Review by Paul Monkhouse for MPM
Always considered one of the bands who should have broken big during the NWOBHM, White Spirit were different from the rest of the pack, their keyboard infused hard rock more akin with Uriah Heep than Saxon and Iron Maiden.
As with the Tygers of Pan Tang, the wheels first started coming off when their star guitarist was lured away by a bigger band, in this instance Gillan recruiting Janick Gers.
The momentum built up by being on legendary label Neat Records and the second ‘Metal for Muthas’ compilation album quickly dissipated, their eponymous debut one of the eras forgotten gems.
Here we are, some forty years and a lot of hard work later, and the band are reissuing their long lost second album, recovered from the vaults, revitalised and retooled.
With lead vocalist Brian Howe having passed away in 2020 these original recordings from 1981 had to be salvaged, retaining as much of their original identity as possible but with new vocals by Jeff Scott Soto, Lee Small and Chris Overland replacing those of Howe’s that were too damaged.
The instrumentation has been beefed up too, extra keys by founding member Mal Pearson and more guitarwork added by Mick Tucker and a new rhythm section in the form of Russ Gilbrook from Uriah Heep on drums and bass legend Neil Murray adding his own distinctive playing to the project.
Given the talent involved and the quality of the material, this should be welcomed with open arms by every lover of classic hard rock and, whilst it doesn’t break any new ground, it’s a treasure that was well worth unearthing.
Barring the occasional hackneyed lyrics that were very much of the era, there’s a class that permeates every groove and as an opening salvo from the revitalised band the album indicates that White Spirit deserve a much warranted second bite of the cherry.
Kicking off with the titular ‘Right or Wrong’, you’re thrust headlong into powerful melodic rock territory as the keys add colour whilst the guitars alternate between chord work and shredding, Soto’s voice a mix of soul and gritty power.
The singer appears again on ‘Better Watch Out’, its feel of prime late 70’s era Rainbow filled with epic moves and glorious harmonies that highlight his admirable pipes.
The much-missed Howe turns up to add his own magic on the pomp of ‘Runaway’, the muscular and throbbing rocker ‘Lady of the Night’ and ‘Gotta Get Out’, surely a track perfectly made for an 80’s action film montage.
Without doubt though, his best performances are on ‘Wait A Little Longer’ and ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll (Is Good for You)’, both heads-down rumbunctious knock-abouts in the mould of Heep, Deep Purple and the aforementioned Rainbow, the melody and ballsy heft there for all to enjoy.
Sweet bass player Small makes his not inconsiderable vocal presence felt on ‘The Dice Rolls On’ and the superior AOR of ‘Don’t Say No’, whilst the outstanding honeyed tones of Steve Overland graces their take on Bad Company’s ‘Holy Water’, the band having a party on this lively and touching tribute to their fallen comrade who went on to sing for the Blues Rock superstars.
With the original recording sympathetically helmed by producer/Gillan keys player Colin Towns, Pearson and Tucker have revived this particular opus in fine style.
With the band a going concern once again, ‘Right or Wrong’ nicely bridges an old chapter whilst heralding a new one for the band. With Purple and Heep still drawing big crowds, the hunger for classy and keys-soaked hard rock remains and White Spirit are perfectly placed to get in on the action. It’s great to have them back.
Listen now on all digital platforms – https://bfan.link/runaway-8 www.white-spirit.co.uk