2021: the year of the hamster wheel. It sure felt like we were spinning our tires all year! Sometimes inching a little forward in the mud, only to slide right back. What a year. But we did get some great music out of it.
Here at LeBrain HQ, if you go strictly by the numbers, there were two bands that dominated the year, both oldies acts from the 1980s: Coney Hatch and Iron Maiden! They (or members thereof) appear numerous times in the lists you’re about to read. Not so “oldies” after all eh? Five appearances for Iron Maiden, and a whopping seven for Coney and its members!
Even I was surprised by the lists this year! All my favourite things, and the stats of 2021, are curated below.
RECORD STORE TALES #922: Running Through Alberta (1990)
A long time ago, in a constitutional monarchy not far away, prices were lower. The despised goods and services tax (GST) kicked in January 1, 1991. This federal tax added a 7% levy to your average purchase. In the before-fore times, in the Canadian province known as Alberta, there was no such thing as a “sales tax”. What you saw on the sticker was what you paid. It was an exhilarating time and place to be. The GST wrecked that, but our last trek out west before the hated tax kicked in was nothing short of glorious.
School was out for summer, and I quit my part-time job packing groceries to hang out at the cottage and take a special trip to Calgary. It was time for a visit with cousin Geoff, formerly known as “Captain Destructo”. The most important things to do on any trip were two-fold:
Pack appropriate music for the journey.
Buy music on aforementioned journey.
I had just received two albums that were brand new to me from the Columbia House music club: School’s Out, by Alice Cooper, and Come An’ Get It by Whitesnake. As my newest acquisitions, they had to come along. I also brought Steve Vai’s Passion & Warfare which I was recently obsessed with. Finally, I carried enough cash from my job that I had just quit, to buy as much music as I could find. Stuff that none of the stores in Kitchener had in stock.
The clear memory of driving through the mountains with School’s Out blasting in my ears brings a smile to my face. While some moments were undeniably weird (“Gutter Cat vs. The Jets”), I couldn’t believe how catchy the album was. I still can’t. Alice Cooper records were not necessarily designed to deliver catchy songs. They were twisted, and School’s Out was like a Twizzler. Regardless, “Gutter Cat” was entertaining while being unforgettable. I couldn’t wait to share it with my best friend Bob. He loved cats! Another track that took me by surprise was “Alma Mater”, but I couldn’t get it out of my head. The fact that I’d be graduating in a year was scary. But the roaring “Public Animal #9” just made me sing along. I also dug “Blue Turk” although I had no idea how to categorize it. To me it sounded like something from an old musical from days gone by. Here I was discovering this ancient music for the first time while the Rocky Mountains zipped past me in the back seat of a minivan. I like to appreciate moments like that. I just stared out the window while Dennis Dunaway buzzed my ears with bass.
Next up was Whitesnake. I still love Come An’ Get It; it’s probably my overall favourite Whitesnake. A few songs don’t click, such as “Girl”, but lemme tell you folks — “Child of Babylon” is another one of those songs that you just have to experience while driving through the Rockies. Bob and I were slowly discovering old Whitesnake. He was the first to have Saints & Sinners, but I was the first to have Come An’ Get It. It was something of a “blind buy” for me, since I didn’t know any of the songs. By the end of the trip, I’d already love “Wine, Women An’ Song”, “Come An’ Get It”, and “Lonely Days, Lonely Nights”.
Two favourites in the making, it was already turning into a memorable vacation. I enjoyed shopping at corny gift shops. I bought some goofy round sunglasses with flip-open lenses. Alberta is dinosaur country, and so I bought a casting of a Tyrannosaurus tooth. At another gift shop I bought a totem knick-knack. I remember Geoffrey and I climbing the modest mountains around the hoodoos at Drumheller, and finding a cave near the top where we paused and caught some shade.
When we hit the Calgary Zoo, Geoff showed us how to put coins on the train tracks to be crushed into minature copper and nickle pancakes. They had a little train that took tours of the park. It ran on a regular schedule so we always knew about when we should put the coins on the track. I had heard that copper guitar picks were the best, but they were hard to find, so I crushed a couple pennies. I turned them into guitar picks once we got home. We didn’t crush anything more valuable than a dime, but sometimes you’d lose the coin if it went flying off the track. (Incidentally, you can’t derail a train with a penny, that is a myth.) We could tell the conductor knew what we were doing and was getting annoyed, so we cut it out.
