner because he knew Sykes could give it that massive blues rock sound that it had in the live setting.  Again, he was right.  “Crying in the Rain” is massive — perhaps the most sheerly heavy piece of rock that Whitesnake ever dug up.  Finally the CD closes with the last ballad, “Don’t Turn Away”, which closed the US version.  It’s a fine song indeed, and a really good vibe on which to end Whitesnake 1987.


The second CD in this set is called Snakeskin Boots:  Live on Tour 1987-1988.  Presumably, these are recordings from throughout the tour, assembled into a CD-length running order.  The “boots” in the title implies bootleg quality, but it certainly sounds better than that.  Soundboards maybe?

The studio lineup of Whitesnake dissolved and David got Vandenberg in, followed by Vivian Campbell (Dio) and the rhythm section of Rudy Sarzo and Tommy Aldridge (Ozzy Osbourne).  This new lineup was not based in the whiskey blues of the old band(s), but in the flashy stylings of the 1980s.  Vivian and Vandenberg were both capable of shredding your brain.  That’s generally how they do it on these recordings.  Opening with “Bad Boys”, the manic tempo is maintained while the guitars reach for the stratosphere.

Sounds like it was a hell of a show, rolling into the groove of “Slide it In” and “Slow An’ Easy”, and the good news is the 1987 band can play the 1984 songs too.  David Coverdale is the ringmaster, the veteran, confident and in prime voice.  All the songs are from either 1987 or Slide it In, with only one exception:  the slow blues “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City” from the original 1978 Snakebite EP.  Sounds like Vivian Campbell accompanying David on this slow, classy blues.  No Deep Purple in the set; but my old pal Rob Vuckovich once said he went to the Toronto show on this tour bearing a flag that said “PLAY PURPLE”.  He also claimed David acknowledged it by saying, “We’re not playing any of that!”

“Here I Go Again” comes early on the CD, fourth in line, and it’s excellent.  “Guilty of Love” is a nice surprise, and “Love Ain’t No Stranger” is more than welcome at the party.  “Is This Love” is well received, and works well in the live setting without too much extra production.  Adrian can’t top the Sykes solo, though he gets within very close range.  Vivian and Adrian get a feature solo with a keyboard backdrop, and it’s quite good — more like an instrumental than just a solo.  It leads into a brutally heavy “Crying in the Rain”; Tommy Aldridge literally beats the shit out of it!  The CD closes on “Give Me All Your Love” with David substituting the word “baby” in the opening line with “Tawny”!

There’s little question.  For most fans, the major draw of this box set will be this live CD.  If that is you, you will not be disappointed by Snakeskin Boots.


Disc three in this monolith of a box set is the 87 Evolutions.  This is an interesting concept but not one that you will be craving to have a listen regularly.  This disc is intended for deeper study.  These tracks are the album’s songs in various stage of demoing.  “Still of the Night” for example starts as a living room demo, with David slapping his knees for drums, and only the most basic of lyrics.  Then this demo fades seamlessly into a more advanced full band arrangement, with the lyrics still unfinished.  There’s a funky middle solo section here that is more jam than song, but a blast to hear.

That is the kind of thing you can expect to hear on 87 Evolutions.  No need to spoil what you should enjoy discovering yourself.  This is for the hardcore of hardcore fans, those that want every squeal that ever came from Sykes’ axe.  You are gonna get it.  Incidentally, I think I prefer David’s original, rough slow bluesy version of “Give Me All Your Love” to the glossy pop song it became.

This disc ends with a “Ruff Mix” of the completed “Crying in the Rain” from Little Mountain studios.  All the parts are in place, the mix just needed that modern bombast that David was aiming for.


The fourth and final CD, 87 Versions, is a collection of alternate remixes released on various singles, and brand new remixes as well.  These are really cool bonuses.  The 2017 mix of “Still of the Night” has a really dry sound, allowing you to really hear the spaces between the instruments.  A lot of these remixes have a different balance of instruments, so you will hear different things yourself.  There are two remixes of “Give Me All Your Love” on this CD:  the 2017 with the original Sykes solo, and the highly coveted alternate with “new” solo by Vivian Campbell.  There are also two remixes of “Here I Go Again”, including the old “Radio Mix” with a completely different group of musicians and a much more pop arrangement.

