ACOUSTIC RECORDINGS 1998-2016
Jack White (Third Man/Columbia)
Jack White's Acoustic Recordings 1998-2016 anthologizes his unplugged material from the White Stripes to the Raconteurs and beyond, the unvarnished tunes of a top-notch songwriter.
Album versions, remixes, and the previously unreleased “City Lights” add up to an engaging 26-track chronological collection which cries out for an electric companion to complete the portrait of rock's most modern traditionalist.
“City Lights” got its start during sessions for the White Stripes’ 2005 record Get Behind Me Satan and was completed this year without Meg White. Appearing at nearly the midpoint of this 2-CD compilation, it’s a worthy addition to the canon, a fragile, vulnerable vocal gauging his sanity and paying homage to his “surest and safest bet.”
“Honey, We Can’t Afford to Look This Cheap” has John Prine-like subject matter, the song’s title an apt summary of its mood, while curio “Love Is the Truth,” written for a Coca-Cola ad shown just once, removes the Memphis Horns from the mix, can’t camouflage the clichéd lyrics and is over in a jiffy.
Quality attractions include “Never Far Away” from the Cold Mountain soundtrack, the stripped-down murder ballad “Carolina Drama,” the spirit of the Zombies on “Apple Blossom” and the Alex Chilton vibe of “We're Going to Be Friends.”
Fans of Jack White will know the words and hum the tunes — others can enjoy this diverse bouquet from a great talent and rest their ears until, hopefully, the loud and wild version comes along.
— PABLO GORONDI, Associated Press
BRAVER THAN WE ARE
Meat Loaf (429 Records)
The cover of Braver Than We Are bears two names, those of rock belter Meat Loaf and songwriter Jim Steinman.
It’s a rare writer who gets his name front and center, but Steinman is unique. His blend of hard-rock hooks, high emotion, and camp silliness fused with Meat Loaf’s runaway-train vocals to give the world Bat Out of Hell, a 1970s rock classic and one of the ultimate guilty-pleasure albums.
Their likably bombastic new album should please devotees of operatic, over-the-top rock, though it may not make new converts.
It’s a surprising word to use about a Meat Loaf record, but Braver Than We Are feels underpowered.
The 68-year-old is no longer the unrestrained screamer of yore. His voice is gravelly and subdued, at times overwhelmed by Paul Crook’s grandiose production.
The songs were written over a 50-year period, and include several originally intended for Bat Out of Hell.
Opener “Who Needs the Young” is just odd: shoo-wop backing vocals behind a cabaret-style lament about the depredations of age, written when Steinman was 19.
“Going All the Way” is closer to the classic Steinman-Loaf template: a flamboyant, 11-minute epic duet that builds to a rousing crescendo. It features Meat Loaf’s longtime collaborators Ellen Foley and Karla DeVito, in fine form.
Stacey Michelle brings vocal flair to the gospel-tinged duet “Speaking in Tongues,” while “Loving You is a Dirty Job” — a song once recorded by Bonnie Tyler — is a hook-laden ode to passionate, combative love.
Other tracks feel disappointingly generic or half-baked. Meat Loaf fans may want this album, may even need it — it’s less likely they’ll love it. But two out of three ain’t bad.
— JILL LAWLESS, Associated Press
SIX STRING STORIES
Joanna Connor (M.C. Records)
She’s one powerhouse of a slide blues guitarist, someone who attacks frets with a beautiful fury and doesn’t let go. Joanna Connor just put out her first release in 14 years and, wow, it’s a keeper.
If you like blistering Chicago blues solos and gut-wrenching, soul-searing performances with equally strong vocals, this is it. Besides the rock-blues genre, Six String Stories offers some gospel, soul, and funk.
Eight of the 10 tracks were co-written by Connor and longtime band member Marion Lance Lewis. Connor, a fixture at Chicago clubs and a YouTube sensation, took time off from recording and touring to raise her daughter. She’s back in a big way now, and has in years past shared stages with Jimmy Page, Robert Cray, B.B. King, the Doobie Brothers, the Neville Brothers, and others.
— TOM HENRY, The Blade
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