Whitesnake is a sort of lone survivor after the wild west of hair metal. The English outfit started out as more of a straightforward hard rock band from the mind of former Deep Purple vocalist David Coverdale, a breath of fresh air among their ’80s counterparts. They began ahead of the pack, releasing their first album in 1978, and avoided the common death knell of that era by breaking up before Nirvana killed glam. Since their reunion in 2002, they’ve released three albums — the not-at-all-bad Good To Be Bad, the all-too-long Forevermore, and this year’s all-too-predictable set of re-recordings, The Purple Album.
Longtime fans will find thrills all over — the twisted riffage and extended soloing of “Burn” leaves no room for irony and makes a better argument than Chuck Klosterman for the validity of hair metal and shred. The hooks are deep throughout the first half, often blending the blues rock of the ‘70s, the predictable structures of the ‘80s, and modern production, all to some success. Strip “Love Child” of its tacky, prepubescent lyricism and the song would stand its ground almost anywhere — which is really too bad, because those vanilla and idiotic moments can burn an otherwise fun ride. “Love child, always teasing me” just doesn’t have a lasting appeal next to a serious examination of the aging rocker that is “Sail Away”, especially when their musical gun isn’t always loaded.
The latter half of the album finds them repeatedly trying to re-invent the power ballad without much success. “Soldier of Fortune” tries to do it with melodramatic lyrics but few dynamic changes. “Holy Man” falls flat almost everywhere except the impossibly fast but tasteful guitar solo, complete with twin harmonies and key twists. Longtime fans will still find what they’ve always loved and enjoy the new palette, but years later, the flaws that prevent the genre from critical success still exist, and prominently.
Essential Tracks: “Burn”, “Love Child”, and “Sail Away”