WHITE STRIPES – 50,000,000,000 Fans Can’t Be Wrong (No Label)

I took my own advice from my last column, where I said that the amount of praise that the Stripes generate seems to be inverse to the quality of their work, and to seek out their early stuff to see just how great they once were. Well, this album does just that. It is a compilation of seven of their early singles, on a variety of labels including Italy, Industry, Extra Ball, and Sub Pop. ‘Let’s Shake Hands’ is a dirty blues, emphasising that they band really were just guitar and drums when they started. ‘Lafayette Blues’ starts with a great guitar lick, and carries on with some extra heavy chords. ‘The Big Three Killed My Baby’ is more rock orientated, while ‘Hand Springs’ is just Jack White intoning a few lines and then thrashing his guitar for the chorus. Genuinely a lost Stripes gem. ‘Lord Send Me An Angel’ is an acoustic blues, at which the band are just as adept as with their more usual electric stuff. ‘Party Of Special Things To Do’ is one if three Captain Beefheart covers on here, and the band more than do it justice. ‘Look Me Over Closely’ sounds like a 40’s pop tune given a blues makeover, ‘Sugar Never Tasted So Good’ is another acoustic blues, but with a great sense of melody on this one, and ‘Red Bowling Ball Ruth’ is a breakneck blues. I finally get to hear live favourite ‘Jolene’, and the album rounds off with the other two Beefheart covers ‘China Pig’, and ‘Ashtray Heart’. I must admit that my advice was spot on, as this album proved to me that the band had much more passion and energy in their formative years, and some of that spontaneity has been lost with each subsequent album. Unfortunately this is a b**tl*g, and so might take some finding if you are tempted, but considering that only three of these tracks turned up on their early albums then for real fans of the band the effort will be more than worthwhile.