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The post Jack White’s Entering Heaven Alive Is an Acoustic Wonderland of His Own Design: Review appeared first on Consequence.
Okay, let’s address the elephant in the room… Entering Heaven Alive is the first Jack White solo album without the color blue on the album cover. Fans have become accustomed to White’s monochromatic approach to visual art; it encompasses every major aspect of White’s universe. There’s red for The White Stripes, yellow for Third Man Records, and blue for White’s solo material. So, does the deviation in aesthetics mark a shift in direction for the coveted blues rocker?
Well, yes and no. In many ways, Entering Heaven Alive remains quintessentially Jack White. The songwriting derives from the blues and folk traditions, the guitar riffs are plentiful, and White’s specific brand of charisma comes through on every song.
On the other hand, never has White played it so mellow for this long. He’s always incorporated elements of folk rock and, even in The White Stripes days, has never been shy about including an acoustic cool down amid his garage rock ragers. Yet, just as April’s Fear Of The Dawn fully embraced his loudest, most boisterous tendencies, Entering Heaven Alive sees the current Consequence cover star calmer than ever before.
And, of course, he’s successful, as if that’s an unexpected accomplishment for the guy who penned “We’re Going to Be Friends” and The Raconteurs’ “Old Enough.” Despite having none of the studio flashiness or digital trickery of its counterpart, Fear Of The Dawn, Entering Heaven Alive is just as consistent, rewarding, and — miraculously — fun.
The album kicks off with “A Tip From You To Me,” an upbeat, piano-accentuated track that falls somewhere between the ballads of Led Zeppelin and Ben Folds Five. The song establishes the tone for the rest of the record, announcing that while it’s undoubtedly going to be a smoother ride than his previous two LPs, the songs will remain strong and energetic.
Tracks like “All Along The Way” and “Please God, Don’t Tell Anyone” reinforce this sentiment. The former features organ embellishment, blues breakdowns, and one of the stickiest riffs on the entire album — all without the need for an electric guitar. The latter is a jaunty waltz with a strangely captivating narrative. It’s about as close to John Prine White has ever gotten.
Other songs have a more absurd, almost psychedelic bent. After the McCartney-esque, jovial “Help Me Along” and the stripped-back single “Love Is Selfish,” “I’ve Got You Surrounded (With My Love)” is a welcome dive into psych-folk with its jazz influence and insistent, shuffling backing rhythm. “Madman From Manhattan” takes these influences even further. Featuring a bossa nova rhythm guitar and White’s most laid-back vocal performance, it’s an incredibly successful swing into a territory White doesn’t often occupy.
Many of the remaining tracks double down on the Paul McCartney influence. “Queen Of The Bees,” with its staccato rhythm and focus on auxiliary percussion, acts as the album’s “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,” an unexpectedly silly yet entirely engaging song midway through the track list. The following song, “Tree On Fire From Within,” embodies the other side of McCartney, featuring a near-perfect chord progression and an incredible bass performance.
Entering Heaven Alive finishes with “Taking Me Back (Gently),” an acoustic version of the Fear Of The Dawn opener. Where the original is loud and distorted, the new gentle arrangement sounds like it’s primed for a barn dance. White swaps out the booming guitars for a fiddle and a walking bassline and softens his vocals to match. As the song comes to a close, digital distortion creeps in, perfectly leading into the beginning of its Fear Of The Dawn twin.
It’s no secret that Jack White has ceased being merely an acclaimed songwriter and musician. He’s now an institution — a champion of his sonic style, business practices, and all things rock and roll. His status as rock’s ambassador is perhaps only matched by that of Dave Grohl, and even so, the two occupy distinct lanes when it comes to guitar music. With such stature, it can be easy to get lost in the image and legacy of Jack White. Expressly non-musical aspects like the mythologization of The White Stripes, his independent vinyl plant, and his forays into other aspects of entertainment (see his portrayal of Elvis in Walk Hard, or his hilarious appearance in Rory Scovel’s Netflix special) can distract from what White does best: Write songs.
Luckily, after the four-year absence, Entering Heaven Alive, along with Fear Of The Dawn, stands as a shining reminder of what White can accomplish when you hand him a guitar. First, he reminded us of the unwavering fearlessness that can be found in his musical DNA from The White Stripes to Boarding House Reach. Entering Heaven Alive now reminds us of his range, his playfulness, and his deep understanding of the music that inspires him. It’s quite the accomplishment for an artist that, decades into his career, somehow continues to remain as interesting as ever.
Though, Jack, if you’re reading this, one small suggestion. Since we know you are such a fan of creative vinyl packaging, maybe include a blue crayon with physical copies of the record for fans who have grown accustomed to your visual aesthetic and are afraid of change. Not us, of course, but you know… just asking for a friend…
Essential tracks: “A Tip From You To Me,” “Tree On Fire From Within,” “Madman From Manhattan”
Jack White is also in the midst of his massive “Supply Chain Issues Tour,” which extends through October. Tickets are available via Ticketmaster.
Entering Heaven Alive Artwork: