Saturday, April 17, 2010

Third Man Records vinyl exclusives, Part 3

Last week I received the third 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 copies were sent on April 9th. I received them on the 12th.

This third set of items consists of a 2-LP compilation of all Third Man Records singles released in 2009, and a Dead Weather single featuring first takes of two songs from their upcoming second album. The package also included a fold-out poster featuring the cover images for all of the singles, as well as three Third Man Records postcards, and a turntable slipmat designed by Rob Jones.

The Dead Weather single contains first takes of the songs “No Horse” and “Jawbreaker” from the forthcoming Sea of Cowards, which will be released on May 11th. “No Horse” has a spontaneous, improvisational feel, almost as if it was recorded while they were making it up. Most of its first minute does not come through my right stereo speaker; the band still seems to be working on the song when the recording fades out. Its sound is reminiscent of Foghat’s “I Just Want To Make Love To You”. The piano-based “Jawbreaker” sounds more fully formed and fine-tuned, though the recording still sounds rough. The single provides a short but illuminating glimpse at the Dead Weather’s creative process; it will be interesting to compare these demo-like sides to the finished product.

Update: I’ve now heard the finished tracks. “No Horse” turned out to be a concise three-minute track on the order of the White Stripes’ early work. It’s still reminiscent of blues-based ‘70’s hard rock, though it sounds less like the aforementioned Foghat song than I thought it would. “Jawbreaker” sounds very different from its piano-based demo, consisting of spacey, fuzzy guitar and organ sounds. Both tracks exceeded my expectations based on the first take recordings.

The 2-LP set Third Man Records Single Releases 2009 compiles the A-sides and B-sides (where applicable) of the singles released on Third Man that year, beginning with catalogue number TMR-001 and ending with TMR-024. (This excludes the exclusive singles included in the first and second Vault packages, as well as the live White Stripes single that was exclusive to the Under Great White Northern Lights box set). All of the songs except the Carl Sagan track were produced by the irrepressible Mr. White, who also provides backing on many of them.

Included among the compiled tracks are the three Dead Weather singles from their 2009 debut album Horehound (“Hang You From The Heavens”, “Treat Me Like Your Mother”, “I Cut Like A Buffalo”) and their non-album B-sides: an effectively dark and fuzzy cover of Gary Numan’s “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?”, and fairly faithful renditions of Them’s “You Just Can’t Win”, and the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band’s “A Child of a Few Hours is Burning to Death”. Jack White’s solo track “Fly Farm Blues” is a spontaneous two-track recording which shows what White is capable of on the spur of the moment.

Three of the singles were recorded by noteworthy rockabilly artists. The Dex Romweber Duo is a White Stripes-like pair fronted by former Flat Duo Jets frontman Dexter Romweber; the drummer is Sara Romweber, Dex’s sister (no, really!). White joins them for their tracks: the first is a vintage-sounding rave-up; the second is a modern take on a 1930’s Geeshie Wiley blues song. Alabama-based Dan Sartain is another performer who has much in common with the Stripes, but his two tracks here are rather laid-back, and their tone is bitter. The most surprising contribution comes from 72-year-old country/rockabilly/gospel veteran Wanda Jackson, who covers Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good” and the much-covered Johnny Kidd & the Pirates classic “Shakin’ All Over”. Jackson sings both songs with remarkable feeling, making good use of her wizened voice.

The two Mildred and the Mice songs are amusingly deranged punk screamfests about killing rodents. Rachelle Garniez’s “My House of Peace” is a more intricate novelty song, with backing by Jack White and Jack Lawrence. The female duo Smoke Fairies deliver two lovely psych-folk tunes. Transit is a mellow soul band made up of employees of the Nashville Transit Authority. Their A-side is a serene advertisement for their service; their B-side is about socializing after work. Both songs are charming, although Transit probably shouldn’t quit their day jobs. The most promising new act featured is the Black Belles, a female quartet whose sound is at once reminiscent of White’s bands and of ‘60’s garage-rockers. Their original “What Can I Do?” and their rethink of the Knickerbockers’ “Lies” make me look forward to a full-length album from these ladies.

Carl Sagan’s “A Glorious Dawn” samples spoken words from the late astronomer’s 1980 PBS series Cosmos, processes those words with Auto-Tune, and sets them to electronic musical arrangements by John Boswell. Another spoken-word track comes from veteran rock and roll DJ and publicist B.P. Fallon, who has probably associated with every rock legend you can name. His A-side is a monologue about fame and its potentially destructive nature. That single has two B-sides: one is a name-dropping interview with Fallon; the other is an actual song that further explores Fallon’s philosophy.

As a whole, Third Man Records Single Releases 2009 makes the encouraging case that Third Man is everything an indie record label should be, providing distribution opportunities for obscure and deserving talents, and pushing the envelope in the process. Keep up the good work, Jack, because this label may well keep rock and roll alive.

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 “of course, of course” carved in the dead wax. The double-LP has the following messages etched in the runout grooves: “deceased Kentucky hobo meteorological event”, “a pair of crimson tide buss boss blues”, “expired climate astronomer pixie”, and “Irish queen upstarts”.


