Whitesnake – The Purple Album (Special Gold Vinyl Edition) (Review)

Whitesnake: The Purple Album (Special Gold Edition) (Rhino Records)

By Ann Stevens 

It’s not unusual for mothers to have keepsakes of their kid’s childhood. A drawing, a baby tooth or maybe a lock of hair. But if your David Coverdale’s mum or “mam” as he calls her, you keep handwritten lyrics. Some people may not know that Coverdale’s first rock band was Deep Purple and he found some of those original DP lyrics in a trunk of his mom’s personal belongings that was in storage. What a find!

Released in Rocktober 2023, the special 2-LP gold color vinyl reissue of the 2015 Purple Album is “thing of beauty” and “beyond sexy,” according to Coverdale, who marks his 50th anniversary of joining Deep Purple. There are several forms to listen to the Purple Album reissue: digital, Blue Ray and the LP. Each contains revisited, remixed and remastered songs, expanded for each edition with some previously unreleased material.

Inside the double jacket of the album, Coverdale tells the tale of how Jon Lord wanted to have a Deep Purple reunion and how Coverdale wished to make amends with Ritchie Blackmore with a collaborative effort that never was able to come to fruition.

Not deterred, Coverdale went forth with his homage to the band that launched his rock career with current Whitesnake band members Tommy Aldridge, Reb Beach, Joel Hoekstra, and Micheal Devin. All the “snakes” according to Coverdale were enthusiastically onboard with this celebration disc, bringing their own “identity to the music.” Add the Hook City Strings, a string quartet from the Reno Philharmonic, and the Hook City Hooligans on chorus vocals, along with special guest keyboards from Derek Sherinian (Hammond organ) and Derek Hilland and you’ve got an amazing compilation of iconic kick ass songs such as “Burn,” “Stormbringer,” “You Fool No One,” and “Lay Down, Stay Down.” The original demo that Coverdale recorded when he auditioned for Deep Purple is also included on this studio album. 

All in all, Deep Purple and Whitesnake fans will relish unboxing the re-recorded music that has withstood the “sands of time” and gave us some of of the best rock musicians including the “Deeps” rhythm section of Ian Paice and Glenn Hughes.

423 – Susan Cowsill – A Christmas Offering From the Cowsills (podcast)

The Cowsills are the original family band – formed in 1965, they hit pay dirt with their smash, “The Rain, the Park and Other Things” in 1967. Other hits followed, including “Indian Lake,” “We Can Fly” and “Hair.” They even were the basis for the hit TV show The Partridge Family. 

After some time apart, the group reformed in the early 90’s and has been playing and recording ever since. They’ve been a fixture on the Happy Together tour for almost a decade, and they just released a brand new album called Rhythm of the World last year. 

Now, comes A Christmas Offering from the Cowsills. Two of the songs date back to 1992, “Christmastime (Song For Marissa)” and “Some Good Years.” These two songs are joined with a brand-new, acapella version of “Winter Wonderland” – and the EP is now available digitally from Omnivore Recordings. 

We chat with Susan Cowsill about how Christmas is the favorite holiday of the Cowsill family, the origins of these “lost” holiday tunes, and the prospects of new Cowsill material in 2024.

422 – Sue Foley – New Album, Live in Austin, Volume One (podcast)

In her early twenties, Canadian born Sue Foley, trekked down to Austin, Texas and quickly immersed herself in the fertile blues scene there.  Since then, she’s released 15 albums, garnered tons of awards, including Traditional Blues Female Artist from the Blues Foundation – an award she’s taken home three years now. 

Her latest record is a homecoming of sorts – Live in Austin Volume One takes her back to her roots, recorded at the legendary Continental Club, now out on Guitar Woman Records.

We talk about how she went high quality for the recording of this live album, digging back into her roots for some of the songs, and the prospects of a Volume Two coming soon.

421 – Paul Reed Smith – Eightlock – New Album, Lions Roaring in Quicksand (podcast)

Paul Reed Smith is a name synonymous with guitarists worldwide.  His PRS line began in the mid Eighties, and ever since then, has produced 1,000’s of high-quality instruments.  If you’ve ever played one, you just know. 

Well, what you might not know is that Smith is also a musician in his own right, who’s played with the likes of Santana and the Doobie Brothers. Smith has assembled a group of highly-respected musicians into Eightlock.  Featuring three drummers, three guitarists, a bassist, and powerhouse vocalist, Mia Simone Davis, they’re issuing their debut album called Lions Roaring in Quicksand, on Steele Records.  

