Saturday, March 2, 2024

RAMzine Classic | David Coverdale – Northwinds

David Coverdale needs no introduction. His ‘rags to riches’ story has been told many times. What we have here, however, is a totally undervalued, true classic from his period after Deep Purple disintegrated and before the birth of Whitesnake.

His first post-Purple solo album had a curious mix of styles and very few fans were ready for the prophetically titled White Snake (two words). The soul themes were strong and, apart from the heavier titular track, rock was conspicuous by its absence.

His second solo album, released in 1978, was a totally different kettle of fish. There were still soul leanings, but the blues and rock was much more apparent. Taken as a whole, the album broke new ground – not only for DC, but also for the rock genre at that time. It didn’t garner that much publicity, although critically well received, as DC had formed Whitesnake by the time of release, and was already touring and working toward their debut.

As with White Snake, the guitarist was Micky Moody who co-wrote songs on both albums and forged the relationship which was to bear such fruit in the years to come.

The cover reflects the overall feel of the album. The barren, moorland landscape with photos of Coverdale seemingly blown there by the North winds.

‘Keep On Giving Me Love’ kicks off the CD version (some early vinyl releases had ‘Northwinds’ as the first track). A funky start with Moody’s guitar setting the stage and giving us a signature slide solo in the middle.

The cover’s barren theme echoes through the title track, so effectively communicating the heartache in the story… “I even missed an empty train”.

This is a truly gorgeous song with Coverdale showing previously unknown skills on the electric piano. Just this and his voice begin this epic, before drums, bass and than guitar join in for a powerful, yet subtle epic.

‘Give Me Kindness’ is next; the surprise here – if you listen hard – is that it features Ronnie James Dio (and his wife, Wendy plus Jon Lord’s wife Judy for good measure) on backing vocals. A difficult one to categorise; it sounds almost like an outtake from the Butterfly Ball, but with distinctly different lyrics. A bouncy jaunt, complete with brass and gospel tinged middle section. Perhaps the weakest track of a strong set.

Next is what I have long considered the best love song ever written… ‘Time And Again’ is just Coverdale and his electric piano creating a sound an orchestra would be proud of; the lyrics are quite beautiful too.

Now we move onto what was side two of the vinyl, and the kind of blues-rock that dominated Whitesnake’s early albums.

‘Queen Of Hearts‘ has a piano intro, then a thumping lead-in to the guts of the song, with Moody’s slide once again gracing this superb song.

Now comes a true epic; one which puts even later Whitesnake epics – such as Still Of The Night – in the shade! Only My Soul is so strong on every level; the acoustic start; the slow build; the fantastic middle section… Coverdale has never sounded better. (It’s also a great track for testing new amplifiers and speakers before buying).

‘Say You Love Me’ is another pointer to what would become Whitesnake. Blues drenched and soulful with a heavy feel.

Last track on the vinyl is ‘Breakdown‘, Coverdale’s story of the break up of Deep Purple. No surprise then, that it is the heaviest, pure rock track. It has an almost too loose feel about it; as if it was done last minute, but a fine track nonetheless.

CD reissues have two bonus tracks: ‘Shame The Devil’ and ‘Sweet Mistreater’. Interesting extras, but lacking the cohesion of the rest of the album. Still worthwhile however.

In summary, one of the finest albums Coverdale has produced to date. It even has the benefit of Roger Glover producing and contributing synthesizer. Additional guests on top of RJD included Lee Brilleaux and Graham Preskett.

If you haven’t heard this… you need to!

Tom Dixon
Tom Dixon
North East born, South West domiciled music lover - mainly heavy rock & blues but not averse to other genres. I'm fortunate to have retired early & I can now take full advantage of the 40+ years I have spent collecting, listening, watching & playing (badly) & have enjoyed researching how blues in particular has shaped the music we know & love today. Now if only I could get my Strat & Musicman to sound in reality how they do in my head!

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