When we finally hit a music store in a Calgary mall, I was elated. I was always on the lookout for singles, and here I found a few notable ones. Aerosmith’s The Other Side EP was an easy “yes”. It had a number of remixes that, while not great, were exclusives. It also had something called the “Wayne’s World Theme” live. What was this “Wayne’s World”? I knew not, but it wasn’t on the album, so I was happy enough.
Poison were hot on the charts with their brand-new album Flesh & Blood. Bob was already raving about the album, and one song he pointed out was “Valley of Lost Souls”. I found the cassette single for “Unskinny Bop” which included this song and an instrumental pretentiously called “Swamp Juice (Soul-O)”. I never particularly cared for “Unskinny Bop”, but it was the current Poison hit, and “Valley of Lost Souls” was as good as advertised. I also located Jon Bon Jovi’s solo single “Blaze of Glory”. I didn’t know it yet but this single had some slightly edited versions of the album cuts — another exclusive.
The purchase I might have been happiest with was a re-buy. Although it seems ridiculous that at age 18 I was already re-buying albums, it had begun. My cassette of Judas Priest’s Sad Wings of Destiny was shite. For all intents and purposes, it only had one channel. I owned Rocka Rolla on vinyl, but didn’t really have a good way of playing it and making it sound decent back then. I knew there was a cassette on Attic records with both albums on one tape, and I found it in Calgary. I was glad to finally have a copy of Sad Wings that I could properly listen to. I even gained new appreciation for Rocka Rolla on those mountain drives. “Caviar and Meths” sounds amazing drifting through the mountains.
Not only did we find some cool stuff we couldn’t easily locate in Ontario, but we paid no tax. Since Alberta had no provincial sales tax, everything we were buying, we were buying cheaper!
I wanted a cowboy hat. We went shopping for them, but I was having a hard time deciding and then Geoffrey told me about an Alberta saying. Something about “everybody in Alberta has an asshole and a cowboy hat.” Either that or “every asshole in Alberta has a cowboy hat.” Same difference. Either way, I was dissuaded.
Geoffrey could be exhausting and I really wanted nothing more than to lie down and listen to some new tunes, so I was granted a couple hours of privacy. We traded tapes back and forth for listening. My sister Kathryn had the new single for “Can’t Stop Falling Into Love” by Cheap Trick so I listened to that while she borrowed my Poison.
Here’s a funny detail. For the car trip with Whitesnake and Alice Cooper, I can remember being on the left side of the vehicle. For Rocka Rolla, I seem to remember sitting on the right. The view was always great. Nothing like Ontario. The air was different, and even the weather was unusual to us. People left their doors unlocked, we were told by Uncle Phil.
Auntie Lynda spoiled us and took us on all these day trips; it was fantastic. It was the last great summer holiday. I know I kept a journal of the trip, which seems to be unfortunately lost. Great trip though it was, I looked forward to coming home and seeing my friends. Showing off my new purchases and sharing my new music. The flight home was uneventful and we arrived late at night and exhausted. I didn’t sleep much that night — I had recordings of WWF wrestling matches to catch up on. The last great summer holiday was over, but never forgotten.
It was a beautiful day today. In the afternoon I got the ol’ laptop dusted off, and brought it out onto the patio to listen to some tunes and watch some YouTube. The laptop is at least a decade old, probably older, and has served me well as my travelling machine. Today, it could barely do two things at once. Obviously it will not serve me well for live streaming this summer at the lake. It did a stand-up job last year, with Streamyard and video editing. This year it simply will not cut the tomatoes so I pulled the trigger on a new HP. I didn’t want to go down in screen size so I ordered a 17.3″. I always get nervous when buying a new computer, and I’ve never bought HP before. I’m excited though. Whatever happens, it cannot be worse than a decade-old Acer. It could be here as early as Tuesday. Wish me luck — this summer’s future LeBrain Train episodes will depend on this laptop! Meanwhile the old one will be brought to Sausagefest — if there will be such a thing this summer.
The laptop is delivering by Purolator, which is totally safe. Amazon unfortunately is not. Their couriers leave the parcel at the door and that’s that. Because there is so much theft of Amazon parcels in these parts, for the last six months or so, I have been having everything sent to my mom and dad’s address. I am still working from the office and they are home all the time. Jen has appointments that usually has her out of the house when Amazon come knocking. As a result, I have to pick up my parcels from them about once a week. And, according to Ontario’s current regulations, having an outdoor socially distanced visit with them is currently illegal.
“Hey, would you guys like to come out back for an illegal visit?” asked my mom.
“Sure,” I shrugged.
We’ve all been vaccinated with the first shot and are at 50% immunity. We distanced. Well, my dad got a little close as he sometimes does. But it was nice. Something almost normal. I would like to go down into the basement and look for some of my old sketches from when I was a kid, but we aren’t taking any chances. We stayed out. Doug Ford can suck it.
