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Adrian Vandenberg Compendium. “It’s Hard To Reach The Sky When You’re On Your Knees”.

Adrian Vandenberg came to my attention from his tenure in Whitesnake. At first I saw him as an imposter.

Why?

Because John Sykes became like a mythical saint to me. How dare these imposters like Vivian Campbell and Adrian Vandenberg mimic Sykes’s creations?

But then I came across a Vandenberg LP in a second hand record shop. And that brought back a memory of an interview in which it was stated that Adrian Vandenberg was actually David Coverdale’s first choice for the lead guitar slot, however Vandenberg turned the gig down and John Sykes was given the gig instead.

1985’s “Alibi” was the last album from the Vandenberg group before Adrian Vandenberg was poached from his own group to join the MTV Friendly Line Up of Whitesnake. And you know what I was very pleasantly surprised at the “Alibi” album. It was also the first album I heard from original music that Adrian Vandenberg had created and suddenly he was cool.

“All The Way”

The way it starts off with the city noises and that clean tone guitar riff you can just picture a guitar player busking on a street corner. A great opener. How good is that lead harmony melodic line for the second verse? Brilliant.

Goin’ all the way, I’m goin’ all the way
Reached the point where there ain’t no way back
Goin’ all the way, gotta go all the way, I’m in this right up to my neck

“How Long”

This track and “All The Way” are the two tracks that really connected with me musically from the initial listen and I played them constantly on the LP. I was a master at dropping the needle in the right spot. The classical overtones in “How Long” are really subtle and connect. Lyrically it is a brilliant heartbreak song

And that lead break. Wow. I always love a lead break that paraphrases the vocal melody. That in itself is an art form. Vandenberg does a stellar job at it. If Spotify and YouTube was around back in the Eighties I reckon I would have cracked up some decent play counts on these two songs.

Used to spend my time, breaking hearts now I find that I’m paying my debt
Now it’s my heart that breaks and it hurts so bad

Words so true.

“Fighting Against The World”

Once I burned out on “All The Way” and “How Long” I started to give the other album songs a spin.  “Fighting Against The World” is a real good song and perfect for 1985. Again the Classical influences pound the headspace and that Chorus just kicks some serious arena butt. Love the phrasing of the vocal melody.

And as is the norm, Vandenberg puts all of his chops to good use for another outstanding lead break.

I don’t agree
With the way some people make all the rules, control society
No rules for me, I wanna live my life the way I want

By 1985, everyone was doing standing up for something. There are so many things in life that are worth fighting for and your dreams and desires are one of those things.

“Alibi”

Now that there is nowhere to run, need an alibi

The album polarised me because it covered so many different styles. “Alibi” is a song that I class in the Def Leppard style of rock. It shares a lot of similarities to “Photograph”.

The lead break. What can I say? It is unique enough to be original and it shows its influences enough to connect musically.

“Once In A Lifetime”

The song is way ahead of its time. “Once In A Lifetime” is the template that Def Leppard used for “Hysteria” a few years later. The similarities are striking. Musically the song is brilliant.

Yesterday in and out another town, suddenly saw your face
Right out there in the crowd
You said you were happy, you got someone who treats you right
And I recognize that fire in your eyes, oh girl you should be mine, ‘cos

So after being pleasantly surprised back in 1989 with the purchase of “Alibi” (albeit 4 years too late), I started to seek out more music from Adrian Vandenberg. A record store clerk told me that two other albums exist however it will be an import and imports to Australia were very expensive. So I added them to my list of LP’s to search out at second hand record shops and record fairs. It took a few years however I did manage to find them.

Isn’t it funny how today, we can YouTube or Spotify our favourite artist and we will have their whole history at our fingertips. Before it wasn’t like that.

“Friday Night”

It is from 1983’s “Heading For A Storm” LP by Vandenberg. It is very Eddie Van Halen in the verses ala “Dance The Night Away”. Lyrically the song doesn’t connect but musically it speaks to me. The lead break again is well thought out, well planned and perfectly executed.

“Time Will Tell”

Pedal point riffs merged with the AC/DC style of power chords merged with Def Leppard pop sensibilities. A great mix.

As is the norm, the lead break from Vandenberg is brilliant.

“Heading For A Storm”

A good title track musically. Like a lot of the songs from the Eighties, musically they connected with me however the choice of words or topics left a lot to be desired.

This is very similar to what early Europe would sound like. Lots of Michael Schenkerism’s in the lead breaks, even the main riff could have come from a MSG or UFO album. Always blown away by the lead guitar compositions.

“Waiting For The Night”

Again the acoustic guitar comes to the fore as a prelude and then the Deep Purple “Highway Star” rhythms kick in with a lead break tour de force. The very definition of Euro Metal.

“Burning Heart”

Going deeper into the debut Vandenberg album from 1982, this is the first song I dropped the needle on because it was the single. And the other reason why I wanted to hear this song is that I read in an interview back in the early nineties that Vandenberg and Coverdale where working on a Whitesnake version of the song for the “Slip Of The Tongue” album. However when Vandenberg was suddenly confronted with a wrist problem, the song got put on the shelf.

And you know what. On hearing “Burning Heart”, “Sailing Ships” came to mind straight away.

“Nothing To Lose”

This is the best song on the debut album and it comes in at track number 7.

