Whitesnake - "The Purple Album" (2015) Review
The Purple Album (Frontiers Records, 2015)
On The Purple Album, Whitesnake frontman David Coverdale plunders his past and puts a 21st century spin on tracks by the band that gave him his big break - Deep Purple. Coverdale replaced Ian Gillan in Deep Purple in 1973 and appeared on three studio albums with them before they imploded in 1976 - Burn (1974), Stormbringer (1974) and Come Taste the Band (1975). Coverdale then formed Whitesnake in 1978 and eventually achieved multi-platinum success in 1987 with the self-titled Whitesnake album, which featured the hits "Still of the Night," "Here I Go Again" and "Is This Love?"
Deep Purple was fairly successful while Coverdale was at the helm, but over the years David had begun to notice that outside of the diehard DP fanbase, the albums he'd recorded with them had become somewhat forgotten, particularly in the U.S. When Whitesnake performed a cover of "Burn" on a recent American tour, he reportedly received compliments from fans on the "new" song they'd added to the set list! Incidents like these - plus a desire to honor the memory of late Deep Purple keyboardist Jon Lord, who died in 2012 - inspired David to record The Purple Album in the hopes of re-igniting interest in some of these underrated songs.
"After Whitesnake cracked the US market, a lot of people there had no idea I had been a member of Deep Purple. Go figure."— David Coverdale
The Purple Album was a completely random purchase for me -- I've never been much more than a casual Whitesnake fan and my knowledge of Deep Purple might be enough to fill a thimble. Don't get me wrong, I liked Whitesnake well enough back in their '80s heyday and I even saw them live once on the tour for that smash self titled album, but the last thing I bought with Coverdale's name on it was the lone Coverdale/Page album (his ill fated 1993 collaboration with Led Zeppelin's guitar God Jimmy Page). I knew that Whitesnake had re-activated in the early 2000s and had released several new albums, but was only dimly aware of that activity.
As for Deep Purple, out of their approximately 27,000 album discography, I own exactly two greatest-hits compilations and two live discs, most of which features material sung by Coverdale's predecessor, the mighty Ian Gillan (who rejoined DP in 1984 and continues to front them to this day). When I brought The Purple Album home, I knew exactly three of the songs on it - "Burn," "Mistreated," and "Stormbringer"... but I guess that means I'm the perfect target audience for this disc, since Coverdale is on a mission to re-introduce his Purple material to a new generation with it!
"Burn" (2015 version)
Of the 13 tracks on The Purple Album, six are pulled from Burn, five come from Stormbringer, and two are from Come Taste The Band. The album kicks off with the title track to Burn, which unfortunately pales in comparison to the classic original. Coverdale's 63 years old now so obviously I wasn't expecting him to belt out this high speed number like he could in the old days, but here he sounds hesitant and somewhat lost in the mix. However, Dave's current Whitesnake lineup, which includes guitarist Reb Beach (ex-Dokken, Winger) and onetime Ozzy Osbourne/Gary Moore drummer Tommy Aldridge manage to deliver an impressively fiery performance, not just on "Burn" but throughout the entire CD.
After that somewhat rough vocal start, Coverdale sounds much more assured and in command on the next track, "You Fool No One," and from then on Dave and the Snake boys are off and running. "Love Child" and "Lady Double Dealer" are raunchy, bluesy stompers and the acoustic "Sail Away" has a chorus that will stick in your head like glue. "Mistreated" (again, from the Burn album) serves as the centerpiece of the album, and Coverdale turns in his most passionate vocal performance of the entire CD. "Might Just Take Your Life" and "Lay Down Stay Down" continue the winning streak and by the time the album ended with the bludgeoning version of the epic "Stormbringer" I found myself wishing that I'd shelled out the extra cash for the deluxe version of the album with two bonus tracks (fortunately those two cuts - "Lady Luck" and "Coming Home," both from Come Taste The Band - can be heard on Spotify).
"Stormbringer" (2015 version)
Summin' it up
The Purple Album ended up being a pretty cool crash course in vintage Deep Purple for this writer and it has renewed my interest in Whitesnake as well. After listening to this CD for about a week straight I was impressed enough to hit a record store for used copies of Whitesnake's 2008 release Good To Be Bad and Deep Purple's Burn... and I'm planning to dig deeper into the back catalogs of both bands in the near future. In other words, mission accomplished, David!
The Purple Album was warmly received by Coverdale's loyal fan base, debuting at #8 on the Japanese album chart and landing in the top twenty in Germany, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. In the U.S., the disc notched nearly 7,000 in sales during its first week of its May 2015 release and hit #87 on the Billboard top 200 chart.
As one might expect in this digital age, the online reaction to The Purple Album ran the gamut; from "this is great!" to "this sucks!" to "Why is David covering Deep Purple songs? He must be out of ideas!" The always-outspoken Coverdale had harsh words for such "haters" when he spoke to Britain's Classic Rock magazine, saying, "I've never made music for the haters... they're not gonna buy my record....they're probably sitting at home, running their WiFi off their mother's account."
"I owe those people nothing....what have you done in your life? I've sold more than a hundred million records and written countless f*cking rock 'n' roll anthems. How f*cking dare you criticize me? F*ck off to your bedroom."— David Coverdale on his "haters," to Classic Rock Magazine
...Hell yeah!! You tell'em David!!
WHITESNAKE Select Discography:
Snakebite (EP) - EMI, 1978
Trouble - EMI, 1978
Lovehunter - United Artists, 1979
Ready An' Willing - United Artists, 1980
Live... In the Heart of the City - EMI, 1980
Come an' Get It - Liberty, 1981
Saints & Sinners - Geffen, 1982
Slide It In - Geffen, 1984
Whitesnake - Geffen, 1987
Slip of the Tongue - Geffen, 1989
Restless Heart - EMI, 1997
Starkers in Tokyo (live) - EMI Japan, 1997
The Earty Years - EMI, 2004
The Definitive Collection - Geffen, 2006
Live: In the Shadow of the Blues - SPV, 2006
Good to Be Bad - SPV, 2007
Forevermore - SPV, 2011
The Purple Album - Frontiers, 2015