New Album Review #8: Jack White – Lazaretto (2014)
Jack White never ceases to amaze. Even though his work bears all the sonic traits that would characterize music as vintage or retro, his style is far from being old. After his breakthrough band The White Stripes split up in 2011 after 14 years, it didn’t take long for the accomplished producer White to record enough material to release his first solo album Blunderbuss. The style was different from his other work with the Stripes, The Dead Weather or The Raconteurs – many guest musicians participated in the recording of his first and second album.
While White’s personal life seemed to be troubled by marriage problems, he found the time to extensively tour the world and record his second album Lazaretto, which came out only two years after his first solo effort. But will his second album hold up to his reputation he made with the Stripes or will it be an album that will be forgotten as fast as Meg White? Also, is the Ultra LP format that Mr White is so fond of just a lame marketing gimmick or did he manage to rekindle everybody’s love for vinyl?
Songs & Production
First of all, the album has an amazing rich and saturated sound full of vintage instrumentation and wonderfully dirty reverbs and tape delays – a textbook example of organic sound with an overwhelming attention to detail. This especially shines through in the vinyl edition that audibly exceeds the quality of its CD counterpart. On vinyl, the whole band seems to be manifested in front of you, whereas the CD or MP3 seems small and limited in its dynamic, especially in the high end.
The songs are rather different in style, which can make a listening through the relatively short album (just about 40 minutes) difficult if your looking for one special kind of feel. The tracks range from a rhythmic and dynamic full band rockers that ooze funk and sexual energy from every record groove, like the title track Lazaretto, High Ball Stepper,That Black Bat Licorice or even the opener Three Women. On a side note to all the guitarists out there, his distorted and fuzzy sound is as juicy and fat as the perfect wedding cake – just can’t get enough of that old fuzz. The other kind of song have a more of an American folk or even country kind of feel to it featuring slide guitar, violin and mandolin. These softer songs of the album like Want and Able or Entitlement are in stark contrast to the mighty guitar smashing rockers and seem – even though being touching and beautifully performed – out of place, probably because of the rather short running time.
The best feature of the Ultra LP vinyl really is its superb sound quality and superior mixes to the CD – the other gimmicks like reverse playing direction, locked grooves or the angel hologram are more gimmick than feature. Sadly, on my record player I couldn’t get to listen to the hidden tracks under the label, but thankfully there are always other ways to get to hear them.
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The Final Judgement
Jack White’s can hit it hard and soft – in both styles, the groovy and retro hard rock and the intimate acoustic folk, he hits it right out of the park. The authentic and organic sound and more than solid songs should convince every fan of the Black Keys that White is the only color for authentic vintage music. Nevertheless, this album should have been longer – the contrast between styles is more irritating than naturally flowing.