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Starkers in Tokyo Play

Whitesnake's grip on the U.S. record-buying public may have lessened considerably by the late '90s, but in other parts of the world (especially Japan), David Coverdale and company still reigned supreme. Keeping in step with the unplugged craze of the decade, Coverdale and longtime guitarist Adrian Vandenberg united for such a performance in the land of the rising sun, resulting in the release of 1998's Starkers in Tokyo. Anyone wondering if Coverdale can still cut it vocally all these years later will be pleasantly surprised -- the bloke can still sing splendidly, as the duo perform selections from throughout the singer's career. Expectedly, the ballads sound the best in this stripped-down setting ("Is This Love," and especially the overlooked Deep Purple nugget "Soldier of Fortune"), as do made over renditions of "Love Ain't No Stranger" and "The Deeper the Love." While the majority of the numbers work quite well, some are best suited for a full band (and especially with a ripping guitar accompaniment) -- as evidenced here by "Here I Go Again." If you're looking for new, bare-bone takes of Whitesnake classics, hunt down an import copy of Starkers in Tokyo. ~ Greg Prato, Rovi

Ready an' Willing Play

Despite benefiting from the expert assistance of legendary producer Martin Birch (Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, later Iron Maiden) Whitesnake's early studio albums all tended to sound unexplainably flat. Their fourth effort, 1980's Ready an' Willing, was no exception, but it did make up for this somewhat with solid songwriting. In fact, David Coverdale and company were growing increasingly more consistent and self-assured with each record, and this album's first half shows great progress over the previous year's hit-and-miss Lovehunter. Opener "Fool for Your Lovin'" was their best single yet, as well as their highest charting; with its clever combination of hit-savvy chorus and authentic bluesy resignation, it set the template for subsequent triumphs, and the fact that Coverdale re-recorded it (in disappointing pop-metal fashion) over a decade later for 1989's Slip of the Tongue is a testament to its staying power. Further highlights include the live favorite "Sweet Talker" (given extra bite by Micky Moody's expert slide guitar), the groove monster of a title track, and a set of memorable ballads in "Blindman" and "Ain't Gonna Cry No More." The same laurels can't be awarded to the album's closing trio of songs, all of which evince the tired and formulaic blues-rock that had dominated previous releases. But this didn't stop Ready an' Willing from qualifying as Whitesnake's finest hour thus far, with ever-greater glory waiting just over the horizon. ~ Eduardo Rivadavia, Rovi

1987 Play

The European release of Whitesnake's commercial breakthrough is actually their eponymous American release retitled 1987. The differences are small, but they are enough to make it interesting. The first difference is the track order, which is very different. The album seems to flow a little better the way it is presented here, especially when utilizing "Still of the Night" as the opening track. This has always been one of their best songs, and by far one of the best Led Zeppelin rip-offs to ever be written. There are also two more songs than on the American release, making it that much more essential to fans. Of the two, "Looking for Love" is the standout; a nice slow build to a blustery chorus makes this a classic David Coverdale ballad. "You're Gonna Break My Heart Again" is the hard rocker, and though it isn't exactly the holy grail of hard rock, it is a decent song that fits nicely with the other material here. If the option is presented, this is the superior edition and should be purchased above the edited American version. Fans will need the two extra songs, while anyone looking to hear their best album should hunt this down for the superior track order. ~ Bradley Torreano, Rovi

Trouble Play

Trouble was Whitesnake's first "real" album, setting the template for virtually all of the band's ensuing career, pre-1987 American sellout. (Snakebite, released earlier that year, was split between David Coverdale solo sessions and actual group recordings.) This was a group made up of seasoned veterans after all, and they knew exactly what it was they wanted: edgy hard rock based on R&B. They also knew who was boss: Coverdale, who after enduring a minority stake in the mighty Deep Purple, was now clearly established as top dog and de facto leader of the new outfit. (When he relinquishes lead vocal duties to guitarist Bernie Marsden on "Free Flight," it's because he wants to.) And what a slick, powerful outfit it was, too, with guitarists Marsden and Micky Moody compensating whatever visual shortcomings they may have had with their rock-solid six-string partnership, and former Purple organist Jon Lord holding it all together in the back. "Take Me with You"'s nonstop boogie and persistent slide guitar hook sets things into motion on a frenetic note, but it's the next song, "Love to Keep You Warm," which earns its stripes as a bona fide Whitesnake classic, largely due to its seductive, deliberate strut. In retrospect, concert fave "Lie Down (A Modern Day Love Song)" is a tad too simplistic and has not aged well at all, but the pairing of "Nighthawk (Vampire Blues)" and "The Time Is Right for Love" provides an amazingly succinct look back (the first is built upon a very Purple-esque stop-start riff) and ahead (the second introduces a cool melodic recipe which would characterize the band's later-day sound). The title track represents the album's high-water mark, its rollicking blues shuffle declaring it a worthy successor to Coverdale's original tour de force with Purple, "Mistreated." A few unexpected oddities throw the album off-balance here and there, not least of which the instrumental jam "Belgian Tom's Hat Trick" and an unexpected, stuttering cover of the Beatles' "Daytripper," but all things considered, it is easy to understand why Trouble turned out to be the first step in a long, and very successful career. ~ Eduardo Rivadavia, Rovi

