David Coverdale & Whitesnake: ‘Restless Heart’
DAVID COVERDALE & WHITESNAKE
Released on March 26, 1997 (EMI)
Now before I get too deep into my thoughts on what was pretty much a partial follow-up to what many consider to be the two most mainstream successful releases in the history of the band Whitesnake, I feel that I would be remiss if I didn’t at first mention that Restless Heart was actually the ninth album released by the band and actually a return to what many outside of the United States consider to be the classic Whitesnake sound. Ironically enough, despite the success of the previous two albums (1987’s self-titled Whitesnake and 1989’s follow-up Slip Of The Tongue), Restless Heart was released to just about every country but the United States unleashing a classic sounding Whitesnake album to perhaps the fan base most expected to embrace it, that being Europe and Asia. After all, this was the fanbase most responsible for Whitesnake’s initial success as a vehicle for frontman David Coverdale’s post Deep Purple rock and roll. By that token, Restless Heart stands as more of a Whitesnake album in comparison to the band’s hugely popular international ’80s output outside from 1984’s Slide It In.
My introduction to Whitesnake came unexpectedly in 1981 when on a trip with friends to a shopping mall just outside of Frankfurt, Germany, I caught a glimpse of a pair of artistically provocative albums on an aisle end display. Those two albums? Iron Maiden‘s Killers and Whitesnake‘s Come An’ Get It, both newly released that year. How could a 15-year-old American kid on foreign soil not be taken in by Maiden mascot Eddie and the eye-catching snake coiled up in a glass apple on Whitesnake’s latest release? Once home, I would discover how different but incredibly rock and roll both bands were. Maiden were a brutal force but Whitesnake? Man on those early albums, the drums pound in time like a hammer and as a fan already of AC/DC, I fell madly in love with the backbeat low end of Whitesnake. Matter of fact, Come An’ Get It to this day remains my favorite Whitesnake album. But…I guess that’s another review for a whole other year. For now let’s jump back forward 16 years to 1997.
By the time Restless Heart was unveiled, it had been nearly eight years since Whitesnake had released an album and in that time, the rock and roll landscape had changed. Dark alternative music and the sounds of grunge had come and pretty much gone and something called nu metal was starting to creep up out of the ashes of those two music forms. Aside from the groove side of Pearl Jam and Atlanta band The Black Crowes, blues-based rock of any sort had pretty much dropped below mainstream radar. Spandex, tight denim, and well formed hair had given way to baggy clothes, flannel, and unkept hairdos while music had changed from sexy and rebellious to dirty and destructive. In the middle of all of this change, David Coverdale and Whitesnake released Restless Heart. This could probably at least partially explain why the Restless Heart tour was sub-titled as a “Farewell Tour.”
Right from the jump, it is obvious that by the release of Restless Heart, Coverdale has moved on from his ’80s blonde roots by way of opening track “Don’t Fade Away”, a pop rock ballad along the lines of Henry Lee Summer and from there Coverdale doesn’t veer too far with second song “All In The Name of Love.” The sound is a mix of ’80s / ’90s white pop soul complete with catchy chorus. A far cry from “Still Of The Night” yet a tune that moves the spotlight from the power of Coverdale’s voice to the brilliance of his soul-drenched tonsils. While these tunes are cool, it isn’t until about the third song (and title track) “Restless Heart” that Coverdale kicks back to a gear he hasn’t deeply concentrated on since 1982’s Saints & Sinners.
Outside of a few clever guitar licks in the title track and the slight absence of a bit of pound in the bass drum, Coverdale and company pretty much take it back to pre-Slide It In Whitesnake on tracks like “Too Many Tears,” “Crying,” “You’re So Fine”,and “Woman Trouble Blues” — all tracks that kick ass in an old school Whitesnake kinda way. For long-time fans, this was a welcome change of pace. For fans who latched on to the band in the mid-’80s, probably not so much.
Of course, this is not to say that Restless Heart doesn’t have anything for fans of Whitesnake’s most worldwide popular period. Classic Whitesnake featured heavily in the mid ’80s with re-creations of tracks like “Fool For Your Loving,” “Crying In The Rain” and “Here I Go Again.” Restless Heart‘s lead off single “Too Many Tears” sounds like a track that could have been the original version of a song plucked from the past to be recreated. Besides that return to an earlier Whitesnake sound, Restless Heart sticks to a blues rock and pop formula made popular in the ’80s by artists like Summer and John Parr while dipping into Paul Rodgers / Bad Company territory on lyric sharing tunes “Stay With Me” and “Can’t Move On” as well as the very Firm sounding “Precious Love.” One has to wonder if Coverdale’s brief hook-up with Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page had a direct influence on his return to a more classic rock / blues Whitesnake sound.
One thing that fans might find interesting about the Restless Heart album is that despite being featured on many of Whitesnake‘s high profile ’80s MTV videos, it wasn’t until this release that guitarist Adrian Vandenberg made his presence deeply felt on record. The biggest irony here being that Vandenberg’s previous work in the aptly named band Vandenberg more closely resembles Whitesnake‘s ’80s output that he is typically associated with in comparison to the music on Restless Heart on which he is actually present.
While the average Sleaze Roxx fan might not dig this version of Whitesnake (and I could be wrong here), Restless Heart is chock full of good solid blues-based rock songs and performances. While one could argue that a track more suited to kick off an album would have been an improvement, there is not a bad track to be found on Restless Heart. Now whether it belongs alongside other albums on this website is of course subjective to each person’s personal opinion but as far as good rock and roll, I can think of several dozen artists who would give their left arm for an album with as many good songs as are found on Restless Heart. The only shame here is that as far as albums are concerned, it wasn’t given much of a chance.
01. Don’t Fade Away
02. All In The Name of Love
03. Restless Heart
04. Too Many Tears
06. Stay With Me
07. Can’t Go On
08. You’re So Fine
09. Your Precious Love
10. Take Me Back Again
11. Woman Trouble Blues
Japanese Edition Bonus Tracks:
12. Anything You Want
13. Can’t Stop Now
David Coverdale – vocals
Adrian Vandenberg – guitars
Guy Pratt – bass
Brett Tuggle – keyboards, backing vocals
Denny Carmassi – drums
Tommy Funderburk – backing vocals
Beth Anderson – backing vocals
Maxine Waters – backing vocals
Elk Thunder – harmonica
Produced by David Coverdale
Engineered by Bjoen Thorsrud
Mixed by Mike Shipley
Mastered by Eddie Schreyer
Reviewed by John Stoney Cannon for Sleaze Roxx, May 2017
David Coverdale & Whitesnake‘s “Don’t Fade Away” video:
David Coverdale & Whitesnake‘s “Too Many Tears” video: