Third Man Records vinyl exclusives, Part 7
Last week I received the seventh 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 April 15th. I received it on the 18th.
This seventh set of items consists of a 2-LP compilation of all Third Man Records singles released in 2010, and two 7” singles. One of the singles features two cover songs from the 22.214.171.124’s. The other single contains three covers by the White Stripes of Captain Beefheart songs, recorded in 2000.
The 126.96.36.199’s are the Japanese girl group who are best known to American audiences for their appearance in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill Vol. 1. The A-side of the single contains a cover of Jerry Lee Lewis’ 1957 classic “Great Balls of Fire” and the B-side contains a cover of “Hanky Panky”, the 1963 Raindrops song which became a #1 hit for Tommy James and the Shondells in 1966. Jack White plays guitar on both. It’s fairly amusing to hear the group belt out “Great Balls of Fire”, mostly in the ladies’ native tongue. But what do they do with the repetitive “Hanky Panky”? They sing that one in English – I suppose it wasn’t heard to learn that line – but its reward comes from an instrumental jam between White and the ladies. It was wise to put that song on the B-side; after all, that was the original purpose of the song when the Raindrops first recorded it, before Tommy James managed to turn it into a chart-topping A-side.
The White Stripes single is a reissue of a single which was first issued in 2000 exclusively through a Sub Pop Records singles club (which apparently was the inspiration for these Third Man Vault packages). It contains covers of three Captain Beefheart songs: “Party of Special Things to Do” is on the A-side; “China Pig” and “Ashtray Heart” are both on the B-side. The reissue was done as a tribute to Beefheart and to former Sub Pop marketing V.P. Andy Kotowicz, who both died in 2010. Pressed in red-white-and-black tri-colored vinyl, the single demonstrates the results of Jack and Meg White’s application of their minimalist blues-rock ethic to the late Captain’s quirkier creations. The Whites make Beefheart’s songs a bit tidier and easier to approach, but all three songs lose some of their original vibrancy. It’s hard to fault the Whites for this result, because there truly was only one Don Van Vliet. Still, the Stripes’ versions are quite good, especially when the duo works up a head of steam on “Ashtray Heart”. Visually, the tri-colored single is an exquisite vinyl curio; the swirl effect is especially unique. (Note: The catalogue number for the original red-and-white vinyl issue was Sub Pop SP 527).
The 2-LP set Third Man Records Single Releases 2010 compiles the A-sides and B-sides of the singles released on Third Man that year, beginning with catalogue number TMR-029 and ending with TMR-068. (This excludes the exclusive singles included in the earlier Vault packages, as well as the Dead Weather’s triple-decker record and the White Stripes Christmas single that was exclusive to their 2010 Christmas Package).
Included among the compiled tracks are the two potent Dead Weather singles from their 2010 sophomore album Sea of Cowards (“Die By The Drop”, “Blue Blood Blues”) and their B-sides: “Old Mary”, a bizarre variation on a traditional prayer; and a fast and furious live version of “Jawbreaker”, recorded at Los Angeles’ Wiltern Theatre. Four other tracks on the compilation belong to Karen Elson, who was Mrs. Jack White at the time. The haunting title track from her respectable debut album The Ghost Who Walks is a good opening track for any album. Maybe it’s just me, but listening to the song on vinyl seems to make its murder-ballad lyrics more effective. That song’s B-side, “Stolen Roses”, is similarly gothic but a shade less striking. The other Elson single, “The Truth is in the Dirt”, is passable but easier to forget; its non-album B-side is an adequate cover of Donovan’s “Season of the Witch”.
The Greenhornes, who have two members in common with the Raconteurs, recreate vintage British Invasion-era rock sounds on their three delightful tracks, two of which appeared on their confidently titled 2010 album **** (as in “four stars”). The other track, “Stay Together”, is a non-album B-side, and it actually comes after “Song 13” on this album, not before it as the back cover's track list has it sequenced.
This year’s spoken-word single from Third Man comes from late-night TV survivor Conan O’Brien, who also recorded a live album of cover songs for the label(!). The A-side is a comedy monologue from the point of view of Dr. Frankenstein; the B-side is an “interview” by Jack White, which basically consists of eight minutes of Jack and Conan playing off each other’s humor. Both sides are mildly amusing, especially if you’re looking to hear Conan goof on Jay Leno, but the single is for Conan-lovers only.
