Search - Chris Whitley :: Rocket House

Rocket House
Chris Whitley
Rocket House
Genres: Country, Folk, Pop, Rock
  •  Track Listings (11) - Disc #1

Chris Whitley's Rocket House marks another shift for the man whose debut, Living with the Law, was a burst of Tom Petty-esque roots-rock. Since then, Whitley's oeuvre has become an increasingly eclectic--some would say unf...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: Chris Whitley
Title: Rocket House
Members Wishing: 0
Total Copies: 2
Label: ATO Records
Release Date: 6/5/2001
Genres: Country, Folk, Pop, Rock
Styles: Americana, Contemporary Folk, Singer-Songwriters
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPCs: 791022150124, 4009880689721, 4009880689912

Chris Whitley's Rocket House marks another shift for the man whose debut, Living with the Law, was a burst of Tom Petty-esque roots-rock. Since then, Whitley's oeuvre has become an increasingly eclectic--some would say unfocused--collection, one that reached its nadir with the grunge-flavored Din of Ecstasy in 1995. But in recent years, Whitley's been trusting his instincts, taking a more somber, minimalist road most poignantly captured on the Billy Martin-Chris Wood (of Medeski Martin & Wood fame) collaboration, Perfect Day. Whitley's House, however, is in another time and place entirely. Filled with whispering effects and looped guitars, dense songs, and an accessible, modern-rock slant, it's the work of a mature, smart songsmith who's discovered how to get the most out of his poet's eye for the human condition, while going for broke in embracing musical possibilities. Kicking off with "To Joy (Revolution of the Innocents)," the sea change is immediately obvious, as a strange little warble gives way to a burst of serpentine electronics and a sly chorus Dave Matthews could be proud of (indeed, the record is released on Matthews's label, ATO Records). Have a listen to the wide-open pop on songs like "Say Goodbye," and "Vertical Desert," the latter finding Whitley's rootsy voice singing over a subdued mechanical beat and fat washes of keyboard. Despite the record's occasional overreach, it's worth it to hear Whitley flex his creative muscles and come up with something so immediate, hovering on the edge of experimental while remaining absolutely, overtly listenable. --Matthew Cooke

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CD Reviews

Hop On The Rocket House
Jeff Giles | Stoddard, NH USA | 06/07/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I was so blown away by Chris' debut that I've somehow managed to hang on as a fan throughout the ensuing ten years, despite a series of releases that haven't managed to create nearly as much of an impact. "Din of Ecstasy" was a slap in the face to fans who had waited five years for a followup to "Living With The Law," but with "Terra Incognita," you could see the beginnings of an emerging pattern. Now, after a four-year detour that saw the release of "Dirt Floor"--a sort of quickie "Living With the Law II"--and "Live at Martyr's," not to mention the tossoff covers collection "Perfect Day," Chris is back with unquestionably his best album yet. Far from being an album that requires multiple listens to reveal itself, "Rocket House" grabs the listener from the first track and only gets better as it goes on. Trixie Whitley's guest turn on "Chain" is haunting and ethereal. Dave Matthews and Bruce Hornsby are far from the marquee distractions you'd fear on "Radar." and ex-Beach Boy Blondie Chaplin pops up on quite a few songs in a backing role. It's telling, then, that the star is indisputably Chris Whitley throughout. His songwriting, never suspect, has improved by leaps and bounds. The production is full-bodied without being intrusive. All in all, a masterpiece."
Even if you hate it at first, you may love it later
Andy Agree | Omaha, NE | 04/10/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"That's right, I almost hated it when I first heard it and now I love it. Rocket House can turn you around that totally, and is worth the effort of repeated listenings. Chris is a musical visionary - let him share his vision with you. The DJ feedback loops may sound harsh at first, but they will caress you if you let them. The best cuts are #3 Chain (featuring his daughter), #4 Say Goodbye, #6 Rocket House, #10 Vertical Desert and #12 Shadowland. But there is no #12 Shadowland on the song list! You have to listen to #11 "Seems Like Something Shines", possibly the worst cut on the album, then wait through one minute of silence. Then, at 4:51 into Track 11 - voila! - there is Shadowland waiting for you, and it is one of the best, with a strong beat. It was very perverse of Chris to hide this song. Chris' strengths are his blues-rooted guitar and his evocative voice, but most of this is not blues. Listen carefully to #6 "Rocket House" - it is long and repetitive, but completely facsinating, anchored by a repeating guitar phrase that seems almost to massage the mind. The piano forms a creative and integral part of this music - soft and melodic in the swirl of electronica. Then suddenly it is the lead instrument on "Vertical Desert". Along with the technical wizardry, Chris displays a very raw, stripped down and unpretentious emotion with his voice. Listen to him sing "Meet me on the other side of the world" (track 5)or "Don't let these changes run you down" (track 4). You'll get chills."
It grows on you
John Alapick | Wilkes-Barre, PA United States | 05/27/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Chris Whitley's Rocket House was a complete departure from his prior work and remains the most challenging album of his catalog. Up until this point, Whitley's music had resembled the first part of Neil Young's solo career in that his albums would bounce between ragged grunge rock (Din of Ecstasy, Terra Incognita), laid-back acoustic music (Dirt Floor, Perfect Day), and the album oriented rock of his debut, Living With the Law. With Rocket House, Chris jumped headfirst into synthesizers, drum loops, turntable scratching, and other instruments that while accessible to the current musical climate would seem out of place in his music. However, unlike Neil Young, whose musical experiments of the 1980's would range from brilliant to embarrassing, Whitley would create in Rocket House an album that would tread unfamiliar territory but still stay true to his vision.

One listen to the Indian sounds and the turntable scratching of "(To Joy) Revolution of the Innocents" showed that Chris was willing to pull out all the stops musically. While certainly one of his strangest songs, his unmistakable voice and banjo licks still carry the track. "Radar" is much more somber with its piano and only gets loud during the choruses. One thing worth mentioning here is the unconventional hooks that encompass the songs. The best example of this is "Chain", one of the album's best tracks, where the hook is provided by Chris' daughter Trixie repeatedly singing the "Round and round, it goes round" lyric. "Say Goodbye" is another great track that would have been a hit if given a chance. "Solid Iron Heart" starts out as a typical acoustic tune but its backing vocals give it a more spiritual feel. In retrospect, its lyrics, which often repeat the line "Meet me on the other side of the world", seem very eerie, as though Chris knew he didn't have much time left. The title track is very good with the repetitive drumbeat providing the hook amidst all the chaos. While the album's first half is very joyful, the mood becomes much more solemn on "Little Torch", originally titled "Firefighter" on his live album, Live at Martyrs', "Serve You", and the melancholy "From a Photograph." The next track, "Vertical Desert", continues the moodiness and features a passionate vocal from Whitley while a sad piano line complements the driving beat. The closer "Something Shines" adds R&B horns to Chris' falsetto during the choruses. After the track fades out, it returns as a different tune with an industrial beat with Whitley adding his distinctive lead guitar to the mix. Having been a fan since his debut album, Living With the Law, I didn't care for this album at first, I thought it was his worst actually. However, the album really grows on you with repeated listens and is definitely worth checking out.