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The first Whitesnake album - 67%

kalervon, November 14th, 2012

It will dawn on anyone listening to this album that this is not a Deep Purple album. 60% of this line-up having also recorded three consecutive Whitesnake albums, which is as much stability one can expect when thinking of Whitesnake, this could easily be considered as Whitesnake's best album. Plus, two tracks have the word "Love" in the title, which is on par with the average Whitesnake album.

A few interesting facts became known through the years and shed light on this album's composition and overall sound.

The album opens on a weak note. The opening track is more or less a filler song, entirely written and recorded after Hughes was sent to rehab. Hence the low sounding back vocals performed by Bolin (ref. Hughes' interview on excellent documentary: Gettin' Tighter The untold story of the 1975/1976 MKIV World Tour). The track in question, "Comin' Home", doesn't sound anything like Deep Purple and is probably the most generic song ever recorded under the Purple name, even the "Slaves And Masters" stuff has at least the late Rainbow sound. It lyrically evokes the great American rock and roll tradition, just like "Speed King" did on "In Rock" - but contrary to the fresh Hendrix influenced Mk II era, this music is so generic and formulaic it makes the whole thing almost sinister. It is sad to see Purple auto-referencing themselves to a previous line-up, while they were referencing American music. Why lead the album with such a song ? To state that with Bolin, an American, now in the band, they were taking a turn towards "American" music ?

The album is noteworthy for the greatest Hughes/Coverdale duet: "You keep on moving", which was written before things started falling apart, back during the "Burn" sessions. It tops off "Gypsy", of previous album.

There are a few Bolin solo songs with some input by Coverdale (lyrics) that Bolin himself probably didn't think good enough for his solo album, which was recorded only a few months before "Come Taste the Band". Worse, there is a song entirely written by Bolin's long time friend and ex-bandmate Jeff Cook, "Lady Luck". Though it got the Coverdale lyrical treatment, it doesn't sound like Deep Purple. One wonders why it didn't end up on one of Bolin's solo albums, which both contained many Jeff Cook songs. Maybe it was not deemed good enough for Bolin by Bolin himself ? Still more enjoyable than the opening track, and Coverdale would recycle the title again (though not the song) in the late 80s with Whitesnake.

Side B is much better than side A. For instance, "Drifter" has an amazing intro, groove, guitar solo and great blues vocals by Coverdale, though relying heavily on blues clich├ęs as usual. "Love Child" has a very good groove as well (bass punches between vocal lines) and works very well live. The highlight of side A is "Gettin' Tighter", is the only song written entirely by Hughes and Bolin. Hearing Hughes' vocals is refreshing at this point on the album, and the lyrics optimistically document how they wished things were getting between the band (live and otherwise).

Lord's only credited writing contribution is on "This Time Around", an interesting personal number by Hughes. It evolves in an instrumental called "Owed to 'G'", a vehicle for solos and live improvs, as "Mandrake Root" and "The Mule" have been in the past, or "Contact Lost" more recently.

Rehearsal recordings from a few months prior to making the album (and to making Bolin's first solo album) later made available show that Coverdale had already begun working on a ballad ("Say You Love Me") that would end up on his second solo album, "Northwinds", so we know the song existed but was not considered for this album.

On the following tour, Purple added a few songs from Bolin's first solo album "Teaser" in the live set, released pretty much at the same time as "Come Taste The Band", namely "Wild Dogs" and "Homeward Strut". This makes the album even more confusing; why did some Bolin/Cook songs end up as Deep Purple and some others as Bolin solo, and why did they play so much from Bolin's solo albums and butchered Mk II live, not to mention unending improv sessions (sadly not as inspired as during the Mk II era) and revisited classics ("Not Fade Away", "Going Down", "Georgia on my Mind") often ruined by Hughes' screaming ? I think it was clear to anyone in the band that this album was weak, and it seems that since they had prevented Bolin from promoting his own album, they had to let him play some of it during live shows. Clearly, Lord and Paice were losing interest and have revealed in subsequent interviews that they should have left at the same time as Blackmore. It all shows on the album.

Mk III albums "Burn" and "Stormbringer" also lacked cohesion and/or had their weak spots; but they had something which this album lacks (well two things, one being Ritchie Blackmore): a killer opening/title track. This album begins with a generic track and only manages to work its way halfway upwards, barely recovering by the time it ends.

Still, not the worst Deep Purple album to listen to, to this day. Anyone enjoying this should also seek out Bolin's solo albums, early Whitesnake and David Coverdale solo. Actually, Bolin's first solo album ("Teaser") should be sold together with this one, for everyone to see what Mk IV Purple could have been if Bolin had been 100% concentrated on the band.