Thursday, October 30, 2014

Third Man Records Vault exclusives, Part 21

This week I received the 21st set 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, and is now a solo artist as well. 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 postal service, my package was sent on October 24th. I received it on the 27th.

This twenty-first set of items includes a live double-LP from the White Stripes recorded in Japan in 2000, and a single with two new studio tracks from the Dead Weather.

The live White Stripes double-LP Live Under The Lights Of The Rising Sun captures two October 2000 club shows performed in the Shinjuku district of Tokyo, Japan, marking Jack and Meg White’s very first overseas concerts. (The cleverly designed gatefold sleeve features a die-cut front cover and insert, which enables the cover art to resemble either the duo’s peppermint logo, or the Japanese flag). The first disc (pressed in black vinyl) was recorded at the club Urga on October 27th of that year, and the second disc (pressed in red vinyl) was recorded the next day at a club called Jam. It sounds as though few people were in attendance at both shows, making the album feel as if it was recorded at private performances. But the Whites were determined to fill the respective venues with their blues-rocking intensity. If the audiences were small at the time, this Vault package should bring the performances of those two nights to more welcoming ears.

On the first disc, the duo sounded like they were struggling with a bout of strangers-in-a-strange-land awkwardness. The first two songs on this disc – “Let’s Shake Hands” (the first White Stripes single from 1998) and “When I Hear My Name” (from the first album) – get the set off to a rocky start. But they begin to catch their stride on the third track, a haunting rendition of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”. They proceed to perform an expected mixture of early Stripes songs and covers – although some of the cover songs are unexpected: one medley mixes a tune from the’s (the shows’ headliners) with another from Screaming Lord Sutch. Toward the end of the disc, they sound a bit more comfortable than they did at the beginning, doing well with renditions of “Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground” and “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself” that predate their studio versions.

The second disc is better, as the duo delivers a far more confident set with nearly Zeppelin-like intensity. Although the set list has many of the same song selections as that of the previous evening, they do a more solid job with the songs here, including “Jolene”, “Dead Leaves” and the (same) two opening numbers. The second side of the disc is particularly exciting, with its energetic blues jams and an appropriately insolent cover of Iggy Pop’s “I’m Bored”.

The second disc alone makes Live Under The Lights Of The Rising Sun worthwhile for fans of the White Stripes, and the same fans will appreciate the historical value of the first disc.

The 7-inch single (pressed in transparent gold-colored vinyl) contains two new studio tracks from the Dead Weather. This is the second single (following the one released as part of Vault package #18) in a series that the quartet is recording for eventual inclusion on their next full-length album in 2015. Both of these tracks utilize the quartet’s usual fuzz-filled hard-rock approach; both were co-written by singer Alison Mosshart (also from the Kills) and guitarist Dean Fertita (also from Queens Of The Stone Age). The A-side, “Buzzkill(er)”, is a nihilistic garage-rocker with a chainsaw riff; the equally devil-may-care B-side “It’s Just Too Bad” has a 2 a.m. feeling of moody detachment. The eventual album is shaping up to be a dark but absorbing work. (Both of these tracks will be available digitally on November 4th).

The bonus item in this package is a 3 X 5 foot polyester flag with the Third Man Records logo emblazoned on it.

A note for fellow vinyl aficionados: the forgotten practice of engraving text in the dead wax, or the runout grooves between the sticker and the last track’s grooves, is present on these items. The A-side of the single has “Bumble” etched in the dead wax; the B-side has “For a tumble” carved. The LP has the following messages carved in its respective sides: “I Like Your Shirt”, “You can have it”, “John make a mistake”, and “No visit to the vending machine”.

The White Stripes - Live under the Lights of the Rising Sun

The White Stripes “Live Under The Lights Of The Rising Sun” (Third Man TMR-285) 2014

Track Listing:

DISC ONE: 10.27.00 | Shinjuku, Club: Urga

1. Let’s Shake Hands
2. When I Hear My Name
3. Jolene
4. Lord, Send Me An Angel
5. You’re Pretty Good Looking
6. Hello Operator
7. Death Letter
8. Astro / I Walk Like Jayne Mansfield / Jack The Ripper
9. Canon / John The Revelator
10. Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground
11. Apple Blossom
12. I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself
13. Screwdriver

DISC TWO: 10.28.00 | Shinjuku, Club: Jam

1. Let’s Shake Hands
2. When I Hear My Name
3. You’re Pretty Good Looking
4. Hello Operator
5. Jolene
6. Apple Blossom
7. Stop Breaking Down
8. Death Letter
9. Wasting My Time
10. Broken Bricks
11. Cannon
12. Your Southern Can Is Mine
13. Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground
14. I’m Bored
15. Screwdriver

