Review: White Spirit – Right Or Wrong
Conquest Records (July 29th, 2022)
Reviewer: Jason Hopper
Now here is a review I was not prepared for, an unreleased album featuring late singer Brian Howe of Bad Company, Ted Nugent fame. The band White Spirit released their debut album way back in 1980. A follow-up was partially recorded before the band broke up. With the album uncompleted, the recordings were thought to be lost.
With the passing of Mr. Howe, keyboardist Malcolm Pearson and guitarist Mick Tucker reunited to reminisce. This reminiscing led Malcolm to discover the tapes in a forgotten storage facility. The material was cleaned up, with Pearson and Tucker re-recording some parts, having a new rhythm section consisting of bassist Neil Murray and drummer Russell Gilbrook, and lead vocals for some songs that feature Jeff Scott Soto, Lee Small, and Steve Overland.
So what does an album like this sound like? Fantastic. The band have shown great care in taking 40-year-old, partially recorded material and interspersing it with modern recordings to make a cohesive release. There is a sound differential between the previously recorded material and the newer instrumentation additions, but the differences are not stark or a huge distraction. Nothing here sounds like a degraded recording or demo.
Of the ten tracks, five of them feature the late Mr. Howe, two feature JSS, Lee Small does two songs, and Mr. Overland does one. Regarding Brian’s tracks, I dig the slow build of ‘Gotta Get Out’ and the way the bass and synths coincide with each other bringing urgency to a song that’s about escape. His vibrato and the background vocals gel so well throughout. I also love the fast and loose ‘Rock and Roll (Is Good For You)’. The band sounds like they’re having a blast and it’s such a fun track I can overlook the basic lyrics to the song.
I am a die-hard Jeff Scott Soto fan and buy nearly everything he plays on. There’s an admitted bias here by me saying the two songs he sings on are incredible (‘Better Watch Out’ and the title track). The man could sing the phonebook and I would be happy. I will concur that he has lost a bit of range in his later years, but the material is well suited to his range these days and he sounds fabulous on this album.
Lee Small does well enough on his featured tracks, though I found his vocals on ‘Don’t Say No’ to be stronger than ‘The Dice Rolls On’. The latter has a chorus that makes Mr. Small reach for notes that are slightly out of his range and his efforts to hit those notes are not auditorily pleasing to my ears.
The surprise of the album for me was the track ‘Holy Water’. This is the original recording of the song that eventually made its way to the Bad Company album of the same name. That version was of course sung by Brian, but here we have Steve Overland singing the song and he pulls off the song just as well as Brian did all those years ago. The production here is not as refined as the Bad Company version, but a treat to hear, nonetheless.
I was unfamiliar with their debut album, but this album sounds like a band that could have made a huge impact on the music scene. These songs are all strong and worthy of your time, especially if you love that early-80 NWOBHM sound. I consider it a blessing that we get to hear Mr. Howe’s vocals again, especially on such a rockin’ release. It was an excellent idea to re-record parts that did not stand the test of time rather than release sub-standard sounding material and call them “demos”. More bands should follow their lead. If you like any of the singers mentioned, you need to hear them sing this material. A true lost treasure.