Once the world got a taste of the little concoctions that Coverdale and Sykes cooked up, Sykes couldn’t shake the Whitesnake tag.
And I feel he struck too late with Blue Murder.
Blame John Kalodner.
Blame Bob Rock.
Blame Geffen Records for catering to David Coverdale’s needs as he was withholding the “Slip Of The Tongue” album because of John Sykes.
The window of opportunity is small in the music business.
And the debut album doesn’t get the mainstream love, despite being solid throughout. Can’t say much about the pirate swash buckling image, however the music is epic and majestic.
Originally Blue Murder was going to have Cozy Powell on drums. Eight months into the project Powell decided he wanted to do session work instead. Vinnie Appice from Dio heard that Sykes was looking for a drummer and he called his brother Carmine.
Through various friends and record industry acquaintances, Sykes also hooked up with former Firm bassist Tony Franklin.
They spent six weeks recording in Vancouver. Then the project came to a halt while Bob Rock went to work on the “New Jersey” album for Bon Jovi and then the “Sonic Temple” album from The Cult.
During this period, Sykes kept on trying out singers as he never intended on doing the lead vocals himself. And the album kept on getting pushed back.
The self-titled Blue Murder debut was seen as the successor to the self-titled 87 Whitesnake album by many peers. This pissed Coverdale off.
And others spoke about how John Sykes was solely responsible for taking a blues rock band that Whitesnake was and turned them into a metal giant. Either way, he was in the conversation because of his Whitesnake output. And this pissed Coverdale off even more.
To me, there is no filler on this album.
And Sykes’s influences are all over this album, like the “Stormbringer” riff from Deep Purple in “Ptolemy”. Funny how it’s from a song that David Coverdale co-write.
Weeks after the release, the album was enjoying a decent run on the charts. Geffen then pulled their promotion of the album and with that went the mainstream career of John Sykes.
Black Hearted Woman
My favourite song on the album and it is a derivative version of “Children of The Night” and “You’re Gonna Break My Heart Again” from his Whitesnake days.
Valley Of The Kings
Co-written with Tony Martin.
You’re workin’, slavin
Into death every day
Depending on how people view a 9 to 5 job, not much has changed since the time of the Pharaoh kings.
It’s the ballad like ending that rocks however an ending that good is lost within this song.
This is Sykes’s first real nod to Phil Lynott’s vocal style and story-telling about a Bonnie and Clyde style character called Billy.
How heavy is the song?
And what about that groove!
It’s good enough to bring a storm.
Listening to Blue Murder today, it doesn’t sound dated. This is the power of the riff and John Sykes was damn good at creating an awesome riff.
And it’s follow up “Nothin But Trouble” got stiffed by the record label playing grunge politics. While “Nothing But Trouble” didn’t have the same impact as its predecessor, it is still a very satisfying album.
Released in 1993 on Geffen Records and produced by John Sykes.
And if John Kalodner is allowing a project which he’s involved in, to be self-produced, well the theory is that he had lost interest in the artist. Kalodner also allowed John Sykes to record the album in his own home studio, which further supports the theory. It’s all part of the A&R thinking, “If we give in to the artist demands and if they deliver the goods, then we all come out winners, however, if they fail, then they only have themselves to blame.”
Sykes wasn’t even sure if he should be the singer, because Kelly Keeling was hired to sing, only to get his vocals overdubbed later on by Sykes, which is basically another added expense for no reason. Plus the band from the debut, which featured Sykes, Tony Franklin and Carmine Appice is no more, although they do play on some of the songs, while the other songs are done by Sykes, Marco Mendoza and Tommy O’Steen.
But time is important here.
Releasing a follow up album, four years after the debut, and in a landscape that was forming amnesia around guitar heroes and artists associated with the 80’s was always going to be a difficult task without a proper promotional push. But John Kalodner and Geffen had washed their hands with Sykes, so the promotional push was two videos which got no airplay in Australia.
We All Fall Down
“We All Fall Down” a tale about people losing their loved ones to addictions, has to be one of the best tracks Sykes has written.
Musically, it’s a sum of his influences. You can hear Phil Lynott in the vocal melodies and in the riff department, Sykes is borrowing from his “Youre Gonna Break My Heart Again” style riffing.
After the killer opening, “Itchycoo Park” is a miss for me. I don’t know what the plan was here. But there is redemption with “Cry For Love”. It’s another epic like “Valley of The Kings” and “Still Of The Night”. And that outro solo.
Cry For Love
You promise heaven, but hell is all I see
(Mojo rising on the wind)
If there’s a lord above
Come rescue me
(Mojo rising on the wind)
Any song that starts off with the above lyrics has my attention. “Cry For Love” is another derivative version of the “Valley Of The Kings” and “Still Of The Night” style that John Sykes is renowned for, however it doesn’t sound like a forgery.
The song has a clichéd lyrical theme that was done to death in the Eighties, with Poison’s “Fallen Angel” and Bon Jovi’s “Runaway” being two notable examples. Still Sykes makes it sound original and heartfelt.
“Dance” is just a foot stomper party track which. “I’m On Fire” is typical of the 80’s and while a good track, a bit dated when it came to 1993. “Save My Love” tried to capture the “Is This Love” vibe. “Love Child” is a derivative version of the “Sex Child” from the debut but the Chorus on “Love Child” is way stronger. “Shouldn’t Have Let You Go” is also a re-write of “Riot” in the music department, especially in the verse riff.
“I Need an Angel” is one of my favourites musically and it reminds me of “Looking For Love” which is also one of my favourite Syke’s cuts. At 7 minutes long, it feels like the song is over in a much shorter time span. The vocal melody is strong and that outro from the 5 minute mark gets all the emotions firing.
I don’t have “Bye Bye” on any of the releases I have, but I found it on YouTube. It’s a Japanese bonus track and a derivative version of “Sex Child” and “Riot” with brass instruments.
Then Sykes went solo. But he couldn’t get US distribution, so his Japanese only releases ended up being expensive imports in other parts of the world.
But his solo career is for a different Record Vault story.