Album Reviews

Jack White – Entering Heaven Alive

(Third Man) UK release date: 22 July 2022

Second solo album of the year from the former White Stripes man finds him in mostly relaxed, stripped-back mood – and it works beautifully

Jack White - Entering Heaven Alive Twenty years after The White Stripes‘ heyday, Jack White is showing no signs that his legendary prolific streak is calming down. Just three months after his last solo album, Fear Of The Dawn, White is back with his second solo album of 2022.

The two records may have been recorded at the same time (there were apparently plans for them to be released as a double album, which would have been a frankly exhausting listen), but they are two very different beasts. They do share certain similarities – Entering Heaven Alive’s closing track is basically a rejig of its predecessor’s opening song Taking Me Back – but where Fear Of The Dawn was all incendiary riffs and passionate vocals, Entering Heaven Alive is a far calmer listen.

White seems to have taken inspiration from the singer/songwriters of the early to mid ‘70s for this album. There are nods to Paul McCartney in his blissed-out domestic phase, Neil Young or Led Zeppelin’s more folky moments. The electric guitar is pretty much packed away, and most of the songs are based around piano, organ and acoustic guitar. It is, essentially, White exploring the roots music that’s always been an essential part of his sound.

The U-turn in musical direction takes a bit of getting used to – if a Jack White record doesn’t feature at least one blistering guitar solo, is it really a Jack White record? – but it’s a sound that suits him really well. There are lyrics about eternal love and devotion (unsurprisingly, given his recent on-stage marriage to The Black Belles‘ singer Olivia Jean), with Help Me Along basically being a wedding vow set to music, but his love for more surreal material is also represented by the unsettling A Madman From Manhattan.

Although the latter almost trips itself up over some overly complex wordplay (“with a man’s hat and a floor mat made of satin, but this cat was not like this or that, but that which was aptly named for a man”), the album is mostly a relaxed, stripped-back version of White’s music that works beautifully. I’ve Got You Surrounded (With My Love) is an eerie, bluesy number which mixes some eerie, scratchy guitar work with a jazzy piano score, and Love Is Selfish seems to dip back into The White Stripes’ more pastoral moments on Get Behind Me Satan.

Then there are other moments, which are just downright strange. The jaunty circus beat of Queen Of The Bees for one, which features some disorientating woozy organ and lyrics about buttering toast and making green tea. It teeters just on the edge of being ludicrous, but at just two and a half minutes long, it becomes a curious mid-album diversion.

Although some may mock White’s obsession with authenticity in music, Entering Heaven Alive does demonstrate just what an accomplished musician he can be. A Tree On Fire From Within gives him the opportunity to play lead bass, which he does as flawlessly as he does with guitar, while Taking Me Back (Gently) is a wonderful closer, a playful reworking of Fear Of The Dawn’s opening track with hoedown fiddle and stomping percussion which brings the album to a upbeat end.

It makes for a decent companion record to Fear Of The Dawn but also works perfectly well as a standalone album in its own right. Two decades on, Jack White’s creative fire shows no sign of dimming.

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