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David Coverdale: Buyer's Guide

On September 22, David Coverdale celebrates his birthday, To mark the occasion, here's the Buyer's Guide published by Classic Rock in 2009

There are two David Coverdales. The more famous is the frontman with Whitesnake. Lesser-known, but far more impressive, is The Voice – that’s what’s left once the glossy videos and sexual innuendo are stripped away. For underlying Coverdale’s stardom is a talent that – with a bit less lyrical focus on the trouser area – might have made him a national treasure. He was only ever having fun, but it did prevent his reputation spreading into the mainstream in the way that, say, respect for Paul Rodgers (his early hero) and Robert Plant has done.

Coverdale was born September 22, 1951 in Saltburn-by-the-Sea. In 1973, almost unbelievably in retrospect, he was hired by Deep Purple to replace Ian Gillan. He’d spent six years in semi-pro covers bands and got the gig on the strength of a demo tape and one nervous rehearsal.

Coverdale grew up fast in Purple and made three studio albums with them before they split in 1976. After that he released a couple of low-key solo albums, the first called White Snake which (contracted) gave its name to his fledgling band.

Whitesnake’s line-up changed often, but the presence of guitarists Micky Moody and Bernie Marsden, plus former Purple men keyboardist Jon Lord and drummer Ian Paice (later replaced by Cozy Powell) meant Whitesnake always sold tickets. Their albums, though, were slower to shift, especially in the US.

In 1984, with the early good-time blues- rock formula going stale, a US-only remix of their Slide It In album sold two million. Three years later Coverdale returned with a more metal sound, a ‘hair-metal’ image, an entirely new line-up and a bunch of slick videos. The 1987 album gave him hit singles and a mega profile. But short-lived liaisons with guitarists Steve Vai (for the follow-up) and Jimmy Page (as Coverdale- Page) couldn’t sustain the momentum.

In the 90s Coverdale put a toe in the comeback water with a new Whitesnake, while a solo album, Into The Light (2000), reminded fans of his roots. In 2008 Whitesnake re-emerged with Good To Be Bad. However, just weeks ago the band were forced to cancel a tour due to DC’s throat problems, prompting fears that we might not hear his trademark: “Here’s a song for ya!” from a stage again.

ESSENTIAL CLASSICS

Deep Purple

Burn

PURPLE, 1974

The album that catapulted him from nowhere to being an international star is still a hard- rock and Coverdale classic.

On Burn his young voice copes easily with full-on blitzkrieg (the title track), and Purple detours into slow blues (Mistreated), soul (Might Just Take Your Life) and funk (Sail Away). Although Glenn Hughes sings on the album too, Cov’s voice is the undoubtedly star of the show.

An amazing feat, considering the pressure on him: he was a nobody joining a band of seasoned pros, knowing that the reputation of one of the world’s biggest bands rested on his performance. Coverdale delivered in spades.

Whitesnake

1987

EMI, 1987

Written mostly by Coverdale and guitarist John Sykes, this is Whitesnake at their heaviest, but knocked into radio-friendly shape by hotshot US producers Mike Stone and Keith Olsen.

It sold eight million copies, thanks to an entirely different touring line-up, and videos for the Zep-like Still Of The Night, Here I Go Again (a Bernie Marsden co-write from five years earlier) and top-drawer power ballad Is This Love. Coverdale is equally strong on Looking For Love, Crying In The Rain (another redone ’Snake oldie) and Don’t Turn Away, proving that while he can rock with the best of them he’s at his best doing the moody stuff.

SUPERIOR - REPUTATION CEMENTING

Deep Purple

Come Taste The Band

PURPLE, 1976

With the mercurial Tommy Bolin now as lead guitarist, all bets were off as to what Deep Purple might sound like. The answer was: like never before, and much better than on the previous year’s Stormbringer.

Coverdale doesn’t sing every lead, but even when he alternates (with Bolin, on Dealer), or shares (with Glenn Hughes, as on Drifter) he’s in great form. On Lady Luck he’s in funk-rock heaven and having fun. But it’s the two songs that book-end the album – the riotous Comin’ Home and the brooding You Keep On Movin’ – that show him to best effect. An overlooked gem.

David Coverdale

Northwinds

PURPLE, 1978

His second solo record after Purple folded is a remarkably mature album that can still send shivers down the spine 30 years after it was recorded. Coverdale’s singing on the slow-burning title track, the touchingly sparse Time & Again (just The Voice and electric piano) or Only My Soul _(a poignant lament that builds to a gut-wrenching finale) has rarely been bettered. He’ll rock you, too: _Keep On Giving Me Love, Queen Of Hearts and Breakdown, a stomping boogie.

