Whiteheart Retrospective – Part 3: Vital Signs

When I first started thinking about writing this series, I didn’t intend for it to be a comprehensive history of Whiteheart. If you want that sort of thing, Billy Smiley (original founder of the band) has done a fantastic job of providing details about each album on the band’s Facebook page. Head over there if you want to really get the inside scoop.

My goal in writing these articles is to provide a die-hard fan perspective. I’ve never really seen anyone else work through each Whiteheart album like this. I figured I could bring something unique to the table as I have been listening to this band for the majority of my 46 years on this earth. Hopefully, my thoughts about each album will encourage more people to listen to and appreciate just how good the band was. Christian music fans need to do a better job of remembering our musical heritage.

Enough preamble. Let’s get to Vital Signs!


Following their successful debut, Whiteheart was faced with their first lineup change. Lead singer, Steve Green, decided that his heart wasn’t into the more rock and roll direction the rest of the band wanted to go. Singer Scott Douglas took over lead vocal duties for the next two albums, starting with their sophomore release, Vital Signs.

Taken as a whole, I find Vital Signs to be a bit of a step back for the band. It’s inconsistent, to put it plainly. Too many of the songs just don’t work as well as I think the band had hoped. Or perhaps it would be better to say that too many of the songs don’t connect with me. I don’t want to disparage the album too much; it has some fantastic songs on it. For me, though, it has a few too many forgettable numbers so I’m going to focus on what works.

The album kicks off with the upbeat praise song, “Sing Unto the Lamb”. In 1984, this song would have felt right at home on albums by any of the big hitters of the Christian music scene. Amy Grant, The Imperials, or even Sandi Patty could have covered it, and had a massive hit on their hand. It wasn’t a breakthrough song for Whiteheart, but it once again showed off their incredible musical skills.

They follow this powerhouse anthem with one of the most underrated songs in Whiteheart’s catalog. “Draw the Line” is our first chance to hear Mark Gersmehl share lead vocal duties, and it’s a foretaste of what is to come with the band. Contagiously energetic keyboards set the tone for this one, and the rest of the band fills in the spaces with everything you could want from a bouncy pop rock number.

If I am forced to pick one song from this album that everyone should hear, it’s “Carried Away”. I would put this song up against any huge rock and roll hit from the early 80’s. It’s this type of song by Whiteheart that I point to when I want people to get a glimpse of how talented they were. This is a jam in bold capital letters. The band was clearly feeding off each other’s energy. It starts off slow and subdued, but once they get going, you’re just going to want to let them cook.

The ballads on this album are one of the reasons I prefer their debut. They aren’t bad songs, but they lack the creativity and power of that first album, with one exception. “We Are His Hands” is the kind of song that can put a band on the map, and in many ways it did just that for Whiteheart. It was their first big hit as a band. Beyond its success, the song is beautiful with a number of well-known singers, including Scott Wesley Brown, Amy Grant, Russ Taff, and Kathy Troccoli, joining the band for the rousing closing chorus. 1

All in all, Vital Signs still feels like a band trying to decide if it wants to go all-in as a rock band, or if they are going to continue to hover in the middle ground. In some ways that hurts the overall impact of the album. When the band lets loose and just goes for it, you can hear the magic. And for those times, this album is definitely worth checking out. Give it a shot and let me know what you think.

Next time, we tackle their 1985 album, Hotline. Will it be a big leap for the band, or will they still be in the figuring it out stage? Come back in a few days to find out.

  1. This is the Christian precursor to “We Are the World” and frankly, Whiteheart and writer Mark Gersmehl should get royalties due to how similar these two songs are at times.
Phill Lytle
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Series Navigation<< Whiteheart Retrospective – Part 2: The Self-Titled DebutWhiteheart Retrospective – Part 4: Hotline >>

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...

2 thoughts on “Whiteheart Retrospective – Part 3: Vital Signs

  • June 23, 2024 at 9:35 am

    I’m a bigger fan of this album than you are. This was one of my earliest introductions to the band, and it remains one of my favorites to this day. That being said, even I can see there’s some real cheese on this album now looking back. But it was 1984, what do we expect? LOL

    • June 24, 2024 at 9:14 am

      Due to growing up in Central America, I was unable to get my hands on their first 2 albums for some time. By the time I did, the style of music on those albums was something I had moved on from for the most part. Over time, I’ve gone back to them, and I have grown to greatly appreciate them. They will never be my favorite Whiteheart albums but there is so much good music on them.


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