Among these remixes is something called the 1987 Versions:  Japan Mini-Album, proving that Japan always get the best stuff.  This apparent EP contains the B-sides and bonus tracks that you couldn’t get on the album.  “Standing in the Shadows” was another song re-recorded for 1987, though left as a B-side.  “Looking For Love” and “You’re Gonna Break My Heart Again” are also included, since back then you could only get them in the UK.  “Need Your Love So Bad” was a previous Whitesnake B-side, remixed in 1987 for a new B-side!  It’s an absolutely stunning ballad, quiet with only keyboard accompaniment.

With all these tracks included, pretty much every track associated with the 1987 album and singles is covered.


Whitesnake: The Videos is the fifth disc, a DVD.  It’s really just an add-on, nothing substantial (like a 5.1 mix).  First on the menu:  “More Fourplay”, the classic MTV videos that set the world on fire in 1987.  Some behind the scenes footage too.  MTV was a huge part of this band’s success (hopefully Tawny gets paid a royalty from this reissue?).  These glossy videos are…well, they didn’t age as well as the album did.  Why does Rudy always lick his bass?  You just gotta laugh at “Here I Go Again”; the pretentious image of the three guys (Viv, Adrian, Rudy) playing keyboards passionately side by side…utterly silly.  But yet iconic.  “Is This Love” has the band playing on evening rooftops, Rudy wielding a double-neck bass.  Why?  Doesn’t matter; in 1987 we thought it was awesome.  “Give Me All Your Love” is a notable video, being a “live on stage” type, but also with the brand new guitar solo cut by Vivian.  For his solo, Viv chose to play on the wang bar a bit too much, but at least David let him do one.  It remains Vivian’s only studio appearance with Whitesnake, ever.  Unannounced but cool just the same, “Love Ain’t No Stranger” (from Slide It In) is used in whole as the end credit song for the “More Fourplay” segment.

Next up is a 28 minute documentary about the making of the album.  David has clear recollections and is always a delight to listen to. (Some vintage Coverdale interview footage is actually from a MuchMusic piece with Denise Donlon.) Interestingly, he claims that the “Still of the Night” riff is one that he found in his mother’s attic, that he wrote back in the tail of Deep Purple.  “Still of the Night” could have been a Purple song, but it took John Sykes to make it what it became.  We then move on to the assembly of the touring lineup, dubbed the “United Nations of Rock”.  Tommy and Rudy are also interviewed in vintage clips, with Tommy proudly proclaiming that they want to bring musicality back to rock and roll.

The “Purplesnake Video Jam” (whut?) video of “Here I Go Again” is basically a brand new music video using alternate footage from the time.  The mix is similar to the old single mix, but spruced up.  Finally there is the “’87 Tour Bootleg”, and woah!  It’s pro-shot multi-camera footage.  You only get half of “Crying in the Rain”, and all of “Still of the Night”.  Why not more?  Is this a tease for some kind of upcoming DVD?  The footage reveals a band of their time, but a good band.  Not the best Whitesnake lineup ever (Sykes gets that), but a good lineup with something special together.  They were tight, they could all play their nuts off, and present a high energy 80s stageshow, especially Rudy.  By the end of “Still of the Night”, David is actually dodging panties being thrown at his head.  I kid you not.


As per usual, any box set worth its own respect is packed with added stuff usually made of paper.  In this case, a nice hard cover booklet, a smaller softcover lyric book, and a poster.  Posters have to be the biggest waste of money in a set like this.  Who’s going to hang it?  I’m probably never even to unfold mine once.

Now that you have all the details, you should be able to decide if this box set needs to be in your collection.  It needed to be in mine.  And guess what — Slide it In is next!

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
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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: Thin Lizzy – Vagabonds Kings Warriors Angels (2001 box set)

IMG_20141109_085906

LIZZY VAGABONDS BOX_0001THIN LIZZY – Vagabonds Kings Warriors Angels (2001 Mercury 4 CD set)

This is one of the best boxed sets that I own. Of course, it’s not a complete collection of rarities. Such a thing does not exist, the Lizzy catalogue is so labyrinthine with EP’s, singles, and Phil’s solo projects. It takes a scholar just to keep it all straight. This set however does include a very generous slice of rarities, including one rare exclusive. It also includes pretty much every Lizzy hit and album cut you could want. Everything from my own obscure favourites (“Hollywood”, “The Sun Goes Down”) to the biggest hits (“Jailbreak”, “The Boys are Back in Town”) are on here.

The set is divided into four discs, each one reflecting a phase of Thin Lizzy. From the Eric Bell power trio years (was “power trio” even a phrase back then?) to the final Phil single “Nineteen” (famously covered by Bad 4 Good), there is no era of the band overlooked. The liner notes are also excellent, with lots of photos and text, and detailed credits.

