Album Of The Week: Doogie White is still fighting the fight
11 June 2021
Doogie White’s As Yet Untitled first saw the light of day in 2011 but has now been released with two bonus tracks, and a whole second CD of cover versions. I didn’t know any of that until I reviewed this re-issue package, but I’m already regretting being so late to the party.
Doogie White – As Yet Untitled (The Store For Music)
Release Date: Out Now
Words: Mark Rotherham
CD1 kicks off with Come Taste The Band. It’s got a slow, atmospheric keyboard start that’s a lot like Tarot Woman, and it didn’t take long for the Rainbow references to start, but hey, if the shoe fits. Anyway, who cares about the semantics? It’s a brilliant 70’s throwback intro and sets the scene for what’s about to come. Then the guitars and drums join in and we’re off, all to the accompaniment of Doogie’s silky smooth vocals. This is a great song that glories in the beauty and force of music, and if you get it, you’ll love it. There’s also no getting away from the song title, either. Coincidence, I doubt it. “A bad reputation, let’s have some fun, come taste the band,” sings Doogie, all backed by high octane guitar shredding.
Variety is the constant
You’ll quickly realise that if there’s one thing that’s constant about this album, it’s the variety.
No more so than Time Machine, which starts with a foot-tapping, raw riff. Doogie sings this one with really high notes that remind me of Bon Scott mixed with Biff Byford, and it’s so damn catchy it’ll put a smile on your face even if you’ve been stuck in lockdown with your boss. Carefree party music it might be, but it’s done with a large-cake slice of pure unadulterated talent.
Things shift down a gear with Dreams Lie Down And Die, which starts with a slow drum intro that leads into a churning riff before Doogie’s slow-burn lyrics roll in, delivered with his super-slick smooth singing. This is old school Metal all grown up, just like we wanted it to sound forever and ever like grunge was nothing more than a bad dream that never happened. But as the song says, those dreams laid down and died. Died, that is until Doogie White came along and resurrected them. This song is a total contrast to the one that came before it. It’s barren and tragic but oh so addictive.
You might think the next song, Lonely, is a ballad, but you’d be wrong. It’s got a mixed-up riff and driving vocals, accompanied by chorus harmonics, and then the title track shoots out like a bullet straight between the eyes.
Gorgeous high range riffs take you right back to a big-perm greed and capitalism decade long gone, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. And if anyone, anyone tries to tell you that Metal is yesterday’s music, listen to this album and believe that the best is yet to come.
Next up is Land Of The Deceiver, which kicks you right in the guts with riffs and drums running all over your spine like a runaway snowplough. With ominous vocals all about nightmares and gypsies of the dance, you’ll be sure to listen to this one with the lights on. Did you think for one second that big, atmospheric, heroic heavy Metal was in the past? Think again, because Doogie White brings it right back, right up to date, and rams it right down your throat like it’s never been away. If you want to know what music would have sounded like if Dio had never left Rainbow, if Martin had never left Sabbath? Well, this is it.
A hard commercial edge
Secret Jesus is a song with a hard commercial edge, a definite potential single that will still appeal to hardcore fans. It’s got a slight seventies hippy feel about it with a circular, smoke-cloud riff that fits well with the lyrics about a quest for something to believe in and what happens when you lose that belief. We’ve all been there, and that’s what’s so good about this album. It’s intelligent, it’s quality, but it’s also very accessible, and the lyrics reach out and speak to you.
The seventies feel continues with Sea Of Emotion. It’s a slow tempo song that kind of reminds me of Led Zep’s Kashmir. It’s a ballad, sure, but it’s utterly without the commerciality that coated the eighties efforts like synthetic honey. This is gritty, edgy, and sounds like it was produced on the analogue kit in someone’s garden shed. And that’s a good thing, and it really, really works.
Doogie White is all about Rainbow, Nazareth and UFO, but there’s so much more to him than that. Catz Got Yer Tongue has an AC/DC like opening in sound and voice, which really showcases Doogie’s versatility as a singer, and also the sheer variety of styles and influences on this album. There really is something for everyone here, and it’s a joy to discover them. If Time machine was a vocal homage to Bon Scott, this one praises up Brian Johnson in heart, body and soul, and could easily have been the eleventh track on Back in Black.
Living On The Cheap is a catchy, foot-tapping tune that does what it says on the tin. It’s about getting the good things in life at a rock-bottom price. You only get one shot at life, sings Doogie, so go for it and always aim for the top.
By this point, you might think you’ve got the album figured out, but unless you’re telepathic, you might be in for more treats. Times Like These starts like a slightly heavier Europe single, but with the same soaring vocals, and that’s when you know you’re in for another epic track. It’s got a pretty standard theme about wishing you were somewhere else with someone else, but there’s a real depth and maturity to both the music and the vocals. If you want to know what Little Angels, Kiss of the Gypsy or Skin would have sounded like if they were still going, then it might be something like this.
Bang for your buck
For those of you who bought the album the first time around, here’s where you start getting some bang for your buck. Dishing the Dirt is the first of two bonus tracks. It’s a chugging, relentless song with a stop-start riff and silk-smooth lyrics telling the story of a woman scorned.
The album bows out with Small Town Saturday Night, and for the first time, there’s a keyboard intro. While it’s a definite formula ballad in sound, the lyrics are all about a small town and why the listener, you, won’t leave, even if you know you should. Doogie’s voice remains strong throughout, although the song itself actually has a music hall, crooner feel about it. A very, very different song to every other one on the album.
All the tracks on the second CD are cover versions, and for any Doogie-rookies out there, including myself, they offer a real insight into his influences, history and role models, as well as also showing off his wide vocal range.
