Third Man Records vinyl exclusives, Part 15

I've received the fifteenth 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 19th. I received it on the 21st.

This fifteenth set of items features two pre-Raconteurs collaborations by Jack White and Brendan Benson: a live LP by a short-lived White-led band from 1999, and a 7-inch single containing two studio recordings from the duo from two very different time periods. The third item in this package is a DVD with film clips from a 2002 tour by the White Stripes and Whirlwind Heat, titled White Heat.

The 7-inch single, pressed in “electric-yellow” vinyl (which looks orange to my eyes), contains two demos recorded by White and Benson in Benson’s home studio. The A-side is a 2004 demo of the Raconteurs song “Steady, As She Goes”, recorded two years before the Raconteurs’ version was released. This version is mellower and organ-dominated, though the basic groundwork remained the same. It’s interesting to hear, but the finished version with the other two Raconteurs (bassist Jack Lawrence and drummer Patrick Keeler) was certainly an improvement. The B-side is a 1999 demo of the White Stripes ballad “The Same Boy You’ve Always Known”, recorded two years before it appeared on White Blood Cells. This version was done by a full band, giving it a noticeably fuller-bodied sound than the Stripes version, with less rigid drumming. Is it better or inferior? I’d say it’s about equal.

The LP Live On The Garden Bowl Lanes captures a half-hour-long set performed by a quartet called Jack White and the Bricks, inside the historic Garden Bowl bowling alley in Detroit. (The record is pressed in white vinyl, to resemble the color of a bowling pin). The Bricks were comprised of Brendan Benson on guitar, drummer Ben Blackwell (from the Dirtbombs), and bassist Kevin Peyok (from the Waxwings). The set took place in July of 1999, one month after the White Stripes’ debut album was released. The band played five White Stripes songs (four of which turned up on White Blood Cells two years later), two Bob Dylan covers (“Isis” and “I Threw It All Away”), the traditional Scottish tune “Black Jack Davey” (which has been covered by both Dylan and the White Stripes), and a ? And The Mysterians cover (“Ain’t It A Shame”).

It’s an energetically played set, definitely worthwhile listening for White-philes, although it is very badly recorded. An unrelated radio commercial seems to have been inadvertently taped over the beginning of “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground”, and an unusually harsh anomaly disrupts “Isis”. Once the listener gets past this problem, the set is highly absorbing. The White Stripes songs take on a whole extra dimension when they are played by four musicians instead of two, and Blackwell’s drumming is significantly different from that of Meg White. This version of “The Same Boy You’ve Always Known” has an even denser sound than the demo version included on this package’s single. When the quartet plays (as White says) songs “in a country vein”, such as White’s own “Now Mary” or Dylan’s “I Threw It All Away”, it’s in a very electric kind of country vein. The set closes with an intense rendition of the Mysterians’ “Ain’t It A Shame”, transforming a Michigan-grown garage rock obscurity into a powerful electric blues jam that sounds like one of Jack’s own. It’s only fitting that White got star billing in the Bricks. Although he was working with different musicians than usual, there’s no denying that Live On The Garden Bowl Lanes is quintessential Jack White.

Footnote: During the set, Jack can be heard telling the Garden Bowl crowd that the Greenhornes would be playing next. The four Raconteurs guys sure do go back a long way.

The “bonus” item in this package is a DVD containing footage from a 2002 European tour by the White Stripes and Whirlwind Heat, the Michigan alt-rock trio whose 2003 debut album Do Rabbits Wonder? was produced by Jack White. Titled White Heat (“a film by Brad Holland”, who is Whirlwind Heat’s drummer), the 44-minute DVD features concert footage, behind-the-scenes silliness, and sightseeing clips. It mostly resembles an amateurish home movie, but that was probably by design. Alternating between color and black-and-white and varying degrees of graininess, White Heat has the look and feel of an old underground punk doc, which may have been the intention. The quasi-hip technique gives an odd poetry to the filmed events. The four blues-rocking White Stripes numbers alone make the DVD worthwhile, the intense “Death Letter” being the high point. The four Whirlwind Heat songs are more chaotic, built mainly on a high-speed bass-and-drums combo, which their hyperactive frontman David Swanson wildly dances around (both physically and vocally). The disc concludes with Jack White joining Whirlwind Heat on stage to perform the Stripes’ song “The Big Three Killed My Baby”. A cool curio for fans of either band.

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 present on these items. The A-side of the single has “Sounds familiar” carved in the dead wax; the B-side has “I’m Tired” carved. Side One of the LP has “A Polaroid peppermint pastry possession?” carved; Side Two has “Hole burned in the canvas?” carved.

Brendan Benson & Jack White “Steady, As She Goes” b/w “The Same Boy You’ve Always Known” (Third Man single TMR198) 2013

Track Listing:

a. Steady, As She Goes
b. The Same Boy You’ve Always Known

Jack White and The Bricks - Live on the Garden Bowl Lanes July 9, 1999

Jack White and the Bricks “Live On The Garden Bowl Lanes: July 9, 1999” (Third Man TMR199) 2013

Track Listing:

1. Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground
2. Isis
3. Do
4. Same Boy You’ve Always Known
5. Union Forever
6. Now Mary
7. Black Jack Davey
8. I Threw It All Away
9. Ain’t It A Shame

White Heat (Third Man DVD TMR-197) 2013

Track Listing:

1. JIMMY THE EXPLODER – The White Stripes
2. BLACK – Whirlwind Heat
4. TAN – Whirlwind Heat
5. DEATH LETTER – White Stripes
6. BROWN – Whirlwind Heat
7. I FOUGHT PIRANHAS – The White Stripes
8. THE BIG THREE KILLED MY BABY – Whirlwind Heat with Jack White

Reviews of other Third Man Vault packages