The rarities and B-sides are pure gold. It’s also important to remember that in Lizzy’s day, non-album singles were the norm.  Many of those singles are crucial tracks.  “Randolph’s Tango”, with its intricate flamenco solo, is one.  The storming “Little Darling” is another necessity.  I love the reggae of “Half Caste”. How hard it must have been being Phil Lynott growing up. “The boy ain’t black, the boy is brown,” goes the painful lyric. “Sitamoia” (written by Brian Downey) is a ferocious tornado as only Lizzy could do. “Sugar Blues” is a live jam blast, featuring the underrated Snowy White doing what he does best: the blues.

IMG_20141109_085733Most of the B-sides and rare tracks have since been released on the various Thin Lizzy deluxe editions.  Not necessarily in these versions though.  One track you won’t find on a deluxe edition is “Song For Jimi”, originally from a magazine flexi-disc.  This track features a reunited original Thin Lizzy with Eric Bell, recording in 1981!

With complete honesty, there isn’t one single track I would have changed on this set. I think of all my favourites (Lizzy, solo, and otherwise) and check to see if they’re on here. “Johnny the Fox Meets Jimmy the Weed”? Check. “Massacre”? Check. “The Rocker”? Check. “King’s Call”? Check. “Fool’s Gold”? Check. “Romeo And The Lonely Girl”? Check. “Dancing In The Moonlight”? Check. In fact the only thing I can think of that’s missing is the posthumous “Dedication”, but it’s arguable that it doesn’t belong, since it has a sort of early 90’s sound and was finished by Gorham and Downey on their own.

I wish Thin Lizzy became as big a name as some of their contemporaries, such as Zeppelin, Aerosmith, or Purple. They certainly had the musical chops, they had a multitude of influences and variety of sounds (all Lizzy though), and of course they had the unequaled lyrical talents of Phil Lynott. A poet like Lynott will never come again. Let’s celebrate his life, even though it’s too late for him to celebrate with us.

5/5 stars

REVIEW: Whitesnake – 1987 (Deluxe edition)

Whitesnake reviews at mikeladano.com:

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

1987WHITESNAKE – 1987 (2007 20th Anniversary Deluxe edition)

I remember sitting at home watching MuchMusic in July of ’87. The Power Hour was on and they played “Here I Go Again”. It was my first time hearing Whitesnake and I hit “record” on the VCR.

This was and still is a great album, although it was a lot heavier than I expected back then. Also, if you’re from the 80’s you’ll remember this, the cassette was so tight that it always played slow in my tape deck. So it always sounded frickin’ awful for me and it wasn’t until I picked it up on CD sometime in the 90’s that I really gave this album a chance.

It’s overproduced all to hell, even excessive by the standards of the time. But my God it does some crunch to it. John Sykes on guitar saw to that. Neil Murray remains on bass, but buried inaudibly beneath a very dense mix. Aynsley Dunbar subbed in on drums, a very busy drummer, but it actually works. There are a few moments, particularly during “Crying In The Rain”, where he overdoes it, but in general he was exactly the kind of drummer needed to elevate the album to this caliber.

If you’re looking for the radio hits, they are pretty much all on this album, so just click “buy” on whatever site you choose.  Or visit your local brick-and-mortar and see if they carry it.  In any case this album goes beyond just the four hit singles. The aforementioned “Crying In The Rain” (a re-recording from Saints An’ Sinners, same as “Here I Go Again”) is a crucially important album track, as is “Don’t Turn Away”, a rocker/ballad closer that has some of Coverdale’s best singing. But wait, there’s more. The album has included the addition of the two songs that are usually only available on the UK version: “You’re Gonna Break My Heart Again” (awesome fast rocker, totally album worthy) and “Looking For Love” (ballad). I like what they did here — they maintained the track order of the US version (my preferred version) and put in the two UK tracks within the tracklist (tracks 7 & 9). It just works better in my opinion to have “Don’t Turn Away” at the end of the album.

Then I hate what they did next. Instead of giving you era B-sides or live songs, they stick on four live versions by a later version of Whitesnake, readily available on a common live album. (Live versions of the four big singles.) What could have been included instead: the “single version” of “Here I Go Again” which is a completely different mix! The single version of “Give Me All Your Love”, the only recording to feature guitar playing from Vivian Campbell (the solo)!  Or hell, even live recordings from the era?  Anything but these live duplicates from a much later time.

