The Top Five Rock Artists of the Decade (2000s): NUMBER THREE is Jack White

Originally posted 2010-04-13 14:34:59. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

This is the third in a five part series dedicated to the top five rock artists of the decade, 2000-2009.  The criteria used to determine this list were: (1) Quality of Music, (2) Quantity of Released Material, (3) Diversity of Media, and (4) Roles of Artists/Band Members.  Look for new posts coming soon!

By Chris Moore:

Easily one of the busiest figures in contemporary rock music, Jack White has made it his business to write, record, perform, and produce music every chance he gets.  There is something breathtaking about the apparent ease with which he has transcended genre lines and brought the influences back to his own music.  It is equally impressive to consider how many directions he has been pulled in during this decade, and yet how strong his contributions have been to each of his numerous ventures.

I, for one, wasn’t sure what to make of this straggly-haired ax-grinder when I first heard of him in the wake of the White Stripes’ breakthrough effort Elephant in 2003.  I’ll never forget tuning in (on the advice of a friend) to Late Night with Conan O’Brien during their week-long tenure promoting this aforementioned album.  “Seven Nation Army” may have been overplayed for some, but I loved its gritty, riffy simplicity, punctuated by White’s lead vocals and Meg White’s wonderfully boneheaded drumming.

With each new White Stripes album I’ve heard, I’ve realized more and more the degree to which Jack and Meg — particularly Jack — are experts at finding their comfort zones, then burning them down.  In the Raconteurs, he contributes a very big, very characteristic guitar sound, somehow crafting a new landscape without plagiarizing his White Stripes sound.  And the Dead Weather, his second side project, is something else all together, a sound that White pulls together with his drumming rather than his guitar work.

Taking these three bands into consideration, then throwing in his solo work and other one-off collaborations for good measure, there is simply no way to avoid giving Jack White a respectful — if not awe-filled — nod for his exemplary contemporary rock music created this decade.

BLACK & WHITE & RED ALL OVER

Any music promoter will tell you that it’s not simply the sound of a band that is important, but also their image and general appearance.  Jack and Meg White have excelled with this other half of the equation, always dressing in red, white, and black, as well as seeing to it that their album artwork follows suit.  Their music may draw comparisons to acts of the past like Led Zeppelin, but this is no retro act.  In their continually developing sound, and equally in the way they dress and act, the White Stripes are one of the most interesting bands of the decade.

How to go about describing such a band in a few paragraphs?

I’ll start with words like quirky, bold, frenetic, complex, basic, and that’s just to begin with.  Since 2000’s De Stijl, the White Stripes have released four more albums:  2001’s very promising White Blood Cells, their major label debut Elephant in 2001 (a.k.a. their personal catapult into the pop culture lexicon), 2005’s piano-driven masterpiece Get Behind Me Satan, and most recently, a return to distortion drenched guitar in the riff-laden reveries of 2007’s Icky Thump.  By the time they released their first live CD, Under Great White Northern Lights (2010), the White Stripes had developed quite a catalog to draw from.

That they are able to achieve their sound with just two band members is intriguing.  Granted, Meg White suffered a breakdown that resulted in the cancellation of some tour dates in 2007, but there have been confirmed reports since last year that they are already at work on their seventh album.

A SIDE PROJECT, A SIDE PROJECT FROM THE SIDE PROJECT, AND MORE!

Jack White’s work in the White Stripes is substantial enough to be considered notable, but it is his wide variety of ventures outside the scope of his primary band that cinch his position at the upper part of the contemporary rock music ladder.  His five contributions to the Cold Mountain soundtrack in 2003 suggested that he had more to give than could be satisfied in one band alone.  He has since gone on to produce and play on a laundry list of other albums, including Loretta Lynn’s Van Lear Rose.  More recently, he wrote and recorded an outstanding duet with Alicia Keys for the James Bond film Another Way to Die, the first duet in the Bond series.

With all the writing, performing, and recording White has done since the early nineties, it is interesting to note that his first official “solo” work was released in 2009 — the single “Fly Farm Blues.”

In addition to these one-off efforts, White has joined not one but two side projects.  The first, the Raconteurs, formed in 2005 along with power pop rocker Brendan Benson (sharing guitar duty), bassist Jack Lawrence, and drummer Patrick Keeler.  After their 2006 debut Broken Boy Soldiers, they followed up quickly with the phenomenal Consolers of the Lonely in 2008.  The latter is easily one of the best rock music albums of the decade, and it is an outrage that I passed over it for my Top 50 Albums of the 2000s list.  This is the Jack White music that I am perhaps most drawn to: tight, fully-produced, riff-driven songs with an abundance of crunchy guitars, a rockin’ rhythm section, and catchy leads.

As if that weren’t enough to keep him busy, White co-founded the Dead Weather in 2009 with the Kills’ lead singer Alison Mosshart, guitarist Dean Fertita, and Raconteurs bassist Jack Lawrence.  This is an altogether different venture that features a grungier tone than the Raconteurs or even the White Stripes.  The songs are a bit longer, and could be described as a set of almost-jams.  After I heard their interpretations of Bob Dylan’s “New Pony,” a so-so deep track from 1978’s Street Legal, I was hooked.

In summary, this decade has seen Jack White bring the White Stripes to worldwide rock music fame, form not one but two side groups, release his first single as a solo artist, and contribute to a myriad of other artists’ albums and soundtracks.  At the time of this writing (early 2010), there is a May 11th release date set for the follow-up Dead Weather album, confirmations from White that the White Stripes will be releasing an album in the near future, and whispers of an all-out solo record from the man himself.

Hands down, Jack White is my pick for the number three rock music artist of the 2000s for all the right reasons: the sheer quantity of music produced, his development of a signature guitar sound, and his collaborations with other artists (Dylan, Beck, and more in addition to those mentioned above).  It’s a no-brainer, my friends.

Your New Music Report! (May 2010)

Originally posted 2010-05-15 17:24:30. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

Well, it seems that I won’t be able to post the set-list for tonight’s Pearl Jam concert in real-time after all, due to either issues with the site or my WordPress app or both.

Instead, let’s talk new music!

It’s been two weeks since the first third of the year flashed by, and it’s been quite a year for new music.  Perhaps my surprise and excitement is due to the fact that I didn’t have high hopes for this year.  After all, nearly all of my favorite bands have put out music very recently (i.e. the past two years).  And yet there have been more than enough new releases to pick from these past four months.

Some artists, like Ringo Starr and Jakob Dylan, continue to put out music that lives in the shadow of their greater efforts of the past.  Others, like the Barenaked Ladies and Spoon, have somehow managed to create some of the best music of their lengthy careers.  Still others, such as She & Him and Broken Bells, are creating music and casting the shadows that future efforts will need to live up to.

This year has certainly had its hits and its misses, and it got off to an eclectic but ho-hum start, but I have already been hooked by five outstanding records.  Now, only one of these has received my five-star stamp of approval (All in Good Time), but the other four are a full four stars without question (Broken Bells, Volume Two, Heaven is Whenever, & Sea of Cowards).

The latter four albums represent an interesting range of sounds and influences.  Broken Bells have found a compelling sound by blending the rock basics with some more experimental, synthesized sounds.  She & Him give you the eery feeling that you’ve stepped into the past without actually sounding dated.  The Hold Steady have put together the best all-out rock and roll album of the year, to be sure.  And the Dead Weather present an out of control frenzy of rock, this time around with more single-worthy songs and considerably better continuity as an album.

In the midst of the outstanding and the forgettable are some interesting records.  Take American VI: Ain’t No Grave, Johnny Cash’s final posthumous release of new material.  It certainly doesn’t stand up to IV or even V, but it is such a beautiful that includes a perfect closing track for his long and storied career.  Steven Page’s first solo effort incited extreme reactions from most fans and critics, divisions in both categories respectively hating it for being so unlike his other music and loving it for… well, the same reason, I suppose.  As for me, I’ve very much enjoyed A Singer Must Die, although I rarely listen to it in the car and I’m very anxious to hear his first solo album proper, which should arrive later this year.  (And, to be fair, I downgraded it from four to three and a half stars in deference to what a full four stars should really represent.)

If you haven’t been listening to the first albums of the new decade, then you’ve been missing some real gems.  And, if you’ve missed my reviews along the way, I’ve compiled them below for your reference.  I’ve even translated my “Yes, No, or Maybe So” reviews to the standard five star system for your ease.   I’ve been listening constantly to the four listed as “coming soon” — between rounds of BnL, She & Him, and the Wallflowers, that is — and I’ll have those reviews posted throughout the next two weeks.

New Albums, 2010:

Y Not (Ringo Starr) – 2.5 stars

Transference (Spoon) – 3.5 stars

Realism (Magnetic Fields) – 2.5 stars

Heligoland (Massive Attack) – 2 stars

A Singer Must Die (Steven Page with the Art of Time Ensemble) – 3.5 stars

American VI: Ain’t No Grave (Johnny Cash) – 3 stars

Broken Bells (Broken Bells) – 4 stars

All in Good Time (Barenaked Ladies) – 5 stars

Volume Two (She & Him) – 4 stars

Women & Country (Jakob Dylan) – 2.5 stars

Forgiveness Rock Record (Broken Social Scene) – coming soon!

Court Yard Hounds (Court Yard Hounds) – coming soon!

