Whitesnake – The Purple Album

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When David Coverdale and WHITESNAKE announced plans to re-imagine selected tracks from his years singing for DEEP PURPLE, there was concern and much bitching and moaning on the Internet. There was much vitriol spewed about, and one person even told me that it was a slap in the face of Jon Lord and Ritchie Blackmore. To all of those people, I say one word (well, more precisely, it’s an onomatopoeia) – “Waaaaaaah.” The Purple Album is going to blow some pre-conceived notions all to hell and gone.

Fans often forget that one of the big reasons that WHITESNAKE was so successful in breaking through to mainstream radio with the self-titled album in 1987 was because Coverdale did the exact same thing with two of his earlier tracks, “Crying In The Rain” and “Here I Go Again” from 1982’s Saints & Sinners album. The original tracks were almost unnoticed – “Here I Go Again” didn’t chart in the U.S. in 1982, but hit #1 after being released as a single in 1987. Neither song was radically changed; they were just updated to the harder blues influenced rock of the late 80s, and it paid off hugely.

So, yeah – re-imagining is not a bad thing, as long as you respect the original work, and that’s exactly what WHITESNAKE has done here. Reb Beach and Joel Hoekstra have really exceeded expectations with their interpretations of these classic DEEP PURPLE Mark III and IV songs. I’m sure that this will not sit well with people, but here I go: these two have surpassed Blackmore’s original performances. Technology improves and people learn new tricks and skills on the guitar that didn’t exist 40 years ago. Given the opportunity to expand on the original songs and give them a harder edged sound, Beach and Hoekstra knock it out of the park.

Tommy Aldridge, while not one of my favorite drummers, is faithful to the original material and has been a part of WHITESNAKE’s success since he first joined the band in 1987 – he’s a solid and consistent force behind the kit. Michael Devin holds down the low end duties admirably, despite the lesser focus on the bass when compared to theDEEP PURPLE originals. And, of course, no DEEP PURPLE song would be complete without an all-star keyboard player, who is – an unnamed session player. Whoever it is, though – nailed it. It will be interesting to hear how Michele Luppi performs these tracks live on the ensuing tour.

The songs as a whole are very well-done – faithful to the original, but arranged and updated with that hard rock bluesy sound that WHITESNAKE is known for. Hoekstra and Beach complement each other perfectly, whether playing harmonies, dueling guitar solos, or simply staying faithful to Blackmore’s original licks. The band really just killed it on every aspect of this album – the production is amazing, the sound is great, and the songs sound fresh. I’m not going to run down the songs individually – these are classics, and they all sound great here.

David Coverdale is no slouch, either. He’s apparently saved a little bit in the tank, because his voice is in great form, and he remains one of the great singers from the 70s and 80s to still perform regularly, year in and year out. There’s not much left of his vocal style from the original tracks, but his updated versions of the vocals sound great and really fit these songs into the WHITESNAKE style. I really can’t praise the excellent way his singing comes across enough, so I’m going to just stop here and let everyone get on with their day.

So yeah – I was a big fan of the Coverdale-era DEEP PURPLE albums, and I’m an even bigger fan of this release. This is, start-to-finish, an amazing tribute to one of the greatest rock bands to come out of the United Kingdom, and it’s also a great WHITESNAKE album. I releases on May 19 via Frontiers Music and I cannot recommend this one enough.

STANDOUT TRACKS: ALL OF THEM

RATING: 9/10

-FRANK ZABER


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