Third Man Records vinyl exclusives, Part 2
Last week I received the second pair of exclusive vinyl items offered to platinum members of Third Man Records’ Vault service. For those who are unaware, Third Man Records is the label owned by Jack White, the leader of the White Stripes, the Raconteurs, and the Dead Weather. The Vault service promises to deliver exclusive vinyl-only records (one full-length album and one 7” single) to its platinum members every three months. According to the postmark, the records were sent on December 18th. I received mine on the 22nd.
This second set of items consists of a 2-LP live album from the Raconteurs on 180g vinyl, and a White Stripes single featuring alternate versions of two early songs. The package also included a screen-print poster of the Dead Weather’s Horehound album cover image, designed by Rob Jones, which fits neatly inside the LP’s 12-inch sleeve.
The White Stripes single contains alternate takes of the two songs which were released on the duo’s first single in 1998 (Italy Records 003), recorded during the same sessions. “Let’s Shake Hands” is the A-side, and a cover of Marlene Dietrich’s “Look Me Over Closely” is on the B-side. The version of “Let’s Shake Hands” released in 1998 is a great two-minute demonstration of the duo’s small-scale Led Zeppelin ethos. On the other hand, the Dietrich cover on the original single is a somewhat unappealing bit of lo-fi camp. The alternate take of “Let’s Shake Hands” is inferior to the one on the original single; it’s similarly short, with harsher vocals and less coherent chord progressions. By contrast, the alternate take of “Look Me Over Closely” has cleaner sound, a less comical White vocal, and an added second vocal track. It’s an improvement over the take that was originally used, as it now sounds like a proper and credible White Stripes song instead of a case of Jack White mimicking a German torch singer.
The Raconteurs Live In London is from a 2008 show, so it should not be confused with an earlier limited-edition live album issued in 2006. The band co-led by Jack White and Brendan Benson perform 10 songs from their 2008 album Consolers of the Lonely, 4 from their 2006 debut album Broken Boy Soldiers, and a pair of blues covers (“Little Red Rooster” and Charley Jordan’s “Keep It Clean”). Once you get used to the slightly muddy sound quality -– which probably wouldn’t go over well on a proper commercial release –- Live In London delivers the goods. Since the two Raconteurs albums (especially the second one) use a considerable amount of studio effects, it’s good to hear the band prove they are able to perform the songs with raw and ragged glory. “Top Yourself” and the lengthy “Blue Veins” are vintage-sounding blues-rock jams. The band also stretches out comfortably on the epic “Carolina Drama”. White unleashes a burst of infectious energy on the Stripes-like “Salute Your Solution”. Most of the other songs are also well-done; “Hold Up”, “Level”, and “Many Shades of Black” are among the standouts. The only disappointing cut is “Steady As She Goes”, the band’s best known song; it ends up sounding too chaotic, with White and Benson singing around each other in discordant fashion. That unfortunate low point aside, Live In London is a useful though not essential accessory to the Raconteurs’ studio works.
Vinyl lovers will get a kick out of the cover art for Live In London. It intentionally makes the outer sleeve look worn and faded, as if the album has been sitting in someone’s record collection for decades. I wouldn’t be surprised if some Vault members didn’t get the joke and complained to Third Man Records about the quality of the sleeve. A note to those who sell it on eBay: you may need to explain this inside joke to buyers.
Another note for fellow vinyl aficionados: the forgotten practice of engraving text in the dead wax, or runout grooves between the sticker and the last track’s grooves, is evident on these items. Side A of the single has the words “rescued from eBay out of…” carved in the dead wax; Side B has “… the hands of an extortionist Detroit engineer” carved. The Live in London double-LP has the following messages etched in the runout grooves: “The Legion”, “Indiana farm boy”, “Blonde BB gun”, and “Mongo”.
The White Stripes “Let’s Shake Hands” (Alternate take) (b/w “Look Me Over Closely” (Alternate take)) (Third Man single TMR017) 2009
a. Let’s Shake Hands (Alternate take)
b. Look Me Over Closely (Alternate take)
The Raconteurs “Live In London” (Third Man TMR 018) 2009
2. Consoler Of The Lonely
3. The Switch And The Spur
4. You Don’t Understand Me
5. Top Yourself
6. Old Enough
7. Hold Up
8. Keep It Clean
10. Steady As She Goes
11. Rich Kid Blues
12. Blue Veins
13. Many Shades Of Black
14. Little Red Rooster
15. Intimate Secretary
16. Salute Your Solution
17. Carolina Drama