slide it in

#601: Rob, Jedi Master of Rock

GETTING MORE TALE #601: Rob, Jedi Master of Rock

I like to describe some of my older friends who passed on their rock knowledge to me as “Jedi masters”.  The first “Jedi masters” of rock in my life were neighbors Bob and George, who got me started.  I taped a lot of albums off those two guys until I no longer needed their guidance.  I built a killer collection, but at Laurier University I met my next Jedi master.

His name was Rob, and he has appeared in these pages before.  Rob was the star of Record Store Tales Part 32:  Pranks.  He’s always been a little bit of a prankster.  At school, he was an assistant in the Philosophy department.  He told me about a prank involving a $100 bill being taped to a classroom ceiling, and observing the confused expressions.  He liked to prank me in the Record Store too.  In addition to the Deep Purple joke from Part 32, he also liked to sneakily move discs all over the store.  He enjoyed watching me try and figure out what was changed.  He kept everything in plain sight, just the wrong spots.  Rob was good for a laugh.  He actually went to highschool with the store owner; they are the same age.  And don’t worry, Rob didn’t leave without making sure I got all the discs back where they belonged.

I went to the same highschool as those guys, though I was a bit younger.  Rob and I had some mutual friends (like Bob), but we didn’t actually meet until University.  I recognized him from a Whitesnake highschool air band.  Rob played David Coverdale in 1987, but he refused to do a popular Whitesnake tune.  Instead he did “Slow An’ Easy” from 1984’s Slide It In, which nobody else at school knew…except me.  Rob was disqualified, for doing some very authentic mic stand moves a-la David Coverdale…perhaps a bit too authentic.  The school wasn’t impressed when Rob seemed to use the mic stand as a giant phallus, but that’s Coverdale for you.  That’s as authentic as a Whitesnake air band could get.  He may have been disqualified but he did make it into the yearbook.

Rob’s Jedi teachings involved Whitesnake and Coverdale’s previous band, Deep Purple.  We covered the whole family tree from Rainbow to Glenn Hughes and Trapeze.  He educated me on the labyrinthine Purple back catalogue.  Well before all their rarities were reissued on CD, he recorded songs for me.  Whitesnake’s rarities “Need Your Love So Bad”, “You’re Gonna Break My Heart Again”, and “Looking For Love” were among them.  He also recorded a couple rare Deep Purple albums – Power House, and The Anthology (not to be confused with the unrelated CD Anthology), with loads of songs you couldn’t find on CD.  It was years before these tracks were reissued officially, but I was already familiar with great Deep Purple tunes like “Painted Horse” when they were.

He and I were in touch on and off over the years.  I remember a memorable dinner at East Side Marios, when he confused the server by orderings two entrées.  He finished one, enjoyed it, and was still hungry so he ordered another.  That really seemed to confuse her.  Rob also had no use for social pleasantries.  He hated when people would ask, “How are you?” when he knew it was just something to say and they didn’t actually want to know.  The socially acceptable answer would be “I’m good, and you?”  Rob’s answer would be “my psoriasis is flaring up”.  I always liked that about him.  No bullshit.

I lost track of Rob about five years ago, shortly after I launched Record Store Tales. But he’s still around.  My buddy Craig over at 105.7 DaveRocks received a mysterious email from a listener, and it could only have come from Rob.

 

Hey Craig,
I heard LeBrain’s name mentioned today and I wondered whether he could answer that one impossible Van Halen question: when is Van Halen Best Of Volume II going to be released? He couldn’t answer that question back in the [Record Store] days.

 

Ah yes, the mysterious Van Halen Best Of Volume II that never materialized.  Rob remembered!  In 1996 when Volume I was released, one of my most hated customer questions was “When is Volume II coming out?”

The frequency of that question drove me nuts.  Hey, I get it.  Volume I didn’t have your favourite song(s).  But Van Halen had a lot of publicity in 1996 due to the aborted reunion with David Lee Roth.  It was common knowledge that they were working on a new album with Gary Cherone.  Why did so many people assume their next release would be Volume II?  Probably because they’d rather buy that than something new.  After getting that question over and over and over and over, I began answering “In 18 years.”  Customers would be baffled.  Why 18 years?  Because that’s how long it took them to put out Volume I.  I was wrong though.  More than 18 years have passed and Volume II is never coming.

I understand why Van Halen wanted to call their best of “Volume I”.  It was to make clear that the band was not done; that this was only the first, and they had no plans on quitting.  Unfortunately the message that fans heard from that title was “Volume I is half of a whole”.  Naming it Volume I was a bad move.  People were far more interested in the mythical Volume II than anything new by Van Halen.

It’s funny how something like that can jog a million memories.  Rob’s email to Craig concluded:

 

If you have time for a request can you play Blue Rodeo’s “Lost Together” and dedicate it to LeBrain? Let’s see whether it will jar any memories.

 

You got me there.  I played Blue Rodeo in store a lot, including that song, but no other memories are jarred.  Sorry Rob!  I’ll have to email him and find out what the story was!*

Nice to hear from the old Jedi masters again.  I hope you’re doing well Rob, and I don’t say that just out of social obligation!

 

 

 

* Update:  I contacted Rob and found out.  His memory is incredible.  “I recall you mentioned some of the difficulties you had with [an ex-girlfriend] in relation to communicating with one another. You listened to Blue Rodeo’s song ‘Lost Together’ as a way of making sense of that relationship during that particular time.”