We talk to Paul about how he assembled this unique lineup of high-caliber musicians, the challenges in recording and playing live with three drummers, and why they chose to cover “War” by Edwin Starr.

He also talks about what got him into playing guitar as a young teen.

420 – Danny O’Keefe – New Retrospective, Circular Turns (podcast)

Danny O’Keefe’s best known song is “Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues,” which cracked the Top Ten in 1972. Jackson Browne put O’Keefe’s song, “The Road,” on his hugely-successful Running on Empty album. O’Keefe’s compositions have been covered by a wide range of artists, from Elvis Presley to Miranda Lambert, from Andy Williams to Ben Harper. 

His new album, Circular Turns, now out on Sunset Boulevard Records, covers the period from 1999-2017, which saw O’Keefe collaborate with the likes of Bob Dylan, Michael McDonald, Bill Braun, and Fred Knoblach. He also reimagines some of his best songs of the past, like “Angel Spread Your Wings” and “Magdelena” – and the improvements are noticeable.

In addition, there’s a second disc featuring an intimate live performance recorded in 2016. 

O’Keefe talks about what led to this new compilation, and the stories behind some of the songs, including a “collaboration” with Bob Dylan. He also touches on growing up in Washington state and learning from producer Arif Mardin.

Hagar Years Get Re-evaluated in New Van Halen Box Set (review)

Van Halen – The Studio Albums & Rarities (1986-1996) (Warner Brothers)

Much-maligned VH mach II compiled and reevaluated

It’s perhaps one of the most heated debates amongst music fans – David Lee Roth vs. Sammy Hagar – which era is better?  And, while there’s no disputing the influence of the former, delving deep into the Van Hagar years reveals some surprises.  The Studio Albums & Rarities (1986-1996) includes all four of the band’s albums, in remastered form, with an additional CD of Studio Rarities.

5150 – The band’s second era begins with Sammy Hagar mimicking the Big Bopper’s “helloooo baby!!” before launching into the blistering “Good Enough.”  The guys sound like their having a blast without David Lee Roth – Eddie is tearing off leads, while brother Alex is pounding gleefully on the skins.  And, Hagar has found a partner-in-crime in bassist Michael Anthony – their two voices blend seamlessly.   Hagar’s presence is definitely felt in the melodic first single, “Why Can’t This Be Love” – the Roth-era would’ve never been able to pull this off.  Oh, but we get even deeper.  An actual ballad?  “Dreams” is powered by Eddie’s piano and synths, but the chorus is pure Hagar.  

“Summer Nights” is an excellent, good time rock anthem, while “Best of Both Worlds” shows that Hagar could posture just like Roth, but out duel him in the process.  “Love Walks In” was another synth-led piece.  In fact, this one doesn’t have any guitar on the main parts.  This is territory that the previous iteration of the band would’ve never attempted.  The album closes with the goofy “Inside.”

OU812 – opens with the pulsing “Mine All Mine” – although the production seems a little watery.  Some of the punch is muted here.  “When It’s Love” is another Eddie synth ballad that chugs along nicely.  They really developed a knack for great choruses.  “A.F.U. (Naturally Wired)” is more VH posturing, while “Cabo Wabo” would introduce two words that would become synonymous with Hagar – he’d take it to the bank when he introduced a brand of tequila with that namesake.  The song is just kinda meh, but let’s hear it for inspiration!  While “Source of Infection” gives longtime Eddie fans a chance to marvel at his two-hand tapping.  

“Feels So Good” is an interesting mid tempo piece, melodically pulsing along.  It is perhaps the most pop thing VH had ever done to this point.  The sequencing of this record is strange.  Some of the best stuff is tucked away on side two.  “Finish What You Started” is deceptively seductive in its slinky guitar and rhythm.  It also features a fantastic guitar solo.  While “Black and Blue” is a hard and slow grinder.  

While there are good singles, the album cuts seem to fall flat, especially to what came before.

For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge – opening with the sound of an electrified power drill, “Poundcake” was one of their best rockers.  “Judgement Day” is sort or a paint-by-numbers rocker, but then check out those cool harmonies on the chorus.

