Review: Jack White Surprises Even Himself on ‘Entering Heaven Alive’

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Jack White
Entering Heaven Alive
(Third Man Records)
3.5 stars out of 5

Standing in stark contrast to the recently released Fear of the Dawn, Entering Heaven Alive—Jack White’s second album release of the past three months and the fifth album of his post-White Stripes career—affirms the fact that White doesn’t feel obligated to fulfill anyone’s expectations, quite possibly even his own. Unlike its predecessor, it comes across as a decidedly calming affair, one that stands apart from the earlier album’s brash and bombastic surge of racket and rumble.

While certain songs reflect White’s characteristic quirkiness—“I’ve Got You Surrounded (With My Love” and the jazz and jive-sounding shuffle “Queen of the Bees” being two of the more obvious examples—it’s surprisingly conventional in tone and treatment, at least by White’s own standards. The fanciful “Help Me Along” resembles a long-lost Donovan outtake, while “A Tip From You to Me,” “All Along The Way,” “If I Die Tomorrow,” “Please God, Don’t Tell Anyone,” and “A Tree on Fire From Within” are decidedly tempered and melodic, veering towards a folky finesse of the ’60s era British variety. It’s an unexpectedly accessible sound, but considering the noise sans nuance that characterized the dark and defiant Fear of the Dawn, it’s also a welcome respite.

Still, it wouldn’t be like White to negate any and all undercurrents of uncertainty in his songs. “A Madman from Manhattan” hints at darker designs, while “Love Is Selfish” suggests there are threatening storm clouds about to descend on an otherwise sunny horizon. So too, White’s quivering vocals and sweeping piano riffs on “Taking Me Back (Gently)” make it clear that the scenario shared in the title is hardly a given. Happily then, he conveys his plea with passion and charm, effectively increasing his chances for eventual forgiveness.

Taken in tandem, Entering Heaven Alive seems to be White’s way of mitigating his somewhat intimidating demeanor while also making allowances for a distinct yet distant persona. Consider this the gentler side of an occasionally jarring Jack. 

Photo Courtesy of Big Hassle Media

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