Some great bands have less than great names. I’ve heard that Pearl Jam based their name on Eddie Vedder’s great-grandma’s jam. Lynyrd Skynyrd was inspired by a gym teacher. I’ve also heard that the adult contemporary legend (and early Whiteheart singer) Steve Green chose the name Whiteheart. It’s a great name for a soft pop group that sings songs like “We are His Hands,” but it seems out of step with the aggressive darkness of “Inside.” So, the name may not have fit like one of Steve Green’s sports coats, but the name’s lack of coolness only tells you so much.
One thing it does speak to is the metanoia the band experienced from their debut in 1982 to their last album in 1997. In other words, the band changed considerably over time. While styles changed, Whiteheart did not do what many Christian bands have done—copy the popular style of the time. Their music was always influenced by what was popular (U2, Toto, Peter Gabriel, Journey), but was never a carbon copy.
Once the band added singer Rick Florian in 1986, they perfected a style that was uniquely Whiteheart. They weren’t afraid to rock, but they thrived in their ability to perform medium-level songs. Dual lead vocals on many songs contrasted the high and “pretty” voice of Florian with the lower and gruff voice of Mark Gersmehl.
Their catalog is large and deep. Some of their better songs were never even played on Christian radio (back when Christian radio played some rock songs). One of their best albums is Tales of Wonder. The title and the cover both conjure a sense of fantasy. It’s the Wrinkle in Time of early-nineties rock. Songs like “Raging of the Moon,” “Say the Word,” “Light A Candle,” and “Morning Star” add to the mystery. They are wonderful in a very, very literal meaning of the word.
The climax of this pinnacle album is “Light A Candle.” It brings together everything right about Whiteheart. It builds as well as “Stairway to Heaven.” Both lead singers and excellent backing vocalists lend their talents in complementary ways. Additionally, the song embraces one of the band’s best lyrical themes—the light of Christ shown in the world through the church.
I hope this brief introduction has whet your appetite for these poorly named, but “wickedly talented” Christian rock legends. Who knows maybe they will win an award and John Travolta can screw up their name into something cool.
The Top 40
2022 marks the 40th anniversary of the birth of Whiteheart, hence the Top 40. We realize no one will 100% agree with our selections but we hope that in spite of that, you will appreciate the time and effort we put into creating this list. We have been fans of the band for nearly their entire 40-year history. This has been a labor of love for sure. Bonus: For your listening pleasure, we’ve included a Spotify playlist with the Top 40 which you can find at the end of the article.
40. The Vine (1997)
Subtle but catchy guitar work, understated yet effective rhythm section with additional percussion provided by Steve Hindalong (The Choir), and Whiteheart’s trademark harmonies weaving in and out of the song. “The Vine” is the perfect song to kick things off for our list.
39. Edge of the Dream (1987)
Whiteheart had assembled their most talented lineup in 1987 to record Emergency Broadcast. Unfortunately, that record did not totally pay off and it took 2 more years and the recording of Freedom for the band to reach its full potential. Even so, Broadcast has several quality tracks. Closing ballad “Edge of the Dream” is one of the strongest examples.
38. Jerusalem (1985)
This is the oldest song on our list. The only track recorded before Rick Florian became the band’s lead vocalist. Echoing the message of Psalm 122:6 this song reminds us to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem.”
37. His Heart Was Always In It (1992)
Just listen to those Chris McHugh drums at the climax of the song. Whiteheart was always great at providing those moments of musical magic.
36. Looking Glass (1997)
'Cause I'm tired of the pain I'm tired of the emptiness I am ready to dream 'Cause You don't see me in the past In your looking glass
35. Read the Book (Don’t Wait for the Movie) (1986)
The first Whiteheart song I ever heard. I ordered this cassette because it promised to be a Christian alternative for the MTV generation. Anything associated with MTV had to be cool, right? My 12-year-old logic may have been flawed, but I was not disappointed with this album and especially this song. The opening drums as the guitars build were awesome and the rest is history.
34. No Taboo (1987)
“No Taboo” is one of the few songs written by long-time lead singer, Rick Florian. Makes you wish he had written more often. It’s quirky and a little funky but it also highlights the band’s impressive talent with four different members taking turns at lead vocals.