Heaven is Whenever (The Hold Steady) – 4 stars

Sea of Cowards (The Dead Weather) – 4 stars

High Violet (The National) – 3.5 stars

The Dead Weather’s “Sea of Cowards” (2010) – Yes, No, or Maybe So

Originally posted 2010-05-17 23:45:42. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

The Dead Weather’s Sea of Cowards (2010) – MAYBE SO

By Chris Moore:

Sea of Cowards (2010) by the Dead Weather

Sea of Cowards (2010) by the Dead Weather

(May 11, 2010)

Review:

Tighter and yet even more frenetic than their debut, Sea of Cowards is a fast-paced, distortion-drenched hard rock romp through eleven solid tracks, made all the better for the sharing of vocal duties between Alison Mosshart and Jack White:  this album is the realization — and only a year later! — of what I had been hoping for when I referred to the great potential expressed in Horehound (2009).

Top Two Tracks:

“Gasoline” & “Blue Blood Blues”

“New Pony” (Bob Dylan / Dead Weather Cover)

Originally posted 2009-07-21 00:42:41. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

For Bob Dylan / Dead Weather chords & lyrics, CLICK HERE!

By Chris Moore:

Hello and welcome to yet another delay for the “double header” I promised last week or (technically) two weeks ago.  But I have a good reason for holding off!  Tonight, I’ve recorded “New Pony,” one of my least favorite Bob Dylan songs, because a brand new cover version was released on last week’s Dead Weather debut album.

First, I’ll give a little background on the original version of the song.  “New Pony” was first released on Bob Dylan’s 1978 album Street Legal.  To give you a little context here, Dylan had recently released Blood on the Tracks and Desire, arguably two of his best albums.  The year 1975 found him fully engaged in the Rolling Thunder Revue along with such artists as Joan Baez, Roger McGuinn of the Byrds, poet Allen Ginsberg, and others.  Although he temporarily revived a different incarnation of the Revue in 1976, this phase of Dylan’s musical career was pretty much over by 1977.

This is not to say that life wasn’t busy for him.  This was right around the time that his marriage to Sara Dylan was breaking down and the divorce proceedings began.  A lot — perhaps too much — has been written about these personal aspects. 

Street Legal was the product of a few weeks of sessions involving a select group of musicians that Dylan had recently worked with.  Although his past two albums had met with critical success and his subsequent album, 1979’s Slow Train Coming, would earn him his first Grammy award, Street Legal has generally been lost in the valley between these two peaks.

Personally, I have always liked this album.  Sure, the female background singers come across as a bit cheesy at times (have you heard “Baby, Stop Crying”?) and the instrumentation can be a bit much at times, but there are some great songs.  “Changing of the Guards” is one of my favorite album openers and boasts a rare fade-in.  “Is Your Love in Vain?” and “True Love Tends to Forget” are fantastic Dylan deep cuts.  And “Senor (Tales of Yankee Power)” is a narrative wrapped in the best, darkest mood you’ve ever felt.  (Jerry Garcia recorded a great version of the latter.)

As for “New Pony”?  Well, it generally ranks as one of my least favorite Dylan recordings of all time, and certainly on this record.  In fact, it’s the very rare track that I may occasionally skip when listening to the album.  Why it was placed in the number 2 slot, I’ll never know.

That being said, let’s flash forward to 2009.  Last week, the Dead Weather released their debut album, Horehound.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with this group, this is a side project band composed of the White Stripes’ Jack White (drums, some vocals, acoustic guitar on one track), the Kills’ Alison Mosshart (lead vocals), Queens of the Stone Age’s Dead Fertita (guitar, etc.), and Jack Lawrence (bass, etc.).  I really liked last year’s Raconteurs album (Jack White and Jack Lawrence’s other side project band), so I figured I would give this one a shot as well.

Long review short, I was not as impressed as I had hoped to be.  (My one-sentence review is coming shortly!)  That being said, the album certainly has its moments, and for me, one of the best moments is track seven when they cover Dylan’s “New Pony.”

This is an excellent example of a band you wouldn’t necessarily think of as being heavily influenced by Bob Dylan turning around and pulling off a stand-up interpretation of one of his songs.  After hearing it, I thought that this song fit better on this album than it did on Street Legal.  In that sense, I was happy to assign “New Pony” to a better place in my estimation of Dylan’s catalog of songs.

So, without further ado, I submit to you my acoustic rendition of the song as a send-up to the 1978 Dylan version and a tip of the hat to the brand-new 2009 version by the Dead Weather.  I found that I was psyched to learn this ridiculously easy (at least chord-wise) song.  Anyone who visits the Laptop Sessions on any regular basis knows that I’m no stranger to a Bob Dylan cover song, but I never thought I’d be recording this one.

Well, at least not until I ran out of all the other ones in 2045 or so…

I hope you enjoy this, and be sure to stop back tomorrow for Jim Fusco’s Tuesday post, a couple days later for Jeff Copperthite’s Thumpin’ Thursday, and later this week for at least one more post from your truly.  (I’ve got so much to say about other music and non-music related topics, but I think this is quite enough for one post!)

See you next session!