Whitesnake • The Purple Album
review : Simon Robinson. I tend not to review too much Purple related product these days but thought I’d make an effort to get my head round this as it is without doubt one of the most talked about offerings from the “ex-member of” camp in ages. Also I quite liked the versions on the teaser videos, though accept I seemed to be in a minority! And when I read what passed for a review in Classic Rock (seemingly designed to act as click-bait) I figured it couldn’t be that bad.
And it’s not, though it does stretch what must have seemed to be a good idea at the time rather too far. In all, I’d suggest there was a good EP to be had out of this lot, and the rest kind of tests my patience to varying degrees. It was the same with that Gillan’s Inn album, it was fine as far as it went, but would I ever listen to those over the originals again? The answer is not just rhetorical, as the CD sits on the shelf unplayed.
But at least IG seemed really up for it and they all appeared to be enjoying themselves. Here the overall impression is of a workmanlike performance, with Coverdale himself being the least involved of all at times. When he does kick up a little dust the music lifts and I’m not quite sure why it feels like he’s disinterested elsewhere. Maybe having gone for the idea in the first place (apparently on the rebound from the Blackmore / Coverdale conference according to what he’s said since), he began to have second thoughts during the actual execution of it.
Burn though feels more like I expected it all to sound, and it is perhaps the closet of all to the 1973 original, vocal harmonies and guitar as well, though the axe-man breaks into some more contemporary rapid-fire work mid-way. The Hammond work probably sounds a little dated to todays heavy metallers but gets more than a passing nod here. Quite a powerful production too, and the lyrics seem much clearer than back in 73.
You Fool No One moves a little further away from the original, the percussion is far more heavy handed, and the vocals seemed buried. Nevertheless it romps along, and even comes over all Micky Moody in places.
The record takes a downward dip fon the Mk 4 covers which are amongst the least successful. Come Taste as an album balances almost on a knife edge – one slip either way and the magic would have been lost – so it is particularly difficult to cover in any meaningful way. Love Child doesn’t dance at all, and gets pretty much buried by the end. You Keep On Moving similarly misses the mark by a fair margin.
Back to Mk 3 and Sail Away is perhaps the least convincing cut of all. It has been turned into a heavy acoustic piece which probably seemed a good way to go, but just lacks any conviction or sparkle.
They are on safer ground with Lady Double Dealer and Gypsy, both of which are well handled by the band, ramping up the energy level again. The former has a couple of interesting musical twists towards the end but DC sounds removed from the proceedings at times on the former.
You cannot blame him for wanting to tackle Mistreated, and Coverdale takes a gravelly vocal path through the track which works for me, though the vocals are given a dry sound in the production and again are not quite high enough in the mix. There are clear echoes of the Whitesnake versions of old especially in the middle, while the guitarist does a fair take on the Blackmore soloing.
Visions of Micky Moody return for the start of Might Just Take Your Life, which is also seemingly based on the old live Whitesnake pattern (hands up if you remember the Back To The Roots tour!). Lay Down Stay Down is similarly attacked with vigour, though here the guitar is more reminiscent of the Sykes era.
Coverdale raises his game again for Soldier Of Fortune, a riff he has teased crowds with for 25 years now, and it’s the first track which really raises the goosebumps. It is followed by a powerful take of Stormbringer which with more growling vocals adds an extra dimension to a very strong cover, and so the album closes in fine style.
The bonus CD / DVD edition has a couple of extra tracks which I’ve not heard, as well as the four promo videos. The special LE box set has still not got a release date, while the 2LP vinyl versions has gone back to the very end of June (details to follow).
I kind of feel the only way to do this album was a quick in and out recording job, which seems to have been the case. Had they laboured over it long and hard as with a regular Whitesnake album, I doubt it would have been any better. But they did need to spend more time with DC in the studio as his involvement was after all the whole point of the exercise. How he handles himself on the road doesn’t really worry me as I long since gave up going to Whitesnake gigs, but I had hoped for a performance more along the lines of Into The Light to carry this off. It seems as if the production was handled by David and his manager, which suggests they’d have been better handing the job over to someone for a bit of a detached look at it all.
NOTE : I was reviewing this off the MP3 press kit versions, so will certainly want to give the final CD a blast to see if that improves the mix. Let us know what you think.
This was an album that would divide opinion, but I also think its actually a pretty brave thing for DC to undertake. My initial concerns were not around DC’s vocal but more on the widdly guitar, the Burn solo being a good example, just a bit over the top for me, highly skillful but too much.
Vocally I think its the best thing he’s done for years. Sail Away really works for me and is the one I keep going back to. Mike Richards
Burn has been dropped from G to F. Other tracks have been dropped in key as well to ‘accommodate’ DC. Doesn’t sound good to these ears. Maybe it’s best the DC/RB thing didn’t happen and instead cherish the memories? Tonny Steenhagen
I quite like the new treatment of Sail Away myself. I would say the whole thing sounds better on CD through proper speakers etc. Of the two bonus (Mk IV) tracks, Lady Luck is now a song to her (rather than about her) – “You are a jukebox dancer…” etc. whilst Coming Home is missing a few lyrics, which is confusing if you’re singing along… I guess they’re not “all back together”, and any talk of “gonna shiver and shake all night” could be misinterpreted as DC missing his annual ‘flu jab… nd he clearly guessed that (for quite a few people) the music they played would not surely make them feel all right. Strange (but enjoyable) to hear the lighter treatment of the chorus on Coming Home too… Tim Summers
DC has hinted that he and the Man In Black are still thinking about a Blackmore / Coverdale studio project (along the lines of Coverdale / Page), let’s hope that gets him fired up properly if it ever happens. In the meantime Coverdale and his crew are now touring this album for nearly ten weeks across America during the summer with The Purple Tour which started at the end of May. This is followed by Japan in October, and Europe in November, ending up with the Def Leppard arena support tour in the UK during December.
The CD is available through the DTB shop.