Ironically, one of the things I was picking up was a cheap pair of computer speakers. Every time Doug Ford goes live on TV to open his big mouth, I can’t hear him. It’s too quiet. Annoying. So I ordered some cheap Amazon branded speakers so I can actually listen next time he opens his big yap. And they’re my speakers, so if I want to use them for my new laptop, I’m good there too.
Some music also arrived. We will be interviewing Paul Laine soon on the LeBrain Train, so I grabbed his Zokusho album by the Defiants. Looking forward to that. In a previous order, I received Long Distance Voyager by the Moody Blues. Uncle Meat told us that it was his dad’s favourite album, and he would love if we listened to it or even reviewed it. So I listened to it, loved it, and ordered a CD so I can listen properly for review. I’m happy to do that for him.
I have also completed my set of Whitesnakes Red, White & Blue trilogy. In hand are the recent compilation CDs The Rock Album, The Love Album, and The Blues Album. All tracks have been remixed and updated, while unreleased songs are also included. John Snow over at 2loud2oldmusic did a fantastic job of reviewing them all. The Blues Album came from Encore while the other two are Amazons.
We talked current events, we talked family matters, we had a few laughs. All is well, more or less. This is the first pandemic for everyone present. In the five stages of grieving, I think my mom is at the anger stage. Last week on the phone, when I told her that us visiting would be against the rules, she said “I don’t give a damn about the rules!” I don’t know the last time I heard her that angry! Let’s face it, we the people of Ontario have been getting jerked around. She has a lot to be mad about. I love my mom.
My dad, on the other hand, decided to watch a documentary about Ozzy Osbourne on A&E. Excitedly, he told me all about his history with Black Sabbath and as a solo artist. “He had a lot of success on his own, when no one thought he would!” he explained to me. But it wasn’t easy for the Ozzman either. My dad told me all about Ozzy’s son Jack, and the role that Sharon played in his success. It was one of those moments you cherish. I love my dad.
My mom also loved The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, which concluded on Friday. We talked about Sam and the new Captain America. To my dad, there is only one Captain America and it’s not Sam Wilson or Steve Rogers. It’s someone I’ve never heard of — Grant Gardner, district attorney and the 1944 version of Cap that he grew up with. He has no interest in the new Cap, while my mom was really drawn into the storyline. Hopefully next time we visit illegally, my mom will have seen Captain America: The Winter Soldier which I told her to watch next.
I realize I have incriminated myself and my family with this story, and to that I say: oh well. We were safe and respectful of common sense. When this pandemic eventually ends — and history has shown that eventually it will — I will have these chapters as a document of the weirdest times of our lives. And that has more value than a fine.
MuchMusic’s Terry David Mulligan was always one of their best interviewers, and here he has a nice informal chat with (then) Whitesnake’s Steve Vai! TDM asks a loaded question about leaving Whitesnake and going solo.
Vai is always forthcoming and in this entertaining interview you’ll hear about the Passion & Warfare concept, lucid dreaming, the tuba, David Lee Roth, and of course wanking.
I’ve had a lot on my mind. Thinking about the past, thinking about the future.
Every now and then, I’ll search for old acquaintances online. Co-workers, customers, friends…many of them have not emerged in the new online world of social media. At least not yet. I continue searching. Looking for a guy I used to work with, a coincidence of search terms led me instead to the obituary of an old customer.
I recognized his face immediately as that of “Surly Brad”, one of the very first customers I had when I managed my own Record Store location in 1996. Brad passed away in 2011, but he wasn’t really very surly. Is there a male equivalent of “resting bitch face”? Brad looked grouchy but he could also pull a wide smile. He was short and to the point, but eventually we got to know each other a little bit better. Like many music collectors, he was picky about what he bought. He could hear defects on a CD that I couldn’t. I haven’t thought about Brad in years, but I don’t have any negative thoughts of him. Just sadness. Brad died age 47, the same age I am right now.
Rest in peace Brad. I’m sorry we used to call you Surly.
Onto other trains of thought, I’m currently deep in the midst of my usual Seasonal Affective Disorder. Long before I knew what it was or that it existed, I experienced it. Ever since I was a kid. The winters were a long, sad and lonely time. The summers were much happier and more vibrant. I thought for many years I just “hated winter”. I do hate winter; don’t get me wrong, but there was more to it. In the winter of 1998 I was explaining to a friend that I was in my “big blue funk”, a long period of (what I now call) depression. The friend was taken aback because I was speaking of these things as if everybody experienced them. “That’s not normal,” they said. “Sure it is,” I retorted.
