To most rock music fans in the U.S., Whitesnake is best known as a hair metal band that cranked out several hits (and some steamy videos) in the late '80s before going the way of the Dodo when grunge hit. But longtime fans know that the group was a bluesy, hard rockin' outfit during the early part of the decade -- in fact, some fans feel that this era was far superior to their latter "pop-metal makeover" period. And after sampling the 2004 compilation The Early Years, those longtime fans may have a valid point. Weighing in at 18 tracks (which were compiled by David Coverdale himself), The Early Years contains tracks from 1978's Trouble through 1982's Saints & Sinners. Standouts include a pair of tracks that will be familiar to latter-day fans -- the original version of "Here I Go Again" (which Coverdale and company would later re-record and take to the top of the U.S. charts in 1987) and a live take of "Fool for Your Loving" (which, again, the band would later re-record). But something that differentiates early Whitesnake from the "Still of the Night" era is that the group was able to be bluesy, but was not as obviously derivative of Led Zeppelin -- as evidenced by any of the selections here. For fans who prefer Micky Moody and Bernie Marsden over Adrian Vandenberg and Steve Vai, The Early Years is a fine set of early Whitesnake highlights.
AllMusic Review by Greg Prato