Whitesnake: ‘Saints & Sinners’

Released on November 15, 1982 (Geffen / Warner Bros. / Liberty Records); Remastered in 2007 (Emd Int’l)

In 1981, I was enjoying what would be the tail end of my time in Germany hanging with my friends, indulging in the benefits of a no-drinking-age law and nicking cool looking record albums from the outdoor bin at the nearby German mall. Yeah, say what you will but I was a hyper 15-year-old American kid in a foreign country lacking money but still in need of a way to burn off a ton of energy. Yeah, there was sports, my skateboard, and of course girls, but the fuel I craved the most deep down inside was rock and roll.

Now, in 1981, most of the guys in my housing area were still blasting the likes of early Van Halen, Ted Nugent, Rush, and Pink Floyd’s The Wall but those were older kids and as a younger, hungrier, more curious kid, my eyes and ears were aiming for much more. Luckily for me, while the military Post Exchange store had pretty much just the mainstream stuff, the huge German Mall near where we lived just below the Taunus Mountains had just about every cool looking rock album out at the time including Iron Maiden’s second album Killers and Whitesnake’s Come An’ Get It, a pair of albums released close to about the same time. Both with super cool covers. While I loved the speed and aggressiveness of Maiden, as a long-time Deep Purple fan, I latched onto Come An’ Get It, with its line-up featuring three former members of Deep Purple, great songs, and a drum beat so foot grabbing you almost needed crutches to last an entire listen. To this day, it remains my favorite Whitesnake album and I’m still astonished sometimes when I think about how despite their huge popularity around the world in 1981, it would still take them a few more years and a near-style change to blow up in the US. But in 1981, I was heavy into Whitesnake and after wearing out Come An’ Get It, I gobbled up any previous Whitesnake albums I could find while waiting (rather impatiently I might add) for something new.

Well over a year had passed and in late 1982, I was stuck in Marietta, Georgia. As a t-shirt, blue jean, shaggy-haired rock and roll kid in a new school filled with well-off preppies, I found myself pretty much the Danny LaRusso of the school even complete with a blonde-haired bully carting around a martial arts pedigree. For those of you unfamiliar, Danny LaRusso was the lead character in 1984 hit film The Karate Kid. Being that this was a temporary residence for me, I pretty much only had a boombox, a case of cassettes, and the local rock station as my rock and roll salvation. Oh yeah, that and a rock and roll chip on my shoulder dealing with kids whose cultural desire consisted of Izods and a mix of Flock of Seagulls, The Motels, and Duran Duran. It was a wonder that the local rock station at least played Joan Jett and some AOR stuff but aside from the first inklings of solo Ozzy, very little with kick. Luckily there was a cool record store and walking in one day I ran right smack into a copy of Saints & Sinners, the new record by Whitesnake that I had been waiting on like…FOREVER!

For anyone other than serious hard rock fans and in particular Whitesnake fans, Saints & Sinners stands merely as a footnote in history as the album where the band originally recorded a pair of tracks that, in re-worked form, would turn out to be important pieces of Whitesnake’s huge international self-titled smash album five years later. But in 1982, songs “Crying In The Rain” and “Here I Go Again” were simply 2/10 of one helluva boogie woogie rock and roll album with just enough of the ’70s blues rock that got the band to 1982 topped with a sprinkling of the band’s edgier side to come. True ‘Snake fans know that while in five years, the hair would get a bit more “styled”, in 1987 the band were pretty much still the same hard rocking blues band they always were, just a bit more polished and produced. Just a quick listen to the 1982 and 1987 versions of “Crying In The Rain” and “Here I Go Again” back to back is proof enough of that. The soul, emotion, and energy are present in both renditions with the newer versions merely brought up to 1987 standards in a way that not only stays true to the sound of Whitesnake, also fits in nicely with hard rock in the mid-’80s. But then again, with bands like Aerosmith, Great White, and even Mötley Crüe all having huge success with blues-injected hard rock in 1987, it’s not surprising that the time was right for a repackaged Whitesnake to break through in the US big. But in 1982, Whitesnake were holding down the blues hard rock fort in the rest of the world and Saints & Sinners was a huge part of that success.

Despite line-up issues during the recording sessions leading to an eventual change in personnel, Saints & Sinners benefits from a band line-up with nearly five years of recording and touring experience together. With band leader / frontman David Coverdale at the helm (formerly of Deep Purple), it also didn’t hurt that former Purple bandmates Jon Lord and (eventually) Ian Paice signed on to be in a band that also included former Jeff Beck / Colosseum II bassist Neil Murray, and guitarists Micky Moody (Frankie Miller) and Bernie Marsden (Cozy Powell’s Hammer / Paice Ashton Lord). By the time the band recorded Saints & Sinners, the already heavily experienced group were a well-oiled rock and roll machine. In addition to being musically together, Coverdale, Moody and Marsden would remain the constants in regards to writing, with the occasional track credited to the entire band. Even so, it is evident track by track that Whitesnake in 1982 was a band effort with every song on Saints & Sinners a perfect fit and if ever there was a perfect follow up to Come An’Get It that still manages to stand on its own, Whitesnake created it with that album.

