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Whitesnake - Live in '84 - Back To The Bone Review

Posted on October 7, 2014 at 9:20 AM

David Coverdale has pieced together a commemoration of a time in Whitesnake history which captures a key phase of the band

As the great man might say “Here’s an album for ya!” and all in honour of the 30th Anniversary of the 1984 Slide It In album, which in itself is enough to make some of us start to feel very old. Having trawled the archive and beyond, David Coverdale has pieced together a commemoration of a time in Whitesnake history which captures a key phase of the band.

The recordings catch the band in transition from the early days of Micky Moody and Bernie Marsden’s twin guitars and the Purple spine of Jon Lord, Ian Paice and Coverdale himself. In fact, the Whitesnake of 1978-ish was pretty much a convincing leftover from the Purple, possibly even Deep Purple Mk-something, with Lord’s Hammond tones weaving through the Moody/Masden partnership and Moody’s distinctive slide work.

The switch in guitar duties and the addition of John Sykes and his impressive mane of hair to the line up gave the band a more rock orientated image, sound and direction and with the advent of MTV (which Coverdale namechecks in a rare moment of innuendo free banter) saw them become darlings of the transatlantic jet set and more geared toward the American market than Camden Market.

David Coverdale, as both master of ceremonies and the master of the non-too subtle double entendre and comedy innuendo is at his cockstrutting best. Never mind 1984, who can ever forget his comments, recorded for posterity on the late seventies and musically terrific Live At Hammersmith set: “hopefully your tarts are going to be saying this to you tonight – LIE DOWN!” And of course there are the song titles - Slow And Easy and Slide It In (“that’s got nothing to do with bananas girls – it’s all clean healthy stuff”) leave little to the imagination and are so blatant they need no clarification. The ‘back to the bone’ label adds little depth to the one dimensionality of the juvenile posturing, possibly taking on more significance and lewdness as the female fan count started to increase.

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Other Coverdale gems in this set include the ‘toast’ - “if it’s in deep, and if it’s in long, and if it’s in hard then it’s in-decent” (try that one at the family Christmas lunch) and the “a lovely pair of titties you have on your chest” comment all in the same breath. The latter probably has some meaning in combination with the visuals but thankfully not for the audio. Pardon the pun, but the fans lap it up. Roy Chubby Brown eat your heart out.

Regardless of any issues with the dodgy banter, the music seems to be a bit of a patchwork of a selection. Coverdale and co-producer Michael McIntyre apparently launched a worldwide search for the best quality video footage and audio tracks from the period and came up with a set from ‘Super-Rock’, recorded at the first Japanese rock festival at Seibu Stadium in Tokyo and footage of Jon Lord’s final live appearance with the band in Sweden. Taking care to have the material “treated lovingly and respectfully, with no expense spared, utilizing technology to improve sound and picture quality,” the outcome is more suggestive 
of an official bootleg package. Somewhere in the material, you may even find reference to Snakeskin Boots – best of the bootlegs. Based on the sound of the audio, it’s probably a fair representation of how you might have heard the band sound in the venue rather than an audio lover’s delight, although not having had the video footage, one can only speculate how the mid eighties video footage might appear.

Musically, give Whitesnake their dues – they know how to open a show – there’s the “are you reaaadddaaayyyy?” clarion call from Coverdale accompanied by triumphant whoops and howls and some guitar/keyboard heroics announcing the opening number – in this case Gambler of which we get a couple of versions, one being the final Lord performance. Plus for any fans of Ready And Willing, you have three versions from which to choose, should you find merits in one more than another. Other nods to their earlier days come in the form of two minutes respite for a faikthful take on Purple’s Soldier Of Fortune and a version of the classic Walking In The Shadow Of The Blues which is either taken way too fast or has suffered some recording malfunction and lacks the menace and the intensity of the original. Guilty Of Love has more in common with the famous Thin Lizzy twin guitar sound that they used to do so well in Sweet Talker but take that as the influence of the John Sykes guitar style who also seizes the chance of a lengthy workout on Crying In The Rain.

As Coverdale moves from matey bloke cockney to a MTV friendly cod-American brogue in his patter, the set passes by without really grabbing a hold musically or sonically and suddenly we’re into the Jon Lord medley from Sweden– it’s historical significance outweighing the musical quality, and that’s pretty much where this collection stands. The significance of the fact that Lord, Cozy Powell and Mel Galley are no longer with us so as a tribute to their contribution, the set has some merit. As Coverdale has said, “Their memories live on in our hearts and in the music they made. I miss them beyond words.” Read into that what you will, but as a period piece it affords a glimpse into ‘Snake world post-Purple and pre-hair.

Categories: CD REVIEWS

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