I’ve learned to deal with my big blue funks a lot better these days, though I still need to seek help. One thing I do to try to stave off the blues is to give myself something to look forward to every day. This can be anything from having some special food that I enjoy, to buying some new music, to watching my favourite shows. I have to make some time to just enjoy myself a little bit every day.
Of course, buying music costs money and when you’re a collector it can get expensive! When you can’t settle for anything less than “all the tracks”, you can expect to spend money. Of course this is connected to another mental illness, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I’ve had this forever too. As a kid, I would try to collect complete sub-teams of GI Joes and Transformers. I’d also collect music, but that was a lot more difficult in the 1980s.
The first group I ever decided I wanted a “complete” collection of was Quiet Riot. I thought it would be easy. I assumed they only had two albums. How wrong I was. There were no Wikipedia articles to refer to. Eventually I learned about their early Japanese-only albums. It took me about 15 years, pre-internet, to get copies for myself.
As I grew to like more and more bands, I wanted more and more “complete” collections. Magazines like Hit Parader would run ads for mail order record stores. They would list stuff regularly that I never heard of nor saw in stores. All in US dollars of course. Plus shipping! Stuff like:
ALICE COOPER – THE BEAST OF
ALICE COOPER – DADA
ALICE COOPER – PRETTIES FOR YOU
JUDAS PRIEST – STAINED CLASS
These were not albums you could find in your local Zellers’ tape section. I had never seen or even heard of Stained Class.
Then I would browse down to the singles and start crying when I saw things listed like:
AEROSMITH – DUDE LOOKS LIKE A LADY / ONCE IS ENOUGH
BON JOVI – LIVIN ON A PRAYER / EDGE OF A BROKEN HEART +1
EUROPE – THE FINAL COUNTDOWN / ON BROKEN WINGS
Like a cruel tease, I became aware that some of these things really existed, but on a teenage allowance, had no way to acquire them. Or even hear what they sounded like. I was grateful that bands like Kiss never seemed to put our exclusive non-album songs as B-sides. Not knowing any better, I thought that was very democratic of them: everybody had access to every Kiss song – there were no exclusives only for those who could pay for them.
Boy, did I read those Kiss cards wrong!
Many of these tracks and albums never showed up in my collection until the internet age. But now, with access to even more information, the want list continues to grow. It’s an expensive hobby.
Whitesnake was one of those bands that had many albums prior to the ones I knew about. The winter of 87/88 educated me otherwise. Meanwhile I had just acquired Slide It In. I can picture myself shovelling the snow in the dark of the morning listening to that warbling tape. Geffen didn’t put out the best quality cassettes in the 80s. My copy of Slide It In ran so slow that it was almost unlistenable. I would try to fast forward and rewind the tape to loosen it up a bit. Nothing really helped and I never heard the album properly until I got a CD copy. But Slide It In is one of those albums I associate with winter, shovelling snow and all of it.
I’ll make it through this winter just like all the others. But I can’t wait for summer. That’s when I really feel alive again.
WHITESNAKE – The Purple Tour (2017 Rhino CD/Blu-ray set)
David Coverdale releases so much Whitesnake product (most of it worthwhile) that it is easy for the odd live album to slip between the cracks. After he felt recharged by 2015’s The Purple Album, Coverdale released a live album and video from that tour. This is not long after the four live CDs that make up Made in Britain and Made in Japan, so what does The Purple Tour offer that is different?
More Purple, obviously. Of the 13 tracks on CD, five are Deep Purple covers. There are an additional three more in 5.1 surround sound on the Blu-ray.
They open with “Burn” which leather-lunged David struggles with a bit right out of the box. Fortunately his capable backing band can handle the supporting vocals, though it sounds sweetened after the fact.
This lineup of Whitesnake, which is still the current one featuring guitarists Reb Beach and Joel Hoekstra, bassist Michael Devin, drummer Tommy Aldridge, and keyboardist Michele Luppi, is particularly good. Whitesnake can never simply revert back to being a blues band. John Sykes and Steve Vai made certain that Whitesnake would always have to have a couple shredders on hand. When Beach and Hoestra get their hands on a Purple (or Whitesnake) oldie, they generally heavy it up by a few notches.
You could consider the setlist to be a surface-level “the classics of David Coverdale” concert. No new material, nothing later than 1987. It’s cool that some standby’s like “Slow An’ Easy” were jettisoned in favourite of even older tracks like “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City”. It’s fun to hear “The Gypsy” instead of something better known. Another Purple classic, a heavy version of “You Fool No One” from Burn goes down a treat, with plenty of tight interplay.
