Review: Wanda Jackson – The Party Ain’t Over (Third Man, 2011)
Wanda Jackson – The Party Ain’t Over (Third Man, 2011)
It’s a mark of Wanda Jackson’s enduring vocal fire that the uniqueness of her voice can be heard through the bombast with which producer Jack White has surrounded her. As on her earliest recordings, Jackson’s voice hangs half-way between girlish and womanly, the giggle of the former adding to the experience of the latter. But track after track, Jackson’s dwarfed by White’s production, overwhelming her substantial charms with cacophonous outbursts and circus-band theatrics that shrink, rather than magnify the vocalist’s stature. The horns sound like a drunk commandeering the microphone at a wedding, hailing themselves rather than punctuating the emotion of Jackson’s vocals. The voice processing sounds cold and artificial and White’s guitar, particularly on covers of “Shakin’ All Over” and “Nervous Breakdown,” sounds more like a Woodstock freakout than something to complement the queen of rockabilly. White finally gives in on the closing cover of Jimmie Rodgers “Blue Yodel #6,” dismissing the band, pulling out his acoustic, and giving both his guitar playing and Jackson’s impassioned vocal some room to roam. Jack White’s fans may very well love this album, as it seems to be more about him than about his vocalist. With any luck this will lead new listeners to Jackson’s magnificent catalog (check out Ace’s Queen of Rockabilly for an overview of her rockin’ side); those who joined the bandwagon decades ago may find the basic four-piece on her previous album, I Remember Elvis, the all-star salute of Heart Trouble, or Jackson’s earlier reintroduction on Rosie Flores’ Rockabilly Filly, more to their liking. The rock ‘n’ roll combos of these earlier albums generate more excitement – by shining their light on Jackson – than White does with more players and higher volume. Wanda Jackson’s still got it, but Jack White doesn’t seem to know what to do with it.