Various Artists:Snakebites – The Music of Whitesnake

By Kyle Harcott

Wow, where exactly do I begin with this one? I’m not even sure what the title of the album is, and apparently neither is record company AAO Music, who have “SNAKEBITES – The Music of Whitesnake” plastered across the front of the disc, and “The Rock Biographies – Whitesnake” on the back and spine. Equally irritating is the list of the performers on front and back, and even mini-bios for each player in the liners – but absolutely nowhere does the disc tell me who played on what track, so your guess is as good as mine. As a bonus, both the seriously schlocky album art and typo-laden liner notes really help to get across the level of don’t-give-a-fuck that we’re dealing with here. Not sure who expected to make a quick buck with this totally unnecessary, slapped-together Whitesnake tribute, but whatever.

Purportedly, AAO’s mission statement with these ‘Rock Biographies’ albums (Yes! It’s a series! Apparently! Awesome!) is to put together a bunch of musicians together (some of whom may or may not have been affiliated with said artists being paid tribute at some time or another) and get them to record faithful cover versions of the subject’s greatest hits. Hence, you have the likes of Micky Moody and Bernie Marsden, both Whitesnake-Mark-One alum, guesting here (on what track? Who knows? Thanks, piss-poor liner notes!) alongside a bunch of other people you’ve never heard of (but were in bands such as Black Sabbath, Rainbow, Foreigner, Uriah Heep, UFO, etc), playing the tepid hits of Whitesnake.

And by tepid, it goes without saying that I mean the shit that choked Top-40 radio from 1987 to 1990: “Here I Go Again” (of course), “Is This Love”, “The Deeper the Love”, et cetera, ad nauseum. Of course, there are a few rockers here too, in the form of “In the Still of the Night”, “Slide It In”, “Fool for Your Loving” – but here’s the catch: All of these covers take whatever was tepid about Whitesnake in the first place, and MAKE IT SOUND EVEN MORE TEPID. Honestly, whatever nuts David Coverdale might have barked into the original (admittedly fairly rocking) versions of, say, “In the Still of the Night”, or “Slide it In” have been thoroughly neutered here. This entire disc is a self-indulgent exercise in ‘why bother?’ Nothing new is brought to the table, there’s honestly nothing exciting or new about any of these versions at all. Every cover is so irritatingly faithful to the original version it’s aping –right down to sounding overproduced- that it’s painful. But try as they might, none of the covering vocalists here appear to possess an nth of the swagger and soul that Mr. Coverdale conveyed in his prime (even if he did nick it from Robert Plant*).

It should go without saying, but – you want to pay tribute to one of your favorite artists in a loving cover version? Maybe try and make the song your own while doing it! Hell, at this point, I’d rather hear a ripping Muzak version of “Is This Love” (true fact: I actually DID once hear this while on hold on the phone, with a clarinet in place of the vocal) or a Tuvan-throat-sung “Slow and Easy” – just don’t give me any a cappella. And don’t give me a tribute CD by a bunch of slapdash imitators doing their best to recreate note-for-note Whitesnake songs everyone’s already heard way too many times.

Ultimately, all this album amounts to is a disc full of Whitesnake karaoke by a bunch of musicians I don’t really give two shits about. Absolutely nothing new under the sun here.

*As it could be argued that a large portion of Whitesnake’s oeuvre was nicked directly from Led Zeppelin, would that, in a sense, make this album cover versions of cover versions? Just a thought.

(Reality/AAO Music)

Sean Palmerston

Sean is the founder/publisher of Hellbound.ca; he has also written about metal for Exclaim!, Metal Maniacs, Roadburn, Unrestrained! and Vice.