To complete the new team, Moody and Coverdale drafted in further seasoned hard rock veterans, including bassist Neil Murray (Colosseum), second guitarist Bernie Marsden (UFO;Deep Purple splinter group Paice Ashton Lord), keyboardist Pete Solley, from Procol Harum, and ex-Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express drummer, David ‘Duck’ Dowle.
Having secured a deal with EMI International, the band’s debut mini-LP, Snakebite, arrived in 1978. Its tracklisting reprised several cuts from Coverdale’s Northwinds, alongside a bunch of new tracks and arguably the record’s highlight: a smouldering cover of Bobby Bland’s blues classic ‘Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City’, which quickly became a staple of Whitesnake’s live set.
Intent on ensuring the grass didn’t grow under their feet, the band installed ex-Deep Purple keyboardist Jon Lord in place of Pete Solley and rapidly released their first full-length set, Trouble, in October 1978. Overseen by renowned hard rock/heavy metal producer Martin Birch (Deep Purple; Iron Maiden), the album cracked the UK Top 50 and featured several shoulda-been hits in the shape of the melodic ‘Lie Down (A Modern Day Love Song)’ and an effectively funky, Free-esque cover of The Beatles’ ‘Day Tripper’.
Whitesnake’s next LP, Lovehunter, also performed well at home, racing up to No.29 on the UK album charts and yielding the single ‘Long Way From Home’, which also rose to No.55. Designed by fantasy artist Chris Achilleos, the album’s controversial artwork (a graphic image of a naked woman straddling a large snake) drew some raised eyebrows, but its contents were nonetheless generally well-received, the enduring highlights including ‘Walking In The Shadow Of The Blues’ and an emotional cover of Leon Russell’s ‘Help Me Thro’ The Day’.
On the back of British rock weekly Sounds coining the term “New Wave Of British Heavy Metal” (or NWOBHM for short) to describe a relatively disparate clutch of newly emerging UK bands, hard rock and metal in general was in vogue on the cusp of the 80s. The likes of Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Motörhead were having hit records and appearing on Top Of The Pops, and Whitesnake, too, were about to sink their fangs into the upper echelons of the charts.
The band’s commercial breakthrough came with 1980’s Ready An’ Willing, recorded after another former Deep Purple mainstay, Ian Paice, had replaced Dowle on the drum stool. The album’s attendant single, ‘Fool For Your Loving’, climbed to No.13 in the UK charts, helping to push Ready An’ Willing to a No.9 peak in the UK album charts, as well as seeing Whitesnake crack the US Billboard Top 100 for the first time.
Benefitting from Martin Birch’s crisp production and a slew of catchy, Bad Company-esque rockers such as ‘Ain’t Gonna Cry No More’ and ‘She’s A Woman’, Ready An’ Willing remains one of Whitesnake’s most memorable platters. The band’s subsequent promotional tour (including a prestigious headline slot on the Sunday night of the 1980 Reading Festival) helped build upon their burgeoning popularity.
Whitesnake were at the peak of their powers as a live act at this juncture, so it was logical that their next significant release should be a double-live LP, Live… In The Heart Of The City. An exhilarating souvenir of a series of shows recorded at London’s Hammersmith Odeon, its setlist included a triumphant 10-minute version of ‘Love Hunter’, while covers of two Deep Purple tunes (‘Mistreated’ and ‘Might Just Take Your Life’) settled alongside selections culled from Trouble and Ready An’ Willing.
Commercially, Whitesnake hit a new peak with 1981’s Come An’ Get It, which was only kept off the top of the UK album charts by Adam And The Ants’ mega-selling Kings Of The Wild Frontier. The band’s bluesy roots rarely showed through on this outing, though the LP did produce two of Coverdale and co’s most enduring anthems courtesy of Top 20 hit ‘Don’t Break My Heart Again’ and ‘Would I Lie To You?’, which also cracked the British Top 40.
In the wake of Come An’ Get It, Bernie Marsden jumped ship to form his own outfit, Alaska, so new guitarist Mel Galley paired off with Micky Moody for Whitesnake’s next studio LP, 1982’s Saints & Sinners. Arguably superior to Come An’ Get It, the record included another Top 40 smash (the robust power ballad ‘Here I Go Again’) as well one of the band’s most seductively bluesy outings, ‘Crying In The Rain’.
