“Slip of the Tongue,” the newest venture by David Coverdale and his sixth incarnation of Whitesnake, poses an intense mix of power ballads, rock standards, and something altogether new. Though the lyrics seem to center around the traditional topic of metal music – sex, the music, composed by Adrian Vandenburg and played by the incomparable Steve Vai, has an undeniable energy that sears every track from beginning to end.
A twist of the wrist left Vandenburg, the single guitarist remaining in Whitesnake (due to Vivian Campbell’s ugly parting), unable to record the songs, so Coverdale went in search of a new axeman to record with. His search didn’t take long, as he finally snared the multicolored chops monster, Steve Vai (chops are technical skills). Vai’s sonic attack begins with the title song, “Slip of the Tongue,” with sustained keyboards diving into immense power chords and flurrying harmonics. His tight, focused guitar sound is courtesy of the new Ibanez seven-stringed Universe guitar, adding a low B string for a heavier sound.
“Cheap an’ Nasty” is straight ahead rock and roll, while “Fool for Your Loving,” a bluesy cover from the Whitesnake of the early ’80s, revives under Vai’s harmonized hand. The two ballads on the album, “Now You’re Gone” and “Deeper the Love,” are simply gorgeous, loaded down with feeling in the music and the vocals. Coverdale manages to put down what are arguably his best vocals on these tracks, his voice raw and intense.
“Wings of the Storm” features furiously controlled axemanship, as does the solo-free “Judgment Day.” The Hendrixesque “Slowpoke Music” rocks with raunch, ragged and energized to the point where the song leaps out of your stereo. The final track is “Sailing Ships,” a song originally written entirely for classical guitar, but transformed into a pseudo-“Stairway to Heaven” anthem. The lyrics take a turn for the profound, while the music progresses from a twelve-string acoustic showpiece with electric sitar and keyboard accompaniment to a Vai seven-stringed solo masterpiece.
For fans of Steve Vai, this album gives him an entirely new outlook. He retains his humor and amazing technique, as they shine on every track. For fans of the ever-changing Whitesnake, a group that just keeps getting better, this album ranks higher by far than 1987’s Whitesnake in every arena. Tommy Aldridge and Rudy Sarzo have inarguably laid down the licks of their lives, a rhythm section that never ever quits, feeding the fury of Vai’s fiery playing. I have only one question: Who’s going to be on the next album? n