…good, solid old-fashioned hard rock, just like Mama used to make – or would be, if you had been raised by Deep Purple, AC/DC and Rainbow!
If you’re a classic rock fan to any significant degree, you’ll know Doogie White. First coming to the fore in the 1990s incarnation of Rainbow with the album Stranger In Us All, the genial scotsman has done considerable time as regular vocalist for Michael Schenker, as well as working with the likes of Tank, Yngwie Malmsteen, Praying Mantis, Alcatrazz and Mostly Autumn (in the White Noise project). Remarkably enough, with those 25 years of varied activity behind him, this album from 2011 remains the only solo album he has issued to date, and for those – like myself – who may have missed it first time around, this is an excellent reissue opportunity, as the album turns ten years old. Originally a ten-track CD, this time it has two bonus tracks from the original sessions added as well as a bonus disc filled with cover versions that White has recorded over the years.
The main album is of course the meat of this offering, and what a fine serving it is. Almost without exception, the material is strong, powerful and a joy to hear, with its refreshingly unadorned and unapologetic Classic Rock sound. This isn’t material with pretentions to be ‘prog’, it isn’t abrasive and edgy and begging to be regarded as ‘metal’, it’s just good, solid old-fashioned hard rock, just like Mama used to make – or would be, if you had been raised by Deep Purple, AC/DC and Rainbow! All of the songs are co-written by Doogie, mostly in collaboration with either Alex Dickson or Paul Logue along with a couple of other contributions, and this gives just the right uniformity of sound without everything sounding too formulaic. The opening track, cheekily entitled Come Taste The Band, was, according too Doogie’s sleeve notes, an audition song for Ritchie Blackmore, written in the style of Deep Purple Mk IV, and one has to say that writing a song with a title and style like that as an audition for Blackmore either shows balls of steel, utter madness, or probably both! It must have worked for him to get the Rainbow gig, in any case – and no wonder as it’s a fine opener. Definitely very much in that Purple vein, it’s reminiscent of the classic Coming Home from the Come Taste The Band album, with the added bonus of a superbly grandiose keyboard intro courtesy of old Rainbow man Tony Carey. It’s a cracking start, and one that is immediately carried on by Time Machine and the dramatic, Dio-esque Dreams Lie Down And Die.
Things don’t hit any kind of mis-step until track seven, where we get the blatant AC/DC clone Catz Got Yer Tongue, which it must be said is as dumb as a bag of hammers, though probably intentionally so! It’s too close to parody to work at all, and one could be forgiven for wondering at this point whether there might be a weak tail to the album – but happily the exact opposite is true, as we are about to hit the finest moments on the whole album. Living On The Cheap is an astonishingly good commercial, infectious heavy rock anthem, in the style of the ‘great rock singles’ magic that the likes of Thin Lizzy, Status Quo and, yes, Rainbow used to magic up back in the day. It’s a brilliant rock song on its own merits, but also has a chorus which will burrow into your brain and dare you at gunpoint not to sing it. Spoiler – you will sing it! Following that is the original album closer, the six-minute Times Like These, which takes its time to develop at its own pace via some great guitar work and a great extended vocal coda, and the lengthy fade makes it a definitive album closer.
This time out, however, we get two more songs added which were left off first time. Digging The Dirt is a decent if unremarkable track, again in the AC/DC vein somewhat, which is okay without adding a lot, but Small Town Saturday Night really should have gone on the original album. As Doogie explains in his notes on the bonus tracks in the packaging, it was felt to be too personal and fragile a song for the initial release, and he was therefore reluctant to put it on, but in actual fact its reflective lyric and lovely melodic structure would have certainly improved the album had it replaced Catz Got Yer Tongue. Still, we have it now, thankfully!
As a separate disc (entitled here Then There Was This) we get Doogie’s take on a dozen mostly classic songs that everyone will know, with UFO’s Long Gone (from the underrated The Wild, The Willing And The Innocent), Iron Maiden’s The Clairvoyant and Whitesnake’s Judgement Day perhaps the most likely to be unfamiliar to any listeners. One of Doogie’s strengths – and a reason why he copes effortlessly with so many different roles in his career) is that his voice can adapt for any given song’s needs. Whether the song is more epic, heavy, Celtic or bluesy, he can assume the spirit of Dio, Dickinson, Byford, McCafferty, Coverdale or whoever, and give the material the treatment it needs most. Some of these interpretations work better than others, with the greatest successes to these ears being his take on the two Nazareth classics (themselves radical covers) This Flight Tonight and Love Hurts, the rousing kicking he gives to Not Fade Away and, perhaps best of all, his version of the oft-reviled Iron Maiden hit Bring Your Daughter (To The Slaughter), which is arguably better than the original. Let’s Spend The Night Together is a mis-fit by comparison, and the chorus is badly miscued, but apart from that this is all good, entertaining stuff which is like a blueprint for how to put out a bonus disc. No deep significance, but a fine set which would be a cracking companion on any motorway drive.
It really is about time Doogie put out another solo work, but until he does, it’s well worth rediscovering this unfairly little-celebrated effort. Oh, and the title, in case you wondered, came from Doogie’s recollection of his youth when he used to read about artists working on a new album ‘as yet untitled’, and a promise he made to himself to use that as a title himself should he ever get the chance to do so. Nice story, nice album. Track it down.