Saints & Sinners again broached the Top 10 in the UK, but personnel problems dogged the band’s progress over the next 12 months: when Whitesnake returned with 1984’s Slide It In, only Jon Lord and Mel Galley remained alongside Coverdale. The band’s new line-up featured guitarist John Sykes (ex-Thin Lizzy/NWOBHM heroes Tygers Of Pan Tang), bassist Colin ‘Bomber’ Hodgkinson and drummer Cozy Powell.
The band’s first LP for Geffen, Slide It In again yielded hit 45s courtesy of ‘Guilty Of Love’, ‘Give Me More Time’ and the epic, blues-flavoured ‘Slow An’ Easy’, and the LP again crashed into the UK Top 10. Geffen, however, insisted the album be remixed for the US market, and the version of the LP that eventually emerged Stateside (overseen by producer Keith Olsen) is arguably the crisper and brighter-sounding of the two.
The mid-80s were a volatile time for Whitesnake. By the time the band reconvened to record their next album, their nucleus was reduced to just Coverdale and Sykes, with even Jon Lord quitting to re-join the recently reformed Deep Purple. Featuring a noticeably sleeker, radio-friendly arena rock sound, the band’s self-titled 1987 set also included contributions from returning bassist Neil Murray and versatile session drummer Aynsley Dunbar, and proved to be a huge commercial success. Trailed by the storming, Led Zeppelin-esque Top 10 hit ‘Still Of The Night’, Whitesnake shot up to No.2 in Britain, but also succeeded in the US, where it made No.8 on the Billboard 100 on the back of two MTV-friendly hits, the ballad ‘Is This Love’ and a catchy reworking of ‘Here I Go Again’ (the latter earning Whitesnake their only US No.1 single).
The band subsequently enjoyed enormous sales in America, with Whitesnake selling 8 million copies and Geffen’s remixed edition of Slide It In also registering double-platinum sales. Yet despite this massive crossover success, the band were again blighted by personnel problems prior to 1989’s Slip Of The Tongue. John Sykes departed for Dutch hard rockers Blue Murder, and Coverdale recruited ex-Dio guitarist Vivian Campbell – but he also quit after co-writing a batch of new songs.
The band that eventually recorded Slip Of The Tongue included guitar wizard Steve Vai (ex-Frank Zappa), bassist Rudy Sarzo and drummer Tommy Aldridge. Continuing in the mainstream rock vein of Whitesnake, the LP again went platinum in the US, and its three 45s, ‘The Deeper The Love’, ‘Now You’re Gone’ and a re-recording of ‘Fool For Your Loving’, all charted highly; yet, after Whitesnake headlined the famous Castle Donington Monsters Of Rock Festival in 1989, Coverdale temporarily put the band on ice.
After a lengthy sabbatical – broken by a brief European tour for 1994’s final Geffen LP, Whitesnake’s Greatest Hits – the band returned for 1997’s Restless Heart. Originally intended as a Coverdale solo album, the record saw a return to Whitesnake’s rhythm and blues roots and charted at No.34 in the UK, as well as spawning a minor hit single in the ballad ‘Too Many Tears’. The album featured another new Whitesnake line-up, including touring Pink Floyd bassist Guy Pratt and guitarist Adrian Vandenberg, the latter joining Coverdale for an “unplugged”-style live LP, Starkers In Japan, recorded in Tokyo during the tour to support Restless Heart.
Coverdale then retired Whitesnake until 2002, when he again reformed the band for their 25th anniversary with a new line-up involving drummer Tommy Aldridge and guitarist Doug Aldrich, formerly of Dio. Also featuring ex-Winger guitarist Reb Beach, keyboardist Timothy Drury and bassist Uriah Duffy, this line-up’s prowess can be heard on 2006’s double live set Live: In The Shadow Of The Blues.
With Chris Frazier replacing Tommy Aldridge, this incarnation of Whitesnake stuck around to record 2008’s comeback studio set Good To Be Back: a solid return to form featuring strong, earthy numbers such as ‘Can You Hear The Wind Blow’ and ‘’Til The End Of Time’. The album reacquainted the band with the UK Top 10 and, to promote its release, Whitesnake co-headlined a British arena tour with fellow veteran hard rockers Def Leppard.
Another round of personnel reshuffles took place after the tour, with Frazier and Duffy departing and bassist Michael Devin and ex-Billy Idol drummer Brian Tichy stepping into their shoes. This next line-up recorded the band’s 11th studio set, the defiant Forevermore, in 2011, which featured confident new tracks such as ‘Whipping Boy Blues’ and the swaggering, Faces-esque ‘I Need You (Shine A Light)’.