The Blu-ray disc includes some more obscure treasures. “You Keep On Moving”, “Stormbringer” and “Lay Down Stay Down” fill in some of the Deep Purple blanks. A dual solo with Reb and Joel called “Lotsanotes” is also the fun kind of addition that usually gets axed from a live album. You’ll also find a music video for “Burn” and a fun interview with Joel and Reb conducted by Michael Devin. These guys love their jobs.
But just who is this album for? Don’t Whitesnake have enough live stuff by now? Yes — they certainly do. So this album is for two groups of people. 1) Those of us who have to have “everything.” 2) Somone who hasn’t bought a Whitesnake in a long time, but is curious what they sound like these days. For those folks, they won’t be “bogged down” by anything new. They will only get David and his crack band tackling the oldies. Pull the trigger if that sounds like something you’re into.
GETTING MORE TALE #805(.5): LeBrain’s Top List of 2019 n’ More
Preamble: The Year in Review (and Reviewing)
2019 was the seventh year of life for this site, and we do thank you for that! Getting tired with the same old way of doing things, I became bored. The solution was throwing some new content into the mix and seeing what happened!
The first thing I planned was an informal new series called Just Listening. Though people confused these writings with reviews, it’s essentially just my thoughts as I listened to an album. Sometimes I would revisit an old record I already reviewed and see if I felt any different. There were 10 instalments of Just Listening in 2019. I intend to continue doing this, as sometimes I just have a few ideas to jot down after playing an album. Reviews will remain as in-depth and intense as you’ve come to expect. I love writing reviews, and there are a few lined up for early January that I hope you’ll enjoy too. At the same time, it’s increasingly important for me to just listen to music. My collection has dusty corners that miss my attention.
Second, in 2019 I bought a bunch of new tech. Why not, right? It’s kind of funny. I grew up in the 70s and 80s; back when you debated for months or years over in which home video system to invest . Tech is far more disposable today. The worst thing that can happen is a relatively painless, postage-paid Amazon return.
So a waterproof camera was added to my arsenal. This enabled me to make a bunch of cool videos this past summer, including what I think is the best Sausagefest video yet. One of the immense joys of that summer gathering is the fresh, cool water of the Beaver river. For the first time this was captured for you up close and personal.
It’s easy to sit here tootin’ my own horn but I feel the 2019 video gets you closer to the feeling of actually attending a Sausagefest yourself. You can imagine sitting in the river with us, drinking or smoking whatever you fancy.
A new dashcam enabled me to start another video “series” called Dashcam Idiots. I honestly thought, living in Kitchener Ontario, that I’d have a lot more content to post by now. (I did get a cool late-night video of a deer on a country road that I thankfully didn’t hit.) I suppose it’s a good thing that I don’t have a multitude of dashcam videos to upload.
The biggest and most important new series was a long time wish of mine: my VHS Archives.
The new tech this time was a cheap USB video capture device. This enabled me, after many years of promises, to share my personal Pepsi Power Hour videos with you from the late 80s and early 90s. It has been a culmination of a decades-long dream: taking this rather large VHS library and getting the rarest and most valuable content online. As of writing this, I’m 82 instalments deep.
And because this is supposed to be a list of lists, here are what I consider to be the Top Five Best/Most Significant of the 2019 VHS Archives. You’d be remiss not to play these.
1. Blackie Lawless (W.A.S.P.) interviewed by Erica Ehm – 1989
The best interview with Blackie that I’ve ever seen.
2.Bruce Dickinson and Dave Murray (Iron Maiden) interviewed by Erica Ehm – 1988
3.Bruce Kuclick and Gene Simmons (Kiss) interviewed by MuchMusic – 1992
Reposted by Bruce!
4.Rik Emmett of Triumph co-hosting the Pepsi Power Hour with Erica Ehm including two musical performances – 1988
5.MuchMusic Hear N’ Aid special featuring Ronnie James Dio (1986)
There’s lots left on these tapes so the VHS Archives will continue into 2020! I’ve left some “big guns” in reserve for future posts. As long as none of these tapes break! One or two of them are in very, very rough shape now. Others are still pristine.
Want a taste of what’s still to come? Here’s a preview.
Which of these interviews would you like to see first? Vote below!
The Movies I Saw: Don’t expect a comprehensive list!
1.The Avengers: Endgame
2.Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker
5.Spider-Man: Far From Home
Nothing but sequels and spinoffs!
Top TV Shows of 2019: I don’t watch a lot of shows.
