David Coverdale doesn’t exactly have a lot to prove at this point, does he? Whitesnake’s frontman has contributed a formidable number of classics to rock’s songwriting canon over the last four decades, and so the ongoing Whitesnake renaissance can be reasonably viewed as pure bonus territory for all concerned.
But three years on from Good To Be Bad, Forevermore clearly seeks to barge its way to the upper tier of ’Snake product.
Firstly, it’s great to be able to state unequivocally that reports of the deterioration of Coverdale’s voice have been greatly exaggerated. He might not be hitting the high notes that he nailed with gusto 20 years ago, but those pipes are on splendid form throughout. And, significantly, his current band have both the flair and the necessary cojones to bring the best out of his not quite-twilight years as rock’s most exuberantly lascivious frontman.
In particular, guitarists Doug Aldrich and Reb Beach are both remarkably gifted players, and their lead breaks and subtle flourishes add much colour and grit to these songs. The opening Steal Your Heart Away is a case in point. Brash, muscular and yet still infused with that bluesy oomph that somehow got lost around the time of the largely wretched Slip Of The Tongue, it offers the perfect combination of the much-revered pre-poodle era and the strutting bravado of the chart-ruling LA years.
Lyrically, too, Coverdale is as unashamedly up-for-it as ever. He wants love, he wants it now and, as you may well have assumed, he’s going to get it any old how. On the thunderous, metal-tinged All Out Of Luck he asks if you could take him home tonight and make him feel alright. Oh, go on then, Dave. If you insist. Meanwhile, first single Love Will Set You Free powers along with a big, wicked grin on its face, another ready-made anthem that smartly showcases this line-up’s mastery of each side of Whitesnake’s dual personality. Soon after, Tell Me How piles up the vocal harmonies amid a maelstrom of churning blues rock riffs and the rather preposterous sound of Coverdale wondering aloud whether or not he can win our love.
Of course, a Whitesnake album is as much about the big crowd-pleasing ballads as it is the nuts-out rockers, and Forevermore has several absolute crackers. Fare Thee Well sounds like something Rod Stewart might have done back when he actually mattered, and comes replete with the kind of sauntering, rootsy breeziness that will make it a surefire festival favourite this summer. With a tune so instantly hummable and familiar that you may suspect Coverdale wrote it in his sleep, Easier Said Than Done could easily be a case of ’Snake-by-numbers, but like everything else here it’s delivered with utmost conviction. Best of all, the title track’s sublime seven minute sprawl brings together a beautifully simmering acoustic intro, a fantastic vocal turn from The Cov and some electrifying ensemble rocking that revels in its own Zep-like pomp.
It is, by some distance, the best thing Whitesnake have released in decades. Anyone worrying that old age has blunted the end of Coverdale’s jousting lance need only listen to the fiery, zip-bursting devilry of My Evil Ways, which tears along at a breathless pace – lusty eyes wide as saucers – and features the best scream to emerge from Dave’s leathery larynx since Still Of The Night.
Considering that Whitesnake could easily be settling into cosy obsolescence, a metaphorical tartan lap blanket hiding all evidence of action in the musical trouser department, tracks like this, and the equally excitable Whipping Boy Blues are something of a welcome revelation.
Great songs, great performances and a production job – courtesy of the self-monikered Los Bros Brutalos, namely Coverdale, Doug Aldrich and a chap called Michael McIntyre (probably not the comic, but add your own punchline in a posh shrieky voice if you wish) – that avoids a glut of sonic polish in favour of clarity, clout and plenty of analogue warmth, Forevermore is a very fine Whitesnake album indeed. Point proved.