Released: 2015, Soundcheck Books
There is a bit of Whitesnake related activity lately, a book and a live collection and I’ve reviewed both this month.
As with many of Popoff’s books, his style is familiar and logical; namely, a chronological look at the band from Day one. The book itself is very nicely produced, a slightly oversized paperback with three dozen photos printed on glossy plates in the center of the book. He covers all early eras with equal enthusiasm and it shows to a degree how successful the band were outside of America for many years. The book is heavily anchored with a couple dozen first person interviews with key members of the band. He also has interviews and information from key non-band personnel from over the years like John Kalonder, Keith Olsen and Tom Zutuat. The book is loaded with trivia, insight and fascinating stories of the Whitesnake machine.
I think the only major drawback of SAIL AWAY is the lack of detail of the later years of the band. The book, which as mentioned earlier, follows an album per chapter style and then suddenly grinds to a halt in 1989…over 25 years ago. That is one quarter of a century (for those keeping track at home) that is just glossed over. Now, in all fairness there is a 23-page ‘epilogue’ that covers 1990-2015 but it is like an afterthought. There should have been a chapter for each of three next studio albums RESTLESS HEART, GOOD TO BE BAD and FOREVERMORE. The four live albums that get released in that time period only get a cursory mention, one or two sentences. Those albums from those tours should have been integrated into the chapters of the corresponding studio album chapter. Then an epilogue with an overview of the Coverdale solo stuff would have finished the story nicely.
The most disappointing aspect was the total lack of detail about the bands ninth studio album, RESTLESS HEART. This is one of the rarer and more enigmatic albums in the bands catalogue and the timing was perfect to finally reveal the story behind it but the opportunity was lost. Popoff relegates it to the sidelines as a Coverdale solo album, but in reality it was a full-fledged Whitesnake album. The look, design and layout were the same as the last three albums and so was the cover art. If you line them up they look like a perfect trilogy. RESTLESS HEART had Adrian Vandenberg and a number of the same guests as the last few albums, it was on the same label and it was even released in some territories simply as a Whitesnake album. There were some label politics and in Europe it was released as ‘David Coverdale and Whitesnake’, which confused some people. The album sold well, it went Top 40 in many countries across the world, however because it wasn’t a multi-platinum smash in one country (the U.S.), the album was overshadowed and eventually got the shaft. It’s a shame because it is a good record and I think it deserves more credit, recognition and attention.
Now, having said all that…it’s not Martin’s ‘fault’, for lack of a better term. In fact he speaks at length to this very issue in his introduction. Space restrictions, editorial decisions and the publisher demands meant that this book was only ever intended to cover the first decade or so of the band. I know Martin enjoys the modern era and I’m confident if he had the bility the book would have been much more thorough.
I would have like to have seen more interviews with Doug Aldrich who was in the band for 10 years and it would have been nice to hear from Reb Beach who is the longest standing guitarist in the history of Whitesnake.
I do have one minor observation. On the back of the book it says, “…the first ever full biography of the band…”. Well, this is only partly true. Back in 1989 author Simon Robinson wrote a biography of Whitesnake that covered from the beginning to 1988. That book was ‘technically’ first. Some might say, that the addition of the qualifying term ‘full’ on the back cover of SAIL AWAY adds validity to the claim of being the first. As I suggested in the body of this review, can we consider Popoff’s to be a ‘full’ biography as it essentially stopped in 1989? In that sense a true full biography of Whitesnake has yet to be written.
However on a positive note, SAIL AWAY is far, far superior to Robinson’s book on several levels. In the final analysis this is an excellent work. I feel that the band does not get enough respect or admiration for being one of the earliest pioneering bands that perfected the infusion of blues, hard rock and the power ballad and SAIL AWAY is long over due.