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CD of The Week

Week of 7/25/22

    Jack White - Entering Heaven Alive (Third Man)

    It’s beyond a cliché to call Jack White “prolific,” after his extensive output of music and endless hobbies/interests/projects. Mere months ago, Jack released Fear of the Dawn, leaning into his wilder impulses, with Cab Calloway samples and firework guitar licks. Fear of the Dawn was announced simultaneously with Entering Heaven Alive, touted as a mellower counterpart to FOTD. And while that is true, if you expect to enter the new record to simply be Jack and an acoustic guitar for 40+ minutes, you’ll be happily surprised.

    Straight out of the gates, “A Tip from You to Me” is in old-school White Stripes territory with the same piano sound you’ve always known (surprisingly not played by White himself). It seems like a mission statement for his solo career and mindset lately: “My peace is freedom from the masses 'cause the masses cannot see / That's a tip from them to me / And now I know for sure / I don't need nobody's help now anymore.”

    The statement of devotion “Help Me Along,” is built around a lovely string section and may come off as a love song from a guy who is freshly re-married but is actually dedicated to his daughter Scarlett. However, the very next song on the album is the acoustic bluesy “Love is Selfish,” which seems a bit of tonal whiplash. Later, moving back to the previous topic, “Queen of Bees” is a love song to his new wife Olivia Jean, with some old-school oddball White metaphors “I wanna hold you like a sloth hugs a tree” “I'm a fly on the wall and you're the queen of the bees.” The jaunty tune almost has a vaudeville vibe that the Stripes never shied away from.

    “I’ve Got You Surrounded (With My Love)” is one of the fascinating musical choices on LHA, combining a jazzy shuffle and White’s guitar soloing. Is this a stalker song? “I've got you surrounded with my love / Now don't you know me, girl?” “Please God, Don’t Tell Anyone” is a gospel-blues plea at St. Peter’s pearly gates, a confessional that may be the inspiration for the album title too

    It all comes full circle with an alternate version of the first single from this whole cycle - “Taking Me Back (Gently)” – now countrified and definitely gentler, ending with the exact guitar sounds that kick off the rock version that opened Fear of the Dawn.

    If you mash together Fear of the Dawn and Entering Heaven Alive, you’d get a very well-rounded Jack White record that hits most of his sweet spots and would definitely be his best solo work in years. (White said he didn’t want to release a ‘traditional’ double-album, in part due to the physical limitations of pressing all that vinyl at once.) Instead, we follow White on his unsteady path through the dawn, into the afterlife and wherever his path takes him next.
    Review by Joey O.

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