Another odd sequence here.  Many of the best songs are further into the record.  “Spanked” just kinda lays there.  But, then that’s followed by the very good rocker “Runaround.”  Killer Eddie riff powers this.  I might argue that this is the best Hagar-era track.  The way Eddie interacts with Sammy’s vocals – the band just seems fully engaged.  I love the way it breaks down and then builds again.  

“In ‘N’ Out” just seems like an idea that shouldn’t have been an actual song.  “Man on a Mission” is another VH posturing number.  But, “The Dream is Over” is much better – I love Eddie’s guitar on here.  Surprised that this wasn’t a single.  Great chorus.

All of that is eclipsed by the stellar, “Right Now.” A cascading piano piece opens, then Alex’s hi hat, followed by the band, crashing in.  The song itself has a good message too.  The acoustic instrumental “316” is a nice touch.  “Top of the World” is a fantastic rocker.  Why they chose to leave it until the end of the record, huh?  

Odd how they “recreated” the vinyl inner sleeve for an album that wasn’t issued on vinyl.

Balance – opens with the sound of monk’s chanting, then the band lays down some serious riffing on “The Seventh Seal.”  It’s a decent rocker, but it really doesn’t go anywhere. In fact, that is a recurring theme here.  “Don’t Tell Me (What Love Can Do)” was the Van Halen’s answer to the burgeoning Grunge movement.  But years later, it doesn’t really resonate – it’s just loud and tuneless.  While the posing of “Amsterdam” recalls the Fair Warning-era, but in a forgettable way.  “Big Fat Money” sounds like them trying to recreate “Hot For Teacher” without any of the passion, it’s just obnoxious.  

There’s also pointless tracks like “Doin’ Time,” an unimpressive drum solo by Alex Van Halen, and  “Strung Out,” which features strange string noises.  “Not Enough” has a sing-a-long feel, but it feels half-baked, and still just kinda ok.  While “Take Me Back (Deja Vu)” is tucked away near the end and is pretty good, except for the stupid effects on the chorus.  

Two tracks save the album from being a complete dumpster fire.  The first, “Can’t Stop Lovin’ You,” is Van Halen’s most obvious stab at a ballad, but it worked.  And, it still sounds good.  Today, it’s the second-most streamed song of the Hagar era (behind “Why Can’t This Be Love”).  It’s also the ninth-most streamed VH song overall (I would’ve lost that bet!).    

The second great track, “Aftershock,” features some flange Eddie riffing and then just builds and builds.  Hagar sounds like he’s singing like his life depends on it, while the entire band is on fire.  Eddie even throws in some much-neglected two-hand tapping on the excellent guitar solo.  This was criminally-overlooked as a potential single, and is one of the Hagar-era’s best.

Studio Rarities, 1989-2004 – collects some oddities, including a decent, down-and-dirty cover of Little Feat’s “A Apolitical Blues,” which ended up originally as a b-side.  The standout track is “Human’s Being,” recorded specifically for the Twister soundtrack, it features a fantastic “shine on” chorus.  Unbelievable that one of their finest moments as a band would be marooned on a soundtrack.  The rest of the fare here is just ok.

If I were to rank the four albums, I would say 5150 is their best overall – it’s got very little filler, while F.U.C.K. has a lot of fine moments.  Third would be OU812 because of the filler and the watery production, and falling a distant fourth would be Balance, which is largely a mess.  

While nowhere near as influential as the Roth-era of the band, the Sammy Hagar-led years featured more depth, as the band wrote a heaping amount of melodic tracks that still sound good today.  No reason to choose just one era of the band, the Hagar years are certainly worth re-discovering.  —Tony Peters

Record Store Day Black Friday Preview From Craft Recordings: Lost Soul & Under Appreciated Jazz (review)

Various Artists – Written in Their Soul – The Hits: The Stax Songwriter Demos (Stax/Craft Recordings)

These lost treasures debut on vinyl for Record Store Day

Written in Their Soul was an absolute goldmine – a 7-CD box set of newly-unearthed soul demos from the Stax Records archives.  For information on it, read our review here.  The Hits is a small sampling of these treasures, making their first-ever appearance on limited edition, orange vinyl, for Record Store Day.

The set leads off with “634-5789 (Soulsville, USA),” a song made famous by Wilson Pickett, but here, featuring writer Eddie Floyd on vocals, and Steve Cropper on guitar, plus some background vocals.  It’s rough and lacks drums, but there’s a joyfulness that just permeates the track.  Some of the artists here you may not be familiar with but they were key players in the Stax sound – like Deanie Parker, who’s “I’ve Got No Time to Lose” became an R&B hit for Carla Thomas, or the spine-tingling Homer Banks and his “I’ll Be Your Shelter (In Time of Storm).”

