"Two discs, 22 songs, one very worthy epitaph": Bernie Marsden's Working Man

Working Man is the final album by blues aficionado and former Whitesnake star Bernie Marsden

Bernie Marsden: Working Man album art
(Image: © Conquest Records)

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Bernie Marsden passed away on 24 August 2023, aged 72. Too soon in so many ways, but not least because earlier that month he had approved the artwork, sequence and audio masters for this fine, fine album. 

Conquest Music respectfully considered delaying its release but as Fran Marsden, Bernie’s wife of over 40 years, explains: “Bernie was really excited about his new album and proud of the tracks featured on it. After the last three albums of covers he was keen for his fans to hear some new, original songs.”

On CD or vinyl, there are 12 of those – plus 10 other new recordings (half of them covers) on a bonus disc. Having reinforced his A-star blues credentials with those Kings, Chess and Trios albums, Working Man sees him closer to the style that defined Whitesnake when David Coverdale first took them around UK clubs in 1978.

The rocking opener Being Famous could have worked on any of their first five albums. Likewise Midtown, the balladic Longtime and Bad Reputation – even if here delivered with a subtlety his former band might have eschewed. Then there’s the two-minute 12-string instrumental Steelhouse Mountain echoing Bernie’s intro to Whitesnake’s Ain’t Gonna Cry No More. But this is not to suggest these songs could have been done better. Bernie Marsden stamps his identity on all of them with measured guitar playing and honeyed vocals. 

It should be stressed that he was a very fine singer with a great range: handling anything from Lizzyesque rocker Valentine’s Day, through the beautiful and country-ish Savannah to You Know – which sounds like something Nils Lofgren might want to cover. He’s also generous enough to let the voice of Nashville high-flyer Jaime Kyle steal his thunder on Invisible, and pay tribute once more to Peter Green on the closing jazzy instrumental The Pearl.

The bonus disc is no space filler and definitely worth acquiring – and not only for rockers Look At Me Now and Who’s Fooling Who, both better than some on the main album. It also includes Midnight Believer (a slice of high-stepping Steely Dan-style funk) and the instrumental Foolish Day. Marsden’s guitar work on both is genuinely impressive. 

Likewise his new takes on four ’Snake favourites (deep cuts Till The Day I Die and The Time Is Right For Love, plus Here I Go Again and the Bobby Bland cover Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City) before the radical reworking of the Robert Johnson’s Come On In My Kitchen that closes proceedings. Two discs, 22 songs, one very worthy epitaph.

Neil Jeffries

Freelance contributor to Classic Rock and several of its offshoots since 2006. In the 1980s he began a 15-year spell working for Kerrang! intially as a cub reviewer and later as Geoff Barton’s deputy and then pouring precious metal into test tubes as editor of its Special Projects division. Has spent quality time with Robert Plant, Keith Richards, Ritchie Blackmore, Rory Gallagher and Gary Moore – and also spent time in a maximum security prison alongside Love/Hate. Loves Rush, Aerosmith and beer. Will work for food.