1.Stranger Things 3
2.Star Trek: Discovery season 2
3.American Dad! season 16
4.Rick and Morty season 4 (part one)
5.The Mandalorianseason 1
I’ve been talking The Mandalorian on social media quite a bit, and I’ve been quite critical of the show. It’s #5 by default.
The new Tom Keifer Band is really remarkable. With soul, roots n’ blues yet also a foot in classic Cinderella rock. The heart of the Keifer Band made it an easy #1. Whitesnake put out a strong effort; probably their best since Slip of the Tongue or even 1987. Marillion may have re-recorded old songs with an orchestra, but in doing so it’s possible that they have recorded the definitive versions. Tool is Tool is Tool is Tool. And Jim Crean deserves a shout-out for his guest-laden original album The London Fog, better than a lot of well known releases in 2019.
The Darkness – Easter is Cancelled
I have not been able to wrap my head around this album. I’ve steadfastly stood by this band through five albums, often in quick succession, but this time they’ve thrown a curve. Perhaps it’ll grow on me in 2020.
…And I haven’t even seen The Dirt. I just feel that strongly about it.
I hate the look of the guys playing The Crue, I hate the idea of a biopic, and I hope to make it through another year without seeing it. I’m happy with my copy of the book — the only Dirt you really need.
…A Look Ahead at 2020
Motley Crue will be a towering part of the 2020 tour scene, as they look ahead to their big “Stadium Tour” with Def Leppard, Poison, and Joan Jett. Meanwhile the Robinson brothers Chris and Rich have formed a new version of The Black Crowes, who will be playing all of Shake Your Money Maker live. Far more interestingly, Mr. Bungle (now featuring Scott Ian and Dave Lombardo) will be reuniting and playing only three shows, featuring their cassette demo The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny played in full for the first time. Even the original BulletBoys have reunited.
The big news, so they say, is still to be announcd. Keep your ears to the ground for a full-on 2020 AC/DC tour with Brian Johnson, Cliff Williams and Phil Rudd back in the fold. Reliable sources have stated that the band are finishing up old Malcolm Young song ideas for album release.
Stay safe this New Year’s Eve and we’ll chat in 2020!
WHITESNAKE – Slip of the Tongue(originally 1989, 2019 (6 CD/1 DVD 30th Anniversary Rhino box set)
There’s a theme you may have noticed every time we review a Whitesnake box set: David does it right.
Here’s another one: Coverdale cares.
Slip of the Tongue gets the super-deluxe treatment this time, the third of the “big three” to go that way. This is the album that divided fans the most. Replacing Vivian Campbell was none other than ex-David Lee Roth stringbender Steve Vai.
“What the hell would that sound like?” we all wondered.
Longtime Whitesnake fans felt it was a step too far into the world nebulously defined as “hair metal”. Others loved the guitar mania inside, with Vai stretching out in ways different from his prior bands. Not the “definitive” Vai record that they still wanted (and would get a year later), but certainly a platter they could sink their teeth into. And it was a weird reason that Steve was playing on Slip of the Tongue at all.
As you’ll see from a feature on the included DVD (“A Look Back: Whitesnake Chronicles with DC and Adrian Vandenberg”), the album was written and thoroughly demoed with Adrian. They wouldn’t need a guitarist until it was time to tour. At this point, Adrian injured his wrist and was unable to finish. Steve Vai and David Coverdale found that they got along famously and the seven-string wizard brought his unique and advanced stylings to the blues-based Whitesnake.
What the hell would it sound like?
It sounds absolutely mental.
With the benefit of now hearing all the demos that Adrian laid down, it’s obvious Steve Vai didn’t just pick up his guitar and play the parts. It’s clear right from opener “Slip of the Tongue”. Compare the album to Adrian’s demos on the other discs. Vai changes one of the chord progressions to high-pitched harmonics, and, let’s face it, improves the song. Elsewhere there are unique trick-filled runs and fills that add another dimension to the music. If Whitesnake was always 3D rock, Vai upped it to 4. The guitar work is blazingly busy, never cliche, and always to the advancement of the song. With all respect to Adrian Vandenberg who wrote these great songs, Steve Vai was more than just icing on a cake. Slip of the Tongue arguably sounds more a Vai album than Whitesnake, even though he didn’t write any of it.
The beauty of this set is that if you’re more into ‘Snake than alien love secrets, you can finally hear the purity of Adrian’s vision in the multitude of early demos included.
