VANDENBERG - 2020
June 17, 2020, a month ago
Before he was the guitarist for Whitesnake and Jimmy Page's de facto replacement, in Coverdale-Page ('97 acoustic Starkers In Tokyo, released under the Whitesnake banner, lest anyone think otherwise) Dutch guitarist Adrian Vandenberg had a bit of early ‘80s Stateside success with his surnamed outfit, thanks to single "Burning Heart", which is reprised here. Although he currently has the Moonkings project, this is a sort of resurrection of the Vandenberg moniker, with Ronnie Romero (vocals, Rainbow/ex-Lords Of Black).
Although known for his guitar, don't come expecting a shred-fest; this is about songs, first and foremost, with the odd chance to strut his stuff. Much more of a European aesthetic than American "guitar album.” Kicking off with a "Lost In Hollywood" (Rainbow, Bonnet-era) drum roll, "Shadows Of The Night" is a spirited opener, as much built on the bouncy synth backing, as Adrian's six-string. The mid-tempo, stripper stomp of "Freight Train" follows. More of a local, rather than an express, it does allow a brief bit of embellishment, come the break. The oft utilized title "Hell And High Water" is a classic slice of British blues based rock. Slow, but not a ballad, "Let It Rain", offers a different flavor, while "Ride Like The Wind" adopts a heavier, gritty staccato riff (apart from the chorus), an almost Middle Eastern vibe. Punchy "Shout" chorus is a fist thruster, destined for audience participation, despite the restrained pace. Gotta love a lyric like "Shitstorm": "Riding in a shitstorm, leaving this blues behind." Bet there's some autobiographical references within its lyrics. Question is, are they about Romero's or Vandenberg's history? Speaking of which, early on, vintage Snake guitar structures are evident in "Light Up The Sky". This, alongside the opener, qualify as (lighter side of) metal, even today. New version of "Burning Heart" is similar to the original, although Romero avoids the higher register and seems to be greater acoustic guitar emphasis this time around. The original has been ingrained in my mind for 35 years, a power ballad before they were de rigueur. Probably should have sequenced the disc to end with the re-boot, but "Skyfall" ultimately closes things out, a funky shuffle, old school boogie (as the British like to say). Welcome back!