Third Man Records vinyl exclusives, Part 4

I received the fourth 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, my package was sent on June 17th. I received it on the 19th.

This fourth set of items consists of a 2-LP live album from the White Stripes, pressed on 180g vinyl, and a Raconteurs single featuring demos of two songs from their second album Consolers of the Lonely. The package also includes a Dead Weather t-shirt.

The A-side of the Raconteurs single gives us about two-and-a-half minutes of an in-studio rehearsal of the Led Zep-like blues-rock number “Top Yourself”. It’s an enjoyable little jam, marred only by a distracting part where White casually utters a few vocal verses during this otherwise instrumental recording. The B-side is the better one, containing a raw demo of “You Don’t Understand Me” sung and strummed by White on an acoustic guitar. If you only heard this demo, you’d probably never guess that the finished song would become a Beatlesque ballad with wild piano riffing. And that’s what makes the demo good: it stands alone as a spontaneous solo recording by White. This track should have been on the A-side.

The 2-LP set compiles live recordings from the White Stripes’ 2007 tour of Canada, which was the subject of the 2009 documentary film Under Great White Northern Lights. That arty cinema verite film followed Jack and Meg White as they played in Canadian towns big and small, performing in such places as bowling alleys, pool halls, vehicles, and other unlikely venues. The unusual nature of that tour makes the movie interesting to watch. These “B-Show” selections were not included on the commercially released soundtrack album, and are of bootleg quality. According to the liner notes, most of these performances are from relatively unplanned daytime shows and were recorded on the fly using non-professional devices.

Fortunately, it doesn’t take too long to become acclimated to the muddy sound quality. It’s easy to get into the groove before Side One is over; by the time you reach Side Four, the sound quality has long ceased to be an issue. “Hello Operator” and “A Martyr For My Love For You” are standout cuts. The same goes for a thumping version of “Icky Thump” apparently recorded in a pool hall, with no bagpipes to be heard.

There are a surprising number of early Stripes songs included here, including six selections from their self-titled 1999 debut album. “Cannon” is combined with “John The Regulator” just as it was on the album. “I Fought Piranhas” casually incorporates Gun Club and Hound Dog Taylor covers into a medley. The Robert Johnson song “Stop Breaking Down” doesn’t sound as different from the Stripes’ studio version as the liner notes might lead you to think.

The album’s wildest moment is a bizarre version of “Ball and Biscuit” that uses a Mellotron and blistering guitar sounds. The most surprising selection is the traditional folk song “Canadee-I-O”, which the duo reportedly never performed before this tour. The album ends superbly with a fiercely determined performance of “Screwdriver”.

In the film, White explained that the purpose of these “B-Shows” was to perform for people in small Canadian towns who didn’t get to see many concerts in their areas. Although the album could hardly duplicate the feeling of actually being at these events, B-Shows still captures the spirit of White’s intentions. For fans of the White Stripes, this album is nearly as special a treat as the actual shows were for the people in attendance.

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 once again evident on these items. Side A of the single has the words “check the Brit slang” carved in the dead wax. The double-LP has the following messages etched in the runout grooves: “Poutine pour ma reine”, “R. Kelly couldn’t have said it better himself”, “Can we just call it the synthesizer museum?”, and “The punks stole my hat”.

The album’s sleeve contained a small card providing a code that allows the buyer to download “an unreleased track” from the album. This track, which is simply titled “White Stripes Vault Exclusive Download”, is all of three seconds long. It is a recording of the one-note show that the Stripes did in St. John’s, Newfoundland on July 16, 2007. It consists of a single thudding guitar note, and it plays repeatedly until you stop it. Very funny, Jack.


Raconteurs “Top Yourself” (rehearsal demo) b/w “You Don’t Understand Me” (acoustic demo) (Third Man single TMR037) 2010

Track Listing:

a. Top Yourself (rehearsal demo)
b. You Don’t Understand Me (acoustic demo)


White Stripes “Under Great White Northern Lights B-Shows” (Third Man TMR038) 2010

Track Listing:

SIDE ONE

1. Intro/Royal Black Watch
2. Let’s Shake Hands
3. Baby Blue
4. Lafayette Blues
5. Hello Operator
6. Stop Breaking Down

SIDE TWO

1. Canadee-I-O
2. A Martyr For My Love For You
3. Hotel Yorba

SIDE III

1. I Fought Piranhas/Ghost on the Highway/For the Love of Ivy/Gimme Back My Wig
2. Apple Blossom
3. Ball and Biscuit

SIDE FOUR

1. Cannon
2. John the Revelator
3. Icky Thump
4. Do
5. Screwdriver

Comments

alex said…
Hey, I know this is a long shot, but worth trying: would you mind sending me mp3s of the white stripes b side shows album? I'm sixteen and dont have close to enough money to join the vault, but love the white stripes and the Detroit garage rock scene. A vault membership has been a goal of mine, but at 240$ a year, I just couldnt summon that kind of money. I've been trying to find an inexpensive way to get this album ever since I heard about it, but there there doesnt seem to be one. I would promise to never circulate the mp3s and to any other terms you say, and would also exchange some of my own music with you, if you like.
Thanks!
Alex
alex said…
sorry if I posted that a bunch of times, my internet is screwy. Your blog is great!
Rarebird Nine said…
Hi Alex. Sorry, I'm not able to do that, although I do understand and sympathize with your situation. You will be able to obtain the album somehow, some way, some day. Believe me, I know how hard it can be to wait to obtain a rare album that you want badly. But, if you search for it long enough, you'll find an affordable opportunity. Thanks for visiting the blog, and for writing. Rarebird
alex said…
:( why cant you? do you know of someone who would?
Rarebird Nine said…
I don't have the necessary equipment. Besides, file-sharing is against my policy. Sorry!