Unfortunately, if you’re familiar with the album you’ll hear something’s up by track 2. “Kitten’s Got Claws”? That song used to close side one. What’s up? The album running order has been tampered with, and so has “Kitten’s Got Claws”. It’s now missing the Steve Vai “cat guitar symphony” that used to open it. It could be a different remix altogether. My advice is to hang on to your original Slip of the Tongue CD. You’re probably going to still want to hear the album and song as they were.
This running order puts “Cheap An’ Nasty” third, a song that structurally resembles the ol’ Slide It In Whitesnake vibe. Of course Vai’s space age squeals and solos modernized it. Listen to that whammy bar insanity at the 2:00 mark! Up next is “Now You’re Gone”, a classy rocker/ballad hybrid that has always been an album highlight. The demos on the other discs allow us to hear how much this song was improved in the final touches. That cool answering vocal in the chorus, and the hooks that Vai added, came much later. Strangely, this box set puts the other ballad, “The Deeper the Love”, up next. Keyboard overdubs made it a little too smooth around the edges, but a good song it remains.
The Zeppelinesque “Judgement Day” is a track that used to piss off some fans, who felt it was an abject rip off from “Kashmir”. The Vai touch of sitar (replacing guitar in the early demos) probably aided and abetted this. Regardless it succeeds in being the big rock epic of the album, and a favourite today. Another strange choice in running order follows: “Sailing Ships”, formerly the album closer. It’s quite shocking to hear it in this slot. Again, Vai replaced guitar with sitar, and David goes contemplative. Then suddenly, it gets heavy and Steve takes it to the stratosphere.
“Wings of the Storm” used to open side two; now it’s after “Sailing Ships”. Some tasty Tommy Aldridge double bass drums kick off this tornado of a tune. Vai’s multitracks of madness and pick-scrapes of doom are something to behold. Then it’s “Slow Poke Music”, a sleazy rocker like old ‘Snake.
The new version of Slip of the Tongue closes on “Fool for Your Loving”, a re-recording of an old classic from Ready An’ Willing. The new version is an accelerated Vai vehicle, lightyears away from its origins. Coverdale initially wrote it to give to B.B. King. Vai is as far removed from B.B. King as you can imagine. The original has the right vibe, laid back and urgent. This one is just caffeinated.
The only album B-side “Sweet Lady Luck” is the first bonus track on Disc 1. By now it is the least-rare B-side in the universe, having been reissued on a multitude of Whitesnake and Vai collections. Valuable to have to complete the album, but easy to acquire. It’s basically a second-tiered speed rocker with the guitar as the focus. Other B-sides from this era were remixes, and they are included here as well. The Chris Lord-Alge mix of “Now Your Gone” is the kind that most people won’t know the difference. Vai said that Lord-Alge could make the cymbals sound “like they have air in them.” Then there’s the “Vai Voltage Mix” of “Fool for Your Loving”, which has completely different guitar tracks building an arrangement with way, way, way more emphasis on the instrument. The rest of the disc is packed with four more alternate remixes: “Slip of the Tongue”, “Cheap An’ Nasty”, “Judgement Day” and “Fool for Your Loving”. These mixes have some bits and pieces different from the album cuts. Vai fans will want the alternate solo to “Cheap An’ Nasty”, though it’s less whammy mad.
Of course, “Sweet Lady Luck” wasn’t the only song that didn’t make the album. In old vintage interviews, Coverdale teased the names of additional tracks we didn’t get to hear: “Parking Ticket”, “Kill for the Cut”, and “Burning Heart”. They’ve been safely buried in Coverdale’s vault, until now. Additionally, it turns out that Whitesnake also re-recorded a couple more of their old songs: “Ain’t Gonna Cry No More” and “We Wish You Well”. They’re all here in different forms on the demo discs.
Perhaps “Kill for the Cut” would have been one dirty song too many for the album. It ain’t half bad, and has a unique little bumpin’ riff. “Parking Ticket” had potential too. Rudy Sarzo gave it a pulse that might have taken it on the radio. The 1989 monitor mix would have been perfect for B-side release. Why did Cov have to hold out on us all these years? “Burning Heart” was a special song, a re-recording of an old Vandenberg track that David really loved. Unfortunately the monitor mix is is only a skeleton of what could have been a sensational Whitesnake ballad. “Ain’t Gonna Cry No More” is heavily modernized, with keyboards sounding like they were trying to recapture “Here I Go Again” (which they were). “We Wish You Well” is more contemplative, with piano as the focus.
