by
Scott "Dr. Music" Itter
 
 
A while ago, a "patient" of mine had a thought. He suggested that we both write separate reviews for the Iron Maiden album, "A Matter of Life and Death," and see how our views and opinions might compare and contrast. As my brilliant "patient" Johan Copermans in Belgium finished his take on the disc, he sent it to me as an attachment. To avoid tarnishing any original thoughts I had of my own, we agreed that I would open the file only after completing my own summarization of the album. The results of that excursion can be found in the archives.

Johan and I recently decided to try our hand at this concept again, only this time the victim would be the latest offering from Whitesnake, "Good To Be Bad."

Here are the results , , ,
 

 
 
T rack listing:

1.
Best Years
2.
Can You Hear The
Wind Blow
3.
Call On Me
4.
All I Want All I Need
5.
Good To Be Bad
6.
All For Love
7.
Summer Rain
8.
Lay Down Your Love
9.
A Fool In Love
10.
Got What You Need
11.
`Til The End Of Time

Label: Steamhammer
Release Date:
April 22, 2008

Patient's review:
Whitesnake – Good To Be Bad
by Johan Copermans

Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie James Dio, Robert Plant, Ian Gillan and David Coverdale: The five voices that, from the late sixties and early seventies onward, defined the history and legacy of hard rock (and, par consequence, metal). And they're still in the game in 2008 with only one of them, Ozzy, turned into a real parody. What about Coverdale? The main question I had upon listening to Good to Be Bad, the first Whitesnake album in over a decade, was: 'Would it be credible?'

I know, it's far too easy to state that these guys are too old to rock and to sing about wild nights with scarcely clad women. Think Gene and Paul, still singing about a sixteen year old girl that has been around but that's still young and clean, know what I mean? At a point, it becomes embarrassing. But no, it's unfair, because it's what these guys do. And it's what they do best. What else is there to do; Coverdale, switching to drum 'n bass, synth pop or R&B? No thank you.

Of course there was one alternative road David Coverdale could've taken. The road Robert Plant walks upon as we speak. Plant settles himself nowadays in the rootsy corner of the Americana music, in the pleasant company of bluegrass queen Alison Krauss. And he gains a lot of success and positive reviews by doing so.

But no, Coverdale sticks to what he knows best: macho type rock with a somewhat bluesy undertone. To make that clear the new album opens with a track that could serve as a mission statement: "These are truly the best years of my life", Coverdale bellows. What's immediately striking is the production: clear, impeccable, powerful. Three words that could also describe Coverdale's voice, mind you. The man is still in good shape.

Whitesnake always had a knack for bringing out great guitar players; Steve Vai and Dutchman Ad Vandenbergh to name two. I'm not a big connoisseur of the contemporary metal scene, so the new guitarist Doug Aldrich was not a household name for me. But in my opinion, he manages to deliver, switching effortlessly between heavy Jimmy Page-like riffs and long, soaring notes.

Returning to the main question – Is it still credible? – The answer is twofold. First, there is a 'No.' I must admit that at a few instances I thought: not only I'm too old for this, but these guys are too. Especially in the middle section, the album has some weak spots. Take the title track with its trifle lyrics. 'Sometimes it's good to be bad / Bad to the bone'…. C'mon David, you could've done better than that. Act your age, not your shoe size, David. For the same reason the very average rocker like 'All for Love' just doesn't work. Third time our hesitation crept in, was with All I Want All I Need, the first of the three ballads on the album. Of course Whitesnake couldn't leave out some mellow spots, since those very songs provided some of the classic hits for the band. Nothing against it, but All I Want All I Need is simply too calculated. Coverdale pulls out his most husky bedroom voice, and in time a nice Gary Moore-like guitar solo to bring the song home, catering to the needs of FM Rock, with the formula shining through all too clearly.

But the answer to the credibility question is also, I'm glad to say, a 'Yes.' The second power ballad of the album, 'Summer Rain', benefits from a more gentle approach and is 100% believable. Coverdale's vocal rendition is even reminiscent of the Whitesnake version Ain't No Love in the Heart of the City, or of the ballads on the memorable Ready An' Willin' album. It's a track that brings to mind that once, long ago, Whitesnake had one leg firmly planted in the bluesy clay of the Mississippi Delta. Remember, their biggest hit 'Fool for your loving' was originally intended for… B.B. King.

Equally convincing is Lay down your love. It's even the standout track of the album, kicking off with an a cappella intro, followed by a vintage Led Zep riff and switching to a chorus, fit for large arena's and stadiums. To top it off, Aldrich provides some great solos in the middle section.

Conclusion: Does 'Good to Be Bad' serve as an all time high in Whitesnake's body of work? Probably not. Will it make my end of year list? Probably not. Did I enjoy listening to it? Sure.

