Thursday, March 8, 2012

Whitesnake - Live…In The Heart Of The City


Here's something I thought I'd never say - I just got a Whitesnake album and I love it!!

I've always known that Whitesnake in the late 70's and early 80's was an entirely different serpent than the one that made me puke when I'd hear their crap on the radio or catch a glimpse of a video (never had MTV back then, thankfully) later in the 80's but couldn't afford the import prices of their older records. Still, every now and then I'd pick up the double Live…In The Heart Of The City and consider bringing it home. It usually got put back in the bin once I found other albums I really needed to have immediately. Recently a friend picked up used copies of Saints & Sinners and Ready An' Willing. We gave them some spins during recent listening sessions and liked them but after a single side they were shelved and we moved on to vintage Priest, UFO, Purple, etc. But on a recent trip to the incredible Vintage Vinyl in Fords, NJ I came across the Back On Black reissue on heavy weight vinyl. It came out in 2010 but hadn't seen it before so I knew it was now or never. Another friend with me said I'd dig it and I'm very glad I picked it up. I'd be pissed if it sucked since it was pretty expensive!

Live…In The Heart Of The City was originally released in 1980 as a double album. Half of it is from 1980 and the other half is from 1978, both recordings from London's Hammersmith Odeon. The 78 show was only available in Japan until it was teamed up with the 80 show. I have no idea if this album is rumored to be heavily overdubbed like Unleashed In The East or Live & Dangerous but it doesn't really matter. It sounds great and the songs kick ass. David Coverdale's vocals are excellent, even if he overdoes it with the Robert Plant "baby baby baby" stuff from time to time. The twin guitars of Micky Moody and Bernie Marsden are great. Neither one is of Ritchie Blackmore calibre but get down with some great dueling twin guitars. Neil Murray's bass playing is right in the pocket and Ian Paice (only on the 1980 show) is incredible as always. A different drummer (David Dowle, according to wikipedia) plays on the 1978 show and is good too, but nowhere close to Paice (who is?). Jon Lord seems to be on a bit of a short leash compared to his awesome solos with Deep Purple but he smokes on the keyboards throughout. What a band! Too bad that one by one they were all eventually replaced with musicians nowhere nearly as good. I'm sure that statement will have Lord Cov calling up his banker for reassurance but it's true.

This Back On Black reissue includes the bonus tracks that were included on the CD reissue so there are 1978 and 1980 versions of the songs "Come On" and "Ain't No Love In The Heart Of The City." It's cool to compare and have the records in the order they were played at the show but the 1980 versions with Ian Paice are better in both cases. Like most bands back then, they play much faster than in the studio. Songs like "Walking In The Shadow Of The Blues," "Ready An' Willing" and "Lie Down" have much more energy here than the originals. As a massive Deep Purple fan I was looking forward to hearing how Whitesnake handled Burn-era classics like "Might Just Take Your Life" and "Mistreated." Good versions but definitely missing the fire of Blackmore. Freaks like me like to compare live versions of "Mistreated" done by Deep Purple, Rainbow and Whitesnake. Purple did it the best for my money but they're all worthy.

All in all I'm very happy to finally have this album in my home. I'm gonna slide it in right next to my Withcfinder General albums and pull it out whenever I need a break from Made In Japan, Tokyo Tapes, Unleashed, etc.

--Woody



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