All of this previously unheard material is scattered over several discs. “Evolutions” (Disc 3) is a familiar concept to fans of these box sets. Demos from various stages of completion are spliced together into one cohesive track. You will be able to hear the songs “evolve” as the band worked on them. Every track from the album plus “Sweet Lady Luck”, “Parking Ticket” and “Kill for the Cut” can be heard this way. Disc 4 is a collection of monitor mixes with all the album songs and all the unreleased ones too. These discs are the ones that allow us to really hear the album the way it would have been if Adrian didn’t hurt his wrist. We would have got an album that sounded a lot more like Whitesnake. It was audibly different even if familiar.
Perhaps the best disc in the entire set is “A Trip to Granny’s House: Session Tapes, Wheezy Interludes & Jams”. It’s just as loose as it sounds. Enjoy the funk of “Death Disco”, the funkiest David’s been since Come Taste the Band. If you’ve always wanted to hear David sing “Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Old Oak Tree”, now you finally can! There’s a lot of goofing off in some of these tracks, but also a lot of rock. It’s live off the floor as they rehearse the songs, as a four piece band with Adrian. Not all the final lyrics or solos are set, but the songs are so raw and fresh. Some of the jams show a side of Whitesnake we rarely got to see. Kind of Purple-y in the way they just could take off and rip some blues.
Given all the rich audio extras, it’s OK if one of the CDs is a little impoverished. That would be disc 2, “The Wagging Tongue Edition”. This is a reproduction of an old promo CD, featuring the album Slip of the Tongue with a Dirty David interview interspersed. This was meant for radio premieres. It has the entire album in the correct order, but because it’s faded in and out of interviews, it’s really not a substitute for a proper copy of the original album. At least the vintage 1989 interviews are interesting. It saves collectors from buying a copy on Discogs. (Coverdale claims “Judgement Day” was originally titled “Up Yours Robert”. Ooft.)
There’s another disappointment here and it’s difficult to forgive. In 2011, Whitesnake released the long awaited Live at Donington as a 2 CD/1 DVD package. This brilliant performance finally gave us a permanent record of Whitesnake live with Vai. In our previous dedicated review, we had this to say:
Musically, it’s a wild ride. It’s not the Steve Vai show. Adrian gets just as many solos, and his are still spine-tingling if more conventional. It is loaded with ‘Snake hits, leaning heavily on the three Geffen albums. In fact there is only one pre-Slide It In song included: The Bobby “Blue” Bland cover “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City”. And, since it is also the pre-grunge era, there are plenty of solos, which today seems excessive. Aldridge does his drum solo at the end of “Still Of The Night”. Vandenberg gets his “Adagio for Strato”/”Flying Dutchman Boogie”. Most excitingly, Steve Vai performs two songs from his then-brand new (and top 40!) album Passion And Warfare: “For The Love Of God” and “The Audience Is Listening”, with Aldridge on drums. Coverdale even introduces him as “Mr. Passion and Warfare!” so I imagine there was no sour grapes that Vai’s album was doing so well. And lemme tell ya folks — the audience WAS listening, and going nuts too!
Unfortunately, to save a little bit of plastic, this set was reduced to a single CD for its inclusion here. The Vai and Adrian solos were cut, though Tommy’s drum solo in “Still of the Night” is retained. To cut the guitar solos in such a guitar focused boxed set is not only unwise but unforgivable. Fans who don’t have Live at Donington are going to want to shell out again just to get the solos. Fortunately, the whole show is uncut on the included DVD.
The DVD has plenty of added value; it’s not just a reissue of Live at Donington. You’ll get the three music videos from the album (“Now You’re Gone”, “The Deeper the Love” and “Fool for Your Loving”). There’s even a brand new clip for “Sweet Lady Luck” cobbled together from existing video. Then, you can go deeper into the album. The aforementioned sitdown with David and Adrian is really enlightening. Another behind the scenes feature narrated by David is fantastic for those who love to watch a band create in the studio. Coverdale’s not a bad guitarist himself.
These Whitesnake box sets also include ample extras on paper. There’s quite a nice miniature reformatted tour program with the majority of cool photos. A large Slip of the Tongue poster can adorn your wall, or remain safely folded up in this box. Finally, there is a 60 page hardcover booklet. This is a treasure trove of press clippings, magazine covers, single artwork, and more. Lyrics and credits wrap it all up in a nice little package.
Because we know that David puts so much into these box sets, it’s that much more heartbreaking that this one is so slightly imperfect. The shuffled running order and lack of guitar kittens on “Kitten’s Got Claws” is a problem. The truncated live album is another. It means I have to hang onto old CDs that I was hoping to phase out of my collection in favour of this sleek set. Alas, I’ll keep them as they are my preferred listening experience.
Otherwise, in every other way, this box set delivers. It makes a lovely display next to its brethren and it justifies its cost.