Customer Review

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars `More than a pleasure than I can ever describe to ya', 12 Jun 2011
This review is from: Live at Donington 1990 (+dvd) (Audio CD)
So here it is. The 21st anniversary year of the 1990 Monsters of Rock show at Donington Park and we have the DC-approved cut of the Whitesnake set. Of course many `snake fans will already have the `on-the-fly' Radio One broadcast which has been widely available for quite a while, but now we have the proper packaging, the benefit of digital mastering and the video to boot. Given the number of line-up changes Whitesnake has been through in its 30+ years a good debate can be had about which can be considered the `best'. For the purists it's invariably Moody/Marsden. Up against them in 1990 we had Steve Vai, Adrian Vandenberg, Rudy Sarzo and Tommy Aldridge. To call this incarnation `stellar' would be an understatement. Vai is arguably the most technically-proficient and accomplished rock guitarist ever. Vandenberg a phenomenal blues-based player and composer. Sarzo a pure showman of a bass player. Aldridge the most thunderous octopus on drums you're ever likely to hear. Purists? Moody and Marsden? Pub players compared to this glossy, note-perfect, made-for-MTV lot.

Sonically this is a substantial improvement on the bootleg version. Just listen to the acoustic guitar at the opening to Judgement Day to appreciate the difference. Some questions were raised at the time about the quality of Coverdale's vocals here (there was a particularly disparaging Kerrang! interview the week after). Let them be dispelled. Whilst probably not at their peak (1987 was then), this mix shows the range and richness of those Saltburn-by-the-Sea pipes to more than satisfactory effect. There is an energy and intensity to the performance which really does grab you. And you can see how much fun is being had by all in the video (Vai in particular is clearly having a ball). Yes Vai dominates proceedings but why anyone would or should be surprised by that is a mystery. He was the band's ace and you place your ace where the ace belongs: right at the front of the mix. His solo spot shows off his talents exuberantly and the skill of his play is simply awe-inspiring on the Slip of the Tongue tracks that he recorded and in his interpretations on some of the Whitesnake staples. Always adding, never detracting. Vandenberg's ridiculously-titled solo pieces (Adagio for Strato; Flying Dutchman Boogie) are let off for the former's sheer emotion and the latter's all-out rockability. Aldridge really is an incessant, relentless rock drummer who truly was born to drum. It's only Sarzo who misses out a little here as Vai and Vandenberg take up so much sonic space there's little left for the bass. A nice touch too to credit Rick Seratte for his keyboard playing - he also helped out on the background vocals, which was badly needed given how wonderfully awful Vandenberg and Sarzo are in this regard; describing them as `drunken sailors' is being complimentary. (Note to whoever edited the booklet though: there are a couple of embarrassing typos.)

Hearing this in crystal clarity is unquestionably a real treat. Yet this is the DC-approved cut. So what you don't get (which the bootleg has) is the full banter with the crowd that this set is notorious for. It's sanitised so it's less fun. You pay your money and make your choice on the trade-off between the audio improvements here and the fuller representation available elsewhere.

On the DVD there's the full concert, a behind the scenes `documentary' and a slide show of the 1990 Liquor and Poker world tour. Excerpts from this show have been doing the rounds on YouTube for a number of years now. From the professionally-recorded Headbangers Ball clips to the bootlegged audience-recorded stuff. In terms of quality this lies somewhere between the two. To have had TV-quality footage of this show would have been delightful, but it seems MTV did not record and produce the whole show - only certain songs. That said, a whole 90 minutes of the badly edited `teasers' that were released as part of the Slip of the Tongue 20th Anniversary package would have been a major disappointment. Coverdale has spared us of that at least. So what you get is lo-fi but good enough to ensure a pleasurable viewing experience.

The most interesting part of the DVD is the `intimate, behind-the-scenes documentary'. What this actually consists of is clips from Coverdale's camcorder from the Slip of the Tongue era. So you get the jamming in Lake Tahoe, the recording sessions in Reno, the shooting of The Deeper the Love in San Pedro and poignantly the very end of this line-up's final show in Japan. It's interesting to hear some embryonic versions of the songs: Judgement Day was clearly a particular labour of love and if anyone doubted the indebtedness of Kitten's Got Claws to Led Zep's Rock and Roll doubt no longer after watching this. What's clear is that the band had more or less fully worked up versions of most of the songs (including Vandenberg's guitar parts) before Steve Vai got involved.

The official line on how Vai came to be involved was that Vandenberg suffered a mysterious hand/wrist (depending on whose story you believe) injury which prevented him from adding his guitar parts. Well that's odd because Vandenberg clearly had added his guitar parts! I've always thought this was a bunch of baloney and that the Whitesnake camp (probably led by John Kalodner) felt the need for a `big name' guitarist to help drive sales. Vai's condition for joining was full and exclusive control over the guitar parts and so Vandenberg was sat out. The hand/wrist injury story being deployed to save face. I could be wrong of course, and anyone in the loop at the time will always deny it, but the evidence here and the fact Vandenberg made a miraculous recovery that allowed him to be fooling around on his guitar seemingly unencumbered shortly after the album was finished (see Fool for your Loving video), and then embark on a year-long tour, points elsewhere. Coverdale's suggestion in his commentary that the demo tapes might get an airing might allow this aspect of the story to be cleared up. Or maybe it won't. Anyway, a bit of intrigue and mystery never goes amiss with these things...
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 1 Jul 2011 08:28:00 BDT
Tim091 says:
I remember reading at the time that Vai was paid $1million to step in for the album and tour. Probably exagerated of course. I am sure I saw a picture of AV with arm in plaster - surely they didn't even go to those lengths to add depth to the story??!! Are there AV guitar parts on the Slip of The Tongue album? I don't recollect any non-Vai parts (he does have a pretty distinctive style after all!)
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