Geffen Records, 1978

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


You could call David Coverdale and his post-Deep Purple band Whitesnake the hard rock Jekyll and Hyde.

On one side, there is the blues-based rock that Coverdale and whatever particular lineup he was working with at the time could blow the bolts out of. When it came to playing in that vein, Whitesnake was an outstanding band.

On the other hand, there was Coverdale thinking with the wrong head (go ask your big brother if you don't know what I mean), churning out cock-rock that would have made a sailor blush. With lines like "Lie down, I think I love you" or the blatant sexuality of a song like "Take Me With You" (off of my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Trouble), Coverdale let his libido get in the way of the music.

In 1978, the blues-based rock version of Whitesnake won out in its first outing, Snakebite. Really a collection of what could have been two EPs, Coverdale shows his progression from his role as the third lead singer in Deep Purple's history to running the show himself. It's an interesting portrait, and one that is well worth searching out.

The second half of Snakebite features Coverdale in 1977, shortly after his departure from Deep Purple. In reality, you could argue whether these songs are true Whitesnake material or not, but there is no debating that Coverdale is on fire creatively. Tracks like "Queen Of Hearts," "Keep On Giving Me Love" and "Breakdown" all are exciting to listen to, even 22 years after they were first recorded. I would argue that you can hear the birth cries of Whitesnake in this lineup (which included future member Mickey Moody on guitar, bassist Alan Spencer and drummer Tony Newman), and are deserving of the name in front of the music.

The first half of the album is the first "official" recording of Whitesnake, with the lineup of Moody and Bernie Mardsen on guitar, Neil Murray on bass, Dave Dowle on drums and, as "special guest," keyboardist Pete Solley. The highlight of this short set is "Ain't No Love In The Heart Of The City," which could be called the first hit for the band. All four songs in this set, including "Bloody Mary," "Come On" and "Steal Away," are all enjoyable, and hold a lot of promise for the band. (Unfortunately, they would make a serious U-turn into cock-rock on Trouble.)

The only complaint I could have with Snakebite is its length. While I understand this was the first effort from the band, I do wish that it was longer than eight songs. Just when you're really locking into a groove, the album is over - not fair, especially when you've got a lot of air guitar riffs dying to be released into the atmosphere.

Snakebite is an album you might have to do some looking for, but if you like any of Whitesnake's other work or you are a fan of the Coverdale-era Deep Purple, this one's a keeper.

Rating: B+

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© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Geffen Records, and is used for informational purposes only.