Review Summary: Covering Deep Purple is a hard task, even for Purplesnake.
It goes without saying that an artist of David Coverdale’s magnitude has very little if nothing to prove. He stepped into Ian Gillan’s shoes when Gillan was one of the best and most versatile vocalists in rock and he passed with flying colors. He brought a fresh breath of air to a band that was in shambles and contributed greatly in reviving one of heavy metal’s innovators while offering us arguably two top 5 albums in DP’s discography. He even managed to stay afloat when drug abuse forced Deep Purple to disband in 1975 and emerged as a leader while taking Jon Lord and Ian Paice in his band. And if we want to be honest, nothing that Deep Purple (bar Perfect Strangers
for some) have released since then can rival albums such as Slide it In
, or even the blues rock period of the band (1979-81).
Therefore, Coverdale’s decision to record an album consisting solely of Deep Purple tracks was an odd one, especially 40 years after his departure from the band. However, Jon Lord’s untimely passing and his wish for a Deep Purple MKIII reunion combined with other members’ (oh Ritchie…) refusal, forced Coverdale to release the album under his band’s moniker.
Whitesnake on this album adopted a more punchy/metallic approach towards the classic material in order to make it sound fresher and closer to what the band represents. But unfortunately, this is pseudo-aggressive, like the dog in the hardware store down the road where I live; it barks, jumps, and attacks the fence but when you get close, the damned thing freezes and runs back to its house. That’s the case for “Burn”, “Stormbringer” and “Lady Double Dealer”. They sound heavier and more aggressive but when you listen closely it’s just fireworks; more distortion and a heavier tone don’t necessarily make a heavy song. In addition, the guitar playing sounds “plastic” at times and much less fluid than a blues rock song warrants while one of the elements that made Deep Purple MK III (and IV) so special was Coverdale’s vocal interplay with Glenn Hughes, which of course is missing here. There are also some backing vocals on here but they’re simply not up to par with what we got used to by listening the original tracks and let’s not forget the wear and tear on David’s voice.
Generally, the songs don’t deviate much from the originals besides a few instances and a couple of tweaks here and there. “Might Just Take Your Life” is much less funky than the original and “Sail Away” misses its characteristic key parts which is a tribute to Jon Lord. What is more, there are good moments on the album such as “You Keep On Moving”, “Soldier of Fortune”, the underrated “The Gypsy” and “Love Child” that could have easily found its place in one of Whitesnake’s ‘80s releases.
At the end of the day, if Coverdale’s objective was to honor Deep Purple, with this album he absolutely accomplished it. The Purple Album
is a tribute and a testament that proves that songwriting might be enough to make an album enjoyable but much more is needed in order to reach legendary status. In the past, Whitesnake revisited their own tracks with success but that was two decades ago when Coverdale was still at his prime. And to be honest, it’s not the band’s fault; covering Deep Purple is a hard task even by former members. You can feel that the guys have put their soul into it but The Purple Album
has very little to add to the original versions and therefore I doubt it will be revisited in the future.