There is a bonus DVD included. The four music videos and then, again…the same four damn live songs!  Also by a later Whitesnake, from a common live DVD. Jesus Murphy!  Booklet and liner notes are decent at least, but not enough to justify me owning this any longer.  My recommended edition: Here I Go Again: The Whitesnake Collection (2CD). This contains the US versions of all three Geffen-era Whitesnake albums, all the pertinent B-sides except one*, the two UK bonus tracks from this album, and the aforementioned single mixes.

4/5 stars. Great album, but this reiusse could have been so much better.

CD track list				DVD video list
1. Still of the Night			1. Still of the Night
2. Give Me All Your Love		2. Here I Go Again 87
3. Bad Boys		                3. Is This Love
4. Is This Love				4. Give Me All Your Love
5. Here I Go Again 87			5. Give Me All Your Love (live)
6. Straight for the Heart		6. Is This Love (live)
7. Looking for Love		        7. Here I Go Again (live)
8. Children of the Night		8. Still of the Night (live)
9. You're Gonna Break My Heart Again
10. Crying in the Rain
11. Don't Turn Away
12. Give Me All Your Love (live)
13. Is This Love (live)
14. Here I Go Again (live)
15. Still of the Night (live)

* Still missing on any CD is the 1987 remix of “Standing in the Shadow” from the “Is This Love” single.

REVIEW: Thin Lizzy – Thunder and Lightning (180 gram vinyl with bonus 12″)

THIN LIZZY – Thunder and Lightning (1983, 180 gram Back on Black reissue)

I love this album, it was actually the first Lizzy studio album I bought, on vinyl, from Tom’s store way back in the late 1990’s.  I’ve always loved John Sykes from his work in Whitesnake and Blue Murder.

Thunder and Lightning is the final Lizzy studio album.  It’s definitely the most metal, but it’s not the best sounding one (gimme Black Rose for that honour). It just strikes that chord inside. You know how certain albums just click with you and you don’t know why? That’s Thunder and Lightning for me, but I think it reminds me of that general vibe of heavy metal music in 1983.  There are times it reminds me of Judas Priest.

This is the only album from the Lynott/Gorham/Downey/Wharton/Sykes lineup.  It is produced by Chris Tsangarides (Anvil, Judas Priest). Wharton and Sykes both scored songwriting credits, which may be why this album sounds so much more “metal”.  Wharton’s keys are not obtrusive.

Best track:   Gorham and Lynott’s “Bad Habits”. If there was one track that sounded like old Lizzy circa Johnny The Fox, it’s “Bad Habits”. It’s just a rock and roller of a song with killer lyrics.  Phil’s voice is noticeably a lot more raw, worn, but he works within his limitations as always.  His voice remains as expressive as ever.  In “Bad Habits” he sounds like he’s jonesing as bad as the title implies.

“Cold Sweat” is the one that Sykes co-wrote, and it is very metal, featuring his trademark guitar squeals and yet more great lyrics from Lynott. “I got a whole month’s wages, I haven’t seen that much in ages, I might spend it in stages, and move out to Las Vegas.”  Love it.  Sung by Lynott, those lines tell a whole story.

IMG_00000235_editReally, there’s not a bad song on this album. “This Is The One” has some relentless pounding drums courtesy of Brian Downey (one of the true greats). “The Sun Goes Down” is a slower one with a keyboard solo, very atmospheric. It reminds me of the similarly titled “Night Comes Down” by Judas Priest. “Holy War” is another relentless pounder with a message to be heard. Not a bad track to be found.

If I had any complaints it would probably be the mix/production which at times comes across as a bit too bombastic and 80’s.  I mean, it’s still Thin Lizzy, one of the classiest sounding bands ever.  Thunder and Lightning is pretty evolved in sound from a classic like Jailbreak, and that may or may not be to your taste.

Some vinyl and cassette versions of Thunder and Lightning came with four bonus live tracks.  They are actually from the Renegade tour and feature Snowy White on guitar instead of his replacement John Sykes.  Thankfully, the current Back on Black 180 gram vinyl release restores the rare 12″ bonus EP.  The four songs are “Emerald”, “Killer on the Loose”, “The Boys are Back in Town”, and “Hollywood (Down on Your Luck)”.  These are great tracks.  It also has a gatefold sleeve with lyrics inside.  It’s a very nice package.

I’ve heard that 2013 will see the release of more Lizzy deluxe editions, including Thunder and Lightning.  If that’s the case I will pre-order it as soon as I hear about it.  There are still several B-sides from this period that are not currently available, such as “Angel of Death”, “Still in Love With You”, and “Don’t Believe a Word” live, and a remix of “The Sun Goes Down”.  I don’t have these tracks, but it sure would be nice to get everything on one deluxe CD package, wouldn’t it?  You guys paying attention, Universal?