Coverdale again revamped Whitesnake after Forevermore. The relatively long-serving Doug Aldrich quit and Coverdale enlisted ex-Night Ranger guitarist Joel Hoekstra, keyboardist Michele Luppi and drummer Tommy Aldridge, who returned for his still-ongoing second stint.
With Reb Beach and Michael Devin on board, this latest line-up recorded Whitesnake’s most recent LP, The Purple Album, which was released through Frontiers Records in May 2015 and promptly steamed into the UK Top 20. Intensely personal to Coverdale, this explosive new record featured highly credible re-recordings of choice selections such as ‘Burn’ and ‘Stormbringer’ from his tenure with Deep Purple, and it serves as fair warning to metal’s young pretenders that, even after all these years, Whitesnake still retain plenty of bite.
David Coverdale built Whitesnake's commercial breakthrough on a collection of loud, polished hard rockers, plus the band's best set of pop hooks. The Led Zeppelin-ish "Still of the Night" offered headbanger appeal, but it was the big chorus of "Here I Go Again" -- one of the very small number of non-power ballad '80s hard rock singles to actually top the pop charts -- and the quiet ballad "Is This Love" that really sold the album in spades. The rest of the album generally holds interest as well, and it's easily the band's best.
Words: Steve Huey
What a difference a year makes. After releasing the thoroughly disappointing Come an' Get It, Whitesnake made up for it in spades with 1982's excellent Saints & Sinners, their best record yet. Perhaps it was the arrival of new guitarist Mel Galley (replacing founding member Bernie Marsden) that re-energized the band. The dull, midtempo numbers of recent years were largely gone, replaced by rowdy bursts of bluesy aggression like "Rough an' Ready," "Bloody Luxury," and the downright nasty "Young Blood." David Coverdale also reached new heights with the astounding heavy blues of "Crying in the Rain" (a lyrical relative to Elmore James' "The Sun Is Shining" if there ever was one) and the timeless power ballad "Here I Go Again." Most Americans only came to know these songs when they were butchered into ridiculous power metal five years later, but for true Whitesnake fans, these original versions make Saints & Sinners well worth seeking out.
Words: Eduardo Rivadavia
Following up the splendid Saints & Sinners album was no easy task, but 1984's Slide It In turned out to be an even greater triumph for David Coverdale's Whitesnake. From the boisterous machismo of "Spit It Out" and "All or Nothing" to the resigned despair of "Gambler" and "Standing in the Shadow," and the embarrassingly silly title track, everything seems to click. For hit singles, look no further than the twin guitar attack of "Guilty of Love" and the sheer poetry and emotion of "Love Ain't No Stranger," one of the decade's greatest power ballads, bar none. Not to be outdone, "Slow an' Easy" is a masterpiece of sexual tension and the kind of power-blues which no one does as well as Whitesnake. On a quirky historical note, Coverdale fired most of the band soon after the album's release, replacing them with younger, prettier faces with which to better conquer America. For that purpose, Geffen Records even released a re-recorded version of Slide It In with flashy soloing from new guitarist John Sykes, sparking an ongoing debate as to which version is better.
Words: Eduardo Rivadavia
Trouble was Whitesnake's first "real" album, setting the template for virtually all of the band's ensuing career, pre-1987 American sellout. (Snakebite, released earlier that year, was split between David Coverdale solo sessions and actual group recordings.) This was a group made up of seasoned veterans after all, and they knew exactly what it was they wanted: edgy hard rock based on R&B. They also knew who was boss: Coverdale, who after enduring a minority stake in the mighty Deep Purple, was now clearly established as top dog and de facto leader of the new outfit. (When he relinquishes lead vocal duties to guitarist Bernie Marsden on "Free Flight," it's because he wants to.) And what a slick, powerful outfit it was, too, with guitarists Marsden and Micky Moody compensating whatever visual shortcomings they may have had with their rock-solid six-string partnership, and former Purple organist Jon Lord holding it all together in the back. "Take Me with You"'s nonstop boogie and persistent slide guitar hook sets things into motion on a frenetic note, but it's the next song, "Love to Keep You Warm," which earns its stripes as a bona fide Whitesnake classic, largely due to its seductive, deliberate strut. In retrospect, concert fave "Lie Down (A Modern Day Love Song)" is a tad too simplistic and has not aged well at all, but the pairing of "Nighthawk (Vampire Blues)" and "The Time Is Right for Love" provides an amazingly succinct look back (the first is built upon a very Purple-esque stop-start riff) and ahead (the second introduces a cool melodic recipe which would characterize the band's later-day sound). The title track represents the album's high-water mark, its rollicking blues shuffle declaring it a worthy successor to Coverdale's original tour de force with Purple, "Mistreated." A few unexpected oddities throw the album off-balance here and there, not least of which the instrumental jam "Belgian Tom's Hat Trick" and an unexpected, stuttering cover of the Beatles' "Daytripper," but all things considered, it is easy to understand why Trouble turned out to be the first step in a long, and very successful career.
