The White Stripes’ Heavy-Hitting 2003 Album Elephant Delivers Hard-Rock Power and Unbridled Glory in Its New, Mightily Impressive AAA 200g 2LP 45rpm UHQR Analogue Productions Edition

When AP editor Mike Mettler recently approached me with the notion of reviewing the new Analogue Productions UHQR edition of The White Stripes’ April 2003 breakthrough LP Elephant, I had to pause for a moment and thought, How am I going to review an album that is basically “just” comprised of drums and guitar?

But then, as I started thinking about it some more, I realized that, in many ways, the Elephant album is — at least from an audiophile perspective — effectively a demo-worthy recording. Heck, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, numerous labels issued many stripped-down, percussion-driven albums featuring guitars and other periodic instrumental accoutrements like flutes, brass, and organ.

Of course, The White Stripes are delivering way more than mere demo-album gimmickry here with Elephant. It is, in fact, the quality of lead Stripe Jack White’s songwriting and production skills that ultimately elevate this two-person group and the album at hand to that next level. Once you clue into The White Stripes sound — which, in some ways, updates the raw nature of early recordings by the likes of blues legend Howlin’ Wolf and certain classic Sun Records sides — you deign to appreciate how “just” guitars, drums, and vocals, all working together, essentially comprise the root of great vintage blues and rock & roll music. Sometimes, less is more, as the saying goes — and that concept defines the sound template for Elephant quite succinctly.


From the Acoustic Sounds site (homebase for Analogue Productions), we learn that, 20 years after its initial release, Elephant has most definitely gone on to become a modern-day rock classic: “The fourth studio album by the American rock duo The White Stripes was an extraordinary success. It peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard charts, and topped the U.K. Albums Charts. To date, it’s sold 4 million copies worldwide, achieving platinum-sales certification from the Recording Industry Association of America and 3x platinum from the British Phonographic Industry. It spawned the hit single “Seven Nation Army,” the band’s signature track that’s become a sports anthem, plus the hits “I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself,” “The Hardest Button to Button,” and “There’s No Home for You Here.” Elephant has received critical acclaim, and it’s often cited as The White Stripes’ best work, including receiving a nomination for Album of the Year and a win for Best Alternative Music Album at the 46th Grammy Awards in 2004.”


As far as the key specs for this special edition of Elephant go, they are the same as for most entries in Analogue Productions’ prestigious UHQR series. This album has been remastered, with new lacquers cut from the original tape sources by Ryan K. Smith at Sterling Sound and pressed at 45rpm for “ultimate fidelity” on 200g Clarity Vinyl (which, incidentally, is free from any dyes). The Elephant lacquers were plated by Stan Bishop at Analogue Productions’ own Quality Record Pressing (QRP), where this limited-edition run of 10,000 LP box sets was also manufactured. The SRP for this AAA edition of Elephant is, as tends to be the case with UHQR releases, $149.99.

For an album that was mainly recorded in a small London studio, Elephant certainly packs an enormous, big-studio-sounding wallop, especially when you turn up the volume on your amp. And I do suggest you crank this 2LP set up to 11, as it will certainly push some air from your speakers.


When it comes to The White Stripes’ drumming style, I’ve come to seriously appreciate the work of Meg White, whose simple-but-tasteful pounding reverence falls just this side of The Velvet Underground’s Moe Tucker. Meg’s drums are lovingly recorded here, so, as you turn up the volume as suggested, expect to really feel the thunder of her kick drum in particular.

And Jack White, for all his reputation as a modern-day guitar hero, is a great singer too, recalling the flavor of Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant by way of the late, great Jeff Buckley. For the most part, Jack’s voice shines on this UHQR edition of Elephant. And as far as his guitar playing goes, Jack White certainly has a great feel for electrified, blues-leaning rock that is less about speed and showy shredding pyrotechnics than invoking the right notes and sonic textures at the exact right time.


My favorite Elephant tracks, beyond the big hit “Seven Nation Army” (Side A, Track 1), include their brilliant cover of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself” (Side B, Track 1). A brief sidenote for those of you who like to dig deeper — my first time hearing that song was actually in a somewhat similarly stripped-down and ultimately rocking live version by Elvis Costello & The Attractions from the Live Stiffs 1977 tour document LP, and it was from there that I went backwards to begin my appreciation for the great Dusty Springfield, who had a No. 3 UK hit with the song a bit further back in 1964.

