Whitesnake - The Purple Album (Frontiers Music)

If this is the end, it's a strange one...
Release Date: 
18 May 2015 - 11:30pm

So many questions. Why? Why? Why? When David Coverdale, the poodle-haired prince of slow poke music, announced that the next (and possibly final) Whitesnake album would consist entirely of tracks lifted from his days in the much-maligned (not least by guitarist Ritchie Blackmore – and he was there!) Mk III and IV line ups of the band Deep Purple, thousands of little question marks danced in front of my eyes. Then I sat down, and they went away. 

But the questions remained: Was the decision to make this record why long time Coverdale foil and co-writer, guitarist Doug Aldrich, had quite the band unexpectedly? Is this the ultimate endgame of the tactic known as contractual obligation, a way of giving a record company product with little or no effort on the part of the Artist? Had the rarified air around Coverdale’s Lake Tahoe home finally got to his brain and addled him irreparably? Only time, and a few listens to the resultant album, to be called, appropriately, The Purple Album, would give up the answers. I hunkered down and waited. 

And now the album is here, and ya know what? I’m still really none the wiser. Despite the fact that several of the songs offered up here, notably, Burn, Mistreated and Stormbringer, have featured in some form or another in Whitesnake sets over the past decade or so, I’m still struggling to see the point of releasing a whole album of the buggers, not least songs such as Holy Man, sung originally not even by Coverdale but by Purple bassist Glenn Hughes.

That said, some of the versions on offer here are rather good, not least a gargantuan reading of Love Child (originally from 1975’s oft-overlooked Come Taste the Band) which sees Coverdale in fine voice (which cannot be said in all honesty when taking the album in its entirety unfortunately), singing his heart out over massive contributions from guitarists Reb Beach and the recently-arrived Joel Hoekstra and an utterly battering percussive assault from Tommy Aldridge. Apart from Coverdale, it has to be said that Aldridge is the most exposed of the musicians working on The Purple album – his style is just so different from Purple’s Ian Paice – but any misgivings about his presence are quickly swept away by salvo after salvo of self-assured stickwork.

Burn is handled no more than adequately – whoever sings the uncredited Glenn Hughes-styled backing vocals digs Coverdale out of a hole come chorus time – the resultant fact of this sorry state of affairs being that less bombastic songs such as The Gypsy (from 1974’s excellent Stormbringer) actually end up working better than ‘the classics’ that you’d expect to shine on an album such as this. 

The balladic Soldier of Fortune works well too, and even Mistreated – such a live show stopper in the past – just about gets by, Coverdale’s straining, cracking voice actually adding to the tortured blues wail being produced by the band around him. But the album ends, if not on a low, then in sad reverie as Cov rasps his way hoarsely through a version of Stormbringer that, whilst again highlighting the superior chops of the hired hands, leaves the listener sadly reflecting on past glories rather than present battles or future triumphs. If this is the last we hear from Whitesnake, it’s not really a fitting swansong.