The Dead Weather “No Horse” (First Take) (b/w “Jawbreaker” (First Take)) (Third Man single TMR028) 2010

Track Listing:

a. No Horse (First Take)
b. Jawbreaker (First Take)


Various Artists “Third Man Records Single Releases 2009” (Third Man TMR027) 2010

Track Listing:

SIDE ONE

1. HANG YOU FROM THE HEAVENS – The Dead Weather (TMR 001)
2. ARE ‘FRIENDS’ ELECTRIC? – The Dead Weather
3. I LIKE MY MICE (DEAD) – Mildred and the Mice (TMR 003)
4. SPIDER BITE – Mildred and the Mice
5. MY HOUSE OF PEACE – Rachelle Garniez (TMR 004)
6. TREAT ME LIKE YOUR MOTHER – The Dead Weather (TMR 007)
7. YOU JUST CAN’T WIN – The Dead Weather

SIDE TWO

1. THE WIND DID MOVE – Dex Romweber Duo (TMR 009)
2. LAST KIND WORD BLUES – Dex Romweber Duo
3. BOHEMIAN GROVE – Dan Sartain (TMR 011)
4. ATHEIST FUNERAL – Dan Sartain
5. C’MON AND RIDE – Transit (TMR 012)
6. AFTERPARTY – Transit
7. FLY FARM BLUES – Jack White (TMR 013)

SIDE THREE

1. I CUT LIKE A BUFFALO – The Dead Weather (TMR 016)
2. A CHILD OF A FEW HOURS IS BURNING TO DEATH – The Dead Weather
3. A GLORIOUS DAWN – Carl Sagan (TMR 020)
4. GASTOWN – Smoke Fairies (TMR 021)
5. RIVER SONG – Smoke Fairies

SIDE FOUR

1. FAME #9 – B.P. Fallon (TMR 022)
2. INTERVIEW – B.P. Fallon
3. I BELIEVE IN ELVIS PRESLEY – B.P. Fallon
4. YOU KNOW I’M NO GOOD – Wanda Jackson (TMR 023)
5. SHAKIN’ ALL OVER – Wanda Jackson
6. WHAT CAN I DO? – The Black Belles (TMR 024)
7. LIES – The Black Belles

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Farewell to the old website location

It has finally happened. The old location of my website Rarebird’s Rock and Roll Rarity Reviews has completely ceased to exist. In case you didn’t know, the site has been moved to http://rarebird9.net . From its creation in May 1999 up until this past February, the site was hosted by the AT&T Personal Web Pages service. I moved the site on February 20th, after AT&T notified its members that their web page service would be discontinued as of March 31st. For six weeks, I was able to use the pages of the old site as redirect pages which brought visitors to the new site. As of April 8th, the old AT&T-hosted site finally disappeared.

One disadvantage to the site move is that many potential visitors may have a harder time finding the site, now that the redirecting pages are gone. The good news is that most of the major search engines have indexed the new site. The bad news is that many other websites on the internet have linked to the old site, and many of them will now have dead links. In some cases, this can be changed. But in many cases, it probably can’t be helped.

If you are a webmaster who has linked to my site in the past: first of all, I want to thank you for doing so. Secondly, I hope you will find it worthwhile to update the links to the corresponding URLs now located at http://rarebird9.net .

I also want to thank everyone who has visited the site over the past eleven years. I hope that you will continue to visit and enjoy the new site.

Last but not least, I want to give special thanks to AT&T Worldnet Service for hosting the site for its first ten-and-a-half years, and for providing the tools that enabled a web design amateur to create the site from scratch in 1999. I hope that other webmasters who used the AT&T Personal Web Pages service have found other hosting solutions.

Ace Frehley reissues

It recently came to my attention that the Wounded Bird label has reissued three long-lost Ace Frehley releases from the ‘80’s. This past January, the label released a 2-on-1 CD containing the full-length album Second Sighting and the EP Live + 1, both of which are 1988 releases from the former Kiss guitarist’s ‘80’s band Frehley’s Comet. Also, Frehley’s 1989 solo album Trouble Walkin’ has been reissued.

The main attraction of the 2-on-1 CD is the Live + 1 EP, which featured four worthwhile live tracks from Frehley and his band. Two other members of that quartet were drummer Anton Fig and vocalist/guitarist Tod Howarth. The entire band makes a good impression, including Howarth on his two vocal turns. The other track from that five-song EP was a studio outtake from the 1987 album Frehley’s Comet titled “Words Are Not Enough”; that song is as good as any of the songs on the album from which it was excluded.

The full-length album Second Sighting is less exciting. It was recorded with a different drummer (Jamie Oldaker), and half of the singing and songwriting duties were unwisely entrusted to Howarth. The tracks written and/or sung by Frehley make up the album’s better half, but Howarth’s trite pop-metal style sinks his contributions. In particular, Howarth’s keyboard-laden ballad “It’s Over Now” belongs on some other hair-metal band’s album.

After the Comet disbanded, Frehley recorded his 1989 solo album Trouble Walkin’, which mainly consisted of straight-ahead hard rock. Peter Criss and Anton Fig are both credited with percussion. Ace’s unapologetic rocking-out is infectious on this album, particularly on his renditions of Jeff Lynne’s “Do Ya” and the simultaneously-released Kiss song “Hide Your Heart” (which Ace recorded without the blessing of Paul Stanley, one of the song's authors). After Trouble Walkin’, Frehley took a long hiatus from recording new studio solo albums; his next one was Anomaly in 2009, twenty years later.

Rarebird’s Kiss Rarity Reviews
http://rarebird9.net/kiss.html