Whitesnake - 'Live in 1984 - Back to the Bone' CD Review (Frontiers Records) ~ BrooklynRocks: NYC Music Blog

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Whitesnake - 'Live in 1984 - Back to the Bone' CD Review (Frontiers Records)

Whitesnake - 'Live in 1984 - Back to the Bone' CD Review (Frontiers Records)
While veteran rockers Whitesnake have released a number of live albums over the last few years, Live in 1984 - Back to the Bone capture the previously undocumented live lineup of John Sykes (guitar), Neil Murray (bass) and Cozy Powell (drums). This is a solid addition to the Whitesnake catalog as the material from this tour falls squarely between the blues-rock of Live...In the Heart of the City and the MTV-friendly hair metal of Live at Donington 1990.

As much as David Coverdale downplays his work with John Sykes (evidently Coverdale made a crack that Sykes and Robert Plant should form a band and call themselves ‘The Anti-Christs’), Sykes and Coverdale co-wrote Whitesnake’s 1987 self-titled album, which was the band’s commercial peak. Live in 1984 gives the listener a view into a lineup that was only together two years as all of the members of this lineup were fired prior to the release of the 1987 self-titled album. In an interview with Melodic Rock in 1999, Sykes said “I mean if it had been just one person, fired me or just one of the band member's cause they'd had a little tiff or tizzy or something you could understand it. But he fired everybody. The drummer, bass, me, the producer. It was like he was just cleaning shop and the only reason I could imagine that would be for is so he could have a lot more control of things, certainly in the financial department.

The disc’s first twelve cuts are guitar-driven rockers that follow in the spirit and sound of the US remix of Slide It In. Comparing the set list from Live in 1984 to a bootleg I have from the 1984 tour, the only difference is that this new recording doesn’t include two of the band’s early 80’s numbers: “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City” and “Don’t Break My Heart Again”. The remaining track (which is really four songs within this track) is from Jon Lord’s final performance with Whitesnake. Lord’s organ playing is featured prominently on this last track, making the sound of this lineup more in the spirit of the original UK release of Slide It In.

The band starts out really strong on this new recording - clear production highlights the drive and energy and makes it clear why this lineup was such a compelling live act. The band opens with two of the rockers from Slide It In - “Gambler” and “Guilty of Love”. These songs have a driving stomp and swagger and Sykes throws down some shredding, melodic guitar solos. On “Guilty of Love”, and across this disc, Coverdale is a master of stopping the band on a dime to rev up the audience for a sing-along. Both “Love Ain’t No Stranger” and “Slow An’ Easy” (which was in heavy rotation on MTV at the time) start with a slow burning bluesy guitar before shifting into a driving stomp. The focus of this disc is on the music and there isn’t a lot of the typical in-between-song ‘dirty talk’ and double entendres from Coverdale aside for “Love Ain’t No Stranger” starting off with the comment to an audience member: “a lovely pair of titties you have on your chest”. Some of the other highlights on the disc are Sykes’ guitar solo which serves as a lead-in to “Crying in the Rain” and a reach back into Deep Purple’s catalog for a vocal and organ driven rendition of Stormbringer’s “Soldier of Fortune”.

While the track(s) with Jon Lord are a repeat of the tracks that started off the disc, these renditions are essentially alternate versions as they are less guitar driven and Lord’s organ playing is featured prominently in the mix.

It’s still hard for me to find the words when remembering that half the incredible band who originally recorded the ‘Slide It In’ album with me have passed away,” says Coverdale. “It’s incredibly difficult to articulate: Cozy Powell...Mel Galley...Jon Lord…All amazing people and amazing musicians. Their memories live on in our hearts & in the music they made. I miss them beyond words… Wait until you see & hear them playing as only they can and add in the fiery guitar assault of the incredibly gifted John Sykes, plus the relentless melodic bass pounding of Neil Murray.