One of the many bands associated with the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, White Spirit is now mostly remembered as the first appearance of guitarist Janick Gers, who later went on to greater fame with the Ian Gillan band and Iron Maiden.
Formed in 1975 by Gers and drummer Graeme Crallan, White Spirit bided their time as the punk revolution unfolded, eventually completing their lineup with vocalist Bruce Ruff, keyboard player Malcolm Pearson, and bassist Phil Brady. Latching onto the fast-rising movement known as the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, the quintet issued their first single, "Back to the Grind," in May 1980 through Neat Records. While many of their peers were looking to Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, or Motörhead for inspiration, White Spirit's organ-heavy sound was heavily influenced by Deep Purple -- a rare choice at the time, believe it or not. Picked up by MCA, they released an eponymous album in September; but when it failed to chart, the label lost interest, pulled what small promotional resources they'd committed to begin with, and the band quickly fell to pieces, disbanding in early 1981. A half-baked resurrection took place a year later, with future Bad Company singer Brian Howe stepping in for Ruff and Mick Tucker (later of Tank) replacing Gers for a one-off single called "Watch Out." In the meantime, Gers had joined his idol Ian Gillan's band, with whom he recorded a couple of albums before being forced into reluctant, early retirement. In fact, he had given up music entirely and even sold his guitar by the time singer Bruce Dickinson sought him out to co-write his first solo album, and, later brought him to Iron Maiden.
Guitarist Janick Gers fit in quite well when he joined Iron Maiden in the late '80s. For one thing, the members of Maiden and of Gers' first professional band, White Spirit, were both products of the famed New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Unlike most of their contemporaries, however, White Spirit avoided the predominant Sabbath, Priest, and Motörhead tendencies that dominated the genre, and instead looked almost exclusively to Deep Purple for its influence. In fact, this singular source of inspiration helped White Spirit's self-titled debut stand out as one of the NWOBHM's biggest anomalies, since it also lacked any connection whatsoever to the punk movement, which had indirectly galvanized most of the band's peers to action. Opener "Midnight Chaser," for instance, is an obvious stepchild of Purple's "Highway Star" (from the clinically precise rhythm guitar chugging to the animated tradeoff solos between guitar and organ), and at a weighty ten minutes, the seriously melodramatic "Fool for the Gods" could very well pass for White Spirit's stab at "Child in Time" (and not without its fair share of good bits either). With these similarities in mind, jaded listeners could very well preoccupy themselves with playing the "name that Purple tune" game, but this is hardly fair, considering that White Spirit's style is really no more derivative than the style of the band's competition. Plus, outstanding songs like "Way of the Kings" and "Don't Be Fooled" far exceed mere forgery, and will positively delight committed NWOBHM enthusiasts. (via allmusic)