Track-by-Track: Whitesnake - Trouble

A track-by-track review of Whitesnake's first album, Trouble

Rating: 

I've decided to start reviewing albums that I like. I'll do this by listening to the album fully, and reviewing it track-by-track. I'll try to keep each track review as brief as possible (as I am aware that I can waffle on sometimes!) Bear in mind that these reviews are my personal interpretation of the music - yours may well be different!

I've liked music for as long as I can remember, but my real passion started when I was five years old, with Whitesnake's first album - Trouble. It was released in 1978, but I didn't hear it until 1987 (right at the height of Whitesnake's fame). My mum wanted the '87 album but nowhere had it in stock, so she bought this, along with Lovehunter (their second album.) Whitesnake have been my favourite band ever since! The way these reviews unfold may change as time goes on - and I may even get good at writing them - so here goes!

1) Take Me With You - Right... Those of you with a virtuous disposition may want to look away now! In hindsight, it's shocking that I was allowed to listen to this when I was 5! This uptempo song starts with David Coverdale singing about an intimate view of his lover: "Gonna spread her pretty legs so I can see", then moving on to prostitutes: "Your red light mama gonna show the way". He follows this with some very '70s misogyny: "I know love and what it means, it's a skinny little girl in tight ass jeans", then ends the vocals with some faux-orgasming. How lovely! All the while the guitars jangle intermittently, but there is a, ahem, throbbing baseline moving the music along. It's not a bad song to start the album with, and sets the tone nicely for what is to come.

2) Love To Keep You Warm - This is quite a tame affair compared to the first track. Here, the vocals are about needing love in your life - "both night and day" as DC sings... OK, it's another song about sex. I'll stop pretending otherwise. He sings about trying to get a woman to come home with him "I said baby, if you need my love, you better come home with me." In the background, there's a pretty funky bassline, which nicely illustrates the 'romantic dance' that all lovers do on their first date. The guitar parts are fairly simple really, but the solo is good. It's weaker than track 1, but still enjoyable.

3) Lie Down (A Modern Love Song) - Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the 1970s! Another song about sex (do you see a theme emerging?) This one is about a woman who appears innocent to everyone, but our protagonist knows differently. Very differently - "You make the sins of a vestal virgin, look nothing more that a roll in the hay." The lyrics continue on in a similar vein, talking about how it's rock and roll that gets you laid, not being a smooth talker. The bassists strings are suitably funky, the guitarists attack the songs, particularly the solo and refrain following. The unusual thing here is that one guitarist, a certain Bernie Marsden, gets to sing the third verse. Curiously, the lyrics take on a slightly different tone here "Come on, girl, it'll be alright, easy does it nice and slow." It's a really good song on the whole, and one of my favourites of the album!

4) Day Tripper - This is a cover of The Beatles song of the same name. There's no other way to say it - this is crap. What on earth they were thinking, we'll never know. Don't get me wrong, the vocals and musicianship is good, as you'd expect from world class players. But the song is terrible. It's a slow, plodding, boring, pointless work. It doesn't fit with the rest of the album, nor does it fit with the band's brand of 'bar-room-rock-n-roll'. Just skip it.

5) Night Hawk (Vampire Blues) - I'm sorry - what? Vampires you say?? Well, no. It's got bugger all to do with vampires. It's about - wait for it - sex. Didn't seeing that coming did you? It's another uptempo number, about a lonely man wandering around looking for love - or sex. It's difficult to tell which really. As well as the funky bass (again) and squealing guitar solo, this has a keyboard (or more likely a hammond organ) solo! And from none other that Deep Purple alumnus Jon Lord! And it's good! I'm not sure if I like this song or not. It's not bad, but like Day Tripper, it just doesn't fit with the album.

6) The Time Is Right For Love - This is actually a far more mellow song than the ones preceding it, and initially it appears to actually be about heartfelt love. About a man who sees a woman and instantly thinks that she's the one. Then the last line of the second verse sneaks up on you - in much the same way as a snake might, curiously enough! "So draw your circle around me and we'll put all your lovers to shame." I daren't ask what circle he's referring to... The dual guitars at the start demonstrate the impact of seeing a beautiful woman for the first time has, while their jangling during the verses is reminiscent of the way your heart flutters when you think about her. Oh, and the funky basslines of Neil Murray are ever-present.

7) Trouble - This is a song about a man who is an obvious womaniser, but claims to have never cheated on anyone - or taken "another man's wife." Now it seems that word has spread, and he's trying to hide from it. He explains this initially by saying it's because of his upbringing "I was raised a gambler's son and before I could walk, I had to learn how to run." Funky bassline? Check. Jangly guitars? Check. It's a bit of a plodding song, but in an upbeat kind of way. No bad, but not a standout either.

8) Belgian Tom's Hat Trick - This is an uptempo - quite fast moving actually - instrumental. Neil Murray's funky basslines are exposed a little more for your aural pleasure. The duelling guitars of Bernie Marsden and Micky Moody are interspersed with solos by each of them - they take it in turns. There is an excellent, albeit very brief, Jon Lord keyboard solo, but he's largely pushed aside otherwise. This is, though, the first time we really get to hear Dave 'Duck' Dowle's drumming taking a more active role. In the previous songs he's provided a steady beat, but in this he gets to hammer the snare, provide lots of rolls, and remind everyone that he does own some crash symbols. It's OK as an instrumental, but given the weakness of tracks 4 and 5, the album could have done with a lyrical song here.

9) Free Flight - This entire song is sung by Bernie Marsden, which is a trend which wouldn't last long at all in the history of Whitesnake. It does show that Bernie can sing, and he has a different voice to DC's. It's about a drifter. A man who roams around doing whatever, and whoever, he wants. He accepts this is the way he'll always be - even when he tries to change, it just isn't going to happen. The most interesting part of this track is Murray's cascading bassline during the "free flight" refrain sections. I'm not sure it really belongs on a Whitesnake record though.

10) Don't Mess With Me - The final track of the album starts with a thumping bass drum, followed by a clattering snare and the lunge of guitars, both electric and bass. Once again, the vocals revolve around sex "Stealing 'round your bedroom door, a case of hit 'n run" but that's not the only message DC is giving here. In the second verse is the line "A whiskey drinking son of a bitch, I've only just begun." It's a clear message to those who thought he'd amount to nothing following Deep Purple - "Yes, I will. I'm here to stay and this is just the start of my success." And you know what, he may have been on to something...!

Roundup: On the whole, this isn't a bad start to Whitesnake's now 40 year history. True, it's a little hit and miss, and in some places a little rough around the edges. What you have to remember though, is that this used to be the way all the great rock bands started. Rough but promising albums, with each subsequent album getting better and better until the band hit their peak. With so many manufactured crap being peddled these days, it's easy to forget that getting your music out there and becoming successful with longevity was proper hard work. It is definitely of the era, and you know what? That's a good thing!

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