Whiteheart Retrospective – Part 2: The Self-Titled Debut

Welcome back to the Whiteheart Retrospective. We kicked off this series with a brief overview of Whiteheart’s career as well as a cursory exploration of their sound, quality, and lasting impact. If you missed that one, click here to read it. Today, we will be looking more closely at their self-titled, debut album. Let’s get to it.


I’m not sure if I really gave Whiteheart’s first two albums a fair shot until about 10 years ago. That might seem odd since Whiteheart has been my favorite band since I was in my late teens – nearly 30 years ago. My introduction to the band was their 1986 album, Don’t Wait for the Movie. It was that album that welcomed lead singer, Rick Florian to the band. He would remain the lead vocalist for the remainder of their albums. For many, myself included, Whiteheart truly began when Florian joined the band.

My brothers and I wore out our copy of Don’t Wait for the Movie. Sometime later, my older brother attempted to use the order form included with his copy of Don’t Wait for the Movie to buy their previous album on cassette. By that time, they had changed record labels and Hotline was no longer in print, but they still sent us a note from Rick, signed by the entire band, as well as a copy of Hotline. They returned his check as well.

The two albums couldn’t sound any different. Hotline, released in 1985, felt very much like a product of the early 80’s. I don’t mean that in a disparaging way at all, but for my tastes, their sound from their 1986 offering was bigger, louder, bolder, and definitely more rock and roll.

There were many factors involved in getting them to that point. Prior to Don’t Wait for the Movie in 1986, Whiteheart was competently straddling the line between adult contemporary and rock and roll. Don’t Wait for the Movie put them firmly in the rock and roll camp, and they never looked back. But before that genre transition, they put out a lot of great music, starting with their self-titled debut.

Whiteheart released their debut album in 1982. The lineup included Billy Smiley (guitars, vocals, songwriter, producer), Dann Huff (lead guitars, vocals, songwriter, producer), Mark Gersmehl (keyboards, vocals, songwriter), David Huff (drums), Gary Lunn (bass), and Steve Green (lead vocals). Yes, that Steve Green.

In some ways, this album felt like a more aggressive version of what Sandi Patty would have released in those days. But that is probably too reductive on my part because the band flat out jams at times on this album. Songs like “You’re the One”, “Nothing Can Take This Love”, and “Go Down in Nineveh” showcase the bands musical chops. Whether it’s your preferred style or not, it would be impossible to deny the talent on display. Seriously, try not to dance a jig while listening to the end of “Nothing Can Take This Love”.

They were definitely a rock band, but one that was trying it’s best to find its way in the more subdued and buttoned-down world of Christian music at that time. You can hear this on songs like “Everyday”, a lovely duet with Sandi Patty and the moodier ballad, “Listen to the Lonely”.

Even though these songs are a product of their time, you can clearly hear the broad range of musical influences (Toto, Boz Scaggs, Bob Seger, Queen, Journey, and Al Di Meola) as well as the solid musicianship of the band.

The music is on point with impressive guitar work by Dann Huff, a wonderfully skilled and playful rhythm section, and keyboard flourishes throughout. The lyrics, while not breaking any new ground, are heartfelt and sincere. Vocally, the band sounds fantastic with great contributions from Huff and Green, and background harmonies by the other members. The three-part harmony that Whiteheart was known for is on full display on this album as well.

While this debut album is not my preferred style, and a few of the songs miss the mark for me entirely, it is still a fascinating and enjoyable introduction to the band. This album gave them enough success to continue recording and touring, allowing them time to hone their skills and song writing. If you never gave this album a chance, I suggest you reconsider. Take some time with it. Try to listen to it with ears of that era of music. For an album from the early 80’s, it’s a solid album with glimmers of greater things to come.

Phill Lytle
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Series Navigation<< Whiteheart Retrospective – Part 1: IntroductionWhiteheart Retrospective – Part 3: Vital Signs >>

Phill Lytle

Phill Lytle loves Jesus, his wife, his kids, his family, his friends, his church, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, 80s rock, the Tennessee Titans, Brandon Sanderson books, Whiteheart, Band of Brothers, Thai food, the Nashville Predators, music, books, movies, TV, writing, pizza, vacation...

4 thoughts on “Whiteheart Retrospective – Part 2: The Self-Titled Debut

  • June 11, 2024 at 8:19 am

    I love this and looking forward to more. I started with White Heart with Hotline in about 1984 and never stopped. To this day, they are my all time favorite band of all time. I have never stuck with just Christian music, I am a fan of Secular as well like Journey, REO Speedwagon, Toto, etc… So that type of, what I call, 80’s CCM, is what I tend to listen to. I was also a fan of Steve Green, David Meece, Sandi Patty, Kathy Trocolli, Guardian, WhiteCross, Truth, Amy Grant, Michael W Smith, 2nd Chapter Of Acts, Farrell and Farrell, Stryper and last but not least Petra with Greg Volz pre John Schlitt as I am not a fan of John. So you see I have a wide variety of music from the 80s I love and the influence on many of these other bands from White Heart is endless.

    I miss them and the talent that inspired their success and look forward to your further retrospectives..

    • June 11, 2024 at 10:55 am

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting, Bill!

  • June 12, 2024 at 4:05 pm

    I think this first album is a mixed bag, but mostly good. Songs like Hold On, He’s Returning, and Go Down Nineveh are all classics! I tend to prefer the more rock ‘n’ roll side of Whiteheart, but their CCM side on these first couple of albums was still pretty good.

    • June 12, 2024 at 4:30 pm

      I agree and that is where I’ve landed over the years, which you can tell by my summary/review. I love certain songs on it but don’t love the album as a whole. It’s good, but not nearly as good as their later albums are.


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