Jack White presents Acoustic Recordings (1998-2016), a compilation of fan favorites, rare tracks, and new material from his solo and group work sans The Dead Weather. His sound evolves over the years, but his lyrics frequently deal with love found, love lost, and friendship throughout.
The album opens with the low-fi “Sugar Never Tasted So Good” from the White Stripes self-titled debut as well as their second-ever 7-inch single. Even though they tweaked the formula along the way, Jack White singing and playing guitar while Meg White supports on drums was the foundation of the band and here it is at its purest.
Acoustic Recordings moves chronologically through the Stripes discography with two tracks from De Stijl. “Apple Blossom” (Remixed) adds a piano and isn’t entirely acoustic as an electric guitar adds a little flourish. I hadn’t listened to De Stijl so was glad to rediscover the relationship-ending “I’m Bound To Pack It Up” (Remixed) which features Meg on shaker and floortom and Paul Henry Ossy on violin.
There are few previously available album tracks up next. Not sure if Meg is the one keeping the beat on the charming tale of youth “We’re Going To Be Friends” but Jack is solo on “You’ve Got Her In Your Pocket.” The delightfully silly “Well It’s True That We Love One Another” finds Holly Golightly and Meg joining on the vocals. Then a rare cut, “Never Far Away,” one of five tracks Jack contributed to the Cold Mountain soundtrack and the only original. It’s Americana sound reflected the Civil War setting of the film.
Get Behind Me Satan shows the evolving sound of The Stripes. Jack is on piano instead of guitar for two tracks. The brokenhearted vocals of “Forever For Her (Is Over For Me)” are accompanied by marimba and maracas. The warts-and-all approach in capturing an authentic moment can be heard on “White Moon” as Meg’s bells crash in the background yet Jack keeps going just before the song abruptly ends.
Written for …Satan, “City Lights” was completed this year by Jack, who was joined by bassist Dominic Davis. Not sure who plays the shaker. Jack’s vocals evoke the comfort of love yet concern about the relationship’s status. The plucking of guitar strings adds to the tension.
Produced by Beck, who also plays slide guitar, “Honey, We Can’t Afford To Look This Cheap” was first found on the B-side to The White Stripes’ “Conquest.” The honky-tonk arrangement is a direction in sound Jack revisits. “Effect & Cause,” the last track on their last studio album, finds Jack and Meg going back to basics and back to their beginnings with just a guitar and drums. It is also the first song in a trilogy.
Surely, one of the highlights fans will be excited to find is the uplifting “Love Is The Truth” (Acoustic Mix), which Jack created for a 2006 Coca-Cola commercial that aired only once. The guitar line sounds like an uptempo “We’re Going To Be Friends.”
Jack’s tenure with the Raconteurs is presented in two alternative tracks of songs he co-wrote with Brendan Benson from their second album, Consolers of the Lonely. “Top Yourself” (Bluegrass Version) is as hard as bluegrass has rocked and the marvelous murder ballad “Carolina Drama” (Acoustic Mix), which is minus the drum track. The fiddles and mandolin stand out in the arrangement.
The remainder comes from Jack’s two solo albums, six of the nine coming from the Blunderbuss era, the largest representation in the collection. Only four of the tracks are alternative mixes. The (Acoustic Mix) is new here but “Machine Gun Silhouette” is a “Love Interruption” B-side. “Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy” and “I Guess I Should Go To Sleep” are presented in an (Alternate Mix).
Living and working in Nashville seems to be affecting Jack by osmosis as “Just One Drink” (Acoustic Mix), “Entitlement,” and “Want And Able” from Lazaretto all have a country sound. The latter is the second part of the aforementioned trilogy.
Acoustic Recordings (1998-2016) is a marvelous compilation for Jack White fans. It speaks to his talents as it covers nearly 20 years in the music business and doesn’t tell the full story of his output. Aside from making a listener yearn for more music from his past groups, this a wonderful trip down memory lane.