New records by '80s metal bands are usually pretty funny, and not just because the sounds are way out of style. By and large, they're just plain unredeemably bad to boot.
Thankfully, a little surprisingly, and contrary to the title, that's just not the case with Whitesnake's Good to Be Bad. It's no revolution in the genre, and it's not even a return to the band's glory days, but these tracks are downright fun. It's easy to imagine songs like the opening one-two punch, "Best Years" and "Can You Hear the Wind Blow," tearing up the charts – well, in 1985, when such arena-destined fist-pumpers were in vogue.
The guitars are red hot, full of energy, bluesy riffs and pick squeals. David Coverdale's voice sounds a little weathered, but it's no worse for the wear. For anyone willing to forget the last 20 years happened, this is the perfect buy.
The best moments come in the rockers, like the lusty "Call on Me" and frantic, guitar-heavy title track. "All for Love" hits pretty hard until the breakdown, which is ripped a little bit from AC/DC's "Thunderstruck." On "Lay Down Your Love" and "Got What You Need," Coverdale and the guitars take turns playing in call-and-response fashion, which comes off a little corny, but it's passable. "A Fool in Love" is a downtempo blues, and heavier for it.
Unfortunately, the ballads don't fare quite so well. The chorus to "All I Want All I Need" sounds as clichéd as the title would imply, and while "Summer Rain" drops the '80s pop vibe for acoustic guitars, it sounds no more sincere. Probably the best of the bunch is the countrified "'Til the End of Time," even if it doesn't fit well with the rest of the record.
When it comes right down to it, Good to Be Bad is a special record: The band is way past its prime, but many of the songs here belong in its catalog, right alongside the classics.
Robert VerBruggen is an associate editor at National Review.
CD Info and Links
Whitesnake - Good to Be Bad