White Heart’s original roster was: Billy Smiley, Mark Gersmehl, Steve Green (lead vocals), Gary Lunn, and brothers Dann and David Huff. In 1982 they released their self-titled debut album. After this album Scott Douglas took over lead vocal duties when Steve Green left the group saying rock music wasn’t his thing. Douglas was charged with aggravated sexual battery in June 1985 and sentenced to prison in March of 1986. White Heart soldiered on with their stage manager and roadie Rick Florian becoming the new lead singer. His third album as vocalist was 1989’s FREEDOM (Sparrow). On this project he is joined by Mark Gersmehl (keyboards/lead vocals), Billy Smiley (guitars/vocals), Gordon Kennedy (guitars/vocals), Tommy Sims (bass guitar/vocals), and Chris McHugh (drums). The latter three went on to become studio musicians.
The opening song ‘Bye Bye Babylon’ is a pulsating rocker that warns against pride and ignoring the one true God: “Rocket ride through time and space/It’s 2088/They’re diggin’ around in the dust of what we’ve done/Now people study me, I’m a part of history/Oh, did we leave them another Babylon?/Is there evidence of spiritual revival or did we leave a land of broken idols?/Bye, bye, bye Babylon/Is our monument the Holy One?/Bye, bye, bye Babylon/If God is not our strength and song/It’s good-bye Babylon”. Chris Rodriguez is a background vocalist on ‘Sing Your Freedom’. It is a rock song of encouragement for those going through hard times: “Let’s come out and say the truth/Living can be a fight/Sometimes you find yourself wandering down the cold winter streets of your life/When you’re a prisoner of time and the darkness is closing in/With all of your heart you’ve got to rely on the song that is hidden within/The song that cries out to begin/Sing your freedom, freedom, freedom (2X)/Let the song of your faith come alive”. ‘Let the Kingdom Come’ again denounces pride: “Well, I crowned myself king/Yeah, I crowned myself king/But I didn’t see the trouble, the heartache, and the sorrow it would bring/Now I’m broken and willing/And lookin’ for my King”.
‘Over Me’ is a terrific rock ballad of praise: “Though the sky is dark and there’s a shadow on the land/The rain comforts me/It is the touch of His hand/I feel His love pouring down over me/Warm healing waters that set me free/Safe in the arms of eternity/Held by the wonder and mystery/Over me, over me, over me”. ‘Eighth Wonder’ is an adult contemporary ballad that reads like a journal entry: “I keep building and building walls around the truth/But what I’m really needing is to find my rest in You/Nothing will have meaning till I start believing/Just how much I mean to You/How much I mean to You/They say there are seven wonders of this world/What would the eighth one be?/If I could just love myself the way/The way that You love me”.
Sonically ‘Power Tools’ begins by sounding like you’re in a workshop. This song is a rock commentary on money hungry and power hungry preachers: “Expensive sheepskin, money-minded smile/On his chinny-chin chin/Still some will follow/You gotta open your eyes.../He’s lost, living in a lie/While your cost of giving goes sky high/For His piece of the pie”. Tommy Sims, Gordon Kennedy, and Rikk Florian share lead vocal duties on ‘Invitation’. It calls folks to accept the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour: “You can’t crash this party cause you got to know the Host/The only way that you can be sure that you’re in when it’s time to go/It takes believing and a heart that’s willing/You got an invitation/He sent me here to let you know/Paradise is waiting/He’s made your reservation/Now tell me, don’t you want to go to paradise?”
‘The River Will Flow’ is the longest track at almost seven minutes long. Mark Gersmehl sings lead and Dave Perkins harmony. The impressive background vocalists are: Margaret Becker, Steven Curtis Chapman, Stan Armor, and Eddie DeGarmo. This anthem of faith includes these wonderful words: “And the river will flow, the river will flow/Through all of the times of your life/The river will flow and the river is love/The river is peace/And the river will flow through the hearts of those who believe/So put your hand in mine/Oh, put your hand in mine/And let us all go down and kneel by the river’s side/We’ll cry our tears of joy/Cry our tears of pain/We’ll let them fall down from our eyes to be washed in the sacred stream”. ‘Set the Bridge on Fire’ has a catchy chorus that offers these words of advice: “Break out of the dark land you live in/Set the bridge on fire/Cross over the deep troubled water/Set the bridge on fire”.
‘Let it Go’ is a pop song that describes what it is like to let go of bitterness and hostility: “It’s an open window, a high flying eagle/This hope in my heart of hearts/It’s a whole lot better to let go of the anger/Those things were tearing us apart/Now I can look into your eyes with nothing held inside/It’s like after the storm there’s a ray of gold/That’s how it feels to let it go/It’s like heaven has come and opened the gates of your soul/To let it go”. Last up is the sentimental ‘I’ll Meet You There’.
FREEDOM was produced by Brown Bannister and executive produced by Peter York. The musicianship and vocals are well executed all around on this project. This is a solid rock album delivered by a group of men who have put their faith, trust, hopes, and dreams completely in God. It makes the statement that submitting to Jesus makes us truly free and not as some think, slaves. The album clocks in at 53 minutes and 13 seconds. Fans of Petra and Mylon & Broken Heart will appreciate FREEDOM, which I’m rating 90%. For more info connect with group members past and present on Facebook.