The Dead Weather - Buzzkill(er)

The Dead Weather “Buzzkill(er)” b/w “It’s Just Too Bad” (Third Man single TMR-286) 2014

Track Listing:

a. Buzzkill(er)
b. It’s Just Too Bad

Friday, October 24, 2014

Taylor Swift tops Canadian iTunes chart with eight seconds of white noise

Eat your hearts out, hipsters! All of you hipper-than-thou alternative and indie artists who release recordings of white noise and think you're so cool and defiantly anti-mainstream for doing it -- guess what? Taylor Swift, of all people, has now one-upped all of you, without even trying. This past week, Ms. Swift (accidentally) achieved a new avant-garde milestone: she briefly had a #1 hit on the Canadian iTunes chart with something called "Track 3", which only consisted of eight seconds of white noise. And how did the American country-pop darling pull off this feat? The existence of "Track 3" was caused by an iTunes glitch, which made it appear to be an actual recorded musical track from Swift's soon-to-be-released new album titled 1989. The accidental eight seconds of TV-static-like sound then became the top selling track on Canadian iTunes. Don't believe me? Here is the MSN article:

I would have loved to see reactions by some of the many people who purchased the track and caused it to soar to the top of the chart. "Track 3" is no longer being sold, but you can hear the minimalist track in all its chart-topping glory here:

Say what you will about Ms. Swift. She is hardly one of the great singers or songwriters, and many of her songs tend to sound the same -- but we can't say that "Track 3" sounds like any of her other stuff, can we?

Saturday, October 11, 2014

White Duck "In Season" (1972) released on CD - in South Korea

I have just learned that White Duck's In Season, the rare 1972 album on which John Hiatt made his recording debut, is now available on CD in South Korea. The distributor is Big Pink Music, which specializes in CD-sized album replicas of rare '60's and '70's singer/songwriter, country and folk LP's. It makes perfect sense that a label with that name and specialty would take an interest in White Duck, because the band bore some musical resemblance to The Band, as well as to the Flying Burrito Brothers, although their tone was more upbeat than either. This is the first time that In Season has ever been issued on CD anywhere. (Thanks to Perfectly Good Cigar: The Unofficial German John Hiatt Page for this information).

In Season was the second and final album from White Duck. (Their self-titled debut album White Duck from 1971 has also been reissued in South Korea by Big Pink, but Hiatt was not involved with that album -- and I do not recommend it). Hiatt's bandmates were Don Kloetzke, Mario Friedel, and Paul Tabet, who had previously been associated with a then-unknown Jimmy Buffett. Each of the four members made contributions to In Season as singers and songwriters.

Two of the album's songs belonged to Hiatt. "You Caught Me Laughin' " gives us an early glimpse of Hiatt's cynical humor, and musically it would fit in on one of the first two solo albums he would soon record (1974's Hangin' Around The Observatory and 1975's Overcoats). The other track, "Sail Away", shows an early example of the deeper Hiatt, as he apparently sings about the impending but unexpected end of a relationship. It's a top-notch track that withstands comparison to much of the singer-songwriter brilliance that Hiatt has continued to display in the four decades since. Sadly, Hiatt's talent has always been largely overlooked.

Although Hiatt's two songs are the high points of In Season, most of its other tracks are nearly as good. Kloetzke wrote and sang five of the songs; his weaker tracks are the album's only drawbacks. Kloetzke shines on "Thank You" and "A Girl Who", but sounds overly clownish on "Bull Island Boogie" and "Looney Tune". Hiatt is not credited with playing on either of those tracks, which may explain why they sound so much like outtakes from White Duck's lesser debut album.

In Season is a very likable country rock album, better than just the curiosity piece that you might expect.

White Duck "In Season" LP (Uni 73140) 1972; CD (Big Pink 334) 2014

Track Listing:

1. Carry Love -- (Don Kloetzke)
2. Firewater -- (Mario Friedel, Skip Rogers)
3. You Caught Me Laughin' -- (John Hiatt)
4. Thank You -- (Don Kloetzke)
5. Sail Away -- (John Hiatt)
6. Bull Island Boogie -- (Buzz Cason, Don Kloetzke)
7. Honey, You'll Be Alright (Do What Ya Gotta Do) -- (Paul Tabet, Mario Friedel)
8. Lazy Days -- (Mario Friedel)
9. A Girl Who -- (Don Kloetzke)
10. Again -- (Mario Friedel)
11. Looney Tune -- (Don Kloetzke)