Deep Purple is a band that I would include with the likes of Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, The Stones, The Who…. They are in that elite class, even if Jan Wenner and his band of Armani-clad hippies do walk all over their name. (Shame on you, Rock Hall) The names that have passed through the ranks of Deep Purple are rock royalty - Ritchie Blackmore, Ian Gillan, Glenn Hughes, Jon Lord, Joe Lynn Turner, Tommy Bolin, even Joe Satriani was a member of Purple for about 6 months. The list of greats is long, and one name near the top of that list is David Coverdale, whom I consider one of the greatest voices of our time. The three albums that Coverdale did with Purple - Burn, Stormbringer, Come Taste The Band - are three of the best in the band’s extensive catalog. Some might argue that the Mark III/Mark IV lineups with Coverdale was the band at its very best, and I wouldn’t state too much of a rebuttal. But I had serious questions when I heard Coverdale was going to have his talented Whitesnake players touch on this material.
The obvious concern was the lack of Ritchie Blackmore’s signature guitar sound on the Burn and Stormbringer material. Guitarist Reb Beach and the newly acquired guitar genius Joel Hoekstra are amazing players, but there’s really only one Blackmore. Would the band try to tune in to Ritchie’s vibe or would they put their own spin on those songs? And what about Glenn Hughes? I think Hughes played a huge part in the band’s sound at that time, both vocally and on bass. How would Whitesnake cover for Hughes absence? Then there was the absence of Jon Lord’s keyboards. Would they do the songs note-for-note or would these be different arrangements? Wow. The more I thought about it, the more I got to thinking that this might not be the greatest idea. But then I heard it….
Did I mention that Joel Hoekstra is a genius with his instrument? Good God. He and Reb Beach sink their teeth into this stuff and do not let go. Like lions that were just thrown a side of bloody rock and roll cattle, they feed on these classic songs with raw strength and a renewed hunger. They didn’t even try to get Blackmore’s sound, which was a very wise choice. They took all the complexities of those Blackmore solos and exploited every facet, bringing out all the fire and energy that drove the original recordings. Some of the strongest guitar work comes from the Tommy Bolin material that’s covered, though. Bolin took over for Blackmore for the Come Taste The Band album and added more of a raw, unfinished hard rock sound, and that spirit is carried out perfectly here. (Make sure you get the Deluxe Version, which includes two Come Taste The Band bonus tracks) Check out the solo in “Love Child” and you’ll hear what I’m saying.
Key moments on this disc come from the guitar ranks, as you might expect. Beach and Hoekstra’s work on songs like “Mistreated” and “Lay Down Stay Down” are blistering to say the very least, but it’s a song called “The Gypsy” that really impressed me. The guitar part here has all the passion and technique of Blackmore without trying to clone his sound. There’s a real fire burning in all of the solos throughout this album, which takes all of these great songs to a whole new level.
Jon Lord is not missed too much on this record, mostly because the keyboard sound was put on the back burner a bit during this period of Purple, at least on the songs that are covered here. There is a fabulous keyboard performance from Derek Hilland on “You Keep On Moving,” but other than that keyboard parts are very minimal. The Glenn Hughes absence isn’t felt very much either, mainly because the songs they chose to cover didn’t demand too much from Hughes vocals. When there is a Hughes vocal part, it either turns into a harmonizing opportunity or Coverdale fills in. Even though the absence of that distinct vocal sound is noticeable, they get it to work very well.
As far as the arrangements of the songs, they don’t vary a whole lot from the originals. The only song I can say that doesn’t hold as much of a majestic feel is “Soldier Of Fortune,” and that opinion might just be born from my personal love for the original. I hear more longing in the original. There’s a soulful yearning in Coverdale’s heart when he sings the original that causes me to weep each and every time I hear it. I didn’t get that passion from this one, but in all fairness, the original has a direct personal connection to my soul. And the signature Blackmore sound that is so heavy on “Burn” is lacking here, and it is a little strange at first. But what this version of "Burn" lacks in Blackmore technique, it more than makes up for in brutal guitar strength and power. And believe it or not, Coverdale and his powerful players make many of these great songs even greater. I like these versions of “Lady Double Dealer,” “Holy Man,” and “Lay Down Stay Down” more than the originals. The new punch and urgency that were given to these songs is tremendous.
Bravo, Mr. Coverdale. The fact that these songs were chosen shows a huge amount of respect for that era of Deep Purple, and it deserves every last drop of it. The fact that these great songs are reaching some fans that were never familiar with them prior is something very special. Every fan of Coverdale and classic hard rock in general needs to be aware of these songs. Just as Deep Purple not only survived but prospered in the face of danger when it lost Gillan and later Blackmore, David Coverdale rises from the ashes once again with the same soulful energy of yesterday and knocks another one out of the park.
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