Any band would have been hard-pressed to follow the success of a multi-platinum album with another one of equal or higher quality both critically and commercially. Needless to say, that's exactly what David Coverdale and Whitesnake were faced with when it came time to record 1989's Slip of the Tongue, the follow-up to their 1987 smash self-titled LP. To complicate matters, Coverdale lost Irish guitarist Vivian Campbell during pre-recording sessions due to artistic differences, and his songwriting partner and lead guitarist, Adrian Vandenberg, injured himself to the degree that he couldn't play; he did some early work that made it on to the final album. Coverdale, faced with a quickly approaching deadline and pressure from management and the label finally recruited former Frank Zappa guitarist Steve Vai to fill the chair. Commercially, Slip of the Tongue was an unqualified success. The album ended up being Whitesnake's third platinum recording. Musically, however, the set is so drenched in '80s production -- huge compression, MIDI keyboards, a thin bottom end, etc. -- it seems that little of the band's tough blues-based metallic persona remains. The album sounds dated, full of overblown sounds and effects that have little to do with the act's trademark heavy guitar-and-bass approach to hard rock and early Brit metal. Some of the songs have merit, even if their finished productions ruin them -- the tough "Now You're Gone" and "Judgment Day," are great examples, as is "The Deeper the Love," a classic Coverdale power ballad needlessly drenched in keys and synths. The fit between Vai and Whitesnake is also questionable; his busy approach is at odds with the meat-and-potatoes strut and pound of the band. Fans ate it up at the time, but Slip of the Tongue is, unfortunately, still an album very much of its time. The curious, as well as fans, may want to check out their earlier work before picking this up.
Slip of the Tongue Review
by Thom Jurek