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 – Come An’ Get It (Remastered with bonus tracks)

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WHITESNAKE FRONT

WHITESNAKE – Come An’ Get It (EMI 1981, 2007 remastered with bonus tracks)

Come An’ Get It is my favourite Whitesnake album.  Therefore it’s a bit of a surprise that I still haven’t reviewed it.  On the other hand it’s always nice to leave some goodies for later and cherish them, I suppose?

The first time I heard this album was in 1990.  I had ordered the cassette from Columbia House, and brought it with me on a trip to go visit my cousin and aunt in Calgary, Alberta.  I remember I brought two brand new (to me) albums with me from that Columbia House purchase; the other was School’s Out by Alice Cooper.  I ended up loving both, not a bad trip eh?  Driving through the mountains with “Lonely Days, Lonely Nights” by Whitesnake on the earphones was pretty fucking cool.

Come An’ Get It features this classic Whitesnake lineup, aside from David Coverdale himself:

  • Jon Lord – organ
  • Ian Paice – drums
  • Bernie Marsden – guitars
  • Mickey Moody – guitars
  • Neil Murray – bass

Basically, THE lineup of early ‘Snake.  In the liner notes, David says he finds this to be one of his most consistent efforts, and his favourite of the early band.

The incredible album kicks off with the flirtatious title track, Cov the Gov as cocky as ever, with this seasoned band behind him solidly grooving.  “If you want it, come an’ get it, I got something for you.”  And kids, I hate to break it to you, Coverdale’s “something” was not something innocent like candy or treats.

“Hot Stuff” is the second track, which changes up to a breakneck speed.  Lordy on the piano hammers away, keeping up with the furious pace of Paice and the 3 M’s – Moody, Marsden and Murray.  Another standout.

The single, “Don’t Break My Heart Again” is a bit more ominous, with Lord’s trademark Hammond organ carrying the song.  It’s a bit darker, a bit plaintive, David convincing us that he really is heartbroken, even though two songs ago he was begging some lovely lass to “Come An’ Get It”.  This is a standout song, with fantastically colourful solos and a memorable melody.  Shades of the Whitesnake to come.

The aforementioned blues, “Lonely Days, Lonely Nights” follows.  It’s this kind of song that David really sinks his teeth into.  Moody and Marsden throw in plenty of bluesy licks, Lord with his Hammond colouring the backdrop.  Once again, David will have you convinced that somehow, he really is lonely.  Lonely, even though the very next song talks about how much he loves “Wine, Women An’ Song”!

“Wine, Women An’ Song” is actually my favourite tune on the album.  Coverdale is as cheeky as ever:

“If I can make you smile, I will raise my glass,
But if you don’t like it, baby you can kiss my ass,
Yes indeed…
You can tell me it’s wrong, but I love wine women an’ song!”

This barroom piano bopper is irresistibly catchy.  I’ve always been a sucker for past piano tunes, that’s why I love Little Richard I guess!  David’s done a number of these over the years (“Bloody Mary”, “Bloody Luxury”) but this one is my favourite.  And that ended side 1.

WHITESNAKE INNER

Side 2 kicked off with one of David’s more philosophical songs, a style he also does well.  “Child of Babylon” starts slow and bluesy but soon becomes something a bit more menacing.  This is another triumph.  “Would I Lie To You” returns David to his cheekier side.  “Would I lie to you…just to get in your pants?  I think so,” winks Cov the Gov.  This is just a fun Whitesnake tune, catchy, danceable, tongues in cheeks (just not necessarily the cheeks of the tongue’s owner).

My least favourite song is the next one, the slightly funky “Girl”.  The liner notes compare it to Deep Purple; I don’t think so.  Yes, both bands forayed into funk.  I think Deep Purple did it better than this.  Much better is “Hit An’ Run”, which drives.  This song kicks.  David’s vocal is perfect, and there’s even a talk-box solo, and then a killer slide solo!  What more could you want?

The final song of the original album was “Till the Day I Die”, another one of David’s perfect philosophical album closers.  He seems to like to close his albums with tunes like this, or “Sailing Ships”, songs with some mood and thought to them.  “Till the Day I Die” is one of the best ever, a dramatic, sweeping number that goes from acoustic to epic in under five minutes.

Martin Birch produced Come An’ Get It, as he did many ‘Snake platters.  It has a workmanlike sound, powerful enough, sonically clear, with excellent performances.  Slide It In is more powerful in the long run, but this is a step on that road.

There are six bonus tracks to keep you satisfied after the main meal.  Think of this as dessert, as these are unfinished or rough mixes of album tracks.  There is nothing especially revelatory here, but as added value, it’s nice to have these bonus tracks.  There’s some unheard stuff here, such as Ian’s count-in to “Child of Babylon”, nothing mindblowing, just nice to have to fill out the CD.  Some alternate vocals, solos, and so on.

The liner notes by Geoff Barton are excellent, loads of photos, lots of text.  Coverdale shows up to offer his perspective, and illustrates a harmonious band firing on all cylinders.

Keep in mind that context is everything, especially when it comes to music.  I have powerful memories of this album.  For you, it might not be worth it, but for me:

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!)

give-me-more

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!