Album review: WHITESNAKE – Slide It In

35th Anniversary Edition Parlophone/Rhino [Release date 08.03.19]

Back when Whitesnake were a British classic rock band, former Deep Purple vocalist David Coverdale fronted a solid blues rock band of class musicians.

Formed in the late 70s, the mid 80s saw a change of direction, taking a more commercial hard rock/metal approach and adopting a more big hair image, when MTV and hot chicks in music videos were de rigueur.

1984’s ‘Slide It In’ was very much a transition period for the band. And a very underrated album it is too. Here on the album’s 35th anniversary it is issued (both versions), on 2LP, 2CD and also a 6CD/DVD box. Something I’ve been looking forward to as it is by far and away my favourite Whitesnake album. Mixing a chunk of the earlier albums’ blues with a heavier and more modern hard rock, there’s much to love, certainly for me, although I know it divided others.

The story here dates back to 1982’s Saints And Sinners, whose line-up featured guitarists Bernie Marsden and Micky Moody, bassist Neil Murray, pianist Jon Lord and drummer Ian Paice alongside David Coverdale.

The line-up fell apart upon release (that’s another story), with Murray leaving, Paice joining Gary Moore’s band and Marsden forming Alaska. In came guitarist Mel Galley (Trapeze), bassist Colin Bomber Hodgkinson (a session player with a long association with Alexis Korner) and drummer Cozy Powell.

That new line-up toured ‘Saints’n’Sinners’ before with Lord, Galley and Hodgkinson also contributing to a Cozy Powell solo album (featuring a track co-written with Coverdale), before the band recorded ‘Slide It In In’ 1983. The original sessions with producer Eddie Kramer didn’t come to fruition, and in came Martin Birch, best known for his work with Deep Purple and Iron Maiden.

Although released in 1984, tracks were debuted at the 1983 Donington show and ‘Guilty Of Love’ issued as a single soon after.

A combination of internal dissent (including Coverdale’s mistreatment of Micky Moody), and a direct intention to hit the American market, Moody was replaced by John Sykes (then of Thin Lizzy), and Hodgkinson by a returning Neil Murray, who replaced some of the guitar and bass parts respectively, the album getting a remix in the process. This was released in the UK as a picture disc “US Remix” and also in the USA.

The music is solid, heavier than previous albums (something Micky Moody later laid at the feet of Cozy Powell, whose drumming was more powerful and less jazzy that Paice’s. Here I feel the heaviness worked, as there is still enough of the blues to make a great Whitesnake album.

The singles ‘Guilty Of Love’, ‘Give Me More Time’, ‘Standing In The Shadow’ and ‘Love Ain’t No Stranger’ (spread across the two versions of the album) are all classics, mixing wonderful blues rock with radio friendly hard rock.

This two LP features both versions – an excellent and very welcome idea. The guitar and keyboard levels are different (the latter more prominent on the US mix), there’s much debate over which is better – listen to both and make up your own mind.

The box set features bonus live material; the remix line-up toured briefly before Mel Galley was forced to quit due to nerve damage following an accident; Jon Lord would then leave to take part in the Deep Purple reformation. So Whitesnake were down to the four piece of Coverdale, Sykes, Murray and Powell, touring with keyboard player Richard Bailey.

Back in 1996, Cozy told me “I knew David Coverdale quite well and he knew what I could do so it wasn’t a question of auditioning. That’s right. We got quite close at the time. We were good friends and he just wanted me in the band”.

“I toured the ‘Saints’N'Sinners’ album, with Micky Moody, Colin Hodgkinson, Jon Lord, Mel Galley. Then for ‘Slide It In’, Colin played bass but Neil Murray came in and did some extra tracks, replaced some of the bass. John Sykes came in too and did the tour.

That was musically the most successful period for Whitesnake. 1987 was better financially, and people say ‘Still Of The Night’, which I like, but was a total Zeppelin rip-off. Slide It In was the last credible album.

Later he got session players in and it just wasn’t Whitesnake anymore. John Sykes got booted, as we all did. I left over a disagreement over a contract, which is quite sad. I’d been offered a deal, on a handshake if you like, and that deal wasn’t honoured. If I’d taken it I would have made a lot of money, that album sold about 17 million”.

The sound is good, the vinyl feels heavy and solid, and the LP packaging is good, the gatefold features track lyrics. But herein lies the only issue (there’s more on the box set, largely around what video isn’t included), and one must put your head in your hands and “Oh Coverdale you still can’t get it right”. The original UK and US mixes had a different running order; here both running orders are the same, and match neither original. Pedantic? Maybe, but to me a fan, and collector, an important issue.

Having both versions together on LP like this is long overdue, and in my view it is far and away the best Whitesnake album. Never bettered by anything since, regardless of what the sales figures say. Fantastic musicianship all round, solid and with feel, Coverdale’s vocals bluesy heavy solid and clean. A far cry from the Whitesnake of now.

The packaging is as wonderful as the music, a genuine Five Star and essential release, the half point off for the running order issue. ****1/2

Review by Joe Geesin

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