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David Coverdale and Whitesnake - Restless Heart (EMI)

OK, everyone remembers Whitesnake from the 80s. Big bleach-blond hair, bad guitar solos and screechy hard rock vocals. They were at the forefront of the rock scene that typified the worst excesses of that decade, a scene that was thankfully killed off by grunge.

So, is there any interest in a new Whitesnake album? To answer that question, we have to go back, back to the middle of the 70s. David Coverdale, the main-man of Whitesnake, was the lead singer of the classic hard rock band, Deep Purple, for 3 years. With them, he recorded some of, arguably, their best tracks. "Soldier of Fortune", in particular, is up there with anything recorded by the previous vocalist, Ian Gillan.

After Purple split, Coverdale went on to record two mellow blues/soul solo albums and then formed Whitesnake. Coverdale and a variety of different musicians, including former and future Deep Purple, Rainbow and Black Sabbath members, recorded some of the sleaziest, down-and-dirtiest blues rock boogie in Britain. Coverdale, himself, was rated as one of the best blues singers in the country.

Then things changed. A bottle of hair bleach and a can of hairspray later, Coverdale quit purring and growling and started screeching, out went the blues and in came wibbly guitar solos.

That was then, this is now. "Restless Heart" marks a partial return to former glories. One look at the cover and it is obvious things have changed. Gone is the bleach blonde hair, Coverdale sports a head of lank brown hair. However, this is only the first step on the road of rehabilitation.

The album starts with "Don't Fade Away", a mellow tune that would not have sounded out of place on either of his 70s solo albums. "All in the Name of Love" starts off bluesy with the purr and growl of Coverdale's voice making a powerful return. But, the problems start at the end, when the screeching kicks back in.

That is the problem with the rest of the album. Coverdale proves he can still sing, probably inspiring envy in Ian Gillan and Robert Plant among others, but then he ruins it by screeching. None of the songs are particularly good, but if he really tried, Coverdale could sing the phone book and it would be a blues classic. Adrian Vandenberg is an average guitarist, who can complement Coverdale's voice, but he pales in comparison to the classic Whitesnake pairing of Micky Moody and Bernie Marsden.

David Coverdale is still caught between the style of music that made him millions and the style that he's actually good at. The sooner he realises that the poodle rock of the 80s is never coming back and starts kicking out the jams, the better.

This is not a classic album, it's not even very good, but it does offer some promise of a future return to brilliance. Fingers crossed.

by Donnacha DeLong