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’.
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.
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.
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.