Jack White [2CD]

Jack White [2CD]

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Artist: Jack White
Album: Acoustic Recordings 1998 – 2016 (2CD)
(Third Face/Third Man/Columbia/Sony Music)
Over the last twenty years (yes yes yes – it’s hard to believe that it’s been so long), Jack White has worn many hats. In that time, he’s been a punk and indie rock-identified pop star, a blues and folky troubadour, an opinionated artist of music and opinionated record label owner, and an innovative composer who has reinvigorated the blues almost single-handedly – causing young audiences to re-examine it again. That would be an arduous charge for anyone to make, and some would go so far as to say it’s unbelievable – but, with Acoustic Recordings 1998 – 2016, Jack White has magnanimously proven that not only did he draw out his plan the old-fashioned way (with recordings and demos intended to serve as reminders for examination later), those plans make for really good listening in their own right. Stripped down to their very minimalist beginnings (often featuring nothing more than a voice and an acoustic guitar) but still fuller and more complete than many of the demos Kurt Cobain did for his songbook (as illustrated on 2015’s Montage of Heck CD), Acoustic Recordings makes for an incredibly satisfying listen for fans of any or all of White’s myriad projects (material for White Stripes, and Raconteurs is included here) and really illustrates how much forethought and work has gone into his music.

From the moment “Sugar Never Tasted So Good” opens Disc One like a lean but limber title fighter, listeners who are really interested to see how a White Stripes song starts and every reason why the band became monsters of rock will get all of what they’re looking for. Here, White’s acoustic guitar instantly begins to start treading close to Zeppelin’s “Hey Hey What Can I Do” and the melody, while a little loose, also rings as equally memorable because the swagger about it is so infectious; even the first time White lays the title lyric on listeners, he’ll have them locked in for the long haul through this two-disk, twenty-six track anthology.

And, hooked, they’ll find that while not every track is an absolute winner, there is more than enough to keep them engaged. Tracks like “Well It’s True That We Love One Another,” “Honey, We Can’t Afford To Look This Cheap,” the previously unreleased song “City Lights” and the demo version of “Effect and Cause (which isn’t actually any more raw than the version which appeared on Icky Thump) all play like the sort of raw demo that every kid with a four-track dreams that he could make someday; they’re the stuff that dreams are made of and, listening to them all collected here, the levels of respect that listeners find they have for that can only increase.

…All that said, and that’s only my impressions of Disc One – there’s still the second one waiting.

Saying something like, “Disc Two feels like you’re listening to more of the same stuff which won you on Disc One” feels contemptibly trite, but it’s unavoidably true too. Although more focused on side and solo projects than Disc One was, there is precisely no change in the energy level about Disc Two. Tracks like “Machine Gun Silhouette,” “Blunderbuss,” “Just One Drink” and “Want and Able” all fit in nicely with the form put forth with Disc One, but it would be impossible to deny that there are a few changes which are the things which catch and hold attention. After “Top Yourself” plays through with a cheek that’s impossible to miss, “Carolina Drama” and “Love Interruption” come through playing like the horrorshow tracks they’d prove to be once they were built up and developed into formal albums tracks.

With all of the on the record, it goes without saying that those who go top-to-bottom with Acoustic Recordings 1998 – 2016 will realize that the development expressed here was both an organic one as well as being a thoroughly satisfying one. While many of these songs would get better developed before they’d finally appear on an album upon which Jack White played, listening here and recognizing how much went into the demos as well as the final development of the music is the most interesting aspect of the music here. Being able to recognize the dots and make the connections between the demos and the finished songs as fans know them is the part which will have those who buy this album listening constantly and contentedly.


Acoustic Recordings 1998 – 2016 is out now. Buy it here on Amazon.

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