and My Flying Saucer. The previously unreleased Vol. III features 17 tracks that didn’t make the first two sets and is a hodgepodge of hit-and-miss material highlighted by Bragg’s contributions, JACK White has been involved in numerous musical projects over the years, serving as frontman for the White Stripes, co-leader of the Raconteurs and stepping to the background as drummer in the Dead Weather, but he’s finally decided to release a solo album, and the result is a showcase of everything that makes him tick. White Stripes fans expecting an update of that duo’s strippeddown blues rock will be disappointed: this is White’s stylistic trip through his musical inspirations with the main instrument of choice usually the piano. He hasn’t completely abandoned his love of good old guitar rock, though, as the heavy blast of Sixteen Saltines, the out-of-left field solo on the dramatic Weep Themselves to Sleep and the fuzzed-out cover of Little Willie John’s I’m Shakin’ proves, but for the most part White’s electric guitar is just another in a sea of instrumentation that includes electric piano, fiddle, stand-up bass, pedal steel, acoustic guitar and mandolin over the course of 13 tracks that touch on R&B, soul, Americana and classic rock ’n’ roll.
White’s lyrical focus is women, relationships and an unnamed enemy. His recent divorce evidently weighs heavily on his mind, although he has been denying this in interviews and his ex-wife, Karen Elson, is listed as a backup vocalist on three songs. The girl on the funky Freedom 21 is described as having “no responsibility, no guilt, no morals,” but that won’t stop him from looking for love as he admits later on the smouldering Love Interruption to wanting to the kind of love that would, “murder my own mother and take her off to somewhere like hell or up above.” And yes, that is a clarinet you hear in the background as White harmonizes with vocalist Ruby Amanfu.
It’s not flawless — some tracks coast on style over substance and mood over melody — but it never fails to be interesting and is something White can feel good about putting his name on.
Still, by the time the band gets to the droning, psychedelia of Don’t Shoot She Cried, which rings in at nearly six joyless minutes, it becomes clear that, for all their ambition, some ideas work better than others. ½ MONTREAL saxophonist Joel Miller composed 10 of the 11 tracks on this energetic, engaging outing featuring a crack rhythm section of pianist Geoffrey Keezer, bassist Fraser Hollins and drummer Greg Ritchie that helps the tenor player stretch out of his comfort zone.
Afternoon Off is just what it suggests, an easy romp, while Step Into My Office ramps it for a fast thrill ride. Miller is a solid player with no affectations, and a keen ear for sidemen. of bass on Step Up, Northern Faction 5 is a snapshot at where the label is at in 2012 and where it is heading. See for yourself tonight when the label hosts its 11-year anniversary at Pop Soda’s. ½ THOUGH titled Symphony, this 40-minute four-movement work is actually Ravi Shankar’s third sitar concerto. In many ways it’s the best of them, or at least, the most coherent in the way East Indian tang co-mingles with Western ideas of structure and development. At the centre are the innately beautiful sounds of the sitar, whose associated ragas were made famous over many decades through Shankar’s own charismatic playing and Western exposure (George Harrison, among others, was a fan). His daughter Anoushka is also a virtuoso sitarist as evidenced in this live recording of the work’s premiere in July 2010 honouring her father’s 90th birthday.
The music is more ambient than sequential. Its harmonic language is uneventful, with a narrative formed mostly around repetition of scales and short motives. Still, Symphony is an entertaining listen, with plenty for the soloist to do and some brave writing for the orchestra. The audience really erupts at the end, suggesting a strong visual addition to the experience. ½