33. Once and For All (1993)
Oh won't you come with me, To a hill called Calvary See the face of a bruised and dying man Can anyone explain, The mystery beyond the pain of this place Where love is born again
32. The Beat of a Different Drum (1986)
This song is pure 1980s! Pounding drums. Big gang vocals. Elements of rock and dance blending effortlessly. Yes, it might sound a bit dated at this point, but I think that is a big part of its charm. 2022 is not awesome. The 1980s were pretty awesome. I’ll take 80s sounding music any day.
31. Power Tools (1989)
On “Power Tools” the band takes aim at those who would use the name of God and abuse a position of prominence to increase their personal wealth and power. The song was written as a scathing response to the televangelist scandals of the late 80s. Not sure how many Christian artists would write a song like this today, but we need them to.
30. Key to our Survival (1987)
In the heart of a world Full of deception Paradise lost Had been redeemed Love undeserved Had made an exception The key to our survival Was all in the arrival of a King
While Powerhouse, the album, is a step down from Freedom, it was understandable considering the lineup changes the band went through after their magnum opus. They opted for a more straight forward approach to songs on Powerhouse. The title track is a great example of that sound with blistering guitars and in-your-face vocals and production. It clearly paid off as Powerhouse is one of their most successful albums.
28. Lay it Down (1990)
I’ve written about this song before but it more can always be said. Whiteheart was unique in the Christian rock world for many reasons but mainly due to the blending of multiple lead vocalists. Primarily Rick Florian and Mark Gersmehl. While Rick handled the majority of the lead vocals, Mark contributed quite a bit and that combination added an extra dimension most other bands simply couldn’t match. “Lay it Down” is one of the best examples of their voices complimenting one another. When Rick comes in late in the song, it gets me every time. And bonus, Anthony Sallee’s bass work on this song is next level.
27. The Cry (1993)
Oh hear the watchman cry The bridegroom is a-coming Oh hear the watchman cry From the midnight's lonely tower Listen the watchman cries The wedding feast is dawning Keep watching the eastern sky For the chosen day and hour Cry out that time is near When in clouds of glory He'll appear Sing for the end of fear From the midnight's lonely tower
26. I’ll Meet You There Someday (1989)
This song was instrumental in getting me through the very difficult time of leaving my home and all my friends when I moved away from Panama to start college in Nashville. Seriously. I listened to this song a lot during that season of my life. In the pantheon of great goodbye songs, this is probably my go-to. The whole band kills it but it’s especially gratifying to hear Tommy Sims and Gordon Kennedy’s harmonies on the verses.
We chase the future into past Only to find it never lasts And by the time it's gone, The pain is so strong in the end But listen my friend Although we've lost what was before Forever will bring us the chance once more And in that time we'll see, what was meant to be A special moment to cherish for all of our lives And we'll know in time
25. Even the Hardest Heart (1995)
For the purposes of this list, I voted for the radio edit of this song. I love the simplicity of the album version, but I believe the radio edit is a better representation of Whiteheart’s sound. We have an entire article built around the theme of this song, which you can read here if you so desire.
24. Bye Bye Babylon (1989)
One of the best opening songs of all-time. It also sports one of my favorite rock and roll screams as well. What more could you want?
23. Gabriella (1992)
Mark Gersmehl co-wrote this song to his future wife before he had even met her. It’s beautiful and heartfelt. A great ballad in Whiteheart’s catalog.
22. Inside (1995)
I’ve had a complicated relationship with this album since it came out during my freshman year in college. It was Whiteheart’s first album with Curb Records – a mainstream record label. It was produced by Ken Scott, a longtime producer who had worked with artists such as David Bowie, Supertramp, and Kansas. The story goes, he infamously listened to Whiteheart’s previous album, Highlands, one time to get a feel for what the band brought to the table. He proceeded to pretty much do the opposite of everything they had done before.
Inside is dark, a little angry, and lacking any of the intoxicating highs of their previous albums. Yet, somehow, the talent and skill of the band still shone through. The title track is probably the best encapsulation of the album.
21. How Many Times (Seventy Times Seven) (1986)
How many times Have You wept from the anguish Of all my shame? How many times Have I nailed You up On Your cross of pain? You bled from the broken heart And I was to blame Ooh, seventy times seven
20. Desert Rose (1990)
One of their biggest hits. “Desert Rose” is a stirring ballad highlighted by the incredible vocals of Rick Florian. If you need encouragement, you aren’t going to find many better songs.
19. Find a Way (1995)
This album came out during my freshman year in college. It was a good year for me, even though it was full of transition and change. Still, there were times when life would overwhelm my 17-year-old heart and I would inevitably turn to music. Most of the time, I would try to find songs of encouragement or hope. But sometimes I would lean on songs like “Find a Way”. There was an authenticity in the song to which I responded. There are no easy answers found in the song. It’s dark and confused, fully recognizing how hard life can be at times. But, amidst all of that, the song ends in faith with the line, “I still believe, still believe.”
Sometimes, (most of the time?) it’s not easy, but we hold on to our faith because we know who the source of that faith is. And nothing quite says, “this is a Whiteheart” song like the three-part harmonies of Rick Florian, Mark Gersmehl, and Billy Smiley during the final refrain.
18. Nothing But the Best (1993)
Sometimes, Whiteheart just wanted to let loose and rock. This perfectly captures what they were capable of as a band. I feel like modern Christian music has lost something in the years since bands like Whiteheart were paving the way. Can you imagine any current band that gets any radio play pulling off a song like this? I can’t. And that makes me sad but also it helps me appreciate Whiteheart even more.
17. Raging of the Moon (1992)
This song has a creepy vibe that I just love. It was bold choice to open an album with a song like this, but it definitely paid off for them. Every instrument gets a chance to shine, including Billy Smiley’s 12-string acoustic guitar. A truly one-of-a-kind song in Whiteheart’s catalog.
16. Love is Everything (1997)
I recently commented on a Facebook post about Whiteheart’s final album, Redemption. I said there was a sense of melancholy that permeates the album. I think this song captures what I mean by that. It’s not hopeless. Not in the least bit, but most of the songs have a subdued quality to them that was unusual for much of Whiteheart’s music. “Love is Everything” works so well because even when you strip away all the production and the layers of instrumentation and vocals, Whiteheart knew how to write a great melody with real heart.
15. The Flame Passes On (1993)
Lyrically this song touches on the Christian faith spreading across generations and geographical boundaries despite opposition and persecution. Musically it is an incredibly catchy, but fairly straightforward pop/rock song. Keyboardist Mark Gersmehl takes lead vocal duties here, but the 3-part harmony on the chorus is what really steals the show.
14. Unchain (1992)
Drop the chains from my heart and hands Don't want to be just a halfway man Got a world of love, I feel deep inside But then I go, hit a wall of pride For if you stop, take a look at me I want you seeing what I want you to see No storybook there's no guarantee Still a voice of love is calling you and me Unchain me from this poverty, release my soul
13. Independence Day (1990)
I would wager that “Independence Day” is one of Whiteheart’s most well-known songs. And it’s well deserved. It’s got it all: passion, great message, an incredible guitar solo by new guitarist Brian Wooten, and soaring vocals by Rick Florian. Plus, a pretty rad keyboard intro.
12. Remember This (1997)
I loved this song so much that I convinced my soon-to-be wife to play it during our wedding recessional. I love it even more now.
11. Storyline (1990)
We have at least two articles that reference this song, which you can check here and here. Both of those articles deal with the message of the song, more than the music. As far as the music is concerned, the song is the perfect mid-tempo rocker. It uses dynamics expertly, with quiet and spacious verses transitioning to the louder and more aggressive chorus. Rick Florian always sounded great but his voice is used to full effect on this song.
10. Who Owns You (1992)
The opening lines “I’m being swallowed by America, losing my soul in America” are even more relevant today than they were 30 years ago. Whiteheart was at their best when Rick and Mark shared lead vocals. This usually happened in their slower tempo songs, so it was great to hear them trade off vocals in a rocker like “Who Owns You.”
