This week I received the 23rd 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 March 28th. I received it on the 30th.
This twenty-third set of items mainly focuses on a White Stripes concert performed at the Amazon Theater (Portuguese translation: Teatro Amazonas
) Opera House in Manaus, Brazil on June 1st of 2005, from the tour in support of their 2005 album Get Behind Me Satan
. The concert is captured on vinyl on a 2-LP set, and presented visually on DVD. The 7-inch single includes two previously unreleased White Stripes recordings related to the 2005 album. This set is packaged just like a commercial boxed set, with extra bonus items inside. The box’s cover art features a striking graphic of a death head monkey, designed by Rob Jones.
The double-LP Under Amazonian Lights
(pressed on blood-red vinyl with black wisps) contains the audio of the concert, reportedly the first rock concert ever held at that historic opera house located in the heart of the Amazon rainforest. It’s a terrific set, with (mostly) clear sound quality, demonstrating Jack and Meg White performing with remarkable energy and enthusiasm. There is a noticeable difference between the way the duo performed songs from the then-new Get Behind Me Satan
album and the way they performed the other selections. On the newer songs (i.e. “Blue Orchid”, “My Doorbell”, “Little Ghost”, and three
performances of the Meg-sung “Passive Manipulation”), the Whites seemed to be working carefully to get the songs right – and they did. By contrast, they seemed less inhibited when performing most of the other songs. They perform “Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground” and Bob Dylan’s “Love Sick” with a ferocious excitement. Jack sings and plays with almost blinding speed on “Black Math” and “Hotel Yorba”, and he follows an electric version of “The Same Boy You’ve Always Known” with an equally satisfying acoustic version of the same song.
The third side is incredible, highlighted by a mind-blowing eight-minute blues medley of Son House’s “Death Letter” and Blind Willie Johnson’s “Lord, I Just Can’t Keep From Crying Sometimes”. That same solid side contains the marimba-dominated “The Nurse”, the slide guitar feast of “Little Bird”, and an impassioned piano-based rendition of the traditional “St. James Infirmary”.
The fourth side is the only one with problems. For one thing, it has a scratchy, surface-noise-like sound quality that the other three sides do not have – at least on my copy. Also, it sounds like Jack was getting exhausted at this point in the show. This version of “Screwdriver” is noticeably flawed, and Jack aborts his first attempt at performing “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself”. When Meg sings “Passive Manipulation” for the third
time, it seems to be done for the purpose of allowing Jack to catch his breath. Jack’s piano-based performance of the 1920 pop song “I’ll Be With You In Apple Blossom Time” also comes across as a means of recharging his batteries. But if that’s what he needed to do before delivering a tight and vigorous “Seven Nation Army” show-closer, then he did the right thing.
The DVD Under Amazonian Lights
, running 43 minutes, contains a visual document of 14 song selections from the concert. (Some of this footage was broadcast on MTV in 2005). There is plenty to see, as the DVD gives us a good look at the beautiful historic opera house. The footage also gives us extra insight into the performances. It’s fun to watch Jack and Meg interact as they sing their duet on “Little Ghost” while Jack plays mandolin and Meg plays tambourine. It’s also enjoyable to watch Jack play the marimba on “The Nurse”, while blasting out an occasional discordant noise by way of an effects pedal. And it is notably better to watch the performances that appeared on Side Four of the vinyl LP set than it is to merely listen to them; the apparent chaos at that stage of the show just seems to make more sense when presented visually, especially when we see the duo fly at breakneck speed through “Screwdriver”. One scene we don’t hear a hint of on the vinyl album: before “Seven Nation Army”, Jack and Meg stepped outside to face the throng of people who were watching the concert on large screens outside of the venue. Jack began to play “We Are Going To Be Friends” without any amplification from atop the outside stairway, until the crowd started to get unruly and the duo ran back inside. It would have been nice if the DVD contained video of the “Death Letter” medley. That disappointment aside, it’s good to have at least this much visual representation of the event.
The 7-inch single features two short-and-sweet studio recordings that sound both unfinished and fully formed at once. The A-side contains an early recording titled “Let You Down”, which was recorded in or around the year 2000, and which would later evolve into “The Nurse” on Get Behind Me Satan
. Running less than two minutes, it features a multi-track recording of Jack White singing multi-part vocal harmonies like a one-man Beach Boys; he also provided the electric guitar and bass backing. Its short length and lyrical simplicity mark it as a work in progress, but in terms of sound, it actually seems fully developed, resembling a vintage ‘60’s Anglophilic rock song. The B-side track, “Ain’t No Sweeter Than Rita Blues”, is an instrumental recorded during the Get Behind Me Satan
sessions. Although it sounds like it was meant to be part of a larger song, it also stands alone as a fine example of the guitar-and-drums interaction between Jack and Meg.
Additional bonus items in this package
include: three postcards designed by Rob Jones, a “death head monkey” enamel pin, a silk-screened White Stripes poster with glow-in-the-dark imagery, and a soft-touch record sleeve with an illustrated picture of the opera house.
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 7-inch single has “Never - throw a song away” carved in its A-side, and “One track is all you need” carved in its B-side. The double-LP has the following four messages etched in the respective album sides: “If theres a monkey”, “I’m gonna feed it”, “How often do you see”, and “manipulation times three?”.
The White Stripes “Under Amazonian Lights” (Third Man TMR-302) 2015
1. Blue Orchid
2. Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground
3. Black Math
4. Love Sick
5. My Doorbell
1. Passive Manipulation
2. Hotel Yorba
3. The Same Boy You’ve Always Known (electric)
4. The Same Boy You’ve Always Known (acoustic)
5. Little Ghost
6. When I Hear My Name / I Asked For Water
7. Fell in Love With a Girl
1. The Nurse
2. Little Bird
3. Death Letter / Lord, I Just Can’t Keep From Crying Sometimes
4. St. James Infirmary
5. Passive Manipulation
1. Screwdriver / Passive Manipulation
2. I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself
3. (I’ll Be With You In) Apple Blossom Time
4. I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself (reprise)
5. Seven Nation Army
The White Stripes “Under Amazonian Lights” DVD (Third Man TMR-302) 2015
1. Blue Orchid
2. Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground
3. The Same Boy You’ve Always Known (acoustic)
4. Little Ghost
5. Hotel Yorba
6. Fell In Love With A Girl
7. The Nurse
8. St. James Infirmary
9. Passive Manipulation
10. Screwdriver / Passive Manipulation
11. I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself
12. I’ll Be With You In Apple Blossom Time
13. I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself (reprise)
14. We Are Going To Be Friends (outside)
15. Seven Nation Army
The White Stripes “Let You Down” b/w “Ain’t No Sweeter Than Rita Blues” (Third Man single TMR-303) 2015
a. Let You Down
b. Ain’t No Sweeter Than Rita Blues