“Too Late”

The Judas Priest influence connects. Even the vocal melody is phrased very similar to what Rob Halford would do. And the Randy Rhoads influenced lead break showed some serious chops.

1990’s “Slip Of The Tongue” should have been Vandenberg’s pinnacle however the final script said otherwise. No offense to Steve Vai but the decorating he did over the bluesy hard rock riffs from Vandenberg was never a good fit for Whitesnake. Granted it is still an enjoyable listen but man seeing the making off DVD just highlights how blues rock the album originally was.

Fate would have it that a hand injury prevented Vandenberg from playing on the album which was the culmination of physical tension caused by his playing posture over the years and further aggravated by a series of wrist exercises Vandenberg started doing to fix the previous problem.

At one stage the working title was “Liquor and Poker”.

“Slip Of The Tongue”

Bring out the Zeppelin’isms. One listen and I was floored with a one two.

“Judgement Day”

Bring out the Zeppelin’sims Part II. Or in other words say hello to “Kashmir”.

“Sailing Ships”

The best song on the album. The big hit that wasn’t given a proper chance.

“Kittens Got Claws”

Blues Rock from start to finish. Coverdale delivers a simple Blues vocal line with all of his gutso. Classic Whitesnake.

“Wings Of The Storm”

A metal masterpiece.

“Cheap An’ Nasty”

AC/DC would be proud.

“Now You’re Gone”

Coverdale and Vandenberg tried to re-write “Here I Go Again”.

“The Deeper The Love”

A chorus that Coverdale had for a long time finally gets turned into a song.

“Sweet Lady Luck”

A B-side but how good is that intro.

It’s like Manic Eden and its music have been forgotten. You can’t find them on Spotify, however YouTube has the whole album.

Manic Eden came about during the Coverdale-Page project. Apart from Adrian Vandenberg on guitar, Manic Eden also included Rudy Sarzo and Tommy Aldridge on bass and drums, while vocals were provided by Ron Young. Their self-titled debut came out in 1994 at the height of the grunge movement and the start of the industrial movement. Manic Eden features some of the best blues rock playing from Adrian Vandenberg.

“Ride The Storm”

It’s a derivative version of Led Zeppelin’s “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You” in the verses and it is very good. Ron Young delivers a Rod Stewart-esque like performance and Vandenberg owns the song on the guitar.

It’s your turn to fly on your own

“Do Angels Die”

Why does this sound so good?

This one is a derivative version of Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing” and Rolling Stones ‘Wild Horses”.  And as with “Ride The Storm” it is a damn good song. The track is atmospheric and then so powerful, one of my favorite tracks ever. It’s also got one of the best lyric lines ever.

“It’s hard to reach the sky, when you’re on your knees”.

This is what music is all about. If you’re sitting at home believing you deserve attention? Listen to this and make sure that what you are doing is just as good!

Then David Coverdale came into the picture again. When Coverdale let Vandenberg go, the reasons given range. The one that is most consistent is that Vandenberg presented Coverdale with a selection of songs that Coverdale described as “more suited to Chicago or Poison!”

The funny thing is that one of those songs got turned into a killer blues number called “Too Many Tears” many years later.

So after putting the past to bed, Coverdale and Vandenberg still needed a band. They immediately called Rudy Sarzo for the bassists position who then recommended Warren DeMartini from Ratt as the other guitarist. Denny Carmassi came from the Coverdale/Page project and a former crew associate suggested Paul Mircovich for the keyboardist position.

This is the version of Whitesnake I saw when they played the old Horden Pavilion in Sydney for their Australian tour.

“Restless Heart”

Then in 1997, the “Restless Heart” album dropped. It was originally intended to be more of a Coverdale-Vandenberg project but EMI insisted that it be released as a Whitesnake album. Regardless of people’s views, three songs stand out as worthy additions to the Whitesnake body of work. They are the title track, “Too Many Tears” and “Crying”.

“Too Many Tears”

The emotion hits the mark and Vandenberg shows what an accomplished guitarist and songwriter he is.

“Crying”

A derivative version of the song “Mistreated” from the David Coverdale era of Deep Purple of the David Coverdale. And what a dirty rocking guitar sound!

“Breathing”

2014. The return this time with Vandenberg’s MoonKings after his former Vandenberg bandmates refused to allow Vandenberg to use the Vandenberg name.

This is an album from an artist who wants to show that he can still rock and that he can still deliver live. Because in 2014, sales don’t mean shit. What matters is if people are listening to the music.

Vandenberg does ballads at a 1000 percent. So intimate and uplifting.

“Line Of Fire”

Vandenberg is famous for his Eighties output however this song sounds like it was written in the Seventies.

“Out Of Reach”

A personal song for Vandenberg that deals with his daughter who has lived with her mother since she was 12 years old. “Out Of Reach” means that he doesn’t get to see her as often as he would like.

“Sailing Ships (Acoustic)”

Vandenberg also intended for this song to be more laid back and acoustic orientated. In the end if I had to pick whose return was better between Jake E. Lee and Adrian Vandenberg, than Vandenberg wins without any competition.

“Lust And Lies”

Another brilliant addition to Vandenberg’s body of work. It’s Led Zeppelin meets Humble Pie.

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One thought on “Adrian Vandenberg Compendium. “It’s Hard To Reach The Sky When You’re On Your Knees”.

  1. Pingback: 1985 Continued | destroyerofharmony

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