OVERALL RATING: 6


Doctor's review:
Whitesnake – Good To Be Bad
by Scott "Dr. Music" Itter

For me, Whitesnake represents the continuance of a legendary time in rock and roll. When David Coverdale joined up with Ritchie Blackmore and Deep Purple near the end of 1973, he added a new dimension to an already successful formula. He gave the band a rough and bluesy attitude with his great range and tone. The songs were lyrically rich as well as musically urbane. When Coverdale started his Whitesnake project in 1978, he brought all of those elements with him. With songs centered on Coverdale's love of the blues, but with a hard rock feel, Whitesnake earned my respect as a legitimate force. As the project moved into the 80's, the songs lost a lot of their blues edge and started to move toward a hard rock, radio friendly genre that was being stereotyped as "hair metal." I could never see Whitesnake as a "hair metal" band. Poison, Bon Jovi, Cinderella…..okay, Whitesnake, no. Whitesnake just had so much more sophistication and pure talent than most "hair metal," it was very difficult to discuss them in the same forum, and it still is.

"The new album contains all the elements I enjoy about Whitesnake, and more. I can hear moments that take me back to the bluesy, early years of the band all the way through the band's musical history to fully embrace the more electric aspects of where we are now, as a band." - David Coverdale talks about "Good To Be Bad"

For the most part, Coverdale's perception is pretty accurate. "Good To Be Bad" is definitely not "Snakebite" or "Lovehunter," but it does have some of the same tendencies as those early records. Songs like "A Fool In Love" and "'Till The End Of Time" have blues-based melodies that are very reminiscent of early Whitesnake. Most of this record is set in the late 80's, though. Coverdale surrounds himself with a stellar lineup that includes guitarists Doug Aldrich (Dio, Lion, Hurricane) and Reb Beach (Winger, Dokken, Night Ranger), bassist Uriah Duffy (Christina Aguilera, Travers/Appice), keyboardist Timothy Drury (Don Henley, Stevie Nicks), and drummer Chris Frazier (Steve Vai, Edgar Winter). To hear Coverdale describe the album, "It's a very solid, muscular, melodic rock record with a couple of fine ballads, so there's a little tenderness when the moment calls for it, and of course the ballads help balance out the chest beaters! I find it a very complete piece of work, actually. It covers a lot of musical ground, a positive chapter in the Book of Whitesnake." Again, I would agree with this, for the most part. The first three tracks of the record, "Best Years," "Can You Hear The Wind Blow?" and "Call On Me" are excellent hard rockers that maintain a serious attitude and reflect the integrity of the band's talent. And, the first ballad of the album follows these three rockers, and it's a real beauty. With a great hook and a sensational guitar melody and finely crafted solo, this just might be the band's best ballad.

As the record returns to its hard rock purpose, we get the rambunctious title cut. There's a nod to the "Slide It In" record here with the "to the bone" line that was so effective with that record's hit, "Slow An' Easy," but this song doesn't come close to delivering the same wallop. This song flexes the instrumental muscle that the band sports, but it lacks the lyrical integrity that I look for in a great Whitesnake song. The following track, "All For Love," is also one that just about any decent "hair metal" band could've written. These two songs aren't horrible, but they play into the hands of the "hair metal" stereotype a little too nicely.

The second ballad of the record, "Summer Rain," is one that coasts softly and has some nice guitar structure, but it's really nothing to get too excited about. It almost plays out as a simple diversion from the songs that surround it. It does break up the monotony of having one heavy tune after another, but it really doesn't do much as a standalone track. It does serve as an usher to one of the better hard rock tracks on the record though. "Lay Down Your Love" has the reckless vocal abandon that I love to hear from Coverdale. It has the big sing-along refrain, and it has a nice funk groove to it. It's lyrically shallow, but it packs so much punch that it really doesn't matter.

"A Fool In Love" follows, and as I stated before, this is a slight return to the Whitesnake of the 70's. This is a strong song that needed to be heard a bit sooner, and a bit more often. This is what Whitesnake was born from, and I think returning to those roots more often is beneficial to the integrity of their music. As I say this, the worst track on the album pops up. "Got What You Need" is a lightning fast rocker that steals its melody directly from the classic AC/DC song "Let There Be Rock" and it thrashes about like a bad 80's L.A. band wearing too much makeup. This song, and songs like it, cheapens the majesty that should encompass the Whitesnake legacy. And oddly enough, the track that follows is another return to the classic, blues based sound. "'Till The End Of Time" has a very traditional blues structure that is made into a dark and moody ballad. The song isn't terribly exciting, but it is an arrangement that represents the band well.

I have mixed feelings about this release. It has been 11 years since the last Whitesnake release, which was "Restless Heart," an album that remains unreleased in the U.S. The last U.S. release was "Slip Of The Tongue" in 1989. Either way you look at it, this album is a long time coming. With that kind of time, I feel that there should be some better material, and perhaps more of it. There are 11 tracks here - that's an average of one track per year. That's not exactly prolific. Now I might feel differently if I loved everything on this record, but I don't. Most of these songs are good, but when there are only 11 tracks and you can do without 4 of them, it's hardly a recipe for success.

Don't get me wrong, this is a record that shows us a singer in fine form. Coverdale gives an impressive performance, and sounds like he did in the band's heyday of the late 80's. The band is one that is perched at the top of the talent tree, also. There are solid performances all the way around. It's the shallow songwriting on a few of the tracks that keeps this record around average. And, as a U.S. citizen, after 19 years between releases, I expect slightly better than average.

OVERALL RATING: 6


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