Saturday, March 16, 2013

Whitesnake - Made In Japan - Do Not Go Gentle Into This Good Night

"First off, I completely disregard the fact that I'm 61 years old" ~ David Coverdale

You're damned right he does. Whitesnake's Made In Japan will wake the dead, and remind them that things change, but they never really end. David Coverdale and company are still amongst the handful of giants who can put on an exhilarating show and not nearly make it through their catalog. Drawing heavily from their last two studio sets, the Snakes wisely choose to avoid repeating live sets of old, and while there are still precious nuggets from the past that can't be ignored, this lineup sounds fresh, and reinvigorated.

Whitesnake is perhaps the hardest working band on the classic hard rock circuit. There's not a second of sitting back, or the proverbial resting on one's laurels. Led by longtime teammate Doug Aldrich who is a vastly underrated six stringer, Coverdale has always filled his band with the best and the brightest - Reb Beach is still on guitar, Michael Devin is a brutally powerful bassist, and then there's Brian Tichy. Tichy has now left to seek his proper due as a bandleader in his own right, but he leaves his mark by thundering the band through this 90 minute set. Keyboardist Brian Reudy does a great job of supplying the melodic tapestries that keep things sweet, and not overly metallic.

Best Years is a great opener, as it is easily on par with the band's best - coming off 2008's Good To Be Bad, it crosses the tundra like a precision military operation. Whitesnake suffers from the brilliance of its leader's past - we've heard the old standards so often that they are imprinted upon our musical DNA, but if you came to this album without the baggage of history, you would not know which was early, middle, or present. You'd quite simply dig it.

The condition of Coverdale's vocal cords are always a question, and while I'm sure that every step has been taken to insure that this product is as high quality as it can be, I'm hearing more in the way of lower tunings than after the fact doctoring. The whole band sings, and sings well - no apologies are due - these guys work harder than hell to make what they do the very best for their audience. Detractors be damned.

David Coverdale is the one of the last standing rock god vocalists. He's singing a step lower, but his phrasing is still devastatingly passionate, and effective - Give Me All Your Love Tonight is a great example. You know how I work, I'm toggling back and forth between this record and the original, and while it's obviously in a lower key, the melody is delivered with power, passion, and precision. The band is blasting, and Reb Beach throws down a great solo - and any band that has Brian Tichy behind the kit is probably the tightest in the land that night.

Doug Aldrich keeps getting better, and better, and he was always damned good. His solo on Love Ain't No Stranger puts him firmly in league with Gary Moore and John Sykes as masters of the right hand - listen to the authority with which he picks - he's devilishly accurate and his wide vibrato is wonderful, from quick shakes to long bends, he's a master.

Michael Devin's pumping bass and Tichy's heavy backbeat are perfect on Is This Love - they're standing in the shadows of Neil Murray and Aynsley Dunbar, and they are more than up to the task. Aldrich's heavily sustained woman tone solo is a stunner, and anytime a guitarist can make me not miss John Sykes, I am immensely grateful. Thanks, Doug. His cohort Beach also does a great job of providing some sleek harmonies throughout.

When I talked to Doug Aldrich yesterday, he kind of downplayed his slide guitar technique, but I think he's being to modest - while he may be no Sonny Landreth, or Derek Trucks, neither is anyone else. That being said, he squeezes out exactly what you want on Steal Your Heart Away, a song that does a masterful job of marrying early Whitesnake circa Lovehunter to the more muscular riffage of the band's golden era. However - when Aldrich and Beach trade solos, this is now. Did I mention that Coverdale is sounding amazing on this?

Forevermore is the first song in many years that has made me remember the promise of Coverdale/Page. Amongst the finest songs in Coverdale's huge catalog, this is worthy of that over used word - epic. The acoustic guitar is held afloat by some wonderfully supportive synths, and the band is supplying some great harmonies - this bunch is busting their asses. Tichy is as heavy as a battleship, and it's perfect as the Middle Eastern motif is unfurled and Aldrich takes things into the stratosphere. Coverdale and Aldrich are a great writing team - give this a listen, and it's all there.

David takes a mid-set break, and the guitar players take over for a bit of the old back and forth. This is heaven for the fans of the Vai/Vandenberg era Snake - heavy guitar heaven, and this might be the best tandem team David's fielded yet. They've been on the field for ten years now, and they are an awesome team. When they go into the Ace Frehley approved dual bending shredfest, I'm in heaven. They leave Ace behind when they go for the throat, but their roots are showing.

Love Will Set You Free is as good a rocker as Coverdale has ever penned. His ability to keep mining gold from a familiar vein never fails to impress me. It's not easy to write great riffs, or effective lyrics that escape cliche, or trod upon the past, but he and his writing partner Aldrich have it figured out. They both say that their writing is amazingly organic, and this is surely proof.

Brian Tichy electrifies with a seven and a half minute drum excursion that serves to seal his fate as one of the great drummers to occupy the throne for the mighty Whitesnake - standing tall beside Ian Paice, Cozy Powell, Aynsley Dunbar, and the now returning Tommy Aldridge is no small achievement, and while no one can kick Tichy's decision to move on, any band would miss his fire, power, and precision.

Rounding out the show, it's time for the band to climb to the very top of the mountain, with the classics Fool For Your Loving, Here I Go Again, and Still Of The Night - you have to love and admire David Coverdale. He's stuck to his guns - even to the point of walking away for a few years when the world wasn't hearing it, then coming back stronger than ever, and delivering. Are there happier, more satisfied fans than Whitesnake's? I don't think so. They've stuck with their guy through thick and thin and he has given them back all he has to give. Can you ask for more? He and his band work as hard, and maybe harder than about any band you could name.

There's not a weak moment to be found here, and if you'd have played this for me in 1990, and told me this is where the band would be in almost 25 years, I could not have been more pleased. Great, great guitars, thunderous drums, a bass line that propels things through it all, silky smooth keys, and the words and vocal chops of one of the finest singer/songwriters to ever walk onto a stage,  Mr. David Coverdale.

Disc two is made up of outtakes from sound checks, and some acoustic treats - this is both fun and instructive. We hear the band working through the songs, and maybe it's greatest value is that it shows that what we have here is a band - not just a superstar and some hired hands. These guys have fun, and they work together very hard to produce this music that we love so much. Fun, fun, fun, and it's a great chance to hear just how well David is singing - that's a constant thing I see, and I cannot congratulate him too much, or too often for his hard work, passion, and efforts.

Especially good are the acoustic numbers - it shows a direct link to the past, reminding that Rod and The Faces may have been a strong influence in the Whitesnake template, and these nuggets are golden.

Thanks to David Coverdale, Doug Aldrich, Whitesnake, Frontiers Records, Carise Yatter, and Peter Noble at Noble PR for all your generosity and passion.

Release Dates: Europe April 19th, North America April 23rd

Whitesnake - Made In Japan - Official Press Release

No comments: