Whitesnake - Flesh & Blood

Whitesnake Flesh & Blood cover
Flesh & Blood
Frontiers Music Srl
After some soul searching and after considering retirement briefly, the great Covernor and his ever revolving band of merry musicians that make up Whitesnake decided to come up with the goods one more time. Dunno if you’re superstitious, but “Flesh & Blood” – (Skin & Bone) is actually the band’s thirteenth offering, if one includes the Purple one and excludes the EP.
Joel Hoekstra, who did come to some prominence as a guitarist for Nightranger along with Brad Gillis more than a decade ago and who works as touring guitarist with TSO & Cher has been handling guitar duties for the Snake’ these past five years, but is actually only getting his baptism of fire on this album… his first featuring original material since he was hired.
I was rather skeptical of his acquisition, as I’ve found the songwriting on his solo album banal at best, but he appears to be a decent asset for the band that always seems to revolve around DC anyway. He makes for a nice discount Sykes, I guess.
“Good to See You Again” is a spirited opener, but its main problem is that it tries to tread familiar waters the band has navigated before with far more grace and without sounding bad it ends up sounding “generic” and lacking, when compared with past offerings.
“Gonna Be Alright” might be recycling a lick from the late 80s era, but at least Cov’s sultry delivery, even at this day and age kinda works… he might not be the hot and ready eligible bachelor he once was – but his experience – surely shows.
When I first heard “Shut Up and Kiss Me” – I was only impressed by its solo that Reb Beach seems to contribute, but not much else. I got to admit that it’s “1987” like aura, complete with 90s “Satch” type licks – grew on me since and it seems to works better in the context of the album, than on its lonesome.
“Hey You (You Make Me Rock)” tries to make the classic sound of Whitesnake a little more contemporary and it does so via Def Lep tactics. It sounds equal parts 80s Snake, with some big Leppard riffing during the intro, before it slips into some Coverdale/Page mannerisms, but while it’s whole dazed stoned out style does work; it quickly becomes stale and repetitious. While it has its momentary charms, it sort of falters as a whole and its solo goes a bit out of the way to sound flashy, disregarding the rest of the song it’s in.
When I first heard “Always & Forever”, it gave me a very Thin Lizzy vibe, with Cov obviously crooning along... and I suppose that’s not a bad thing. I suppose any curve-ball the band throws; these many years into the game are interesting to say the least.
“When I Think of You (Color Me Blue)” sounds like a breathy bastardization of some solo-Coverdale tune… I was sort of getting “Sweet Mistreater” vibes in one of the licks, as well as bit of early to mid-period WS vibe.
“Trouble is Your Middle Name” is really a loud blasting rocker, which sounds a bit like a mutated late 80s tune that spent too much time watching Sebastian Bach from the side of the stage. While it seems to work, it ends up being too repetitive and too reminiscent of older songs, without really bringing anything new to the table. It really disappointed me, when it came out as a single. It’s not preposterous… but it’s mostly groove and bravado, with not much else to write home about.
Whereas “Forevermore” and it’s title track have etched themselves down in rock history’s annals as some late blooming bonafide classics, “Flesh & Blood” the album and its namesake track can only boast a so-so chorus that doesn’t stand out from the verses all that much, as well as a heavy and funky riff that sort of work well together but ultimately are trying too hard to sound cooler than they really are.
“Well I Never” boasts an interesting intro riff, but overall its fuzzy sound and overall style hardly make it register. It’s very experimental in terms of what the band has done and while it’s melody is not bad, it’s a bit convoluted and you might end up liking it more or less… I guess fall in the latter category. I’m not big on the repetition of the chorus either.
“Heart of Stone” starts off like a ballad, with Coverdale half singing at first and only going full on in for the chorus. It sounds like a worse for wear rockier “Crying in the Rain”… not a copy of the song, but in that vein, just not as good.
“Get Up” is a rousing rock n roller that feels like an ex-machina of a song, which had to be here in order to change the pace and tempo a bit and to keep things from sounding too stale. It partially achieves what it sets out to do, without impressing much, but neither disappointing.
“After All” is a soft acoustic piece (think “Summer Rain”) a sweet little ditto, which also feels both appropriate and also most welcome… as it feels sincere in its fragile simplicity.
“Sands of Time” is the odd one out, with its Balkan dance intro and its dramatic Zepellinesque touch… it doesn’t exactly work until the extended chorus brings it all together. One of the more interesting songs on offer on the album, but it sort of feels a little out of place. Its solo is also one of the more interesting ones on the album.
“Can’t Do Right for Doing Wrong”, one of two bonus tracks offered in the deluxe CD/DVD edition, is a bluesy jam that feels more like aolo Coverdale material or MK3 Purple than ‘Snake... and that bass line…. ooops belongs to one “Gypsy”…. nice little “fantasy” but… really?!
The other bonus track, “If I Can’t have You”, is mostly an under-developed blueprint for a song that seems to lack the proper hooks to be on the album on its own strengths and is offered as a little fun on the side.
The better part of “Flesh & Blood” is a love letter to the 1987 years, but as one might expect it can’t hold up a candle to the benchmark album, by which most hard rock albums are judged. In the latter part things become a little more adventurous and experimental, which I suppose is interesting.
But things are also a little hit and miss. The songwriting chemistry of this latest version of the band is promising, but nowhere as refined and original as previous one, often opting for the cheap thrills that aping the past can amply provide.
With a number of decent but not phenomenal lead/single songs, a few good deeper cuts and a lot of in between songs that fail to really spark interest and not a classic WS ballad in sight, “Flesh & Blood” feels like the unequal sequel to “Forevermore”, after a covers album (“Purple Album”) that nobody in particular asked for. It’s kinda mediocre and I don’t want no mediocre as one TI once said.