Mack Rice, who wrote “Mustang Sally,” is featured here with a killer, infantile version of the Staple Singers’ “Respect Yourself” – it’s gritty, distorted, and his guitar is definitely out of tune, but damn, it’s so funky, that you just don’t care.  Or how about Henderson Thigpen singing “Woman to Woman” from the perspective of a woman?

Some tracks are bare-bones, but others are fairly complete – dig that wah wah guitar on Shelbra Bennett’s  “I’ll Be the Other Woman.” You’ll probably recognize the title “(If Loving You is Wrong) I Don’t Want to Be Right,” either from Luther Ingram or Barbara Mandrell, but you’ve never heard it with so much passion, coming from the song’s composer, Homer Banks.

This LP contains a mere 13 tracks, while its parent box set has 146.  Which means, if you like what you hear, there’s a whole lot more to dig into.   

Gil Evans – Gil Evans & Ten (Prestige/Craft Recordings)

Mono edition sounds fabulous on vinyl

Gil Evans had already made a name for himself, working with Miles Davis on the Birth of the Cool and Miles Ahead albums, and writing songs for Peggy Lee and Tony Bennett.   But, Gil Evans & Ten is the first release to showcase Evans’ as a leader by himself.  Here, he puts together an 11-piece ensemble that really shines.  

The album opens with the sound of Evans’ own piano on Irving Berlin’ s “Remember,”  but then his “Ten” show up, and it’s a lush sound, akin to what he and Miles had been brewing as of late.  I love the heavy use of things like the trombone and French horn, less common as solo instruments in jazz.

Evans’ takes inspiration from just about anywhere, as “Ella Speaks” shows – it’s a Leadbelly song, followed by Leonard Bernstein’s “Big Stuff,” which features gorgeous bass trombone, played by Bart Varsalona.  Whatever the material, Evans’ arrangements make things exciting.  

Evans’ gift was finding the middle ground between jazz and classical, and Rodgers and Hart’s “Nobody’s Heart” shows this off perfectly, again led by that buttery smooth trombone, but then, a few minutes in, the track begins to swing.

This mono version is a super quiet, all analog pressing, done by Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio – these guys are getting a reputation for churning out high-quality material.  I love that they recreated the classic, yellow Prestige record label for the LP.   –Tony Peters

Jazz Vinyl That’s Actually Worth the Extra $ (review)

Bill Evans Trio – Sunday at the Village Vanguard (Riverside/Craft)

You’ve never heard this album sound this good

When you make a list of the greatest jazz albums of all time, this needs to be on it.  Just issued by Craft Recordings as part of their newly-resurrected Original Jazz Classics series, Sunday at the Village Vanguard has never sounded better.

I have a recent, but standard pressing from Fantasy Records that sounds ok.  That is, until you compare it to this new OJC version.  In every possible way, this new version is far superior.  While the music on the original sounds good – this new version immerses you.  Scott LaFaro’s bass is rich, deep, and his fingers click on the neck, while Paul Motian’s drums are crisp, and the warmth coming off the keys of Bill Evans’ piano is amazing.  

This was the first of two albums culled from the trio’s performances on June 25, 1961, just ten days before LaFaro was tragically killed in an auto accident.  The second set, Waltz For Debby, we already raved about here. This album was meant as a showcase for the late bassist, so there’s lots of room for him to stretch out.  No band had ever had this much freedom between all three members – it truly was a three-way conversation.  

As LaFaro is pouring his soul into these dazzling solos, you can clearly hear people having a conversation. We can forgive them for not realizing that they were witnessing a fleeting moment of sheer greatness.  But, that’s how phenomenal this vinyl sounds – you literally hear things you’ve never heard before.  

You do not have to have great ears to tell the difference.  It’s just that good.  Sure, this copy is going to probably cost you about double what your standard version would….and, it’s 100 percent worth the price.

I noticed that the mastering job is different as well.  While my standard copy segues quickly between tracks, there are pauses between tracks here.  

Even the cover art gets a badly-needed overhaul.  Comparing my repressing to the new OJC, my version looks like a bad Xerox copy – strictly black and white, while this new one has a rich, grayish brown hue.  

