Third Man Records vinyl exclusives, Part 10

Last week I received the tenth 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, who is 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 January 4th. I received it on the 6th.

This tenth set of items consists of a live album (pressed in black-and-blue split-colored vinyl) by the Raconteurs, recorded at the Third Man Records studio, as well as a 7” single containing “celebrity” remixes of two songs from Jack White-led bands, and a DVD documenting Third Man’s 2010 Halloween festival.

The single contains a remix of a White Stripes song by Beck (Hansen) on one side, and a remix of a Dead Weather song by Josh Homme and Mark Lanegan on the other. Both sides are labeled as A-sides, presumably so that one of the celebrity remixers will not be perceived as being more important than the other. Beck’s remix of “The Hardest Button To Button” is filled with heavily distorted techno beats that make it somewhat reminiscent of Nine Inch Nails. The staccato rhythms are sometimes striking, but are just as often annoying. For their remix of the Dead Weather’s “Hang You From The Heavens”, the guys from Queens Of The Stone Age rearrange the song into a duet between Mark Lanegan and Alison Mosshart, adding echo and filter effects to both voices. Most of the guitar work is mixed out, leaving long stretches of spare percussion that almost give the song an a cappella feel. Both sides of this single are basically hip curios for cognoscenti.

The Raconteurs’ Live At Third Man Records was recorded direct to 1” analog tape at the Third Man studio on September 14th, 2011. The usual quartet (Jack White, Jack Lawrence, Brendan Benson, and Patrick Keeler) were joined by Dean Fertita of the Dead Weather, who played keys and provided additional guitar and backing vocals. This was the Racs’ first show after a two-year hiatus, preceding just a handful of U.S. tour dates before the year’s end. The album sounds very much like a well-produced live album from the analog era. The performances are controlled, and the sound is clean, but it’s not clean to the point of digital-age sterility. There’s no new material here, unless you count the version of “Hands” with a few verses from the Who’s “I Can See For Miles” incorporated into it. But fans of the Racs’ two studio albums will not be disappointed by this well-played, well-recorded set. (For those who’ve been with the Vault service since its early days, this set has better sound quality than the Raconteurs’ Live In London album included in the second package, but has a less comprehensive selection of songs).

Update 1/11/12: The Raconteurs ended their set that night with a nearly-eleven-minute version of "Blue Veins", but this track clearly would not fit on the vinyl LP. However, as of this writing, an mp3 download has been made available at the Vault website for Vault members. It's a gloriously Zeppelin-esque extended jam that is worth hearing.

The DVD Devil’s Night at Third Man Records documents the Halloween party held at Third Man Records on October 30th, 2010, which featured performances by the Greenhornes and the Black Belles. (The term “Devil’s Night” has traditionally been used to describe the night before Halloween in Detroit, Jack White’s hometown). The half-hour “Feature Film” alternates between footage of the festivities – highlighted by the amusing interaction between hostess Elvira (a.k.a. Cassandra Peterson) and sword-swallowing performer Dan Meyer – and meatier parts involving the Greenhornes, whom we see rehearsing, discussing their then-forthcoming album titled ****, and performing songs for the studio audience while wearing ZZ Top costumes. The real pleasure of the DVD comes from the full live sets (accessed through different menu options) from the two bands involved. For their very first concert, the all-female quartet called the Black Belles (described by the hostess as “little baby Elviras in training”) played a fast-paced 10-minute set of four ‘60’s-style garage rock numbers. Both songs from their 2009 debut single are included (“What Can I Do” and the Knickerbockers’ “Lies”), but another song called “Casting My Spell On You” makes the strongest impression. Notwithstanding the ZZ Top gags, the Greenhornes’ set is no joke. Inspired by more vintage styles of ‘60’s rock, the band is able to cram 14 numbers (including six songs from ****) into a 44-minute time frame without short-changing any of them; they find enough time to deliver concise three-minute songs and British-style blues jams. Devil’s Night at Third Man Records is a fun DVD all around, but I do have one quibble: why is every aspect of this lighthearted event presented in arty black-and-white film? Some scenes just cry out for color.

A 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. The Beck side of the single has “a psycho disco killer” carved in the dead wax; the B-side has “Dude took my drum stick. Gave it back” carved. Side One of the LP has “There’s magic in my eyes” etched in the runout grooves; Side Two has “As if no time has passed” carved.


The White Stripes “The Hardest Button To Button (Beck Remix)” / The Dead Weather “Hang You From The Heavens (Josh Homme & Mark Lanegan Remix)” (Third Man single TMR126) 2011

Track Listing:

a. The White Stripes – “The Hardest Button To Button” (Beck Remix)
a. The Dead Weather – “Hang You From The Heavens” (Josh Homme & Mark Lanegan Remix)


The Raconteurs “Live At Third Man Records” (Third Man TMR127) 2011

Track Listing:

1. Consolers of the Lonely
2. Salute Your Solution
3. Hands / I Can See For Miles
4. Old Enough
5. Top Yourself
6. Many Shades of Black
7. The Switch and the Spur
8. Broken Boy Soldier
9. Steady As She Goes


Devil’s Night at Third Man Records (Third Man DVD TMR 130) 2011

With full live performances from:

THE BLACK BELLES

1. What Can I Do?
2. Casting My Spell On You
3. Lies
4. The Witch

THE GREENHORNES

1. Instrumental
2. Saying Goodbye
3. Hard Times
4. Underestimator
5. Going To The River
6. Too Much Sorrow
7. Song 13
8. Shelter Of Your Arms
9. Things She Says
10. Jacob’s Ladder
11. La Grange
12. Better Off Without It
13. Need Your Love
14. Lost Woman

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