Whitesnake - Slip Of The Tongue
EMI / Geffen
80s Hard Rock
10 songs (46'47")
Release year: 1989
Reviewed by Erik
Archive review

A lot of people, once they got past all the hoopla surrounding Slip Of The Tongue, wondered what ever happened during this time period. This was supposed to be the new supergroup that David Coverdale had wanted: the legendary Steve Vai, Quiet Riot bassist Rudy Sarzo, Dutch guitar hero Adrian Vandenberg, and ex-Ozzy drummer Tommy Aldridge. So in 1989, only two years after the mega-smash Whitesnake album was released, why could they not follow up with a even stronger album? Where did John Sykes, who was arguably a large part of the reason for the 1987 release's success, go? How about Vivian Campbell, who toured with the new group after the recording lineup was fired? When did Vandenberg drop out of the recording process?

The answers to these questions can be found in many places. First off, it would not necessarily be fair to call Slip Of The Tongue a failure. In fact, it hit #10 on the Billboard 200, went platinum, and looked very pretty in nearly every regard. However, to get the true story, we need to backtrack to the end of the 1987 Whitesnake album tour. Sykes had, sadly, departed before the band even finished recording, so he wasn't even a part of the picture. Here, after the band returned from the road, is where Vivian Campbell decided to part ways, later joining Def Leppard after the tragic loss of their guitarist Steve Clark. Coverdale had already become familiar with Vandenberg's work not only as master axeman but also great songwriter, and so began planning the next album with him in mind. However, odd as it sounds, Vandenberg injured his wrist performing piano warm-up exercises to the point that playing caused him a great amount of pain. Who knew a piano could be so vicious? But the fact remained, and Coverdale had no choice but to bring on Steve Vai, who had played with Frank Zappa and David Lee Roth. Vandenberg stayed on as co-writer and Vai dutifully laid down all the guitar tracks . . . which Vandenberg promptly dubbed as too much flash and not enough blues. Ah well, what can you do.

Upon the album's release, Vandenberg's wrist had healed sufficiently to join Vai as dual guitarists on the resulting tour, which was even bigger than the previous one, and included their second headlining act at the Monsters of Rock festival. And that, in a roundabout way, brings us to the album itself. Things kick off in blistering form with the title track, Slip Of The Tongue. Vai's guitar licks are not as explosive or flashy as Sykes' were, despite Vandenberg's opinion, but they are quick and effective. The drumming of Tommy Aldridge is spot-on, with his pioneering affinity for double-bass rhythms showing up right away in the chorus, and again in several other numbers. Keys are mixed in much more frequently than the previous release, which makes the overall tone lighter. In a way, that is the album’s ultimate downfall . . . but more on that later.

Other decent tracks include Fool For Your Loving, which has a noticeably thicker sound to it; Slow Poke Music, a Slide It In-era bluesy number that has a bit of catchiness to it; and Cheap An’ Nasty, a track with sort of a timid bite yet very simplistic for this songwriting team. It could be said that the Coverdale-Vandenberg duo aimed low and underachieved with this material, and perhaps, due to record label influence, they were deliberately going for a safer approach. The 1987 album, by contrast, was a landmark release because of its larger-than-life arrangements and studio production. There was a swagger and charisma that just is not present here on most of Slip Of The Tongue.

What really is the cause of all this decided fluffiness? A few things are to blame, one being that Vai’s guitar sound has really never had enough thickness or low end mixed in, which makes it sound like he’s playing on a plastic instrument. Another issue, as mentioned before, is the excessive use of keyboards throughout the playlist. They seemed to have more of a dominant role, which lightened the sound considerably from their 1987 release just two years before. The most obvious downfall, however, can be attributed to the overall approach to the album. It was, in fact, Here I Go Again that sold records the last time out, and so what you essentially have on Slip Of The Tongue is a whole string of Here I Go Again’s hoping for similar astronomical success. While that may have panned out fine in the moment (placing on the Billboard and selling out tour dates), the fact remains that this was a step back for Whitesnake. After touring finished, Coverdale broke up the band – again – and announced he was taking a break from music for awhile. The bar set by Slide It In, and especially the 1987 album, was never matched again.

Killing Songs :
Slip Of The Tongue, Cheap An' Nasty
Erik quoted 69 / 100
Other albums by Whitesnake that we have reviewed:
Whitesnake - Whitesnake reviewed by Erik and quoted CLASSIC
Whitesnake - Good To Be Bad reviewed by Marty and quoted 86 / 100
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