Whitesnake - Whitesnake
Geffen Records
Melodic Hard Rock/Metal

Release year: 1987
Whitesnake, Geffen Records
Reviewed by Erik

By the time Whitesnake broke into the spotlight in 1984 with Slide It In, cynics were vocalizing their doubts that the band's success would have any staying power. David Coverdale was garnering a reputation for "collaborational difficulty", and his bandmates changed often enough to back up the rumors. However, with the release of their self-titled album in 1987, any would-be nay-sayers were silenced, and the eight-million-record mark (along with the Number 2 spot on the Billboard 200) was achieved. With memorable melodies, raw energy, and crystal-clear production, nothing could stop Coverdale and Co. from unleashing some of the wickedest riffs of the 80's hair metal era. Thanks somewhat to Coverdale's powerful, bluesy style of singing, even the term "hair metal" was not really a fitting description for Whitesnake -- which is perhaps where the term "glam metal" was coined. Their act, while significantly raunchy on the music video front (which put B-movie actress Tawny Kitaen in provocative poses on the hood of Coverdale's car), was a class act among the nastier, grittier bands such as Poison, Motley Crue, or Ratt.

What further can be said about Coverdale's voice? It is the stuff of blues-rock legend. His mellow, mournful, even savage howl leaves most other singers of the era strewn by the wayside. The opening verses of Crying In the Rain and Still Of Night are vivid proof of the strength of his vocal style and ability. The songwriting of Coverdale and John Sykes brought flash and substance -- a combination difficult to achieve, even today -- in a time when little substance was to be had this side of Queensryche. This would also turn out to be the heaviest and thickest sound they produced, as Whitesnake started a downhill trend a few years after this release. Even over two decades later, it is still just as rocking and enjoyable, a testament to the talent and appeal Coverdale and the band brought to the table.

However, all that said, this album belongs in large part to John Sykes, fresh off the recently-disbanded Thin Lizzy roster. On the original release of Slide It In, Sykes was among the new faces Coverdale brought in to replace his fired band, and when Geffen Records released a re-recorded version of that album with his shredding and soloing added, fans in the U.S. sat up and took notice. The stage was set, but it is here, on Whitesnake's eponymous hit, that he really unleashes the fire. The results are plain to hear -- there is simply not a bad song anywhere. Not only that, but several of his solos are simply mind-blowing. Take a listen to Straight For The Heart and see if you don't get some blisters. He tears it up on many other tracks as well (plus providing backing vocals), and it simply must be heard to be believed.

Obviously, it was the radio and MTV hits, massively overplayed at the time, that really drove up the record sales. Headbangers don't make a release multi-platinum, and so it was Here I Go Again and Is This Love that rocketed Whitesnake's success up into the stratosphere. The latter song is a bit too syrupy, but Here I Go Again is an instantly-recognizeable single with a particularly memorable chorus and slightly lighter approach that made it perfect for heavy rotation. The combination of that synth intro and verse with the pumping refrain, despite the fact that the solo was actually performed by Sykes' replacement Adrian Vandenberg, created a music media frenzy. Sykes' touch, however, is everywhere else on this release, with blazing fingerwork that humbles a person just to listen to . . . one scorching and well-placed solo after another. Note that unlike the constant flashiness of, say, Malmsteen, this axe playing is always worked into the songwriting rather than plastered on top like an ill-fitting hat.

Whitesnake was quite simply made to be played loud. Crying In The Rain, with that rolling, swaggering opening verse. Give Me All Your Love, which just drives all the way through, and features more breathtaking Sykes fireworks. Bad Boys, a speedy rocker if there ever was one, dripping with attitude. Children Of The Night, showcasing a nasty riff that simply rips through the song, Coverdale sounding a bit like Don Dokken . . . oh yes, and possibly the best solo on the album. Just wow. Naturally, no mention can ever be made of Whitesnake without Still Of The Night. The other singles may have sold this album, but it is this one song that seems to define Whitesnake every time. And what a song it is, with a length over six and a half minutes, steamrolling your ears with some of the most powerful, effective power chords and octaves ever to grace the metal scene. It just doesn't let up, except for a dramatic interlude sandwiched between the heavy beginning and ending. Coverdale just soars over the pounding drumwork and monster guitar anthem. Without a doubt one of the top tracks, not just of the era, but in the history of rock/metal.

Virtually the moment recording sessions finished -- you guessed it -- the whole band was fired. Well, perhaps timing is not Coverdale's strong suit. Realizing what was happening with the Billboard Top 200, a touring lineup was quickly assembled, which featured Dutch guitarist Adrian Vandenberg, Vivian Campbell (ex-Dio and pre-Def Leppard), bassist Rudy Sarzo and drummer Tommy Aldridge. This new group toured for two years to sold-out stadiums, as well as appearing in the music videos for several of the hit singles, with most of them returning for the subsequent 1989 release Slip Of The Tongue. Despite such monsters as Def Leppard's Hysteria being released the same year, this Whitesnake album stands right next to it as a "best of hard rock" achievement from that era. It is, without question, an all-time mainstream rock masterpiece, and rightfully so. If you've never heard anything past the usual one or two singles, as I was guilty of for many years, it is well worth your while to pick up this album -- a true classic in every sense of the word.

Killing Songs :
ALL except Is This Love
Erik quoted CLASSIC
Other albums by Whitesnake that we have reviewed:
Whitesnake - Slip Of The Tongue reviewed by Erik and quoted 69 / 100
Whitesnake - Good To Be Bad reviewed by Marty and quoted 86 / 100
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