The job the team at Craft Recordings is doing with these Original Jazz Classics albums is very impressive.  Finally albums that truly take advantage of the analog format.  You will not be disappointed. —Tony Peters

The AM Radio Side of Yes (review)

Yes – Yessingles – (Rhino/Atlantic)

Collection examines the radio-friendly side of Prog Rockers

On the surface, this is one of the strangest compilations ever.  Take Yes, arguably the most successful band of the Progressive Rock genre, known for their extended songs, and put together a list of their singles, meaning the drastically-edited versions that were handed to AM radio and put on 45 rpm singles.  Seems crazy, right?  Yet, it’s a great compilation.  

What has always set Yes apart from all other Prog Rock bands, is their uncanny knack for writing great melodies.  Sure, they could stretch out and solo endlessly with the best of them.  But, they also knew how to write hooks.

The album opens with “Your Move” – essentially part one of the fantastic “I’ve Seen All Good People” suite, it’s just missing the end, about half the song. You wait for the next part to come in, and it isn’t there. Same with “Starship Trooper: Life Seeker”  – an oddity, since it’s in mono, and also about 1/3 the album track’s length.  It’s basically the first 3 minutes of the song, and then it fades out.  

“Roundabout” was the song that put Yes on the map, due in part to a highly-edited version that climbed to #13 on the Billboard singles chart.    They did a better job of truncating this one. Sure, it cuts an eight-minute track down to three, but it still hits all the high points.

Yes would then issue the strange Simon & Garfunkel cover, “America” – as a single only.  The album-length version is somewhat of a rarity, showing up from time to time on reissues and clocking at more than 10 minutes in length.  Another example of Yes’ brilliant melodicism is “And You And I” – the album version runs again around 10 minutes, but the single is tight at 3 1/2 mins. 

As the band’s music became more expansive, the singles were a great place to keep things concise.  The bloated, 22-minute, “The Gates of Delirium,” was condensed into the beautiful “Soon.” Although truncated, “Sound Chaser” is a mess – noisy, lacking melody, it’s an odd choice for a 45 rpm.  “Wonderous Stories” is the first Yes single that was included in its full length (in this case, 3:50), same with “Don’t Kill the Whale,” which clocks in at a mere 3:55. 

“Into the Lens” is an interesting oddity – a single cut without singer Jon Anderson.  Instead, Trevor Horn and Chris Squire handle the vocals, but it still has that distinct Yes quality.

But, after that proved unsuccessful, the band asked Anderson to rejoin.  Now, with guitarist Trevor Rabin in the fold, they scored their biggest hit to date, the forward-leaning, “Owner of a Lonely Heart.” Full of synthesizer tricks, it would climb all the way to #1 on the charts.  Oddly, even though this is touted as a singles collection, this is, in fact, not the single version, which is shorter than what’s included here.  The album closes with the mostly-acapella “Leave It.”  

While it is nice to have many of these single edits in one place, there’s no clear definition for this track list.  Yesingles is not the “best of Yes” (it’s missing some of their biggest songs:  “It Can Happen,” “Love Will Find a Way,” and “Rhythm of Love,” come to mind).   It’s also not a “complete” singles collection, as there were many songs issued as 45’s that were left off (“Going For the One” and “Lift Me Up” are two more omissions). 

Yesingles is a nice summation of many of the high points of Yes, albeit in abbreviated versions.  —Tony Peters  

419 – Popa Chubby – New Live Album, Live at G. Bluey’s Juke Joint NYC (podcast)

Roaring out of New York City comes Popa Chubby with his unique blend of blues, rock and soul.  Born Ted Horowitz, he cut his teeth on the late Seventies’ NY punk scene, even joining Richard Hell & the Voidoids for awhile.  He issued his first album in 1994, and he’s never looked back – 38 albums to his credit. 

For his latest album, Live at G. Bluey’s Juke Joint NYC, Chubby took an unique approach: do a live record in a studio, and invite only 50 friends. The result feels like you’re onstage with the musicians. Chubby decided to let those friends help pick some of the songs, resulting in an eclectic mix of hits and rarities, some he hadn’t played live in years.

No overdubs, just Popa Chubby and band. We chat with the guitar slinger, who was in the middle of touring Germany during our talk, about stretching out on some of the songs, interacting with the great musicians, and how he feels about rap music and its lineage to the blues.

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