Words: Eduardo Rivadavia
Virtually every hard rock band in the universe managed to release a live (usually double) album in the late '70s, and Whitesnake were certainly no exception. Live.... In the Heart of the City does a pretty good job of collecting the highlights from the band's first four releases, as well as a few Deep Purple standards (singer David Coverdale, organist Jon Lord, and drummer Ian Paice are all Purple alumni). Whitesnake favorites such as "Walking in the Shadow of the Blues," "Ready an' Willing," and "Fool for Your Loving" heat up the crowd, but it's the extended version of "Lovehunter" that gets things boiling, thanks to Micky Moody's extended slide guitar solo. The audience participation on "Ain't No Love in the Heart of the City" provides another thrilling moment, but the band truly brings the house down with a last encore of Deep Purple's "Mistreated" -- a blues of monstrous proportions that becomes an 11-minute catharsis for Coverdale.
Words: Eduardo Rivadavia
Any band would have been hard-pressed to follow the success of a multi-platinum album with another one of equal or higher quality both critically and commercially. Needless to say, that's exactly what David Coverdale and Whitesnake were faced with when it came time to record 1989's Slip of the Tongue, the follow-up to their 1987 smash self-titled LP. To complicate matters, Coverdale lost Irish guitarist Vivian Campbell during pre-recording sessions due to artistic differences, and his songwriting partner and lead guitarist, Adrian Vandenberg, injured himself to the degree that he couldn't play; he did some early work that made it on to the final album. Coverdale, faced with a quickly approaching deadline and pressure from management and the label finally recruited former Frank Zappa guitarist Steve Vai to fill the chair. Commercially, Slip of the Tongue was an unqualified success. The album ended up being Whitesnake's third platinum recording. Musically, however, the set is so drenched in '80s production -- huge compression, Midi keyboards, a thin bottom end, etc. -- it seems that little of the band's tough blues-based metallic persona remains. The album sounds dated, full of overblown sounds and effects that have little to do with the act's trademark heavy guitar-and-bass approach to hard rock and early Brit metal. Some of the songs have merit, even if their finished productions ruin them -- the tough "Now You're Gone" and "Judgment Day," are great examples, as is "The Deeper the Love," a classic Coverdale power ballad needlessly drenched in keys and synths. The fit between Vai and Whitesnake is also questionable; his busy approach is at odds with the meat and potatoes strut and pound of the band. Fans ate it up at the time, but Slip of the Tongue is, unfortunately, still an album very much of its time and the curious, as well as fans, may want to check out their earlier work before picking this up.
Words: Thom Jurek
For all of its musical merits, Whitesnake's second full-length album, Lovehunter, is probably best remembered for its lurid cover painting (featuring a very naked female and a very large snake) rather than the band's ever-improving recipe for blues-infected hard rock. The group's performance in the studio environment remains strangely tame, however, and though blaming the producer seems like the obvious explanation, one has to wonder if this is the case when a veteran like Martin Birch (Deep Purple, Black Sabbath) is at the helm. Still, all things considered, the record is quite consistent; the band is equally at home rocking through the foot-stomping "Long Way From Home," and gliding through the bluesy ballad "Help Me Thro' the Day." "Walking in the Shadow of the Blues" combines near-perfect songwriting with one of Coverdale's maturest and most compelling lyrics, while the masterful slide guitar of Mickey Moody literally ignites the awesome title track. The gorgeously simple piano treatment of "We Wish You Well" closes the disc in fine fashion.
