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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Whitesnake

The Purple Album

Review by Larry Toering

What can be said about Whitesnake (or Deep Purple for that matter) which hasn't already been said? A fan of either or both could get their share of flack as a writer or not for supporting this release. That is a challenge this lifetime Deep Purple fan was willing to take on after just one listen to the whole album. That’s a change because I usually don't quite get an album until the third listen. But these songs go all the way back to their inception with me, as I watched Deep Purple mkIII on ABC In-Concert when it aired in 1974, before some of these tracks were even recorded. I'll take any flack with this which may come, especially being as I am not the biggest fan of that era, and certainly no authority on Whitesnake. Still, I can explain that I am an Ian Gillan fan through and through, so naturally I rate his line-ups superior to all, but also loved how Coverdale found his ultimate feet in Whitesnake. I couldn't even swallow this idea at first, but I'm so glad I opened an ear to it, because this is a very well done homage to the music he was involved in creating with Deep Purple.

Yes, I wanted so badly to be able to dismiss this when it boils deep down. That is why I'm actually happy to review it. It defied all my sense of logic to even do this. I have to advise a good open minded listen to rate it yourself, as I recommend this because for one, you just don't hear such a monster sound anymore. The songs are what undeniably resonate here, and Coverdale and team really did a great job covering them. Nearly every track has something good about it to say, even when they don't completely nail it. Still, some others are over the top awesome. I feel that even as a mild fan of mkIII Purple, it qualifies me to give it a pretty positive in-depth review. I really had no idea what was waiting, but glad I took this opportunity and thank Frontiers once again for early access to what is definitely no disaster. It has some great, but also some not so great moments in the technical department. Still, considering the age of these guys, I say “so what?” to that if the rest is there. Coverdale has mentioned that this was an attempt to update these songs, and that has been achieved through tweaking them in areas where he felt they could breathe a little more. For that, I say it could be a lot worse. In fact, I enjoy what I consider to be the improvements and let the rest fall where it may. Everyone should agree with one thing, it does lack the presence of keyboards on too many of the songs, as to be explained in the review of those piece.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2015  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.
Track by Track Review
Burn
This is an obvious choice for the lead off number, being that line-up’s most recognizable track. The first thing I noticed was Coverdale's voice lacking some power but it's on par with the live renditions he's been doing with Whitesnake for years now. The guitars are well enough in order on this too, but it's nice to get some kind of keyboards out of this. I found it to be the album’s low point that it does not contain enough keyboard to really give Jon Lord his due. Still, I digress because there is only one Jon Lord, so to me it is a fact that for the most part it's better left to Whitesnake and their dual guitar approach. That serves to replace the dual vocal approach of the originals. This track could be worse, but I'm one who's of the opinion that this song has been done to death by way of being covered by plenty over the years. That said, who better to be doing it, really? This doesn't sting, but it doesn't exactly sooth either. I can say it didn't really prepare me for what's to come. Coverdale's voice could sound better on this, and that can be said for a lot of the album, but then again, when he's on he's on, just the same.
You Fool No One
Now this is entirely another story, almost completely detached from everything else on the record. It by far tops every note to be heard on this album. It harkens back to Whitesnake's classic sound before the more metalized material was even a thought. The guitars here remind of "Slide It In" power. This is where it all comes together for me, and I almost feel it's placed too early on the album. I mean, this is mind blowing and not a thing to do with the original in several parts of the song. I'm a big fan of the original from the cowbell to the magnificent guitar playing of Ritchie Blackmore, so it completely baffled me when I heard it so well re-arranged. This is a case where the original is as equalled as can be without being a carbon copy. Gone is the cowbell factor which might seem as blasphemous as the lack of keyboards on the album, and in place of it is an elecro-harmonica intro which comes completely out of left field. Then there is Coverdale's tweaking of the vocals a little bit to Whitesnake it up, as done with many of the tracks here. But what really takes this over the top are the guitars of Reb Beech and newcomer Joel Hoekstra. What a massive assault they go into on this, proving Whitesnake still has plenty to offer their fans, even if it takes Deep Purple songs re-arranged to prove it. Sure, there are fans who would completely dismiss this as pompous, and I could've very well been one of them. Still, when you're hot you're hot, and this is a smoking rendition no matter how you slice it, or no matter how much you don't want to like it. This is killer!
