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Whitesnake — Forevermore
Whitesnake, Forevermore
Genre:
Hard Rock
Bottom
Line:

Whitesnake is still “Ready and Willing.”

Musicianship: 4.0
Songwriting: 3.5
Production & Engineering: 2.5
Vibe: 4.0
Overall Rating: 3.5 Stars3.5

Lest anyone think that Whitesnake is not relevant in 2011, they should run — not walk — to get themselves a copy of their latest release, Forevermore.

David Coverdale’s best work has always been the result of some type of collaboration at the songwriting level, whether it be Adrian Vandenberg, John Sykes, Jimmy Page, Micky Moody or Bernie Marsden. Whenever Coverdale had a partner in crime, you could expect some great music, which brings us to the current Whitesnake lineup — specifically guitar player extraordinaire Doug Aldrich, who not only serves as co-conspirator in the songwriting department, but also shared production duties with Coverdale and Michael McIntyre.  Simply put, it is this bond and chemistry that has enabled Whitesnake to deliver their best album since 1989’s Slip of the Tongue. Yes. Their best work since that classic record.

2008’s “comeback” album, Good to be Bad, was not a bad effort by any means, but Forevermore succeeds in all areas in which its predecessor failed, specifically modernizing the bands classic, blues-driven sound of the late ‘70s, early ‘80s, and beyond.  For example, the album’s first single “Love will set you Free” sounds every bit like a modernized version of the title track from the 1980 album, Ready and Willing, while “Dogs in the Street” sounds uncannily like a leftover from Slip of the Tongue.  “Easier said than Done” is reminiscent of those classic MTV ballads circa 1987, and “All Out of Luck” even ventures into Coverdale/Page territory.  If you are getting the impression this release almost serves as a cross section of the Whitesnake sound through the decades, your assumption would be correct!

Other highlights include the in-your-face album opener, “Steal your heart Away” and “My Evil Ways,” a rollicking double-time boogie that could easily hang with anything the band did in its heyday. However, as far as I am concerned, the jewel in the crown is the title track, which starts off acoustically not unlike 1989’s “Sailing Ships” and slowly builds to a crescendo with a brief detour to “Kashmir!”  This is old school, epic Whitesnake at its best, and something that was missing from their canon for far too long.

I would be remiss without mention of Reb Beach, the other half of the twin guitar assault, whose contributions last time around were minimalist at best. On Forevermore however, he is featured more prominently.  It would be an exercise in tedium to list every great solo he plays, but suffice to say they are the ones featuring the slippery two-handed tapping stuff.  Both guitar players have a huge, bold tone throughout the album, and Aldrich in particular really excels at the bluesy pentatonic-based stuff while still maintaining killer technique punctuated by loads of flash.

Much has been said about the current state of David Coverdale’s voice and some of that chatter is not without merit, unfortunately.  Around the time of 1993’s Coverdale/Page collaboration, David’s voice began to take on a raspy edge, and his patented husky tone was replaced by an unpleasant screech. In 2009 his vocal trouble seemed to reach its nadir while on tour with Judas Priest.  David developed severe vocal chord edema and was ordered to cut short the tour and rest those pipes.  I am happy to say the rest obviously served him well!  Although nowhere near the superhuman vocals of Slide it In, Slip of the Tongue or the self titled 1987 album, I would say Forevermore features David’s best performances since at least 1993’s Coverdale/Page release.

Although the guitars sound killer and the musicianship is stellar throughout Forevermore, we have to fault the horrible production values applied to Brian Tichy’s otherwise great drumming. The kick drum sounds like crap, or more specifically, like someone is beating a tarp with a stick, or even worse, like he’s playing kick on a Remo Rototom! We suspect some bad sound replacement was at work here, because a drummer of Tichy’s caliber would never have reduced the sound of his kit to the lame sounds presented. No, the toms don’t sound that much better, and the mastering could have left a bit more room for some dynamics.

If you're a newcomer to Whitesnake’s music, this album will serve as a great introduction to the various “flavors” of the band while also managing to move their sound further into the present tense. Longtime fans, of course, will eat this one up.  Fans will always debate which “Snake” lineup was the best, but one thing is for sure – this lineup and its recorded output thus far, rivals anything the band has done past, present, or perhaps even…. forevermore.

— JQ
 
Nick D'Virgilio — Pieces
Nick D'Virgilio, Pieces
Genre:
AAA, Americana, prog rock
Bottom
Line:

Spock’s Beard drummer/singer unleashes his inner singer/songwriter with only a touch of progginess.

