WHITE SPIRIT - Unearthed Material Featuring Late BAD COMPANY Singer BRIAN HOWE Out Friday; JEFF SCOTT SOTO, LIONHEART’s LEE SMALL Guest On Album
July 26, 2022, 2 weeks ago
When ‘80s band White Spirit released their debut single “Backs To The Grind” on NEAT Records in 1980, the major labels came knocking.
MCA Records won the race to sign White Spirit, and with a lineup of Phil Brady, Graeme Crallan, Janick Gers, Malcolm Pearson and Bruce Ruff, their self-titled debut album was released later in 1980 to great acclaim. A constant schedule of touring saw the band build up a large and loyal following, but changes in personnel saw Janick Gers join Ian Gillan, replaced by Mick Tucker, Toby Sadler take over bass duties from Phil Brady and Bruce Ruff make way for an unknown singer called Brian Howe.
The new and improved White Spirit entered the studio to work on their second album with then Gillan keysman, Colin Towns at the production helm. Alas, the album was never completed, the band broke up and musicians went their separate ways.Mick Tucker joined Tank, later followed by Graeme Crallan. Sadler slid easily into Airrace. Mal Pearson stepped away from music for a spell before returning to action with legends The Sweet. Singer Brian Howe crossed the Atlantic and became frontman for Ted Nugent, before achieving mega platinum success as the replacement for Paul Rodgers in Bad Company.
White Spirit were seemingly consigned to music history, with former members proceeding to forge impressive careers built on this promising foundation. Four decades on and the location of these second album sessions remained a mystery as they were presumed to have been consigned to a skip, as was the fate of so many priceless master tapes carelessly discarded over the years.
The day following Brian Howe’s tragic death from a heart attack in May 2020, Tucker and Pearson were on the phone reflecting on those heady White Spirit days. The missing tapes were once more discussed, but still neither had any idea where to find them. Fate stepped in France, Mal Pearson was rifling through his furniture in storage at the request of his wife to find a missing bedside cabinet when he found it, took back to the house and unwrapped it. Inside were four sets of tapes. One labelled Chiswick Studios – White Spirit. This was it. The one they’d all thought was lost forever.
It was arranged for the delicate and risky process of baking the tapes to preserve and retrieve the old recordings and transfer them to digital. Successful as the process was, the sound quality of all of the elements of the tracks were just not good enough for today’s ears so Pearson & Tucker decided to replace much of the musical accompaniment with a stellar line up of players. Neil Murray (Whitesnake) and Russell Gilbrook (Uriah Heep) made up the rhythm section, with tall the guitars and keyboards replaced by Mick and Mal.
Despite the efforts of isolating and retrieving the vocals, sadly four of Brian Howe’s original performances could not be salvaged to a good enough standard, so guest singers were called upon.
Jeff Scott Soto (ex-Journey) does a stellar job on two, and the amazing Lee Small (Lionheart) on another track as well as backing vocals. Finally, as a tribute to Brian Howe, “Holy Water”, title track to Bad Company’s million selling album, was recorded with FM’s Steve Overland taking the lead vocal duties.
The album was handed to Pontus Norgren (Hammerfall) to mix in Sweden, and the result is an incredibly fresh body of work with power, finesse, great songs, and amazing vocals. Ten tracks with a nod to the past, but fresh and vibrant arrangements fit for 21st Century ears.
The wheel of fate that saw White Spirit disband 40 years ago, turned once more, unveiling the lost tapes that finally reveal the first album recorded by Brian Howe, sounding as fine as he ever did.
Right Or Wrong is out on July 29. White Spirit are planning live shows, with Tucker & Pearson already writing the next album.