All in all, Northwinds is the antithesis of Whitesnake’s super-slick 1987, but it’s a fine demonstration of the breadth of Coverdale’s talents.

Whitesnake

Ready An’ Willing

UNITED ARTISTS, 1980

On this, their third studio album Whitesnake’s good-time, Brit- style rockin’ blues peaked – and hit paydirt with Fool For Your Loving, their first Top 20 hit in the UK. That opener segues nicely into Sweet Talker _then _Ready An’ Willing itself.

It was clear that Coverdale was on top of his game. Witness his singing on Carry Your Load and the (slightly overcooked) new version of his solo song Blindman. After that it’s filler-free to the finish, with the epic Ain’t Gonna Cry No More, a slow blues interlude with Love Man, the honky-tonk Black And Blue and She’s A Woman.

Whitesnake

Live... In The Heart Of The City

UNITED ARTISTS, 1980

Although born in the North East, the band’s spiritual home was always in Hammersmith backed by its ‘Whitesnake choir’ straining against the seat-backs of the Odeon (as was).

The passion of an audience always inspired Coverdale to sing better, and this unusual hybrid live album (half 1978, half 1980) has both sides of that equation at their strongest.

The CD remaster adds the poignant blues of Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City to the likes of Come On, Trouble, Lie Down, Mistreated and Take Me With You, all of which captures Whitesnake in their pomp.

GOOD - WORTH EXPLORING

David Coverdale

White Snake

PURPLE, 1977

With a lazy, bar-room style, a bit of brass and ace backing singers, this is David Coverdale as few have heard him.

Micky Moody plays slide guitar and Roger Glover produces, but songs such as Lady, Goldies Place and Sunny Days are unlike anything he’d done before. Blindman (reworked on Ready An’ Willing) perhaps has shades of Mistreated, but Celebration has a Caribbean feel.

Had Hole In The Sky (a ballad built on Tim Hinkley’s piano) provided Coverdale with a hit, he might well have sailed off into Frankie Miller/Joe Cocker territory without a second thought about asking anyone to lie down or let him slide it in.

Whitesnake

Lovehunter

UNITED ARTISTS, 1979

The band’s second full-length studio album became infamous for its cover painting depicting a naked woman astride a snake, but it begins with Coverdale in romantic, not sexist, mood on Long Way From Home. His singing is similarly heartfelt on Leon Russell’s Help Me Thro’ The Day – another blues recorded as the NWOBHM raged.

Whitesnake could play bar- room (You ’N’ Me) or fast (Mean Business), but Coverdale’s heart was in rocked-up blues, and the album is best known for the big-hitting title track and Walking In The Shadow Of The Blues.

It’s also home to _We Wish You Wel_l, the track played over the PA after each gig ever since.

Whitesnake

Live... In The Shadow Of The Blues

SPV, 2006

An ideal companion to its similarly monikered predecessor (above), this record shows how, almost 30 years later, there was plenty of life in The Voice yet.

Although Coverdale has always been at his best on stage, it’s amazing to hear him singing the likes of Still Of The Night or the neat Burn/Stormbringer segue with an aplomb close to his prime, even at the age of 55.

He’s well supported by Tim Drury on backing vocals, and in a league of his own on a revamped Slide It In or the passion-soaked The Deeper The Love. And as he cajoles the crowd through Ready An’ Willing the years melt away. All this and four studio cuts too.

Whitesnake

Slip Of The Tongue

EMI, 1989

In retrospect, the much- maligned Coverdale-Page album of 1993 towers above this – on which Steve Vai played all the guitar parts because Adrian Vandenberg was injured.

It sold four million copies (but that was only half as many as predecessor 1987), and too many songs sound overwrought. Vai is hugely talented, but quite unsuited to the subtleties of Whitesnake. His signature tricks are fine on the crowd pleasers, but quickly wear thin, and Coverdale doesn’t need such support anywhere near as much as David Lee Roth did. Coverdale is great on Now You’re Gone and The Deeper The Love, but overall the album has dated badly.

ESSENTIAL PLAYLIST

Burn

Burn

Mistreated

Burn

_Soldier Of Fortune _

Stormbringer

You Keep On Movin’

Come Taste The Band

Blindman

White Snake

Only My Soul

Northwinds

_Lie Down (A Modern Love Song) _

Trouble

_Walking In The Shadow Of The Blues _

Lovehunter

Fool For Your Loving

Ready An’ Willing

_Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City _

Live... In The Heart Of The City

_Don’t Break My Heart Again _

Come An’ Get It

Crying In The Rain

Saints & Sinners

Still Of The Night 

1987

_Here I Go Again ’87 _

1987

The Deeper The Love

Slip Of The Tongue

Slide It In

Live... In The Shadow Of The Blues

This was published in Classic Rock issue 138

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