Third Man Records vinyl exclusives, Part 6

I received the sixth 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 January 5th. I received it on the 7th.

This sixth set of items features an LP of previously unreleased demos from the Greenhornes (who share the same rhythm section as the Raconteurs), as well as a 7” picture disc containing remixed versions of the 2000 White Stripes single “Hello Operator” and its B-side “Jolene”. Also, the package contains a concert shirt originally designed for a 2001 joint tour by the White Stripes and the Greenhornes.

The Greenhornes are the Cincinnati trio made up of Jack Lawrence (bass), Patrick Keeler (drums), and Craig Fox (vocals and guitar). Boscobel Blues contains seven demos recorded in February 2004, including three songs that later were included in finished form on their 2005 EP East Grand Blues. That Brendan Benson-produced EP contained five vintage-sounding British Invasion-inspired gems. Listening to the East Grand demos on Boscobel reveals what Benson’s production hand contributed to the finished EP. The East Grand version of “I’m Going Away” sounded like a great lost Byrds song; the Boscobel demo sounds more like an early Kinks tune. It’s a fine song either way. “Pattern Skies” sounds almost the same as the EP version, although the demo is noticeably missing at least one small production layer and sounds a bit less poppy. The “Shelter Of Your Arms” demo is less reminiscent of the Animals than the East Grand version, and is a bit more reminiscent of the Yardbirds, but it takes on an emotional life of its own, especially during its instrumental finale.

Two other demos on Boscobel Blues turned up in finished form on the 2010 album titled **** (Four Stars). Both of them, “I Need Your Love” and “Saying Goodbye”, have a rougher-edged garage-like directness in their respective demos. Another track on Boscobel Blues is an aggressive cover of the 1960 James Brown song “I’ll Go Crazy” that has the authentic feel of a raw ‘60’s recording. The other track, “Open Your Eyes”, is similarly riveting; it’s a Greenhornes original, but (to the best of my knowledge) it has not been released as a finished studio track.

Boscobel Blues could almost pass for a genuine “basement tapes” recording by a ‘60’s British invasion band – and in this case, that is definitely meant as a compliment. (It’s worth mentioning that the entire seven-song LP barely runs 20 minutes in total. The cover art consists of two photographs taken in Nashville in 1864, which may be of interest to Civil War buffs and Nashville residents).

The 7” single included with the package is a picture disc containing remixed versions of the songs that originally made up the A- and B-sides of a White Stripes single released in 2000. The A-side was/is “Hello Operator” from the album De Stijl; that song had recently been used in a Converse sneaker commercial. The B-side was/is a non-album cover of Dolly Parton’s classic 1973 country ballad “Jolene”, which the Stripes often perform live. The new “Hello Operator” mix shows some added refinement in sound; at the end, instead of the track fading out, the playing speeds up and then comes to a surprisingly graceful stop. Nice touch! Although it has always been decidedly odd to hear Jack White sing “Jolene” from a woman’s point of view, the Stripes manage to infuse the appropriate feeling of pleading and dread into their interpretation. For the new mix, the instrumentation has been made to sound denser, and White’s voice has been filtered for an echo effect in some spots. Whatever floats Jack’s boat; personally, I prefer the more natural sound of their original “Jolene” B-side. The picture printed on the disc is one of Meg White sitting next to her peppermint-striped bass drum. Cute. (The original version of this single was released by Sympathy For The Record Industry, cat. no. SFTRI 619. There was a picture disc released at that time also, cat. no. SFTRI 619P, but a different picture was used).

The concert shirt is black-bodied and white-sleeved, and on the front it has an illustration of a green bull (symbolizing the Greenhornes) with red-and-white peppermint eyes holding a peppermint in his hooves (symbolizing the White Stripes). The shirt was designed by Patrick Keeler. It’s a thin shirt with long sleeves. It looks cool and unique, but I’d rather hang it on my wall than wear it in public.

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 once again evident on these items. Side A of the single has the words “300 people cheering out in West Virginia (1971)” carved in the dead wax; Side B has “PW knows the truth” etched. The LP has the following messages etched in the runout grooves: “I like Nashville Skyline Chili” on Side A, and “But Geotta is Bettah” on Side B.

The Greenhornes - Boscobel Blues

The Greenhornes “Boscobel Blues” (Third Man TMR 061) 2010

Track Listing:

1. I Need Your Love
2. Pattern Skies
3. I’m Going Away
4. Open Your Eyes
5. Saying Goodbye
6. Shelter Of Your Arms
7. I’ll Go Crazy

The White Stripes - Jolene / Hello Operator (Alternate Version)

The White Stripes “Hello Operator” (remix) b/w “Jolene” (remix) (Third Man picture disc single TMR 067) 2010

Track Listing:

a. Hello Operator (remix)
b. Jolene (remix)

Reviews of other Third Man Vault packages