Since their massive success in the late 1980s, legendary British hard rock band Whitesnake have released just three studio albums of new material. In 1997 an album originally slated to be a solo album from vocalist David Coverdale, “Restless Heart”, was released under the moniker David Coverdale & Whitesnake following record label pressure.
Further albums under the Whitesnake banner came to fruition with the excellent “Good To Be Bad” in 2008, followed by 2011’s equally good “Forevermore”. The release of a new Whitesnake studio record is now imminent, but rather than another set of cracking new hard rock tunes the band have instead chosen to follow the well-travelled “covers album” route.
“The Purple Album” is, however, a covers album with a difference. Rather than a collection of songs by a number of different artists, or a set of back catalogue songs re-recorded by the current line-up, Coverdale and his band have produced a record comprised entirely of songs from the Deep Purple back catalogue, specifically from the period when Coverdale himself was a member of that band.
Now, as a long time music fan myself I am aware that certain songs and albums will hold a special place in your heart and anyone’s attempt at re-inventing them is generally not very welcome, which is at least partially due to the nostalgia and emotional connection you feel for the original material.
Fans of a band as celebrated as Deep Purple are thus likely to approach an album such as this, even though it’s presented by a former lead singer, with great suspicion and reluctance – and I can understand that completely. In fact, before I heard this record I had read the review in Classic Rock magazine that gave the album 2 out of 10 and called it a “travesty” and a “stinker”. Fortunately, I did not let such an incredibly negative review put me off giving the album a chance myself.
The album apparently came about after a proposed project involving Coverdale and his old Deep Purple bandmate Ritchie Blackmore failed to gel. This, in addition to the death, in 2012, of former Deep Purple / Whitesnake keyboardist Jon Lord, gave Coverdale the impetus to embark on what would become “The Purple Album”. Coverdale himself has stated that “there was absolutely no intention to compete, or compare with the original recordings. We just wanted to play these songs the best we could and this is how we wanted to play them”, and it’s clear to me that this is exactly what they have achieved.
Coverdale has a solid, tight band supporting him on this album – guitarists Reb Beach and Joel Hoekstra, veteran drummer Tommy Aldridge, bassist Michael Devin and keyboardist Brian Ruedy. None of these replicate the original parts of Blackmore, Tommy Bolin, Ian Paice, Glenn Hughes or Lord – but that’s clearly the point. This is not a recreation of the Coverdale era of Deep Purple, it’s a tribute, and very much in the style of latter-day Whitesnake.
The record begins with the classic “Burn” and instantly I loved what I heard. Clearly Coverdale’s voice has changed over the years, and in the live arena it is clear that he struggles these days. But then, at the age of 63 there aren’t likely to be many rock singers with the range and strength that they possessed some forty years previously. In the studio it’s still possible to get a powerful performance from the great man, and this album is full of such performances.
“Sail Away” sees the band in much more introspective mood, with some beautiful acoustic guitar work and harmony vocals.
“Stormbringer”, the first track released from the album is a truly epic tour de force, and probably the closest to the fare that we are used to hearing from Whitesnake. Other highlights here include the mighty “Mistreated”, “Lay Down Stay Down” and the always welcome “Soldier Of Fortune”.
This is most certainly not your typical covers album. If you are a huge fan of the Deep Purple originals this album may take some getting used to, but for the casual fan this could really be an all-new Whitesnake album. That said, I hope the band do get back into the studio and make at least one more original record before Coverdale decides to finally call it a day, but for the moment this is a worthy addition to the excellent Whitesnake legacy…
1. Burn / 2. You Fool No One / 3. Love Child / 4. Sail Away / 5. The Gypsy / 6. Lady Double Dealer / 7. Mistreated / 8. Holy Man / 9. Might Just Take Your Life / 10. You Keep On Moving / 11. Soldier Of Fortune / 12. Lay Down Stay Down / 13. Stormbringer
1, 2, 4, 7, 9 and 12 originally from “Burn” (1973) / 5, 6, 8, 11 and 13 originally from “Stormbringer” (1974) / 3 and 10 originally from “Come Taste The Band” (1975)