A little more than a year ago, I started reading some rumors online that one of my favorite musicians, Jack White, was collaborating with some musicians on an ambitious studio album that would ultimately be called Rome. The name evoked intrigue — what could that possibly mean? I didn’t hear anything more about it and all I knew was that the other major player in the story, Danger Mouse, had been involved in some pretty intense music projects in the past — the Broken Bells being just one of them. It was therefore with just a hint of trepidation that I approached the album.
The opening track, “Theme of Rome,” caught me off guard — sounding like something out of a spaghetti western film. Investigating a little further, I found that one of the other collaborators on the Rome project was Daniele Luppi, a composer of music for films such as Bad Habits and Assassination of a High School President. He seems to really tie the whole album together to make it a cohesive whole rather than a collection of singles and I always appreciate a good full album over individual tracks that happen to be sold together like a sack of potatoes.
There are some rather clever lyrics in the album. For example, in the song “Two Against One,” we get the following gem —
I keep my enemies closer than my mirror ever gets to me
And if you think that there is shelter in this attitude
Where do you feel the warmth of my gratitude
The album in its entirety clocks in at thirty five minutes which to me indicates that it was made with a slab of vinyl in mind rather than compact disc or digital format. Indeed, the album itself was produced using techniques that are now considered ancient and yet make superb music.
Recorded live in Rome’s Forum studios using vintage instruments and mixed on analogue tape, it is little wonder the album has been more than five years in the making. “We started talking about it in 2004 and writing it in 2005. We recorded throughout 2006 and 2007 and finished mixing in 2009. It could have come out last year but it just wasn’t the right time,” explains [Brian] Burton [Real name of artist Danger Mouse].
It is certainly a quick listen and the album is over before you know it even if you do have to get up to flip over the record — or if you are listening to it in MP3 format, even faster. As of this writing the vinyl is only available for pre-order and there is a limited two vinyl special edition that will apparently be available “soon” — what soon means is hard to say. Nevertheless, I am pleased with having heard it on NPR’s first listen and will try to get the double vinyl. If not, single vinyl for me!
If you don’t want to wait for the vinyl you can always get it on iTunes or on CD. It’s certainly worth giving a listen as it is still freely playing from NPR’s First Listen for now.