But now, back to the review at hand. “Ball and Biscuit” (Side 3, Track 1) is, of course, a pretty badass tune, and “Girl, You Have No Faith in Medicine” (Side D, Track 3) delivers a neat twist on the classic “Train Kept A Rollin’” hurtling-song vibe made famous by the likes of The Yardbirds and Aerosmith (to name but a few).


But it’s not all sturm und drang (if you will) on Elephant, as acoustic-leaning moments provide much-needed album balance. To that end, I like the sweet, early-Neil Youngesque “You’ve Got Her in Your Pocket” (Side B, Track 4), the Meg-sung “In the Cold, Cold Night” (Side B, Track 2), and the piano-centric “I Want to Be the Boy to Warm Your Mother’s Heart” (Side B, Track 3), a song that feels like a lost early Rod Stewart track.

The aforementioned, now ubiquitous “Seven Nation Army” is an especially cool track when you stop to consider what is most likely going on there (and do check around online to see the Stripes playing it live, to get even more blown away by it). Fact is, “Seven Nation Army” is simply brilliant in terms of its composition and structure. Consider how those opening bass lines, which are played on the lower strings of Jack’s vintage hollowbody arch-top electric slide guitar — in an open tuning that’s reportedly Open-A — rattle the rafters, which in turn sets the stage for this hook-filled album opener to really kick it into high gear. When those instant-classic “Army” slide riffs are played much higher on the fretboard, your mind is kind of tricked into thinking there are two guitarists in the band, even though we know better. Other nuances of note on Elephant include the overall rich amplifier tones Jack White is consistently wrangling, as some of those feedback moments are quite powerfully wonderful — clean-dirty overdriven distortion at its finest.


Originally, this review was conceived to be another Mettler-Smotroff tag-team production, but since we both agree on the whys and wherefores regarding just how bleepin’ great this UHQR edition of Elephant is, Mike let me take the reins. That said, Mike did want to add the following comments, presented here in his own words: “The UHQR edition of Elephant edges out my other Third Man editions of the album — namely, the 2003 original, the 2013 2LP repressing, and the 2020 2LP edition — for, as good as they essentially are, they all continue to display a few flaws here and there. But, especially in terms of the breadth of the soundstage and balls-out impact of the arrangements and instrumentation on all four sides of dead-quiet, well-centered vinyl, I too feel the UHQR version of The White Stripes’ Elephant reigns supreme. It gets a Music rating of 9, and a Sound rating of 9.”


Thanks, Mike. Overall, the Analogue Productions UHQR version of The White Stripes’ Elephant sounds like a clear winner to me — especially if you like this album to begin with, and/or adore this group especially. If you are not all that familiar with White Stripes music and are expecting a hard-rock album that sounds as full as Led Zeppelin, Pearl Jam, The Who, or even Jeff Buckley, you may have to reset your expectations a bit. But once you do so, and you get into spinning the UHQR Elephant with both open mind and open ears, be ready to geek out on loads of vintage-sounding amps and fat guitar tones, hooky riffs, catchy melodies, and ever-pounding drums. The more you play it, the more The White Stripes’ Elephant may likely become your jam — and this new Analogue Productions edition of it is worth every penny of the UHQR $150 entry fee.

Mark Smotroff is an avid vinyl collector who has also worked in marketing communications for decades. He has reviewed music for, among others, and you can see more of his impressive C.V. at LinkedIn.

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200g 2LP 45rpm (Third Man Records/Analogue Productions)

Side A
1. Seven Nation Army
2. Black Math
3. There’s No Home For You Here

Side B
1. I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself
2. In The Cold, Cold Night
3. I Want To Be The Boy To Warm Your Mother’s Heart
4. You’ve Got Her In Your Pocket

Side 3
1. Ball And Biscuit
2. The Hardest Button To Button
3. Little Acorns

Side D
1. Hypnotize
2. The Air Near My Fingers
3. Girl, You Have No Faith In Medicine
4. It’s True That We Love One Another


PeterPani's picture

Would be nice to compare it to the AP tape…

herman's picture

Aja got an 11 when it is not even close to the quality of the sound on this release rated a 9.

otaku2's picture

$149 is a little rich for my blood. Is it REALLY that much better than the 2003 remaster?

Trying to make a decision, not to start a flame war.

otaku2's picture

I meant 2013 remaster.

Mike Mettler's picture
No flame war necessary, otaku2; it's a legit Q. I do very much like the UHQR Elephant better than the 2013 edition for some of the reasons outlined in my section of the review. If you can afford it, it's worth the investment.