Saints & Sinners Play

What a difference a year makes. After releasing the thoroughly disappointing Come an' Get It, Whitesnake made up for it in spades with 1982's excellent Saints & Sinners, their best record yet. Perhaps it was the arrival of new guitarist Mel Galley (replacing founding member Bernie Marsden) that re-energized the band. The dull, midtempo numbers of recent years were largely gone, replaced by rowdy bursts of bluesy aggression like "Rough an' Ready," "Bloody Luxury," and the downright nasty "Young Blood." David Coverdale also reached new heights with the astounding heavy blues of "Crying in the Rain" (a lyrical relative to Elmore James' "The Sun Is Shining" if there ever was one) and the timeless power ballad "Here I Go Again." Most Americans only came to know these songs when they were butchered into ridiculous power metal five years later, but for true Whitesnake fans, these original versions make Saints & Sinners well worth seeking out. ~ Eduardo Rivadavia, Rovi

Forevermore Play

Three years ago, Whitesnake released Good to Be Bad, a comeback album that reached the U.K.’s Top Five. It walked the line between their brand of U.K. hard rock and ‘80s glam metal. On Forevermore, David Coverdale polishes the production -- a tad -- focuses the guitars more, and successfully fuses Whitesnake's various eras, and succeeds in spades. There is a new rhythm section with drummer Brian Tichy and bassist Michael Devlin. Forevermore commences with “Steal Your Heart Away,” an old-school, nasty, slide guitar workout with a harmonica solo, that revs into a full-blown blues-rocker with a killer chorus. Guitarists Doug Aldrich and Reb Beach shine on the instrumental bridge. The album's first single, "Love Will Set You Free," is top-notch Whitesnake that nods back to the early years while grounding itself in the present. "All Out of Luck," and "Tell Me How" measure up in the same way. "I Need You (Shine a Light)" is an enormous surprise; its hook is so infectious it sounds like Coverdale's been listening to Cheap Trick's earliest records. The acoustic midtempo ballad "One Of These Days" carries a trace of country in its melody, hearkening back to the Restless Heart era. Coverdale reveals he's more than competent to write a fine, lyrically savvy love song, when he’s not thinking with his dick. "Fare Thee Well," another acoustic number, showcases Coverdale at his most intimate. "Whipping Boy Blues” is a dirty slide rocker that reconciles both sides of the band. "My Evil Ways," with its calamitous drum intro, is punishing; Coverdale pulls out all the stops to deliver his finest vocal performance on the set. The album's true highlight, however, is in the closing title track. Over seven minutes, it begins as an acoustic number before morphing into a stellar Whitesnake power ballad. After a two-and-a-half minute acoustic guitar/vocal intro, the band enters with a "Kashmir"-like chord sequence; they keep it slow but increase the drama; it eventually explodes into a bone crusher with killer guitar solos and a gorgeous melody. Forevermore, despite its tighter arrangements and more polished production (and "Dogs in the Street," its lone loser cut) is Whitesnake at its Brit hard rock best. ~ Thom Jurek, Rovi

Whitesnake Play

David Coverdale built Whitesnake's commercial breakthrough on a collection of loud, polished hard rockers, plus the band's best set of pop hooks. The Led Zeppelin-ish "Still of the Night" offered headbanger appeal, but it was the big chorus of "Here I Go Again" -- one of the very small number of non-power ballad '80s hard rock singles to actually top the pop charts -- and the quiet ballad "Is This Love" that really sold the album in spades. The rest of the album generally holds interest as well, and it's easily the band's best. ~ Steve Huey, Rovi

