‘SOME PEOPLE LIKE TO ROCK!
SOME PEOPLE LIKE TO ROLL!!
BUT MOVIN’ AND A-GROOVIN’
GONNA SATISFY MY SOUL…!!!’
Album Review of:
‘THE PARTY AIN’T OVER’
by WANDA JACKSON
Produced by Jack White
(Nonesuch TMR031, January 2011)
Bob Dylan’s track “Thunder On The Mountain” on his ‘Modern Times’ (2006) album includes the enigmatic reference to ‘thinkin’ ‘bout Alicia Keys’. Why Alicia Keys? What was it about her that drew Dylan’s attention? Had he happened by chance to hear her on the radio, or had her name been nudged into his attention by a third party? Maybe he felt the song needed a contemporary reference, and it was quite by chance that he selected Alicia Keys instead of, say Boyoncé or Rihanna. Maybe Alicia’s name just fitted the rhyme scheme? Whatever, when Wanda Jackson reinterprets the song for this album she alters the reference to a more logical Jerry Lee Lewis. Wanda knew Jerry Lee. ‘When he was born in Ferriday, I was living down the line,’ she sings truthfully. She’d toured with the Killer. When she reconfigures the lyric it becomes autobiographical in a way that the Dylan original is not.
But it was when she switched labels in 1956 that Ken Nelson, producer at Capitol, saw in her energetic vocal wildness a female version of their star Rocker Gene Vincent. For her Capitol sessions she even recorded with Bluecaps guitarist Roy Clark, as well as with boogie-pianist Merril E Moore, Merle Travis, and a young Buck Owens playing rhythm. She subsequently achieved a primitive ‘Sun’-records echo on “Honey Bop”, inserted odd tempo-changes from Country dirge to jumpy Rocker into “I Gotta Know”, and cut the proto-Feminist “Hot Dog, That Made Him Mad” – offering advice on how to deal with your errant man. To promote her subsequent hits “Mean Mean Man” (a gender-switched re-write of “Mean Woman Blues”), “In The Middle Of A Heartache” and “Fujiyama Mama” she toured with other early Rockers, including Elvis, who dated her and encouraged her Rock ‘n’ Roll ambitions. So much so that journalist Mat Snow considered Wanda ‘had moments when she was not only Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll – but King too!’ (in ‘NME’ 10 May 1986). Maybe it was the onset of Brenda Lee, with a similar raw-power vocal attack, but served by better songwriters, that prompted Wanda’s return to Country. Whatever, the sides she cut with Capitol, including her album ‘Rockin’ With Wanda’ (1960) only increased in value to avid collectors across the decades since.
The White Stripes have an authenticity that few Rock bands have achieved in decades. Jack White did this by, rather than learning from his immediate contemporaries, rehearsing Rock, Blues and Americana by studying bands who had copied bands who copied bands all the way back to the originals, Eric Clapton or the Stones – with each generation-copy losing some of the original sharpness like copying and recopying video-tapes, Jack White took his inputs direct from their root sources. He knows his music, and once he’d achieved sufficient visibility he furthered that by seeking out and working with surviving practitioners. Much as Rick Rubin championed and resuscitated the moribund career of Johnny Cash. This elevates his credibility, certainly. But there’s something else that suggests it’s an exercise in genuine dues-paying.
Elsewhere she delves back to 1930 for Jimmie Rodgers’ “Blue Yodel no.6”, then adds electro-quivers to Johnny Kidd And The Pirates “Shakin’ All Over”, going from Ray Charles’ “Busted” to Eddie Cochran’s early flat-out Rocker “Nervous Breakdown” – not only a dry-run for the three CF-and-G riff-chords of “C’Mon Everybody” but the ‘no more cruisin’ for a week or two, no more runnin’ round with the usual crew’ lyric too. There’s also Jessie Stone’s “Like A Baby”, maybe most familiar as one of the King’s most powerful Blues-performances on the ‘Elvis Is Back’ (1960) album. But the question of song selection is brought most perfectly into focus by Kitty Wells’ “Dust On The Bible” (also done by Hank Williams) about the dire consequences of neglecting the gospels. What Jack White might consider quaintly ironic, there’s just a sneaking suspicion that Wanda – who drifted into the dubious Christian-Rock zone in the seventies, might actually take these lyrics seriously. Perhaps, for her, the opportunity to chide a corrupt world about the need for godliness, is her motivation for participating in the project at all? While, returning to the Dylan song, although she cuts and rearranges the lyrics of “Thunder On The Mountain” to her evident satisfaction, the line ‘for the love of god, you ought to take pity on yourself’ is left intact.
This review first featured on website:
‘SOUNDCHECKS’ (UK – January 2011)