|White Sister - ‘White Sister’ (Rock Candy Records)|
|Written by Johnny H|
|Saturday, 17 August 2013 03:00|
Released back in 1984, one of the greatest years in my lifetime for heavy metal/hard rock releases, it is perhaps a lasting testament to this ten track debut album from Los Angeles based quartet White Sister that almost thirty years on this record would still breeze its way into the top half of my list of favourite albums from that year. Which is no mean feat I guess when you also consider that bands such as Ratt, Van Halen, Judas Priest, Scorpions and some then relatively unknown bunch called Metallica all released classic albums during the same twelve month period.
With this latest Rock Candy Records reissue of ‘White Sister’ I now have to come clean and admit to owning three different versions of this record (the original vinyl on EMI America and the original CD pressing on Heavy Metal America being the other two), something I cannot say I do for any of those other 1984 album releases. “Why?” I hear you scream. Well quite simply, ‘White Sister’ is one of the greatest AOR debut albums of all time, a real gem of a record that even the most hardened metal head can shed a little tear of joy over.
Recorded under the guidance of Angel keyboard maestro Gregg Giuffria, it was the white hot keys man’s presence that initially got me interested in what White Sister might sound like. Having read some truly glorious praise of what he was doing for the band in Kerrang and in particular via the track ‘Whips’ (an unreleased Angel track gifted to the band) it wasn’t long before I was hopping on the X15 bus down to Newport to pick up my first LP copy of said album. Once back at mullet towers and with the record carefully placed on my parptable what greeted me was an aural explosion of pomp rock majesty. The lush keyboards and vocals of Garri Brandon simply swept me off my feet whilst the set to stun guitars of Rick Chadock drilled the infectious tunes into my brain and behind it all the skin tight rhythm section of Dennis Churchill (who also doubled up on vocals) and Richard Wright. I tell you one listen to album opener ‘Don’t Say That You’re Mine’ and I was immediately hooked.
At this point your probably thinking, “he’s off his rocker, no debut album can surely be that good”, and in fact you probably would have a point, ‘White Sister’ does have a slight musical Achilles heel, which in this case is the splitting of the lead vocals between bassist Churchill and keyboardist Brandon, a man I seem to remember who also played a mean keytar too. Also, and I never thought I'd ever see myself writing this, when stacked up against the vocals of Brandon (just listen to ‘One More Night’, Straight From The Heart’ or ‘Love Don’t Make It Right’ and you’ll be in AOR heaven) the ever so slightly more nasal twang of Churchill does tend to grate a little. But I suppose what I’m really trying to say is that with two singers the band appeared to lack a frontman, and what all of those mega platinum selling bands name checked in my intro had in common was a great showman out front leading the charge. Knowing what came next for White Sister though the band and their management must have realised this too, I’m just surprised it was Brandon who was sacrificed as frontman in between albums in favour of Churchill. That’s not to say Dennis doesn’t have a fine set of lungs on him though, he does, and on tracks like ‘Breaking’ All The Rules’ and ‘Promises’ he gives us a glimpse of what he would go on to deliver tenfold on the band’s next record.
I could go on for days about how this record helped soundtrack a truly great period of my life, but unless you actually go out and get yourself a copy of ‘White Sister’ you’ll never know what the hell I’m on about. It really is a great feelgood record, one that was only surpassed by what was to follow, the career defining ‘Fashion By Passion’, which was released on FM Revolver here in the UK just a couple of years later.
Having been lucky enough to have witnessed White Sister live in the UK (supporting FM), perhaps the only other thing I would have liked to have seen included here (alongside the as usual excellent Rock Candy sleeve notes, this time penned by Malcolm Done) is a few bonus tunes. In the meantime I’m off to roll up my cotton suit jacket sleeves, slip on my espadrilles and crank up the URHQ air keytar.
‘White Sister’ is a true masterclass in AOR, make sure you get your lesson soon.