Album review: WHITESNAKE – Live In ’84 Back To The Bone

Whitesnake - Back To The Bone

Frontiers [Released 07.11.14]

Here’s a song for ya.

1984 was a good year for British rock music – and is surely epitomised by Whitesnake’s Slide It In. OK, I’m biased, possibly, but Slide It In is by far my favourite Whitesnake album, and not just because it features Cozy Powell.

But in terms of a blend of the blues angle with solid hard rock, the album does it on so many levels. Transitory it may have well have been, as the former Deep Purple singer founded Whitesnake as a blues oriented band before they moved in the hair metal direction for the 1987 eponymous set.

This live album, well, it’s more of a live compilation, features tracks from several concerts (the press release refers to Best Of The Bootlegs, one I know is Tokyo as ‘Ol Cov’ mentions it).

A Tumultuous time for the band, for the bulk of material here is as the four piece of David Coverdale,  drummer Cozy Powell, returning bassist Neil Murray and guitarist John Sykes, with support from keyboard player Richard Bailey.

Opening with the then new ‘Gambler’, it’s quite a blast, and a solid classic track. The mix is in the main good, but a little dry due to the keyboards being a little quiet.

Sykes handles the riff in ‘Guilty Of Love’ well, and it’s one of several tracks to highlight Murray’s hard melodic style. And third track ‘Love Ain’t No Stranger’ is not only a great track but also shows the emphasis on the then new album.

‘Walking In The Shadow Of The Blues’ stands out also.  Sykes’ guitar solo is meaningful, almost a song in itself, and contains a lot less shred than he applies in other songs. This leads into ‘Crying In The Rain’, a musical sign of things to come.

There’s a bonus EP medley of ‘Gambler / Guilty Of Love, Love Aint’ No Stranger and Ready An’ Willing’, from Jon Lord’s final performance. Sadly (and strangely) not the whole show, as it’s superb and well recorded.

Point of confusion – we are told it’s Sweden, which Coverdale mentions, but near the start he welcomes Las Vagas. An error on the day, or an editing error?

Throughout the sets Coverdale sounds on good form (the odd puerile comment aside), and the Powell/Murray partnership is solid, sound, melodic and pounding. Sykes is clearly a guitar master but the shred doesn’t always fit.

This is an excellent reminder of the era and a welcome addition to the collection. That said, as a collection, it is a little disjointed, especially in light of the number of 1983/1984 full show boots around. With the lack of the complete Donnington 1983 it is an era that does need further exploration although the full Slide It In album (UK and US versions) was reissued in 2009.

This review is based on the audio as the DVD footage was not available at the time. ****1/2

Review by Joe Geesin

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