WHITESNAKE – GOOD TO BE BAD (SPV 2008)

REVIEW BY VILLE KRANNILA / SEP 2008

One of the year 2008’s most anxiously awaited efforts: a brand new Whitesnake record; their first proper studio album in almost 20 years. After 13 successful years band leader David Coverdale originally put WS into ice in 1990 and worked briefly both solo and with Jimmy Page before reuniting the band in 1994. The “Restless Heart” album was released three years later but under a moniker of David Coverdale & Whitesnake it was by all intent and purpose singer’s solo disc. Unfortunately it almost disappeared completely because the album is vastly underrated, filled with bluesy atmosphere and excellent melodies. Upon completion of The Last Hurrah world tour in 1998, Whitesnake was again put to rest for another five years before a new line-up emerged in 2003 shooting out for a lengthy world tour. In between nothing much had happened except Coverdale releasing a fine solo album “Into The Light.” Since the latest reunion awesome DVD “Live…In The Still Of The Night” (2005) and double live album “Live…In The Shadow Of The Blues (2006) have seen the light of day. The latter also contained first tasters of new Whitesnake material and results of Coverdale/Aldrich writing partnership were exciting. “Ready To Rock,” “Dog” and “If You Want Me” rocked harder than anything Whitesnake had done since immortal “1987” album and also featured killer hooks and awesome vocals by Coverdale. So expectations for a brand new WS studio disc were rising fast.

For “Good To Be Bad” the nucleus of 2003 band, guitarists Doug Aldrich and Reb Beach plus keyboard player Timothy Drury remain steadfast and loyal but rhythm section of Tommy Aldridge and Marco Mendoza has changed to relatively unknowns Uriah Duffy on bass and Chris Frazier on drums. All players do their work well here, and that I guess has always been the strength of the band; no matter who handles the instruments the end result is usually great – albeit different.

Here we have 11 new tunes and a lot to talk about. So here are “Good To Be Bad’s” The Good and The Bad.

The Good:

“Best Years” opens the game nicely, this mid-tempo rocker in structure is very close to Coverdale’s “Into The Light” album, only a notch heavier. “Can You Hear The Wind Blow” follows it and makes even better impression, again a sort of cross between old WS and new, more polished sound.

The best song on the album is without question “Lay Down Your Love” – a classic WS stomper that comes closest to “1987” in its scope and delivery.

“All Your Love” reminds me of Thin Lizzy with its delightful guitar harmonies and also Whitesnake’s own “Guilty Of Love” from 1984’s “Slide It In.” A sting is left in the end with atmospheric “Till The End Of Time,” David sings with passion and notes occasionally give a nod to Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” just like “Still Of The Night” did over 20 years ago. This is a great ending for the album.

Overall DC sounds as great as ever and his lyrics are simply classic, double entendres again all over the place. Production is sharp and crispy, as it should be. Like I already mentioned individual players all deliver their parts with professionalism; guitarists Doug Aldrich (who has co-penned the whole album with Coverdale) and Reb Beach lay down killer solos one after another but don’t overshadow the concept, and at the same time remain faithful to the core WS sound.

The Bad:

Taken as a whole I find the song writing lacking that extra punch. Don’t get me wrong these are all nice rock songs, but those expecting something as instant as “Here I Go Again” or “Fool For Your Loving” won’t find it here. Personally I could have hoped for more tracks akin “Crying In The Rain” or “Don’t Break My Heart Again” – if nothing else those two are my favourites and really capture the essence of Whitesnake. What is obvious is that while the band is different (more on that later) also Coverdale’s writing has changed during the last 15 years. There are plenty of references to Coverdale/Page era, “Restless Heart” and especially David’s solo effort, but very little of anything that took place before those. This of course is only natural and you shouldn’t try to recreate the past just for the sake of it. But you could and should focus on writing great songs that were there on all those albums. And it is interesting the best moments on “Good To Be Bad” are exactly those with hints to 1980’s glory days.

“Summer Rain” I find somewhat bland, the full acoustic version on the bonus disc is more pleasing to my ears. “A Fool In Love” is as much Coverdale/Page, retro-Zeppelin as you could get. Not a bad song by all means but there’s nothing particularly exciting here, or nothing already superiorly done by Mr. Jimmy Page.

Lifting the guitar riff of AC/DC’s immortal “Let There Be Rock” and recycling it for “Got What You Need” might raise some eyebrows as well. The song isn’t one of the highlights so it’s not worth to fuss too much over it.

The sound in places seems to be almost straining for the old days. Now many people underestimate the influence the whole group had on classic Whitesnake circa 1978-1984 sound. It never was a full David Coverdale solo show, the guitars and vocals of Bernie Marsden and Micky Moody had a huge impact. And Jon Lord, Ian Paice and Neil Murray didn’t fare any less. Without those guys it is simply impossible to generate the same feeling – and I strongly feel they shouldn’t even try. It is almost selling the current Snake short; Aldrich and Beach are both extremely skilful players with a back catalogue to die for and excellent song writers as well. Like John Sykes with “1987,” they have the talent to push the boundaries of the band towards new directions. Why this option hasn’t been picked up is somewhat surprising, especially after the 2006 studio cuts were so promising. Plus there’s nothing here that rocks as hard as those three songs from “Live..In The Shadow Of The Blues.” Not a bad thing by itself, but personally I really liked that particular direction and none of the songs on “Good To Be Bad” IMO are as well written as those either.

Bottomline: this isn’t meant to come across as negative review. Personally I think it’s great Whitesnake continues to make albums and create music such as this, rare treat these days. And maybe I’m being way too harsh here; some make a good case on why you shouldn’t even compare these new albums with the classics recorded 20 or 30 years ago. In that light it is obvious they have a hard time standing up. But then again, what else can you compare it to? And surely with the talent involved, the same standards given to others cannot apply either. But the truth remains, judged on its own terms “Good To Be Bad” is a fine heavy rock album, but by the terms of Whitesnake it falls a bit short.

The album is also available as special edition with bonus CD featuring a radio edit of “All I Want, All I Need,” acoustic version of “Summer Rain,” “Ready To Rock” video and live cut of “Take Me With You,” poster and stickers.

3k

wsnake

1. Best Years
2. Can You Hear The Wind Blow
3. Call On Me
4. All I Want, All I Need
5. Good To Be Bad
6. All For Love
7. Summer Rain
8. Lay Down Your Love
9. A Fool In Love
10. Got What You Need
11. Till The End Of Time

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About Ville Krannila