The young English folksinger Laura Marling offers simple, lovely acoustic covers of Jackson C. Frank’s “Blues Run The Game” (recorded in one take) and Neil Young’s “The Needle and the Damage Done”. The Secret Sisters, made up of Alabama siblings Laura and Lydia Rogers, contribute energetic and densely arranged versions of Johnny Cash’s “Big River” and the ancient American folk song “Wabash Cannonball”, with help from White, Carl Broemel of My Morning Jacket, and the Greenhornes/Raconteurs rhythm section. The two songs from ‘50’s rockabilly queen Wanda Jackson both appear on her recent album The Party Ain’t Over. Her rollicking rendition of Bob Dylan’s 2006 song “Thunder On The Mountain” name-checks her old friend Jerry Lee Lewis instead of Alicia Keys; her immediate version of the Bailes Brothers’ righteous “Dust On The Bible” is a welcome reminder of the country and gospel phases of Jackson’s history.
As for some of the lesser known artists included here…The two songs by Pujol are enjoyable straight-ahead rock and roll numbers that border on punk-like simplicity. The trio called Drakkar Sauna come across as creators of children’s songs for adults; imagine if Jack White produced They Might Be Giants. Their two cheerfully nonsensical songs, complete with references to Michael J. Fox and The Fly, are fun to hear. The Thornbills -- made up of Michigan cousins Tamara Finlay and Jim Weigand -- play a unique brand of folk-pop. The A-side, “Uncle Andrei”, is a Russian waltz partially sung in that language; the B-side, “Square Peg”, is a gentle, pretty tune involving the use of an autoharp. The Thornbills are the Third Man artist that I most hope to hear more from in the future.
Third Man Records Single Releases 2010 demonstrates an improvement in refinement and consistency over last year’s crop of Third Man singles. Third Man Records continues to be a vital indie label for its time; here’s hoping it doesn’t lose that vitality anytime soon.
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 B of the 188.8.131.52’s single has the words “long live mad mike monsters” carved in the dead wax. Side A of the White Stripes single has “Two amazing spirits” carved; the B-side has “gone too soon” carved. The double-LP has the following messages etched in the runout grooves: “used to be little graves”, “confused about Roger’s sisters”, “now with no fade”, and “shaky meet zim”.
Various Artists “Third Man Records Single Releases 2010” (Third Man TMR077) 2011
1. THE GHOST WHO WALKS – Karen Elson (TMR 029)
2. STOLEN ROSES – Karen Elson
3. DIE BY THE DROP – Dead Weather (TMR 036)
4. OLD MARY – Dead Weather
5. AND THEY CALL ME MAD? – Conan O’Brien (TMR 047)
6. INTERVIEW BY JACK WHITE – Conan O’Brien
1. BIG RIVER – The Secret Sisters (TMR 050)
2. WABASH CANNONBALL – The Secret Sisters
3. BLUE BLOOD BLUES – Dead Weather (TMR 055)
4. JAWBREAKER (live) – Dead Weather
5. THE TRUTH IS IN THE DIRT – Karen Elson (TMR 054)
6. SEASON OF THE WITCH – Karen Elson
1. BLACK RABBIT – Pujol (TMR 051)
2. TOO SAFE – Pujol
3. SAYING GOODBYE – The Greenhornes (TMR 060)
4. SONG 13 – The Greenhornes
5. STAY TOGETHER – The Greenhornes
6. LEAVE THAT HOLE ALONE – Drakkar Sauna (TMR 052)
7. BRUNDLEFLY, MY CHARIOT – Drakkar Sauna
1. BLUES RUN THE GAME – Laura Marling (TMR 044)
2. THE NEEDLE AND THE DAMAGE DONE – Laura Marling
3. UNCLE ANDREI – The Thornbills (TMR 058)
4. SQUARE PEG – The Thornbills
5. THUNDER ON THE MOUNTAIN – Wanda Jackson (TMR 068)
6. DUST ON THE BIBLE – Wanda Jackson
The 184.108.40.206’s “Great Balls of Fire” (b/w “Hanky Panky”) (Third Man single TMR078) 2011
a. Great Balls of Fire
b. Hanky Panky
The White Stripes “Party of Special Things to Do” (b/w “China Pig/Ashtray Heart”) (Third Man single TMR-079) 2011
a. Party Of Special Things To Do
b. China Pig/Ashtray Heart