I was going to start this review by suggesting that Bernie Marsden was one of those unfortunate souls who has never really been given the credit he deserved as one of Britains finest blues rock guitarists. But then I recalled his permanently smiling cheerful face and realised it would be a ridiculous description and that he would probably not thank for me for it one little bit. I have witnessed Marsden playing to a crowd of tens of thousands at Donington and various other festivals but also at places like the Spiceball Park in Banbury and The General Wolfe in Coventry (on the same bill as my band) to less than a hundred and he has always, appeared at least, to be enjoying every single minute of it. So I guess he’s hardly best described as unfortunate.
Marsden is probably still best remembered for his time in Whitesnake. Way back in the days when they were a proper bluesy rock band and not just a backing group for David Coverdale. Along with Micky Moody he gave them a sound which took them just far enough away from that of Deep Purple to be original despite the large Purple contingent within their ranks. In fact in many peoples eyes Whitesnake never really recovered from Marsden’s departure in 1982. They not only lost a fine guitar player but also the other main songwriter in the group. Marsden remember was responsible for co-writing many of their best songs including both re-recorded hits ‘Here I Go Again’ and ‘Fool For Your Loving’. Coverdale has never really found a songwriting partner of his equal since.
For some reason Marsden never really got another shot at the big time after leaving Whitesnake and has spent the majority of his time since playing in Whitesnake style bands with various ex members, mostly Moody and Neil Murray but he has also put out a number of great blues solo albums. Namely Green and Blues, his tribute to Peter Green, which remains his best solo output and this offering from ten years later ‘Stacks’ which is very nearly as good.
Stacks is a mixture of self penned blues tunes and old standards and rather than pick through it track by track I’ll just say that there is not a bad track on it. Marsden did not need to improve at all as a guitar player as he has always been top drawer but the thing that has improved dramatically with him over the years is his vocal ability. He now has a voice to match any other singing bluesman in the business and I for one would argue that vocally he is now far better than many of his influences and contemporaries …….. and I’m including the big guns in that.
If you were going to force me to pick out highlights I would have to single out the stomping version of the Freddie King classic ‘Palace of the King’ that kicks off the album, the Percy Mayfield penned ‘Send Me Someone To Love’ and the original Marsden compositions ‘Queen of the Dancefloor’, ‘Pebble Mill (Au Revoir) a really funky instrumental, ‘Day and Night People’, ‘Black Pit’ another good instumental and ‘Boss of the Blues’ a tribute to B.B. King.
I believe this album was self financed and put out on his own label. If that is correct then it is a sad indictment on the state of the music business that great albums like this can’t get the big label release they deserve. If you like this type of thing and can track yourself down a copy you certainly won’t regret it. Similarly if you can get to see Bernie Marsden at one of his many live shows you won’t regret that either. I’ll see you there !
© Martin Leedham. Originally published on RYM May 2010