The Clairvoyant is an Iron Maiden cover, who Doogie once auditioned to sing for, and this track tells you how it might have worked out. Doogie plays this song a little deeper than the original, but with the same menace and force.
But it doesn’t take long to pick up the UFO influence. Too Hot To Handle is Doogie getting back to his roots, and he really nails it with this upbeat, rocking version. This isn’t a song you’d normally hear covered, but then Doogie White isn’t a singer you could normally compare with many others.
This is a real microscope look into the man and where he came from, and it sounds like he’s having an absolute blast with this homage to his heroes.
Judgement Day is the first of two Whitesnake covers. Doogie has a real connection with anything Purple and Rainbow, so it’s no surprise that he’s covered one of Mr Coverdale’s tunes. He has nailed the original moodiness in this version and made it a bit less commercial with more guitar and fewer keyboards, which means no complaints from me. And Doogie isn’t covering B-list singers here, he’s given himself a challenge, and he certainly rises to it.
Then it’s back to the sixties with Let’s Spend The Night Together, a Stones cover. Doogie’s voice deepens for this song, and is there no end to this man’s versatility? He effortlessly switches from slick eighties Metal to sixties, edgy rock ‘n’ roll, complete with piano and laddish backing vocals. Brilliant.
Along with UFO, Nazareth features highly on Doogie’s favourite list. This Flight Tonight was originally done by Joni Mitchell, then Nazareth, and now by Doogie White. And a very good job he does, lots of chugging guitar and energetic singing thanks to Doogie’s amazingly versatile voice.
Long Gone is another UFO cover, with its a real slow moody intro that soon accelerates to warp speed. Doogie handles the voice well, and it’s also easy to see where Doogie gets his lyrical influences. This could very easily be one of his own compositions, and I just love that shred-meister guitar solo.
The curveballs keep coming, this time with Thin Lizzy’s Emerald. Whitesnake, UFO and Nazareth, you could almost predict those influences and vocal similarities, but Thin Lizzy? Well, the answer is that Doogie makes this one his own. There’s massive respect to the original, but vocals wise, this has really been reshaped. The guitars, though, are almost a carbon copy and the solo, a huge part of this song, is every bit as dreamingly good as the original.
Then it’s back to Whitesnake and Crying In The Rain. Now, as those of us of a certain age know, Whitesnake themselves covered this, their own song, and Doogie covers the 1987 version on this CD. The guitars flow a little more freely, and conversely, the vocals are a little sharper. But that’s probably Doogie’s style, and it’s an observation of the song, not a criticism. This is both similar and different enough to the ’87 version to enjoy, and on the whole, a little grittier, which in my book is always a winner. And can Doogie White scream like the best of the Seventies legendary screamers? You bet your ass he can.
Love Hurts, an Everley Brothers/Roy Orbison/Jim Capaldi/Nazareth/Cher cover, is beautiful, and that’s coming from me, the arch-enemy of ballads. But even within that musical minefield, some songs stand tall. This song, a massively covered cover version, is one of them. Nazareth nailed it, and so does Doogie. I defy anyone to listen to this song and not want to stand there swaying like an idiot with a lighter above your head. Unless you’re under thirty, in which case it’ll be the torch on your phone while taking a selfie.
But who was expecting Not Fade Away? Not me, that’s for sure. This Buddy Holly/Stones cover is a real origins of rock ‘n’ roll, skiffle beat song, made big by The Stones, but it was an oldie even then. Doogie pays tribute to those times with this very, very basic sound, overlaid with his ever-present vocals. This probably sits least comfortable with the other tracks. Not in a bad way. It’s just that it’s coming from a totally different angle.
Move over Bruce. This is Doogie White’s take on Iron Maiden’s Bring Your Daughter To The Slaughter. As massive a change as you could imagine from the previous song, and a real illustration of Doogie’s vocal range. We know he can scream like Coverdale, but he can also do it every bit as good as Dickinson, with a high/low mix that I don’t think I’ve ever heard before. If anything, this version has more grit than the Maiden original, and the solo is absolutely to die for.
And just when you thought you’d explored all of the diversity to be found on this album, Twisting The Night Away, an old Sam Cooke/Rod Stewart song ends with a really unexpected direction, played with a smoking hot blues guitar, and vocals that weirdly reminds me of Status Quo’s Living on an Island. This just tops a covers CD that is as unexpected as it is enjoyable, as it is revealing about Doogie White’s musical identity.
You could do a lot worse than putting this double CD package right at the top of your shopping list right now! Then, when you come home from work or, more likely, switch off your lockdown laptop, you can just kick back and enjoy.
I think you’ll agree with me about how much Doogie White is a seriously under-discovered gem of a singer. How he hasn’t struck gold with those pipes is beyond me, but isn’t the world of Metal just like that?
All we can do is be thankful that Doogie White is still fighting the fight and putting amazing music out there that we can all enjoy.
As Yet Untitled
1. Come Taste The Band
2. Time Machine
3. Dreams Lie Down And Die
5. Land Of The Deceiver
6. Secret Jesus
7. Sea Of Emotion
8. Catz Got Yer Tongue
9. Living On The Cheap
10. Times Like These
11. Dishing the Dirt (Bonus)
12. Small Town Saturday Night (Bonus)
1. The Clairvoyant
2. Too Hot To Handle
3. Judgement Day
4. Let’s Spend The Night Together
5. This Flight Tonight
6. Long Gone
8. Crying In The Rain
9. Love Hurts
10. Not Fade Away
11. Bring Your Daughter To The Slaughter
12. Twistin The Night Away