Job offers were plentiful, Purple Pals Jon Lord and Ian Paice offered him the vocalist position in their new band with Tony Ashton called PAL. Rumour has it Coverdale turned this down as he didn’t think the name CLAP was quite so marketable. Although the real reason was probably that he didn’t fancy sharing lead vocal duties again as he had done in Purple. An offer from Uriah Heep was turned down as too similar to Purple. Newspaper reports suggested he was about to join Black Sabbath, and there was even a story doing the rounds that Ritchie Blackmore enquired about him joining Rainbow. Contractual and tax reasons also meant Coverdale couldn’t work in the UK or play live so he went off on a ‘temporary sojourn’, as he put it, to Germany and recorded a solo album.
The backing tracks had been recorded in the the UK in August 1976 under the guidance of Roger Glover and featured some of the finest session players available including Simon Philips (drums) De Lisle Harper (Bass) and Tim Hinkley (Keyboards). Glover himself also played some synthesiser. Guitar duties and some composing credits went to slide guitar maestro and future Whitesnake member Micky Moody. Moody is one of Britains most under rated guitarists and is as much responsible for the unique sound of this album as Coverdale is. There was also the added bonus of Liza Strike, Helen Chappelle and Barry St John on backing vocals.
This was only Coverdale’s fourth studio album and although his membership was in the post he hadn’t yet enrolled into the Frankie Howard school of sexual innuendo lyric writing on a full time basis meaning there was far more subtlety than in later years.
Opening track ‘Lady’ is very much in the vein of Coverdale’s final Purple album ‘Come Taste The Band’ and gets the album off to a great start. It is almost ‘Lady Luck’ revisited and whilst the PC world of the 21st Century might not appreciate the line ‘Lady, you’re no lady, you’re my woman’ I’ve always had a sneaking regard for the line ‘Dances like Salome and curses with a matelot tongue’. You see the modern day Coverdale just wouldn’t come up with words like matelot.
Next up is ‘Blindman’ which is almost an ode to Free both lyrically and arrangement wise. Think ‘Be My Friend’ or ‘Don’t Say You You Love Me’ and you won’t be far off. The version recorded some years later for the Whitesnake album ‘Ready An’ Willing’ gives the song more of its own identity and is stronger in my opinion but it is still a fine tune. As with a number of other songs on the album the lyric is pretty downbeat stuff or ‘little boy lost’ as Coverdale himself calls it.
‘Goldies Place’ is a great funky laid back track completely unlike anything else Coverdale has ever recorded musically, although lyrically being about a house of ill repute it is not a million miles away from the subject closest to his heart.
The title track is next and hints a little at what was to come from the band of the same name. Lyrically this may have been the beginning of the end as far as subtlety was concerned with its ‘ I’ve got a Whitesnake mama, gonna shake it mama …’!
‘Time On My Side’ kicked off side two on the vinyl version and in my opinion would have been a better title track although Coverdale may have considered it tempting fate a little. It is an uptempo keyboard lead song and was originally written for ‘Come Taste The Band’, it is not hard to imagine it as a Purple song.
‘Peace Lovin’ Man’ is a John Lennon type composition which was going to be covered at one time by Joe Cocker. Coverdale puts in a truly superb vocal especially in the early part of the song.
In contrast ‘Sunny Days’ is an out and out melodic rocker in the style of Bad Company which tells the tale of the good days on the road with Purple. Indeed throughout the album you feel that most of the songs are Coverdale pouring out his heart about the Purple disintegration rather than any romantic relationships.
‘Hole In The Sky’ is almost certainly one of those and is probably Coverdale’s finest vocal perfomance ever. A heartfelt soulful ballad it deserved a wider audience than it recieved at the time. It was released as a single in May 1977 but unsurprisingly disappeared without trace in the punk filled airwaves of the time.
The final track on the album ‘Celebration’ is a sort of jazzy funky jam in a Jim Capaldi style that sounds like it was recorded for a bit of fun at the end of the day. It is probably the weakest track and the closest the album has to filler.
‘Whitesnake’ is one of Coverdale’s finest albums, totally unique in its sound when compared to his other work, but sadly it suffered low sales due to the arrival of punk and virtually non existent promotion from the dying Purple label. It remains one of my most played albums even after almost thirty years of ownership and is amongst the finest of the Purple family solo offerings.
Footnote for collectors the original run of the album had the title track as the opening cut but on Coverdales insistence it was flipped with “Keep On Giving Me Loving” for second run. A CD remaster includes two tracks left off the original album and is worth a tenner of anyones money.
Enjoy Coverdales voice at its finest, I only believe he reached these heights again on Ready An’ Willing and am sure I am among many who feel this is the type of album he should be attempting to put out now rather than re-hashing the lacklustre nineties version of Whitesnake.