Album review: WHITESNAKE – The Blues Album

WHITESNAKE – The Blues Album

Rhino [Release date 19.02.21]

There’s always been a huge swathe of older fans who believe that Whitesnake were at their peak some forty years ago, the bluesy hard rock of the ‘classic’ line-up unbeatable and everything since the world conquering ‘1987’ album not quite the same. Others believe that the newer, slicker and sharper ‘Snake is a much more feral and lithe creature, full of bite and raw animal power. The truth lies somewhere between the two camps.

David Coverdale has always been someone for whom soul and blues is part of his DNA, it’s really only the shifting players around him that have changed, his writing flexing to include his guitar playing foil in the band at that time.

That’s not to say that there’s just been a very relaxed attitude to things, Coverdale rightly proud of the band and everything he’s achieved over the years, captaining the good ship Whitesnake through calm and choppy waters with a steady hand and steely determination.

Redcar’s finest has always chosen the finest in the land to join the him, each hand picked for what they bring to the party and it’s a fascinating arc that’s aptly displayed with this, the third in the Red, White and Blue trilogy.

With their coloured vinyl editions this was an attractive package as well as a great bit of marketing, these three individual compilations don’t just pick tracks heard on many a collection before but have remastered and retooled them, none more so than this latest volume. For those yearning for the old days there is much to love here, the material directly linking back to those early years and the studio polish and added touches will certainly bring in the more recent converts attracted by the heat.

From the moment that ‘Steal Your Heart Away’ bursts out of the speakers right until the last seismic note of ‘Crying in the Rain’ fades, this is a thrill ride that brings together some of the cream of the band’s more bluesy output and kicks it up a notch or two. Whilst these bookending tracks lean a little more on the hard-rocking end of things, in particular the closer, there is plenty for everyone to sink their fangs into.

There’s been some very fine tweaking on the production of the tracks, certain elements pushed back a little and others boosted in the mix to give more of a blues feel. Of course, Sir David of Coverdale is very much to the fore, his golden larynx covering the smallest seductive nuance to the full-blown roar, never sounding better than on this selection that truly demonstrates just what he can do.

The album also features some truly phenomenal guitar work by a selection of the stellar six stringers he’s worked with over the years. John Sykes crops up on the driving rocker ‘Give Me All Your Love’, Doug Aldrich plays with power and a subtlety of touch throughout and a new solo is put in by the latest ‘Snake, Joel Hoekstra on the striking ‘Take Me Back Again’. Slow and sensual, the track builds up into a full-blooded cry of passion, new layers of keyboards added by Derek Sherinian to add to the atmosphere.

Listening to ‘Slow and Easy’ once more, you can’t help but remember the late great Cozy Powell, his thunderous drumming at the core of the track powering it along like a freight train. Coming straight after that, ‘Too Many Tears’ seems to have an almost Country vibe to it and it’s nice to see the album dip its toe into the more unusual, but still equally valid, variations on the theme.

Coverdale is at his most compelling on the big numbers though, from the bombastic ‘Lay Down Your Love’, the grit and seduction of a stomping ‘The River Song’ and ‘Whipping Boy Blues’ that sees him at his most feral. The production work on these remixed songs is never less than sparkling, the kaleidoscope of new sounds and effects a truly heady experience as this latter track and the following ‘If You Want Me’ effortlessly highlight.

‘Woman Trouble’ has the canyon deep groove and swagger of prime early ‘80’s Whitesnake, ‘Looking for Love’ equally echoing those years whilst having one foot firmly in the present with it’s luscious vocals and titanic guitarwork.

As mentioned, ‘Crying In The Rain’ ends the album on a more metallic note than most of the material preceding it but the sentiment is here and it’s a fine and unbridled closer. Whilst DC is eyeing his retiring the band for the last time, the Red, White and Blue trilogy is a fine way to celebrate his legacy and ‘The Blues’ album is the jewel in this particular crown. Oft imitated, never bettered, Whitesnake still remain one of the greatest rock bands this country has ever produced. *****

Review by Paul Monkhouse

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David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 14 March 2021 and includes the Top 10 albums at for that week.

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