5/5 stars

LIZZY

REVIEW: Whitesnake – Forevermore (2011)

This has become a bit of a series I guess, unintentionally!  Here are my Whitesnake reviews thus far:

SnakebiteCome An’ Get ItSlide It InLive at DonningtonGood to be Bad

WHITESNAKE – Forevermore (2011 deluxe edition, Frontiers)

Considering that this band has housed such monster players as Steve Vai and John Sykes among many others, I take great risk with my opening statement, but here goes: I think Forevermore, the newest album by Whitesnake, is the most guitar-heavy of their entire career. Indeed, on first listen, one is blown away by the extremely well recorded antics of Reb Beach and Doug Aldrich. These guys can wail.

And wail they do, the opener “Steal Your Heart Away” (not to be confused with “Steal Away” from Snakebite) just roars with bluesy chords, fast fretwork, and slippery slides.  The guitars are greasy! And that’s just the opening track.

FOREVERMORE_0004You can definitely hear an urge from Coverdale and Co. to keep everything loosely based on the origins of Whitesnake. You get a lot of bluesy rock, a lot of soul singing from one of the best there is, and some serious groove. On the whole, this album sounds like a growth from the last album, the solid but safe Good To Be Bad. Good To Be Bad was a decent album, but very “safe”. It did not stray much if at all from the classic Whitesnake 1987 sound, complete with guitar solos from the John Sykes School of Axe Wizardry. Now Whitesnake are stretching out more, and dropping a lot of the Sykes-isms. If the last album was a debut album of sorts, this one definitely sounds like the more confident second album.

David is singing great. His voice is as marvelously rich as it was on the Coverdale-Page album back in 1993. And speaking of Coverdale-Page, some of these songs definitely bring that great album to mind.

The only thing that I really don’t like about Whitesnake today are the lyrics. David’s a capable lyricist, and songs like the oldie “Sailing Ships” are really well written. When David, at his current age, starts singing about girls that way that he sings about girls, I feel mildly queezy inside.  But then, on the album closer “Forevermore”, David returns to his philosophical lyrical side, a side I prefer.  (And it’s a great song.)

It is what it is, and musically this is just a freakin’ great album. My current fave track is “All Out Of Luck” which sports this nifty space age blues metal riff. You will find your own favourites too. Fans of both 70’s and 80’s ‘Snake should find something to enjoy here.

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There’s a bonus DVD:  A music video, some making-ofs, and a track by track commentary by DC himself.

There are bonus tracks on my “deluxe edition”, all remixes and alternate versions. Just a nice bonus, not essential for the enjoyment of this album. The “Evil Drums” mix of “My Evil Ways” is a little crazy.  Of note, Japan also got an exclusive bonus of their own, a “Swamp Mix” of “Whipping Boy Blues”. Like our bonus tracks, it’s just a bonus, not essential to the flavour of the album. Track it down if you’re a collector. I’ve heard it, it’s cool.

4.5/5 stars

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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.

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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

REVIEW: Whitesnake – Slide It In (1984 UK, US edition, 25th Anniversary edition)

 

WHITESNAKE – Slide It In (EMI, UK, US mixes, 25th Anniversary Edition)

Slide It In is a great album.  I’m very partial to Come An’ Get It, but perhaps Slide It In truly is their best.  The production (on the US mix) is absolutely perfect, with Cozy’s drums sounding like drums should sound!  Big and loud with lots of emphasis on those rat-tat-tat-tat drum fills of his that I love so much.  I personally love 9 of its 10 tracks, only “Gambler” being not my cup of tea.  Strangely, the new CD edition opens with “Gambler”.  I remember my original cassette opened with the title track!

I was very disappointed with the 25th Anniversary edition of Slide It In. It seems hastily thrown together with not much thought given to collectors nor to continuity.  2 tracks are missing from the UK version of Slide It In! (“Love Ain’t No Stranger” – a single, no less – and “Hungry For Love”).  They also talk about the UK mix of B-side “Need Your Love So Bad”, but don’t include it.   Instead, they give you the version from the “Is This Love” single, from 1987, which has no place on this reissue.  Why isn’t it on the deluxe of Whitesnake 1987?  I don’t know!