With its chugging guitar and faint organ, opener “Young Blood” grabs hold tight until the drums and vocals kick in and within seconds the album takes off only to slow down enough times to allow you to catch your breath a moment before taking off again. The band rock straight into (and through) “Rough An’ Ready” before hitting a Frankie Miller style groove on “Bloody Luxury”, one of my favorite tracks on the album.

Early Whitesnake has always been partially known for being able to drop a slow groove a la Bad Company and the next two tracks, ”Victim Of Love” and “Crying In The Rain” are perfect examples of songs that not only rock, but tunes that would fit perfectly on a mixtape of “songs to lapdance to.” For those of you only familiar with Whitesnake circa 1987, play either of those songs, close your eyes, and imagine Tawny Kitaen straddling a sports car. Yeah, in 1982, I would have given up my Van Halen records to see a girl in my class dance to one of those songs, but then again…that would have been like a bad Molly Ringwald imitator trying to hold on to a strip pole. Awkward.

That of course leads us to the 1982 version of “Here I Go Again” and while I would have to figure that most of the free world will always prefer the slightly more pumped up 1987 version, I grew up with Whitesnake and when I hear the song in my head, it’s always with the slower organ beginning and honestly I prefer it with a longer build up and more groove than power. Maybe the remarkable thing about the song is that while the two versions are as similar as they are different, they truly are both great. While I prefer the original, at the end of the day I would be happy no matter which version came on.

While “Love An’ Affection” is my least favorite tune on Saints & Sinners, it is not because I don’t like it, it’s just due to the fact that on an album filled with all great tracks, one of’ ’em has to be last. That and it’s kinda hard to compete when you’re sandwiched between great songs like “Here I Go Again” and boogie woogie rocker “Rock & Roll Angels.” I’ve always loved the song mainly for its very English “Bad Company meets The Faces meets early Elton John” feel good vibe. Maybe my only negative about the tune is that I’ve never been able to hear it in the way I’d like to hear it, live and in concert. The song just begs to be blasted at a ready an’ willing audience. The final two tracks close out the album with a great one-two punch — the one being the pounding blues rock of “Dancing Girls” with its very Deep Purple type groove complete with organ solo from Lord, and the two being the soulful rock groove of title track “Saints & Sinners” that finishes up things in perfect early ’80s Whitesnake style.

Listening to early Whitesnake albums like Saints & Sinners, I would think would have to make anyone wonder why the band didn’t break bigger into the US sooner. With amazing songs not too far removed from bands that had already broken through, exceptional musicianship, and vocals on par with anyone else in rock at the time, all I can guess is that perhaps it was the timing of the band. In 1982, pop and new wave ruled the US airwaves as well as fledgling MTV and it would still be a little while before hard rock caught back on big this side of the pond leaving bands like Whitesnake to hold on until the time was right.

Luckily for rock fans, the band never gave up and continued to create great albums like Saints & Sinners for their fans outside of America (and growing group of fans inside the US) along the way building a list of great releases leading up to, and past, their huge 1987 self-titled album. And luckily for me, in 1982 I finally got my new Whitesnake album, beat up that blonde bully, bought a guitar, jumped in the car, and left Atlanta behind all the while thinking… “here I go again.”

Track List:
01. Young Blood
02. Rough An’ Ready
03. Bloody Luxury
04. Victim Of Love
05. Crying In The Rain
06. Here I Go Again
07. Love An’ Affection
08. Rock An’ Roll Angels
09. Dancing Girls
10. Saints An’ Sinners
Bonus Tracks (2007):
11. Young Blood
12. Saints An’ Sinners
13. Soul Survivor

Band Members:
David Coverdale – lead vocals
Micky Moody – guitar, backing vocals
Bernie Marsden – guitar
Jon Lord – keyboards
Neil Murray – bass
Ian Paice – drums, percussion

Additional Musician:
Mel Galley – backing vocals

Produced and mixed by Martin Birch
Engineered by Martin Birch and Guy Bid-mead
Assistant engineer: Bryan New
Remastered by Peter Mew (in 2007)

Band Websites:
Official Website

Reviewed by John Stoney Cannon for Sleaze Roxx, November 2017

Whitesnake‘s “Here I Go Again” (1982 version) video: