FLESH & BLOOD
To be released on May 10, 2019 (Frontiers Music Srl)
When Doug Aldrich left Whitesnake a few years ago, my enthusiasm for the band kind of went by the wayside. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe in the talents of his replacement Joel Hoekstra. It’s just one of those situations where you want things to always stay the same. The honest truth is that I loved Doug Aldrich in Whitesnake, to make it simple when somebody asks, “Why do you eat peanut butter every day? Well, because I like peanut butter everyday. Why don’t you eat jam instead? Well because I like peanut butter and I know I like. Why change things?” I know that’s a simple analogy but one that makes sense in this situation. We as humans have a hard time with change. In some ways, we become complacent to what we like. It’s comfortable. A perfect example of this is the ‘self-titled’ Mötley Crüe album, which featured a singer John Corabi and not original vocalist Vince Neil. Although it is probably the band’s best work, many couldn’t see that and refused to buy the album.
Whether I liked it or not, David Coverdale forged on without Doug Aldrich. Of course, Aldrich has moved on, so it was time I did as well. To be honest, when I heard the first single for this very album, I quickly realized that this new Whitesnake album could indeed be something special. In my eyes, it felt like something reminiscent to the band’s 1989 Slip of the Tongue release. That was exciting to me. Although not my favorite Whitesnake album, it’s up there in the top five for the band. Ready N’ Willing is actually my favorite, but regardless, we know that sound for Whitesnake may very well be a thing of the past, so onward and upward.
Right here, right now in 2019, we have Flesh & Blood. The album starts off with a special greeting from the band — so to speak. “Good To See You Again” assures me that Coverdale is happy to still have an audience and what other way to show his gratitude but by writing a song about it. What captures me immediately is the upfront slide guitar. This is a good start. “Gonna Be Alright” may be my favorite track up to the point of four or five listens. The band allows Coverdale’s smooth vocal to breath in the verse as the groove is tight, but laid back. The middle section shows more slide guitar. It has a very Coverdale/Page feel to it. I think this track could potentially be a great live track. “Shut Up And Kiss Me” is next. The opening riff is so infectious when it kicks in, then a blistering solo is heard leading into the vocal. Is this from Slip Of The Tongue? Oh no? Well it could have been. What I loved about the Slip Of The Tongue album was Coverdale’s vocal approach on tracks like “Kitten’s Got Claws” and “Cheap N’ Nasty”. It was very sleazy. On this track I get that same feeling.
“Hey You (You Make Me Rock Hard)” has a very modern Deep Purple sound to it. If this was 1975, this track could very well fit onto the Burn album. This is from a stylistic standpoint. Of course, production techniques are very different today then what they were back in the mid ’70s, but I think the influence of 2015’s The Purple Album really shines through here. “Always And Forever” feels to me like a song I’ve heard before, but upon doing my homework, I came to find out that this was a track that was written late in the session. I think it’s the vocal delivery in the verse that reminds me of something from the Slide It In album. I really do love this track. It’s very well done. What I’m finding interesting is the guitar work from both Joel Hoekstra and Reb Beach. Of course, both are true virtuosos, so it’s not surprising how great the playing comes across. It would not be a true Whitesnake album without the ever so beautiful David Coverdale driven ballad. “When I Think Of You (Color Me Blue)” really is the perfect heartfelt ballad and fits perfectly in position number six on the album. It’s all about the flow. I think in terms of ballads, Coverdale is the master. His vocal delivery always oozes with feeling and heart. He is one of those vocalists that truly make the words believable. The accompanying guitar is played to perfection as well. The slow, articulated notes with heavy distortion give the extra feeling to the song. Nicely done gentlemen!
Of course, Whitesnake would never follow a ballad with another ballad, so it’s balls out again. “Trouble Is Your Middle Name” is what all Whitesnake fans have come to expect from Coverdale lyrically. A tongue in cheek lyric about a sexy yet devious woman — or so it seems. “Flesh And Blood” starts with a great guitar riff that blends into another great vocal delivery. This title track keeps things moving nicely. What can I say about the next track? “Well I Never” — that’s right — “I’ve never known a girl like you.” Hey fellas, we’ve all met that one right? Is she trouble? Is she the one that got away? You just can’t put your finger on this one because she doesn’t want you too. She very well may be that one that makes you crazy! Brilliant job fellas! The chorus actually reminds me of the catchiness of a pop country hit. Whether you like it or not, that formula can be quite captivating. The girls seem to like it, so it can’t be all bad.
On “Heart Of Stone”, once again I hear some of that Purple Album in there. Possibly this could have also had a place on the 1987 album. Or maybe it just fits perfectly on Flesh & Blood. Great job by drum guru Tommy Aldridge of keeping the beat simplistic, but playing the right fills at just the right time. That’s why Aldridge is such a king of his craft and is long respected for his amazing prowess as a drummer. Within the song, Aldridge plays these perfect, strong snare hits that put emphasis on the key dynamics. It’s truly amazing to focus just on the drum track. I feel that style of drumming allows the song to breath and build up in just the right spots. “Get Up” is maybe the hardest rocking track on the album. This is a ‘wow’ factor. Tommy Aldridge keeps a very David Lee Roth era Gregg Bissonette type beat. Think in terms of Roth’s great Eat ‘Em And Smile album. “Elephant Gun” comes to mind. What a stellar track and of course it wouldn’t be perfect without the blistering guitar work of both Beach and Hoekstra. It appears both guitarists are taking a stab at the solo and I feel a Steve Vai vibe in spots. Holy man, this is amazing. What a tandem of guitar playing.
“After All” takes things back a bit. A slow, acoustic type folk ballad, that really resonates well through my speakers. A beautiful, Beatles type harmony rears its head in the chorus. I guess in terms of ballads, this one has that “Sailing Ships” thing going for it. Have I told you how much I love this song yet? Well I do! “Sands Of Time” ends off this masterpiece in true form. No holds barred once again. The song builds nicely into the verse where Coverdale sings in a lower register. I hear a Led Zeppelin feel and please don’t read into that too much. Who remembers those comparisons back in the day? Hell man, the influence has to come from somewhere. Truly great ending track.
As we close the book on the Flesh & Blood review, I must say that I am truly impressed at what Whitesnake has put to vinyl, CD or my least favorite format, the much compressed digital download. Regardless, as this is the only format I have right now (the vinyl arrives on May 10th via Amazon), I am still enjoying this album immensely. I think a tear just ran down my leg as I was listening. It’s quite possible that I prematurely just soiled in my pants, if you know what I mean, but from a Whitesnake standpoint, that’s always been the band’s motive. Not towards me, but to the listening audience. Give the people a hard driving album filled with sexual innuendos and of course the odd ballad thrown in for good measure. This is not a one dimensional band and it never has been. Flesh & Blood is like an onion. It has layers. Like my Shrek analogy? Regardless, in terms of the Whitesnake catalog, this one is up there and may just make my top five in terms of the band’s large body of work. A must have for any hard rock fan.
01. Good To See You Again
02. Gonna Be Alright
03. Shut Up And Kiss Me
04. Hey You (You Make Me Rock)
05. Always And Forever
06. When I Think Of You (Color Me Blue)
07. Trouble Is Your Middle Name
08. Flesh And Blood
09. Well I Never
10. Heart Of Stone
11. Get Up
12. After All
13. Sands Of Time
David Coverdale – vocals
Reb Beach – guitar
Joel Hoekstra – guitar
Michael Devin – bass
Tommy Aldridge – drums
Michele Luppi – keyboards
Reviewed by Tyson Briden for Sleaze Roxx, April 2019
Whitesnake‘s “Shut Up And Kiss Me” video:
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Whitesnake‘s “Hey You (You Make Me Rock) song:
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Whitesnake‘s “Trouble Is Your Middle Name” song:
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