Slide It In Play

Following up the splendid Saints & Sinners album was no easy task, but 1984's Slide It In turned out to be an even greater triumph for David Coverdale's Whitesnake. From the boisterous machismo of "Spit It Out" and "All or Nothing" to the resigned despair of "Gambler" and "Standing in the Shadow," and the embarrassingly silly title track, everything seems to click. For hit singles, look no further than the twin guitar attack of "Guilty of Love" and the sheer poetry and emotion of "Love Ain't No Stranger," one of the decade's greatest power ballads, bar none. Not to be outdone, "Slow an' Easy" is a masterpiece of sexual tension and the kind of power-blues which no one does as well as Whitesnake. On a quirky historical note, Coverdale fired most of the band soon after the album's release, replacing them with younger, prettier faces with which to better conquer America. For that purpose, Geffen Records even released a re-recorded version of Slide It In with flashy soloing from new guitarist John Sykes, sparking an ongoing debate as to which version is better. ~ Eduardo Rivadavia, Rovi

Slip of the Tongue Play

Any band would have been hard-pressed to follow the success of a multi-platinum album with another one of equal or higher quality both critically and commercially. Needless to say, that's exactly what David Coverdale and Whitesnake were faced with when it came time to record 1989's Slip of the Tongue, the follow-up to their 1987 smash self-titled LP. To complicate matters, Coverdale lost Irish guitarist Vivian Campbell during pre-recording sessions due to artistic differences, and his songwriting partner and lead guitarist, Adrian Vandenberg, injured himself to the degree that he couldn't play; he did some early work that made it on to the final album. Coverdale, faced with a quickly approaching deadline and pressure from management and the label finally recruited former Frank Zappa guitarist Steve Vai to fill the chair. Commercially, Slip of the Tongue was an unqualified success. The album ended up being Whitesnake's third platinum recording. Musically, however, the set is so drenched in '80s production -- huge compression, Midi keyboards, a thin bottom end, etc. -- it seems that little of the band's tough blues-based metallic persona remains. The album sounds dated, full of overblown sounds and effects that have little to do with the act's trademark heavy guitar-and-bass approach to hard rock and early Brit metal. Some of the songs have merit, even if their finished productions ruin them -- the tough "Now You're Gone" and "Judgment Day," are great examples, as is "The Deeper the Love," a classic Coverdale power ballad needlessly drenched in keys and synths. The fit between Vai and Whitesnake is also questionable; his busy approach is at odds with the meat and potatoes strut and pound of the band. Fans ate it up at the time, but Slip of the Tongue is, unfortunately, still an album very much of its time and the curious, as well as fans, may want to check out their earlier work before picking this up. ~ Thom Jurek, Rovi

Lovehunter Play

For all of its musical merits, Whitesnake's second full-length album, Lovehunter, is probably best remembered for its lurid cover painting (featuring a very naked female and a very large snake) rather than the band's ever-improving recipe for blues-infected hard rock. The group's performance in the studio environment remains strangely tame, however, and though blaming the producer seems like the obvious explanation, one has to wonder if this is the case when a veteran like Martin Birch (Deep Purple, Black Sabbath) is at the helm. Still, all things considered, the record is quite consistent; the band is equally at home rocking through the foot-stomping "Long Way From Home," and gliding through the bluesy ballad "Help Me Thro' the Day." "Walking in the Shadow of the Blues" combines near-perfect songwriting with one of Coverdale's maturest and most compelling lyrics, while the masterful slide guitar of Mickey Moody literally ignites the awesome title track. The gorgeously simple piano treatment of "We Wish You Well" closes the disc in fine fashion. ~ Eduardo Rivadavia, Rovi