Fortunately, the esteemed Heavy Metal OverloRd purchased “Need Your Love So Bad” on an original 7″ single with picture sleeve, so you can read all about that missing track on his excellent site.  (He even bought me a copy, which is on its way!)

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The missing tracks kind of pissed me off.  I had hoped to acquire, in one purchase both classic mixes of the album.  Instead, I still hunted for and bought the UK version of Slide It In for two freakin’ missing songs. And then to top it off, a live acoustic version of “Love Ain’t No Stranger” from 1997 was included on the deluxe, taking up space that could have been used on missing songs from the period.  This unrelated live version is already available on the live album Starkers In Tokyo.

Anyway, Slide It In.  What a great album.  Jon Lord, Cozy Powell, you just can’t go wrong!  My buddy Rob Vuckovich said, “The final album showcasing Coverdale as a singer…not a screamer.  Remember when he went solo after breaking up with Purple?  I believe he said something to the effect that he did not want to scream his balls off…strange…listen to him from 1987 and onwards.”

Certainly, Slide It In contains some of Coverdale’s most passionate, powerful vocalizing.  Just listen to the amazing not-ballad “Love Ain’t No Stranger”.  I know, technically, audible breathing is not considered professional singing.  But Coverdale uses it as part of his expression.

The title track is just an incredible rock song with hints of blues, catchy and powerful, if a tad dirty!  “Slow An’ Easy” is the album’s six minute centerpiece.  That slide guitar riff…oh man!  So perfect.  Just perfect.  All this is punctuated by Cozy’s tastefully perfect drum fills.  This was the album that turned me onto Cozy as a drummer.  He immediately became a favourite, largely thanks to “Slow An’ Easy”.

As mentioned, “Love Ain’t No Stranger” is another incredible song, a not-ballad with a soaring chorus and mellow,impassioned verses.  This is certainly one of the best songs David has written, and he’s written plenty of them.  But it’s the only slow moment on Slide It In.  This album kicks.

“Spit It Out” (oh, dirty David!), “Give Me More Time”, and “Guilty of Love” are other standouts.  I really like “Guilty of Love”, a fast paced fun rocker, with a riff to kill.  Just listen to Cozy’s drums! And let’s not forget the classic “Standing In the Shadow”, a song that David later re-recorded in 1987 for the 12″ single “Is This Love”.  As with most remakes, the original is superior.

The version of Slide It In that I grew up with and loved most of my life was the remix, the US version.  The 25th Anniversary deluxe edition contains this version, and the 8 tracks from the original UK mix.

What’s the difference then?  Slide It In was released in the UK with the Whitesnake lineup of David Coverdale and his cohorts Jon Lord (keys), the aforementioned Cozy Powell, Colin Hodgkinson on bass, and guitarists Mel Galley and Mickey Moody.  They recorded and released the original version of Slide It In, which came out sounding a little flatter, to my ears.  Within a short while Mickey Moody had left the band and been replaced by the more flashy and modern John Sykes, from Thin Lizzy.  Hodgkinson was fired and replaced by Neil Murray, who was already a Whitesnake veteran from a previous tenure.  Jon Lord went off to rejoin Deep Purple, so Bill Cuomo added more keyboards   With Sykes and Murray, much of Slide It In was re-recorded, adding more guitar solos.  The album was remixed and released as such in the US to tremendous success.The addition of Sykes’ trademark squeals and a fresh mix made a good but “just another Whitesnake album” into a great and important one, at least for this genre and this band.

I prefer the harder edged US version, but they both have their merits.  Different solos can be found on the two versions, and fans of 1970’s Whitesnake may prefer the UK mix.   Regardless, from that unstoppable slide guitar on “Slow An’ Easy” to the awesome blue-rock-balladry of “Love Ain’t No Stranger”, this is a great album.  Even the quiet, soulful B-side “Need Your Love So Bad” is album quality.  It just wouldn’t have fit on a record this rockin’.

The DVD is fine, all the music videos and a few live tracks from the era are included. However, once again…a live version of “Love Ain’t No Stranger”, this one from one of the ‘Snake tours in the 2000’s, and also the Starkers version. Why? I don’t know.

Why not just release a simple 2 CD set with both versions of the album remastered? I don’t know.

The remastering is good otherwise, the liner notes are great, revealing the inner tensions and goings-on with Whitesnake of the time.

Slide It In – standard US version:  4.5/5 stars

Slide It In – 25th Anniversary Edition: 2/5 stars for leaving off two original UK tracks in favour of later content

Slide It In – standard UK version:  3.75/5 stars – the US remix really kicks the songs in the pants!