9. Invitation (1989)
I love the sound of the opening guitar riff. I love the fact that we get three different lead vocalists on this song. I even love the weird voice that comes in during the guitar solo. Most of all though, I appreciate Brown Bannister’s production on this song. The rougher edges are not smoothed out. Whiteheart was a band whose songs were generally polished to perfection. While I can appreciate that quality it was good to get a song here and there that was loud and messy. “Invitation” was all that and more.
8. Let it Go (1989)
One summer during college I worked as cashier at a grocery store in St. Louis. Whiteheart’s Freedom album was in my regular rotation even though by this time it was nearly a decade old. I vividly remember pulling up to the parking lot to start my workday and staying in the car an extra minute or so just so I could finish “Let it Go.” I also remember my coworkers laughing at me as I played the air drums in the car. I regret NOTHING! The ending of this song is so good you simply can’t turn it off before it’s over.
7. Light a Candle (1992)
Anthemic doesn’t come close to capturing the mood and sound of this song. I’m basically at a place in my life that if you can’t appreciate this song, at least some elements of it, then we are probably not going to be good friends. I’ll be nice to you and love you like I’m supposed to, but our relationship cannot move beyond that. I draw the line here.
6. Heaven of My Heart (1993)
Earnestness has been out of fashion for some time. Maybe that is why Whiteheart never achieved more success and recognition. Sure, they were successful and were always in the conversation for best Christian Rock band, but based on their catalogue, they should have reached even higher highs. “Heaven of My Heart” is heart-on-the-sleeve earnest. It’s also an intricate and impressive musical production. Every note, every instrument, every beat is precisely and perfectly selected. They reached for the heavens when they created this song. Personally, I think they succeeded.
5. Sing Your Freedom (1989)
What does it say about an album that this is the 4th best song on it? Even though it didn’t land in our top spot, there might not be a better song in Whiteheart’s entire catalogue that more clearly demonstrates what they were capable of. And if you were ever lucky enough to hear this song in concert, you witnessed something even more special.
4. Say the Word (1992)
Based on Isaiah 55:11, “Say the Word” was a number 1 Christian radio hit for the band. We have touched on this theme throughout this article, but this song may be the best example in their catalog of how great Whiteheart could sound vocally when the high tenor of Rick Florian contrasted with the soulful baritone of Mark Gersmehl. A truly great song worthy of a top 5 spot on this list.
3. Let the Kingdom Come (1989)
This may be the best example I’ve ever heard of a song that builds. It starts with a catchy bass line provided by the great Tommy Sims. Next, we get three verses that start out fairly mellow, but get increasingly more intense. Then comes the bridge followed by a keyboard led musical interlude. Finally, we are treated to a guitar led jam session before the gang vocals come in to bring the house down. There are three or four points where they could have ended the song and it would have been perfectly fine. Yet Whiteheart decided to just keep giving us more and more musical goodness.
2. Over Me (1989)
When I first heard this song, I did not even realize it was Whiteheart. I was at a friend’s house hanging out in his back yard. His older brother was blasting this song on his boom box. It was one of the coolest songs I had ever heard. Then, at right around the 4-minute mark, the swirling guitars kick in and guitarist Gordon Kennedy takes over the lead vocal duties and “Over Me” became THE coolest song I had ever heard. 33 years later it is still on my short list for best song ever.
1. The River Will Flow (1989)
This is my favorite song of all time. Not just my favorite Whiteheart song. My favorite song. Rick Florian is my favorite singer of all time and weirdly enough, he doesn’t sing on this song. The lead vocals are handled by Mark Gersmehl, who does some of the best and most emotional work of his career. “The River Will Flow” is an expertly written, arranged, and performed masterpiece.
I would contend that throughout much of their career, Whiteheart was consumed with the idea of the Kingdom of God, here and now and yet to come. One day, I am going to further explore that recurring theme in their music. For today, it’s enough to point to “The River Will Flow” as perhaps the perfect summation of that catechism.
There you have it. The Rambling Ever On Whiteheart Top 40. Agree, disagree, discuss, and debate in the comment section or on our social media pages. Thanks for reading!