Words: Eduardo Rivadavia
Despite the massive talents of vocalist David Coverdale and his supporting cast of musicians (not to mention the unimpeachable resumé of producer Martin Birch), Come an' Get It was another maddeningly average Whitesnake album. A thoroughly boring set that played it too safe and yielded no lasting live favorites, Come an' Get It was competent to the max -- in the hands of a debuting artist, it may have qualified as a classic -- but for a near-supergroup of such experience and pedigree, it instead smacked of severe underachievement. Rare highlights include the driving energy of "Hot Stuff," the lively bar-room piano of "Wine, Women and Song," and the wistful, acoustic balladry of "Till the Day I Die." But these share space with run-of-the-mill bluesy rockers like "Don't Break My Heart Again" and "Would I Lie to You" -- all of them hard to fault, but equally impossible to praise. Yawn! Even the quasi-epic "Child of Babylon" fails to live up to initial promise, a half-hearted effort that easily defines the entire record's abiding sense of indifference. No doubt a reflection of Coverdale's own fluctuating interest in the group, Come an' Get It's confounding mediocrity would thankfully give way to the just as inexplicable brilliance of 1982's Saints & Sinners and 1984's Slide It In -- a two-towered climax of Whitesnake's career that displayed a newfound zest in urgency and inspiration.
Words: Eduardo Rivadavia
Despite benefiting from the expert assistance of legendary producer Martin Birch (Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, later Iron Maiden) Whitesnake's early studio albums all tended to sound unexplainably flat. Their fourth effort, 1980's Ready an' Willing, was no exception, but it did make up for this somewhat with solid songwriting. In fact, David Coverdale and company were growing increasingly more consistent and self-assured with each record, and this album's first half shows great progress over the previous year's hit-and-miss Lovehunter. Opener "Fool for Your Lovin'" was their best single yet, as well as their highest charting; with its clever combination of hit-savvy chorus and authentic bluesy resignation, it set the template for subsequent triumphs, and the fact that Coverdale re-recorded it (in disappointing pop-metal fashion) over a decade later for 1989's Slip of the Tongue is a testament to its staying power. Further highlights include the live favorite "Sweet Talker" (given extra bite by Micky Moody's expert slide guitar), the groove monster of a title track, and a set of memorable ballads in "Blindman" and "Ain't Gonna Cry No More." The same laurels can't be awarded to the album's closing trio of songs, all of which evince the tired and formulaic blues-rock that had dominated previous releases. But this didn't stop Ready an' Willing from qualifying as Whitesnake's finest hour thus far, with ever-greater glory waiting just over the horizon.
Words: Eduardo Rivadavia
Three years ago, Whitesnake released Good to Be Bad, a comeback album that reached the U.K.’s Top Five. It walked the line between their brand of U.K. hard rock and ‘80s glam metal. On Forevermore, David Coverdale polishes the production -- a tad -- focuses the guitars more, and successfully fuses Whitesnake's various eras, and succeeds in spades. There is a new rhythm section with drummer Brian Tichy and bassist Michael Devlin. Forevermore commences with “Steal Your Heart Away,” an old-school, nasty, slide guitar workout with a harmonica solo, that revs into a full-blown blues-rocker with a killer chorus. Guitarists Doug Aldrich and Reb Beach shine on the instrumental bridge. The album's first single, "Love Will Set You Free," is top-notch Whitesnake that nods back to the early years while grounding itself in the present. "All Out of Luck," and "Tell Me How" measure up in the same way. "I Need You (Shine a Light)" is an enormous surprise; its hook is so infectious it sounds like Coverdale's been listening to Cheap Trick's earliest records. The acoustic midtempo ballad "One Of These Days" carries a trace of country in its melody, hearkening back to the Restless Heart era. Coverdale reveals he's more than competent to write a fine, lyrically savvy love song, when he’s not thinking with his dick. "Fare Thee Well," another acoustic number, showcases Coverdale at his most intimate. "Whipping Boy Blues” is a dirty slide rocker that reconciles both sides of the band. "My Evil Ways," with its calamitous drum intro, is punishing; Coverdale pulls out all the stops to deliver his finest vocal performance on the set. The album's true highlight, however, is in the closing title track. Over seven minutes, it begins as an acoustic number before morphing into a stellar Whitesnake power ballad. After a two-and-a-half minute acoustic guitar/vocal intro, the band enters with a "Kashmir"-like chord sequence; they keep it slow but increase the drama; it eventually explodes into a bone crusher with killer guitar solos and a gorgeous melody. Forevermore, despite its tighter arrangements and more polished production (and "Dogs in the Street," its lone loser cut) is Whitesnake at its Brit hard rock best.
Words: Thom Jurek