Love Child
This is where the lack of keyboards becomes critical. This is a song from mkIV's Come Taste the Band, a very underrated album. It featured a beautiful mellotron solo from Jon Lord, which they don't even attempt to emulate, instead just leaving it out completely. Now, some might find that a horrible thing to do, but I meet it in the middle because there is still a song there without it, somehow. I'm sure that is what Coverdale tried to say here. Is this updated at all? Well, I'm not sure if it's updated or down-dated because of what it's missing, but it does offer something different. There is a lot of energy going on here, which the original seemed to lack if you listen side by side. That could just be a lot of years gone by, but I don't see it that way. Coverdale belts out one of his coolest screams of all time on this. I was very surprised to hear that. He does it one more time on another track, but it's nowhere near as cool as it is here. All in all, I like this one more than I don't. 
Sail Away
Once again I have to be very critical here, as the original is still one of my all time favorites. So, I was anticipating something way more akin to it. But this is again where it gets the full Whitesnake treatment, and yes, this is their song "Sailing Ships" meets Deep Purple. What did they do with it? Once again the keyboards are stripped, but this time well replaced with acoustic guitars and a sing-along approach. Very classic Whitesnake, they make it their own, somehow. I'm sure their fans would find this one an upgrade, but the staunch Purple fans perhaps not. Still, once again Coverdale proves his point that maturing isn't a bad thing. The tune slows up at the end and an acapella version of the chorus picks it up with the Whitesnake touch, and that is a testament of what's really going on here for better or worse. 
The Gypsy
This is another soft spot number for me from the Stormbringer album, which as Purple fan I have always rated more of a dud than a Purple standard album. To be honest, I don't even see it as a bona fide Deep Purple album because listen hard enough to it and you can easily tell their chemistry was struggling as a complete unit. Many disagree with me on this and try to prop that album as some of Purple's best. I completely rubbish that but can understand where some heads are about it. Do I consider this one an update though? Not exactly, because it lacks a lot of what the original still has to offer. I get more of a copy feel off this one. I’m sorry to say that because others might find it a complete upgrade and Whitesnake fans might also be introduced to a great tune and look up the original if they've never heard it. Yes, their fans can be that dismissive of Deep Purple. 
Lady Double Dealer
Well now, I cannot say a whole lot about this one in any comparison capacity. Like the previous track it just feels like an amped up run-through, and Coverdale struggles on the chorus but does add some more of that Whitesnake acapella approach. The guitars stand up well here, and that is about all I can offer this Whitesnake version. It’s not my cup of tea to say the least.
Mistreated
The classic mkIII blues number that Coverdale and Blackmore did a fine job of on the original, is by no means murdered here. It doesn't surprise me, though, because this is a song that is hard to ruin either way. I'm fine with this one, the guitars are different enough to add some spark for my taste.
Holy Man
Now here is another track I always liked, originally sung by Glenn Hughes on lead vocals. I’m sorry to say it doesn't grab me at all like the original which is a stellar track. I'm not of the opinion this has been improved at all. 
Might Just Take Your Life
Acoustic guitars do not belong in this song. I’m sorry but that just turned me off from the get go. Then they proceed to practically destroy the original. Yes, the missing organ intro is just something I don't approve of. I do compare to the originals here because how can you not? I'm obviously not keen on this one to speak of. Next track, please. 
You Keep on Moving
Now this I completely welcome, one of Deep Purple mkIV's best numbers. For all Coverdale’s aging voice, I find this to be the best vocal attempt on the whole disc. It might just be me, but it does achieve a bit of an upgrade. Yes, the keyboards surface in this one, and I'm not sure why it's absent on some other tracks. This is awesome. 
Soldier of Fortune
The intro nails Ritchie Blackmore's only acoustic dabbling on any 70s Deep Purple record. I'm not saying it tops or even equals the original version, but the man brings it home here. This is another song that to me is hard to ruin. I think the fans will eat this one up. 
Lay Down Stay Down
This is a number that I always had mixed feelings about, and I still do. This is not for me.
Stormbringer
Once again not something I'm entirely too fond of to begin with, I feel Coverdale’s voice really loses some steam here. I do like some of the effects, but otherwise I’m not all that happy with it. Once again, it's no disaster, but overall this whole album is a blast if you set your bias down.
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