I’ll admit to having a David Coverdale obsession. From Deep Purple to his solo albums to his many Whitesnake albums, he is definitely one of my favourite musicians to ever perform a note. He’s performed with some of the greatest musicians including Cozy Powell, Steve Vai, Don Airey, and every member of Deep Purple which makes for quite the track record, especially considering he was the leader of all of these musicians. (Except for while he was in Deep Purple.) So when it was announced that Whitesnake’s newest album, The Purple Album would be all re-workings of his most classic Deep Purple tracks, I was thrilled.
He’s shared the story in a few interviews lately, but if you haven’t heard, this project came about when Jon Lord was diagnosed with cancer and wanted to reunite with the “MK III” Deep Purple lineup which included David Coverdale, Ian Paice, Glenn Hughes and of course Ritchie Blackmore but for one reason or another it just never came about. Jon’s unfortunate death completely closed that door, though it sounds like the door was closed before that, but since David prepped himself mentally to have this reunion happen, he decided to revisit these old classics himself with his mates in Whitesnake as both a tribute to Jon and also as a way to bring his career full circle.
Now an album of re-recordings could go either way. A lot of artists do them, and while for the most part these albums aren’t necessarily bad, there is always that thought in listeners heads that says “well why don’t I just listen to the original recordings?” Such was the case with Uli Jon Roth‘s Scorpions Revisited album, which I reviewed highly but still felt that I’d take the original recordings any day. For The Purple Album, my concern wasn’t if they would sound okay (though he has aged, I still believe that David Coverdale has what it takes to give a great performance having seen him rock a live stage as recently as two summers ago) it’s whether or not the current incarnation of Whitesnake could pull off songs recorded by the great hard rock/heavy metal pioneers that are Deep Purple, especially with the recent departure of guitarist Doug Aldrich.
It’s not that I think Doug Aldrich was the be all and end all of Whitesnake, it’s just that he’d displayed in over ten years and two studio albums with the band that he is the complete package of both blues and hard rock, both being very important in regards to getting the right feel for the old Deep Purple songs. His replacement, Joel Hoekstra is a shredder, and one hell of a shredder at that. While he would fit in with a band that did once have the great Steve Vai shredding for them in the late 80s, I wonder how both Joel and 80’s hair metal veteran and long time Whitesnake axe man Reb Beach could perform the iconic Deep Purple cuts that make up most of The Purple Album.
I’ll assess The Purple Album by splitting it up between the three Deep Purple albums of which David Coverdale sang lead vocals on. First, of course, there is the immortal Burn. Six of the albums eight tracks were re-recorded for this venture, and of course it’s the title track that starts off The Purple Album. The age is apparent in David’s voice in his performance of this song, something that I thought at first listen was a problem but it would soon prove to be something uncommon of the album. In regards to the solos, the most important parts of the guitar solo were kept and some extra licks were added just to make the solo Joel Hoekstra and Reb Beach‘s own. It’s the organ solo where I feel Michele Luppi lacked the soul and virtuosity that Jon Lord had.
Continuing with the Burn album, we also have an interesting rendition of You Fool No One which incorporates a harmonica as well as a small cover of Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow‘s cover of The Yardbird‘s Still I’m Sad. (I wonder how many other people may have picked that up.) Then there is a terrific acoustic rendition of the dark ballad Sail Away before continuing to rock out with classics like Might Just Take Your Life and Lay Down Stay Down, all of which stay true enough to the original Deep Purple cuts while adding the modern Whitesnake charisma. It’s Reb Beach‘s performance of Mistreated where I’m left a little disappointed. Now I’m going by the booklet when I single out Reb for the song’s guitar playing as I otherwise have nothing against him as a guitar player. In fact I LOVE him in Whitesnake, but I can’t help but notice the lack of emotion and feeling in the re-recorded guitar riff to what I consider one of the most important Deep Purple songs ever recorded. David Coverdale does a valiant job at keeping the song as soulful as the original recording. Luckily the actual guitar solo is well played with believable emotion and just the right amount of breathing room.
The next album in David Coverdale‘s Deep Purple catalogue is Stormbringer. The title track to the album is arguably the second best known MK III Deep Purple song, or at least it’s the best known song to have come after the Burn album, so it came to no surprise that the title track ends The Purple Album, and what a great way to end the album. Also from Stormbringer are Whitesnake versions of The Gypsy and Lady Double Dealer, the latter of the two sounding so well as a Whitesnake song that you’d almost think it was originally recorded by the band. Then there are the acoustic heavy tracks Holy Man (another song that just sounds so much like it could have been a Whitesnake song all along) and the classic Soldier of Fortune, which I feel the band did just the perfect job of re-recording, with David Coverdale almost sounding like his mid-70’s self again.
Come Taste The Band is such an underrated Deep Purple album. Sure it doesn’t have Ritchie Blackmore on guitar, and I am one who believes no Ritchie = no Deep Purple, but I also happen to be a huge fan of Ritchie’s then replacement, the late Tommy Bolin. (If you like a good classic hard rock sound, I STRONGLY recommend listening to the self titled debut album of Moxy which has Tommy playing most of the guitar solos.) It is understandable that Whitesnake only included two songs from Come Taste The Band, the hard rocking Love Child and the slow and soulful You Keep On Moving. The latter of the two songs is known among fans for its terrific harmonized vocals between David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes. This version thankfully keeps those harmonies, I believe the harmonies are done with Reb Beach, and they do not sound out of place at all. If you get the deluxe version of The Purple Album, you’ll be treated with two bonus tracks – Lady Luck and Comin’ Home – both of which are also from Come Taste The Band. It’s unfortunate that they are just bonus tracks as I find Comin’ Home to be the best all around rendition out of all tracks on The Purple Album, minus a bit of a lackluster vocal performance.
So would I still rather listen to the original Deep Purple versions of these Whitesnake re-recordings? Yes. In so many words I guess that’s what I mean to sum up. That being said though, The Purple Album brings new magic to most of the songs and makes it completely worth the purchase, especially for Whitesnake fans. I feel I was proven wrong in doubting Joel Hoekstra, and I never really doubted Reb Beach and I certainly believed David Coverdale could pull the album off, despite the fact that I’m still not too impressed with his performance of Burn. This ultimately adds up to The Purple Album being one of the most interesting albums of the year and I’m sure glad that it was done.
“Stormbringer” – With one classic track after another, how could I pick one? Simple. As I already said, arguably the two best known and loved tracks from this era of Deep Purple are Burn and Stormbringer, and I’ve said I also feel there are some shortcomings to Whitesnake‘s rendition of Burn, but Stormbringer shows how the band still have the perfect amount of kick left in the tank.
8 (Out of 10)
|2.||“You Fool No One (interpolating “Itchy Fingers”)”||6:23|
|4.||“Sail Away (featuring “Elegy For Jon”)”||4:53|
|6.||“Lady Double Dealer”||3:59|
|9.||“Might Just Take Your Life”||4:14|
|10.||“You Keep On Moving”||5:06|
|11.||“Soldier Of Fortune”||3:18|
|12.||“Lay Down Stay Down”||3:52|