Whiteheart Retrospective – Part 4: Hotline

I have no idea how old I was when I first heard Whiteheart. I do know the first album I heard was Don’t Wait for the Movie. My parents had one of those CD-by-mail catalogs and they allowed my brothers and I to pick an album to buy. At that point in our lives, living in Central America and completely removed from CCM culture, we had no idea who most of the artists were, so we basically made our choices based on the album cover or the name of the band. My older brother chose the aforementioned Whiteheart album. I chose an album by Silverwind. The name reminded me of Silverhawks, a cartoon we watched as kids.

I will forever be grateful to my brother for his choice. While I enjoyed a few songs on that Silverwind album, I absolutely fell in love with Whiteheart and I have him to thank for that. Thanks, big brother!


As I mentioned in Part 1 of this series, Whiteheart’s lineup changed quite often. This was primarily due to how talented they were, which meant they had the option to become studio musicians, otherwise known as session players. They could make a fantastic living by playing for artists and albums and avoid the grueling tour circuit that was and is the lifeblood of so many bands. Founding member, guitarist and singer Dann Huff, had the opportunity to step away from the band to focus his attention and talents on studio work. After he left Whiteheart, he worked with artists and bands like Michael Jackson, Peter Cetera, Whitesnake, and Whitney Houston.

Dann Huff’s departure from the band prior to their third album, Hotline, opened the door for young guitarist Gordon Kennedy to join the band. Not only did Gordon bring his impressive guitar skills, but also a great voice which can be heard all over the album, including lead vocals on a few songs including the hit ballad, “Jerusalem”. (According to Billy Smiley, Gordon joined the band pretty late in the recording process, so Greg Jennings from Restless Heart played a good bit of the guitars for the album.)

Not only did the lineup change but the band’s sound continued to evolve. It was 1985 and the band had two albums under their belt. Hotline was a chance for Whiteheart to stretch itself a little bit more, ever inching towards becoming a full-on rock and roll band. Whether it was the record label influence1 or if the band still felt some comfort in the Adult Contemporary sound space, there were still vestiges of that style on Hotline, but they were less pronounced and clearly being pushed to the side in favor of a more straightforward pop rock sound.

The opening title track is a great example of the rock and roll leanings of the band at that time. It’s a fast song with a great guitar tone, a driving rhythm section, and a fun layer of keyboards. Vocally, Scott Douglas shows off his range and the background vocals add additional texture. Stylistically, this song could have been released in any of the previous three decades, but it sounds perfect for 1985.

Other songs that continue their stronger rock and roll emphasis include, ” Gotta Be a Believer”, “She’s a Runaway”, “The Victory”, and more. Perhaps the highlight of the more aggressive tunes is the in-your-face track, “Heroes”. Personally, I think this is the best Scott ever sounded, with more grit and growl than he typically displayed. The song pulls no punches, with lyrics meant to confront and challenge. It likely stepped on some toes back in the day and would break some legs in 2024. Plus, the song rocks hard, with pulse-pounding verses building to an explosive chorus. This song was meant to land hard, and it does that and more.

As far as the ballads go, the album has three solid ones with the aforementioned “Jerusalem”, a powerful and emotional “Turn the Page”, and the made for radio anthem, “In His Name”. All three work well and demonstrate the range of the band.

The big swing and miss on the album is the penultimate track, “Walls”. It’s an attempt at New Wave, perhaps inspired by Talking Heads, but it simply doesn’t work. At least not for me. Perhaps other Whiteheart fans feel differently.

Fortunately, the album ends on a high note with the up-tempo, arena rock anthem, “Keep Fighting the Fight”. There is an urgency to much of the album and the final song tightens the screws even more with a propulsive and energetic call for faithfulness.

All in all, Hotline is a step forward for the band, particularly in their transition into a full-fledged rock band. The full transition wouldn’t be complete until their next album, Don’t Wait for the Movie, but the signs were all there on this one. Next time, we will dive into the album that most fans generally regard as the true beginning of the band. Thanks for reading!

  1. Word/Myrrh for their first two albums and Home Sweet Home for Hotline.
Phill Lytle
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Series Navigation<< Whiteheart Retrospective – Part 3: Vital SignsWhiteheart Retrospective – Part 5: Don’t Wait for the Movie >>

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...

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