Jack White - 'Acoustic Recordings 1998-2016' Review
A collection of the best acoustic bits from Jack White’s remarkably diverse career with The White Stripes, The Raconteurs and as a solo artist
Jack White’s first ‘best of’ is a typically contrarian affair, in that it purposely overlooks the aspect of White’s music that people tend to like best. The electric guitar has become as synonymous with the former White Stripes frontman as his ill-temper or penchant for arbitrary colour schemes, and given the current dearth of old-fashioned rock’n’roll axe wielders, you might think his oeuvre of electric-blues shriekers more becoming of the retrospective treatment than his less-celebrated acoustic output. Yet while ‘Acoustic Recordings 1998-2016’ is more ‘bits of’ than ‘best of’, the range and quality of these 26 tracks speaks for itself – and any career as long and varied as White’s requires cataloguing, not summarising.
Even so, anyone hoping for a treasure trove of unheard demos and alternate takes à la Bob Dylan’s ‘Bootleg Series’ may be disappointed. ‘Acoustic Recordings’ does contain a smattering of new mixes (‘Apple Blossom’, ‘I’m Bound To Pack It Up’, ‘I Guess I Should Go To Sleep’) as well as stripped-back versions of ‘Just One Drink’ and The Raconteurs’ ‘Top Yourself’, but avid White watchers will already be familiar with most of what’s included here. Of the rarities, it’s nice to see ‘Love Is The Truth’ – a maddeningly effective jingle written for a 2006 Coca-Cola ad that aired only once – receive a long-overdue official release, but the only ‘new’ song is the folksy whimsy of ‘City Lights’, originally written for ‘Get Behind Me Satan’ and dusted off for this compilation.
The real joy, however, comes in the shape of songs you might have forgotten about, like the logic-twisting wordplay of ‘Effect And Cause’ (“First came an action, and then the reaction / But you can’t switch ’em round for your own satisfaction”) or ‘Carolina Drama’, whose white-trash murder balladry represents the high watermark of The Raconteurs’ brief two-album existence.
‘Acoustic Recordings’ is a selective, rather than exhaustive, portrait of White as an artist, but for a guy who’s spent most of the 18 years this compilation spans dogmatically adhering to self-imposed restrictions, there’s a remarkable amount of diversity here – and not a clunker to be found.
Record label: XL Recordings
Release date: 09 Sep, 2016