Good to Be Bad [Limited 2 Disc Version] Play

Good to Be Bad marks Whitesnake's 30th anniversary as a band -- though frontman David Coverdale is the only original member. It's their first studio album since 1998's Restless Heart, which was never released in the United States. The current incarnation of Whitesnake is Coverdale, guitarists Doug Aldrich and Reb Beach, bassist Uriah Duffy, keyboardist Timothy Drury, and drummer Chris Frazier. Frazier is the band's newest member; the others appeared on 2006's Live...In the Shadow of the Blues. This is a seasoned road group, but it remained to be heard if they could pull it off in the studio. The answer is hell yes! Listening to this wondrous racket, it seems strange that such a timeless sound has vanished from mainstream rock -- guitars just don't sound like this on records anymore. What's really weird is that this sound, as seemingly "retro" as it is in recalling the 1980s, is actually a real alternative to what's on corporate radio in the 21st century. There are some outstanding cuts here. "All for Love," the album's centerpiece, contains a majestic power chord intro. It evolves into the big bad four-note riff that the tune hinges on. It's got a killer rough-and-rowdy hook in the refrain that's trademark Whitesnake. Another killer arrives with the wild unhinged blues licks that open "Best Years." The tune's riff is an inversion of the Allman Brothers' "Whipping Post," and the verse is based on the same changes. This tune is one of the hardest rockers to come swaggering down the stadium rock alley in a dog's age. "Can You Hear the Wind Blow" features enormous guitars and shimmering keyboards that contrast with the blues wail in Coverdale's voice. There is déjà vu here, too: the hook is reminiscent of "Rock You Like a Hurricane" by the Scorpions. Aldrich's guitar playing is a huge boon to the Whitesnake sound. He's obviously listened to Jimmy Page, and the slippery, knotty, and funky blues licks in tracks like "Call on Me" reflect that, but his sound with its effects pedals is more overdriven and bigger than life, offering the base for Whitesnake's core sound -- straight-out festival rock, y'all. This wouldn't be a Whitesnake recording without a power ballad, and "Summer Rain" is a beauty. Coverdale sings a country-tinged melody; he's all vulnerable singing above a washed-out meld of acoustic guitars and a gently but insistently swelling organ, kissed by cymbals and a bass drum. Of course, there's an enormous electric guitar solo near the end to bring it home. Coverdale's voice is lower in the 21st century, but just as effective in Whitesnake's brand of hard rock. "A Fool in Love" begins with the sound of a crackling vinyl record; it gives way to pure balls-out blues-rocker, with slide guitar in Brit metal overdrive. The closer, "'Til the End of Time," starts as an acoustic blues, but by the time the big tom-toms roll in and the keys weave through those guitars, it feels like something off Led Zeppelin III. Coverdale has always stuck very close to his blues-rock roots and continues to mine them; his brand of ROCK with chugging outsized guitars is palatable because of his reliance on crafting excellent choruses and hooks. It's a hell of a comeback and ranks right near the top of the Whitesnake catalog. ~ Thom Jurek, Rovi

Chronicles Play

This "three-fer" from Geffen includes pretty much all of the Whitesnake one could possibly need -- or want, for that matter. It features 1984's Led Zeppelin-infused Slide It In; their breakthrough self-titled 1987 release, which featured the hits "Still of the Night," "Is This Love," and "Here I Go Again"; and 1989's disappointing follow-up, Slip of the Tongue. Despite the fact that the group had been recording for nearly ten years prior to its big break, casual fans will only know these records. For a more concise look at the band, listeners should check out either 1994's Whitesnake's Greatest Hits or EMI's enormous 25 Year Anthology. ~ James Christopher Monger, Rovi

Gold Play

While compilations can fall short in any number of ways, Whitesnake's Gold assemblage is exactly what was needed in putting together the very best tracks from a band that never really could go the distance on its albums. David Coverdale and company were one of those bands from the late '70s through the end of '80s that issued hot-selling singles and gained massive radio and video airplay -- but whose albums (and some of them were hits) were always marred by filler. Gold collects 33 cuts over two CDs and delivers a powerhouse best-of that charts Whitesnake's entire run for Geffen circa 1978-1989. Virtually anything a fan ever wanted is right here, from the single "Time Is Right for Love" through "Ain't No Love in the Heart of the City" from Snakebite and the title track from the excellent Trouble to hits from Lovehunter, Ready an' Willing, Slide It In, and Whitesnake and live cuts from their various live outings, all the way through to their last album for the label, Slip of the Tongue. There is no cross-licensing, which is a drag because there were great songs on 1998's Restless Heart, recorded for EMI in the U.K. only, but that's a small complaint. In addition, there are different mixes of "Give Me All Your Love," "Fool for Your Loving," and "The Last Night of Freedom." This is a must for those who dug the excess and pomp of the Whitesnake sound that was at once polished, bombastic, full of hooks, and snarling. ~ Thom Jurek, Rovi

The Silver Anniversary Collection Play

It's hard to believe Whitesnake had been around for 25 years, but it's true and they've got the double-CD release to prove it. And not only is 25 Year Anthology a tribute to the longevity to the band; more importantly, it's a tribute to the voice behind the band, David Coverdale. Starting from their first big hit, "Fool for Your Loving" (the non-Steve Vai version), and going all the way through to their other biggest hit, "Still of the Night" (on the classic 1987 eponymous release), the group covers every angle of Coverdale's career. Somewhere in between are stops by the hard-rockin' blues phase of Whitesnake, the hair metal power ballad Whitesnake-Zeppelin years, and the solo years of Coverdale when he went on to record with Jimmy Page. Make no bones about it, at two discs this really is all of the Whitesnake any fan new or old will ever need. It might prove to be a bit daunting for those just wanting to hear "Here I Go Again" or "Still of the Night," but for those ready and waiting for this celebration, get ready to turn this up to eleven. ~ Rob Theakston, Rovi
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