After recording two solo albums, former Deep Purple vocalist David Coverdale formed Whitesnake around 1977. In the glut of hard rock and heavy metal bands of the late '70s, their first albums got somewhat lost in the shuffle, although they were fairly popular in Europe and Japan. During 1982, Coverdale took some time off so he could take care of his sick daughter. When he re-emerged with a new version of Whitesnake in 1984, the band sounded revitalized and energetic. Slide It In may have relied on Led Zeppelin's and Deep Purple's old tricks, but the band had a knack for writing hooks; the record became their first platinum album. Three years later, Whitesnake released an eponymous album (titled 1987 in Europe) that was even better. Portions of the album were blatantly derivative -- "Still of the Night" was a dead ringer for early Zeppelin -- but the group could write powerful, heavy rockers like "Here I Go Again" that were driven as much by melody as riffs, as well as hit power ballads like "Is This Love." Whitesnake was an enormous international success, selling over six million copies in the U.S. alone.
Before they recorded their follow-up, 1989's Slip of the Tongue, Coverdale again assembled a completely new version of the band, featuring guitar virtuoso Steve Vai. Although the record went platinum, it was a considerable disappointment after the across-the-board success of Whitesnake. Coverdale put Whitesnake on hiatus after that album. In 1993, he released a collaboration with former Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page that was surprisingly lackluster. The following year, Whitesnake issued a greatest-hits album in the U.S. and Canada focusing solely on material from their final three albums (as well as containing a few unreleased tracks).
In 1997, Coverdale resurrected Whitesnake (guitarist Adrian Vandenberg was the only remaining member of the group's latter-day lineup), issuing Restless Heart the same year. Surprisingly, the album wasn't even issued in the United States. On the ensuing tour, Coverdale and Vandenberg performed an "unplugged" show in Japan that was recorded and issued the following year under the title Starkers in Tokyo. By the late '90s, however, Coverdale once again put Whitesnake on hold, as he concentrated on recording his first solo album in nearly 22 years. Into the Light was issued in September 2000, featuring journeyman guitarist Earl Slick. After a lengthy hiatus that saw the release of countless "greatest-hits" and "live" collections, the band returned in 2008 with the impressive Good to Be Bad. Coverdale and Whitesnake toured the album throughout Europe and Japan. The band returned to the recording studio in 2010 with new members bassist Michael Devin (formerly of Lynch Mob) and drummer Brian Tichy, who appeared alongside guitarists Doug Aldrich and Reb Beach, and guest keyboardist Timothy Drury (as well as Coverdale's son Jasper on backing vocals on various tracks). The band's 11th album, Forevermore, was released in the spring of 2011, preceded by the issue of the single "Love Will Set You Free." 2015 saw the release of The Purple Album, which featured remakes of cuts from Deep Purple lineups Mark III and Mark IV; a live companion piece, The Purple Tour, arrived two years later. Digging deep into their recorded work, Whitesnake released Unzipped in 2018. The record collected together rare and unreleased acoustic performances recorded over two decades.
Stephen Thomas Erlewine