Release Date: Jan 25, 2011
Record label: Nonesuch
Genre(s): Country, Rockabilly, Pop/Rock, Honky Tonk, Country Gospel, Traditional Country
Click to listen to "Thunder On The Mountain" Jack White's collaboration with rock's original trouble girl is at once reverent and uproarious. At 73, Jackson can still summon the irascible Okie pip of Fifties rockabilly hits like "Fujiyama Mama," and White convenes a roots band with a killer horn section. The song selection is superb: rollicking versions of Eddie Cochran and Little Richard songs, calypso standards, a gusty reimagining of Bob Dylan's "Thunder on the Mountain." Jackson's not content to just remake the greats: Her slaying of Amy Winehouse's "You Know I'm No Good" is a master class for her wild-child inheritors.
Jack White has his hands in so many meaningful music projects that it’s hard to keep up. Having graced Loretta Lynn’s 2004 masterpiece Van Lear Rose with both his production know-how and rock sensibility, White has primed himself for a lifelong career of the revitalization and modernization of popular music’s most important innovators. Given the man’s track record and clear appreciation for rock iconography, a collaboration with the Queen of Rockabilly, Wanda Jackson, makes perfect sense.
If you think [b]Jack White[/b]’s given 73-year-old [a]Wanda Jackson[/a] a new lease of life, then think again; she’s been kicking up a hot fuss since she ditched that [a]Elvis[/a] fella in the mid-’50s. Tearing through a set of cross-generational standards – from the calypso croon of [b]‘Rum And Coca Cola’[/b] to outlaw country classic [b]‘Busted’[/b] and [a]Amy Winehouse[/a]’s raunch-fest [b]‘You Know I’m No Good’[/b], her distinctive squeak’n’growl vocals triumph over White’s unnecessarily embellished, frenetic production and glide across the giddy [b]‘Thunder On the Mountain’[/b]. When Jack finally reins it in on the stripped-back [b]‘Blue Yodel #6’[/b], it results in the record’s finest and purest moment.
There’s a nice moment when Johnny Cash and Ray Charles are getting ready to tear into Harlan Howard’s “Busted” on The Johnny Cash Show, and the Man in Black leans in and remarks, “You and I are trying to say about the same thing, but we just say it a little different. ” Forty years later, the song has resurfaced on Wanda Jackson’s The Party Ain’t Over, and while producer Jack White wasn’t even a twinkle in his daddy’s eye when Cash and Charles shared a stage, their genre-defying attitudes echo throughout the album. The 73-year-old Queen of Rockabilly can still belt it out with the best of ‘em, so it’d be easy for White to limit the project to things that made sense.
You really can’t talk about a late-career record like Wanda Jackson’s The Party Ain’t Over without mentioning Rick Rubin’s work with Johnny Cash. For better or worse, the prolific recordings Rubin produced for Cash in his last years have provided a sort of formula for revival records. Rubin, though, certainly had an aesthetic, and you can hear it come across with ham-handed force on the lesser of Cash’s late work.
Self-styled keeper of the flame Jack White is so steeped in roots nostalgia -- he even left his native Detroit for the greener pastures of Nashville, bringing himself closer to the heart of Americana -- that his art rock roots are obscured. After all, this is a guy who purposely restricts his palettes in the White Stripes and named an early album De Stijl after an early 20th century Dutch movement; art and artifice are part of his roots. He brings that artifice to The Party Ain’t Over, a stylized high-profile comeback for Wanda Jackson that is about as far removed from the natural flow of Van Lear Rose, his similar effort for Loretta Lynn, as can be.
On The Party Ain’t Over, Jack White turns his authenticity fetish on Wanda Jackson, one of the greatest and most influential women of the rock era. Since recent albums like 2006’s I Remember Elvis have helped her retain her status as the undisputed queen of rockabilly, The Party Ain’t Over doesn’t serve as a full-fledged comeback album and often lacks a clear sense of purpose. Ultimately, it’s more of a showcase for White’s production than for Jackson’s performances.
It's easy to feel that nostalgia in rock is now a bankrupt phenomenon, that we know everything there is to know about the past, that there is nothing left to salvage. This sensation occurs quite forcefully if you spot the music magazine this month offering you the opportunity to discover the 250 Best Albums of its lifetime. The same magazine has, in recent years has favoured the world with its 100 Greatest Albums Ever, 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks, 20 Greatest Guitar Tracks, 100 Greatest Gigs Ever, 200 Most Amazing Moments, 100 Most Insane Moments in Rock, 10 Most Insane Albums Ever, 100 Best Singles Ever, 1010 Songs You Must Own, 1001 Best Songs Ever, 100 Greatest Singers and Their 100 Greatest Songs, 100 Greatest Albums Ever (again), 100 Best British Albums Ever, 110 Classic British Records, 50 Best Albums of the Last 15 Years, 50 Most Exciting Tunes, 50 Best Summer Anthems, 50 Best 70s Albums, 40 Best 80s Albums, 40 Best Tracks of the 80s, 115 Records It's OK to Love and, in a move presumably designed to baffle competitors with its wilful desire to innovate, the 100 Greatest Albums Ever for a third time.
It's easy to see why Jack White wanted to produce rock'n'roll lifer Wanda Jackson after watching just one two-and-a-half minute YouTube video. The performance clip was taped in 1958 for L.A. TV show "Town Hall Party" and finds Jackson roaring through an Elvis Presley hit single called "Hard Headed Woman". As written, the song doesn't portray women in the strongest light-- "a hard-headed woman is the thorn in the side of a man," goes the 50s-macho hook.
A rich, warm, big-hearted and hilarious album. Andrew Mueller 2011 If this Jack White-produced album does become an inescapable worldwide hit that bestows universal acclaim upon its creator, it won’t be before time. Oklahoma-born Jackson, now 73, is one of rock’n’roll’s genuine pathfinders – discovered by Hank Thompson, urged towards the throaty rockabilly that eventually suited her best by an early admirer named Elvis Presley, very plausibly the first woman to record a rock’n’roll single (1958’s Let’s Have a Party).
If The Party Ain’t Over were just another new Wanda Jackson album, she might only be selling a few thousand copies and might be happy with that. The rockabilly queen turned Christian and Gospel singer has been out of the spotlight for decades except for appearances at rockabilly festivals and evangelical events, and that seems to have worked for her. But Jack White, the renaissance man of rock ‘n’ roll, is a Jackson fan, and understandably felt that she was deserving of some long overdue exposure to Generations X and Y, so he set about assembling a band to back her as he produced her in his Nashville studio.
A post-Who Live at Leeds opening shudder through "Shakin' All Over" proves The Party Ain't Over. Produced by Jack "Of All Trades" White, Wanda Jackson's major-label close-up paves its first lady's two-stepping 1950s twang into a toll road – fast, smooth, roomy. White's bass and It Might Get Loud guitar solo on the disc's first rockabilly – also spooked by My Morning Jacket's Carl Broemel on pedal steel – leaves a crater.