Acoustic Sounds

The White Stripes




Elephant UHQR

Label: Analogue Productions/Third Man Records

Produced By: Jack White

Engineered By: Liam Watson

Mixed By: Jack White and Liam Watson

Mastered By: Ryan Smith at Sterling Sound, Nashville

By: Michael Fremer

October 15th, 2023



The White Stripes' 'Urban Folk' Album "Elephant" Does An Inviting UHQR Turn

the sonic results should disarm skeptics

Martin Scorsese's 2008 film Shine A Light concert film documented a 2006 Rolling Stones Beacon Theater engagement, but Jack White's "Loving Cup" performance with Mick Jagger almost stole the show. White appeared to be having the rock'n'roll time of his life, hardly able to contain his pleasure in an almost "I can't believe I'm here doing this! Growing up, it's what I dreamed about one day doing." Maybe that's a gross misinterpretation of what he was actually feeling, but that's what it looked like as the two covered a Stones country excursion, both on acoustic guitar.

When Analogue Productions announced a UHQR release of Elephant, The White Stripes' 2003 release and probably the group's most popular and critically acclaimed album, the "tut tut"ing within segments of the "audiophile community" was audible coast to coast. Why that album when there's (name one of a dozen of decaying chestnuts)? And anyway, how good could one of White's low budget productions sound?

I'd attended the mastering session more than a year previous to the announcement and was sworn to secrecy (not that Chad Kassem demanded an NDA) and I kept my yap shut. The skeptics had a point: the double album V2 release didn't sound so good and while the UK XL pressing was higher quality and the cover color scheme variant interesting (there are at least a half-dozen cover variants, but all have deviously well-hidden elephant imagery), it too didn't sound as if it was recorded material that might benefit from the UHQR treatment—even though it was mostly recorded to eight track tape on vintage gear (nothing past 1963) at tiny Toe Rag Studio in the UK and mixed to 1/4" 15 IPS tape—a highly irregular methodology in 2002. The current standard edition from Jack White's Third Man Records is an AAA cut by Wes Garland at Nashville Record Productions but I've not heard it. There's also the 20th anniversary mono mix, released as Package 55 in Third Man's Vault vinyl subscription.

While older buyers more into jazz and/or "classic rock" might have only a peripheral appreciation of the "brother and sister" group (really a duo of Jack and his ex-wife Meg) the album reached number six on the Billboard 200 and hit number one in the U.K. It's sold four million copies worldwide, earning double Platinum from the RIAA and triple Platinum from the British Phonographic Industry. The album won Grammys for "Best Alternative Music Album" and Best Rock Song (the can't get that simple riff out of your head "Seven Army Nation").

Ryan K. Smith's mastering turns what seemed like a somewhat cold-sounding, aimless production into one imbued with great warmth, soul and charm (the same as you'll experience watching Jack play with Mick)—without losing any of the production's obvious edge, punky attitude and spare production values.

Only after the first UHQR play after many with the earlier versions did I think of Richard and Linda Thompson in the context of The White Stripes and this record. The mastering puts the duo in a space. The acoustic guitars have body, warmth and image convincingly.

Side two begins with a cover of the Bacharach/David classic "I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself" (recorded at the BBC) and no, Jack doesn't give Dusty a run for her money but it's got passion and heart. "In The Cold, Cold Night" is transformed. The bass line (Hammond organ foot pedals pressed by hand) has body, depth and transient clarity here whereas it almost sounds like a lengthy drone on the other two editions (okay, it is almost a lengthy drone since it's foot pedals an not string-picked, but each press here is far more distinct). The rhythm guitar line is refined and clarified and Meg's voice is warm, clear and in a defined space between the speakers.

If the next tune "I Want To Be The Boy to Warm Your Mother's Heart" (which sounds like something Small Faces could have dreamed up almost 40 years earlier but didn't) doesn't get you and the sunset slide guitar on the tune doesn't, "You've Got Her In Your Pocket"—a Jack solo turn with gorgeous ribbon microphone pair acoustic guitar recording— will! And if that doesn't win you over, the finale, the "Creeque Alley"-like "It's True That We Love One Another" surely will.

Jack's nephew, Third Man Records co-founder, and White Stripes official archivist Ben Blackwell, seen in the mastering video, contributes new liner notes here that helps put together and package and helps put in proper context the now 20 year old album. After the first play, an Elephant UHQR makes complete sense—especially for anyone familiar with the album. Subsequent plays emphasized the point. Which is not to say that the uninitiated are going to immediately drop $150 on it but if you do, I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Music Specifications

Catalog No: UHQR 0019-45

Pressing Plant: Quality Record Pressings


Speed/RPM: 45

Weight: 200 grams

Size: 12"

Channels: Stereo

Source: Original Analog Master Tape

Presentation: Box Set


  • 2023-10-16 05:11:33 PM

    PeterG wrote:

    Great video! A bittersweet reminder that what the Stones are missing today is the soul and guitars(!) of their/our youth.

    I am definitely among the "uninitiated", but I am now thinking about dropping that $150...

  • 2023-10-17 06:29:05 AM

    PeterPani wrote:

    Yesterday I got he tape - beautiful made. Would love to compare it to the UHQR, if somebody in Vienna gets one. First listening is 11/11. I guess, the body solid sound helps to lift the performance, too. Brutal delivery cost by Acoustic Sounds ($204!) that sadly add up for calculation of import taxes, too. In all $840, if you live in Europe, like me. This is crazy - no, I am crazy.

    • 2023-10-17 07:41:06 AM

      Come on wrote:

      I think you could ask the Michael45 crew if they can get the tapes for you, too, besides the vinyl they offer from Chad.

  • 2023-10-17 07:27:50 PM

    Buzz wrote:

    Seems like a marriage of convenience on this title for Chad. This is not a “get it at all costs” record.

    Not a hater, love what Chad does but this was a wasted spot in the queue. So was KOB 45 rpm. Im ready to buy more UHQR but I don’t need Marley, mo’ Coltrane, and Jack White??

    • 2023-10-17 07:38:05 PM

      Malachi Lui wrote:

      i think it's a fair attempt to expand the UHQR market to younger gen X'ers/elder millennials.

    • 2023-10-26 06:39:12 AM

      Andreas Fondell wrote:

      What do you need? (Please don’t write more Steely Dan)