David Coverdale calls from his Nevada home near Lake Tahoe, where he has been busy working on post-production for the new Whitesnake release, The Purple Album, due May 19 via Frontiers Music SRL. It’s the first new studio album in four years (and the 12th Whitesnake album) for the charismatic singer, and it revisits his time as the frontman for Deep Purple’s Burn, Stormbringer and Come Taste the Band studio albums, which Coverdale recorded during the “Mark III” and “Mark IV” periods of the band’s lineup.
The Purple Album features revved-up versions of songs from Coverdale’s tenure in Deep Purple some 40 years ago, from 1973 to 1976. The idea took hold after the death of Purple keyboardist Jon Lord in 2012, when Coverdale reached out to guitarist Ritchie Blackmore to share his grief and make amends. The two hadn’t spoken in 30 years, and their last meeting had ended in a fistfight, but they started talking. Eventually they discussed doing a collaboration, but talks broke down when they could not agree on the musical direction.
Coverdale was ready to abandon the idea of revisiting his past until his wife, Cindy, made a suggestion. “She said, ‘Why don’t you look upon it as a Whitesnake album?,’ and it really started to resonate with me, especially after a couple of glasses of wine,” he recalls. “And I called my musicians, and they were absolutely thrilled about the idea.” After talking to Frontiers, the band started working on the project. “Everyone did their homework, and every performance is done respectfully in honor of [Deep Purple’s] musicians. Though I focused on the twin-guitar attack of Whitesnake, we had a guest keyboard player because a huge part of the Deep Purple sound was Jon Lord playing that amazing Hammond organ.”
That Metal Show host and terrestrial/satellite radio host Eddie Trunk, a staunch defender of classic rock’n’roll, is also a longtime friend of Coverdale. Trunk had Coverdale appear on the March 14 episode of TMS to discuss the album, and there are plans for him to return when The Purple Album is released.
“David’s always had tremendous musicians, and The Purple Album is an injection of life into these songs, some of which are 40 years old. I’m very interested to see how it’s going to be received here,” says Trunk. “When it comes to Deep Purple, no matter what lineup you talk about, in America they are not nearly as meaningful as they are outside of the U.S. If you talk to people who grew up in Europe, like [Metallica drummer] Lars Ulrich, Deep Purple is as important as Led Zeppelin, if not more so. Here David is known for Whitesnake 1987, even though he’d been doing that for a decade, but in other parts of the world, they’d already known him for years because Purple meant so much more. So maybe [the album] is going to shine some light on how important Deep Purple was.”
It’s not the first time Trunk has supported Coverdale’s career. “A year or so ago he needed a guitar player and he called me up, and we had a few phone calls and good discussions,” says Trunk. Coverdale ultimately ended up uniting with Joel Hoekstra, whom he saw play on That Metal Show, which airs Saturday nights on VH1 Classic. (Whitesnake is rounded out by guitarist Reb Beach, drummer Tommy Aldridge and bassist Michael Devin.)
Coverdale is quite charming as he speaks about the project. “There were respectful nods to the original musicians throughout the album, and it has come out delightfully. It’s a tribute to Jon Lord, Ian Paice, Ritchie Blackmore and Glenn Hughes, who gave me my break in the first place. I’d never even made a record when I joined Deep Purple, and my first record went double gold, which was early platinum. They didn’t even have platinum records back in those days!” he says with a laugh. “My God, how old am I?
He quickly answers his own question. “When we were working on it, each one of my musicians said these songs sounded as if they were written yesterday, and none of them were born when I first recorded them! It’s a testament to the songs that they stand up. We’ve Whitesnaked them up and given them a fresh coat of paint, but it’s still the same House of Purple.”
The Whitesnaking of the Deep Purple songs is evident on the album. Hot rockers and midtempo romps outnumber the ballads. Standouts abound: “Burn” kicks off the album like the scorcher that it is and stands up to the harder late-’80s work of the band, as do “Love Child” and “Lady Double Dealer.” “Soldier of Fortune” sounds like a Whitesnake hit.
Whitesnake’s cover of “Stormbringer”:
First single “Stormbringer,” the title track from the 1974 album, is a hard-charging number that showcases Coverdale in excellent form for a man who has gone double gold. “Well, you know, I’m going to be 64 in September,” he jokes. “But we’re planning a world tour, and I’m feeling as fit as a fiddle.”