By JAY ROBERTS
The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from this time period through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums. These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.
WHITESNAKE – COME AN’ GET IT (1981)
Before I get started in earnest with this week’s spotlight album, I want to take a minute to acknowledge a friend of the column. I’m friends with a fellow music fan named Jeff Hogland. We’re pretty active members on his Classic Rock Bottom message board and seeing as how he’s been responsible for getting me a lot of good music on his bargain shopping sprees, I consider him my state of Georgia music consigliere. But I was quite surprised when he messaged me to say that on one of his shopping sprees he’d picked up a bunch of cassettes that he was sending up to me to use in The Cassette Chronicles should I decide to write about them. A box arrived on my doorstep and suddenly I had a bunch more albums to add to “The Big Box of Cassettes”. So thanks go out to Jeff and this week’s album is from that batch of music he sent to me.
In 1981, Whitesnake had yet to become a big name on the American hard rock scene. The band was probably still kind of thought as Deep Purple-lite considering the lineup that recorded this fourth album included Jon Lord on keyboards and Ian Paice on drums. They had success in the UK but hadn’t really broken through in the States.
I hadn’t gotten into the band yet myself. That was still 6 years away with their self-titled album that made them into global superstars. But once I was hooked, I went back and discovered this more bluesy version of the band and I really liked it.
And if you want to know why I liked this Mark 1 version of the band as much as the more glam version, you would do well to check out Come an’ Get It because it is a great primer for music fans to discover the roots of Whitesnake itself.
There is barely a slow down on the album’s ten track running order and even the songs that start out a bit slower tend to end up rocking your socks off. You have to start off with the vocals from David Coverdale whenever you write about Whitesnake and this time is no different. The smoky sound to his voice is by now pretty recognizable but on this album in particular there is also an almost gleeful streak in his performance. This is particularly evident on the less than subtle lyrics for a song like “Would I Lie To You”. Coverdale just seems to be having a ball as he whips his way through the vocals.
The guitar work on each track is just outstanding. Bernie Marsden and Micky Moody formed a pretty potent duo during their time in Whitesnake and every time I listen to any of the material they played on I am reminded of that.
The album opens with the title track and immediately you are transported back to that late 70’s hard rock sound. (Yes, the album was put out in 1981 but it was still steeped in that 70’s sound that made classic rock CLASSIC!) Despite the song’s uptempo pacing, I found that the next song “Hot Stuff” actually rocked a little bit more.
Of course, it isn’t just hit you in the face with one riff after another on this album. The band provides a real sweet groove rocker in “Lonely Days, Lonely Nights”. That same kind of sound is apparent once more on Side Two’s “Girl” as well.
The closing song on Come an’ Get It has that slightly slower start to it that I mentioned above, but the band switches gears midstream and then they just blaze their way to the end with some slick rocking guitars being anchored by Neil Murray’s bass and the rhythm behind the drum kit from Pace.
Surprisingly, this is just scratching the surface of just how much I enjoyed this album. Though as I write that, I can’t say that this is a surprise to me. I’ve been listening to this album a lot over the years. I know that I said Jeff had sent me this album, which is the one I listened to in order to write this piece. But I actually did have this one in my own collection already.
And while I love the flat out rocking “Don’t Break My Heart Again” a whole lot, even that song pales in my estimation to my favorite two songs on this album. The first is the side two opener “Child of Babylon”. If you listen to Whitesnake long enough, you realize that there is always at least one song on their releases that would qualify for the descriptor “epic”. And “Child Of Babylon” is definitely that song for Come an’ Get It.
I’m not even quite sure how to fully write about the song. It just captures your imagination from start to finish and makes you feel as if you are witnessing something that is bigger than you could’ve imagined. I’ve loved a lot of the Whitesnake epics in the past but “Child of Babylon” stands out as one their absolute best.
But without a shadow of a doubt, my favorite song is at the total opposite of the musical spectrum. That song is “Wine, Women An’ Song”. I suppose the more snobbish side of music fans would dismiss the song as trite but there is just something about this song that struck me as being the perfect encapsulation of good time rock and roll party songs. The keyboards from Jon Lord have a huge presence in the mix and both Marsden and Moody get to lay out a solo. But what made this song more than just another kind of “cock rock” track to me is the way Coverdale performs it. I know you are supposed to be more interested in the “tongue-in-cheek” aspect of the band’s lyrics, but there’s really none of that here. Everything is pretty overt and it’s Coverdale’s devil-may-care infectious attitude that made the song a winner from the first lyrical line. And he tells you straight up that “You can tell me it’s wrong, but I love wine, women an’ song”.
I get a cheeky little thrill every time I hear this song and much like the rest of the album, it provides ample evidence that if you only know Whitesnake from the 80’s metal days that brought them multi-platinum success you are only getting half of the story. For me at least, Come an’ Get It is a fantastic representation of the best of the early version of Whitesnake and I will continue to play this album for many more years to come.
NOTES OF INTEREST: The 2007 remastered edition of Come an’ Get It had an additional 6 bonus tracks included. They were demos and alternate takes of songs from the original track listing.
“Would I Lie To You” was a Top 20 single in the UK in 1981.