Musicianship: 4.0
Songwriting: 4.0
Production & Engineering: 3.5
Vibe: 3.5
Overall Rating: 4 Stars 3.75

We almost never review EPs at MusicPlayers.com, but this one came to us from musician extraordinaire Nick D’Virgilio, which meant you’ll want to know about it — and we couldn’t wait to hear it! Although mostly known for his role as drummer and lead vocalist with the progressive rock band, Spock’s Beard, Nick’s a major session player with a host of credits. Besides being the touring drummer for Tears for Fears for many years, he’s presently touring with Cirque Du Soleil’s latest production, “Totem,” and he created the spectacular Rewiring Genesis: The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway back in 2009 (just before working on the Spock’s Beard CD, X, in 2010).
 
Nick’s latest solo effort, the Pieces EP, was recorded in multiple locations over the past couple of years while Nick was busy with numerous other projects. Working collaboratively and (at times) remotely with producer Mark Hornsby, Nick created a fantastic collection of songs that span a variety of styles outside of the genre for which he is so easily identified.

The first half of the EP finds Nick entrenched in solid singer/songwriter territory. From the smooth AAA rocker, “Mary Jane Says” to the moving power ballad “Childhood’s End, Nick delivers beautifully crafted songs in the Americana style, with great piano work from Phil Naish and classic lead guitar work from Tom Hemby. Nick plays mostly drums throughout Pieces, though he adds some guitar, keyboards, and bass in a few places.
 
The second half of the CD gets a bit more progressive, and the song “Beautiful” almost sounds like something that could have appeared on the final Genesis album, Calling All Stations (on which Nick played drums for many of the songs).

A few different players show up on the later songs including guitarists Don Carr, Rick Musallam, and Giacommo Castenello. Bassist Dave martin joins Nick in the rhythm section on a few tracks where Nick didn’t lay down the groove for himself.

Listening to this EP unfold, it’s nice to hear Nick demonstrating his songwriting and performance chops in a more contemporary, pop direction. Pieces strikes us like the solo output from Sting, only Nick’s influences come more from rock instead of Sting’s obvious jazz vibe. He’s working on a full-length solo release in his spare time, and you can be sure that next year will find Spock’s Beard working on another release. For now, though, Pieces shows a refreshingly easy-to-digest side of his output, and it’s a great release to help drag your one friend who doesn’t listen to prog rock into the fold. They’ll be lulled into a false sense of acceptance by the first three tracks and then the proggier output will expand their mind in ways they never imagined possible.

Look for an in-depth discussion with Nick next month!

— SK

 
 
 
Karmakanic — In A Perfect World
Karmakanic, In A Perfect World
Genre:
Progressive Rock, Classic Rock
Bottom
Line:

Fantastic album featuring outstanding songwriting and inspired musical performances.

Musicianship: 4.0
Songwriting: 4.0
Production & Engineering: 3.5
Vibe: 4.0
Overall Rating: 4 Stars3.89

Karmakanic is a side-project led by Swedish bassist Jonas Reingold of Flower Kings fame, and in keeping with the fantastic prog rock he’s already known for in that group, his solo effort lives up to everything you’d expect from such an accomplished musician.

The fourth Karmakanic album, In A Perfect World, is a winner on every level. The songs are captivating and melodic, with a vibe that pulls from all eras of prog and classic rock. Right from the opening track, “1969,” the Chris Squire influence was obvious in Reingold’s bass style and tone, and certainly the Yes influence wasn’t missing from the other elements of the song, from guitarist Krister Jonsson’s guitar melody lines to the vocal harmonies.

“Turn It Up,” another favorite of ours, opens with spectacular drumming work from Marcus Liliequist and reminded us of an Alan Parsons song bearing the same name. If Reingold works like I do, I’d bet the Parsons song inspired a working title for the song, which subsequently inspired the lyrical content and stuck around to the final product.

Vocalist Göran Edman has a beautiful voice well suited to the complex and harmonically rich musical content — it’s surprising he’s not a bona fide rock star by now. If his name rings a bell, just go back to your ‘90s Yngwie J. Malmsteen releases, Eclipse and Fire & Ice, or John Norum’s classics, Total Control and Live in Stockholm (among Göran’s otherwise lengthy list of credits)… not to mention the previous three Karmakanic releases!

Classical piano chops, John Lord-inspired organ, and Wakeman-inspired synth work are all at play in the dexterous hands of Lalle Larsson, and they are juxtaposed beautifully against Jonsson’s fantastic fretwork on guitar.

The hour-long collection of songs is easily accessible and manages to be highly technical without alienating classic rock fans, and will easily appeal to fans of melodic artists as diverse as Yes, Alan Parsons Project, Frost, Jellyfish, Deep Purple, Toto, and Supertramp.

It’s a treat when every song on a new release is a winner, and In A Perfect World is one of those beautiful gems where there’s no point in singling out the details of one or two songs. If you like melodic prog with a nod to classic ‘70s stuff but also containing some modern heavier influences thrown in here and there — like on “Can’t Take it With You,” the Frost-inspired song that sounds like Sex In The City’s Latin-infused theme song turned into a modern prog rock masterpiece, you can’t go wrong here.

— SK
 
 
   
             
             
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