Thursday, 31 May 2018

The Jam - The Gift (1982)

That Prince Philip tells us we've got to work harder....

 
Released on 12 March 1982

Recorded at Air Studios, London

Running time 32:36

Released in March 1982, this album signalled the beginning of the end for The Jam as Paul Weller was no doubt hatching his Style Council project in his mind. Weller used horn players on this album as his Motown/Stax influences grew stronger. The traditional Bruce Foxton (bass) and Rick Buckler (drums) rhythm section seemed less integral to The Jam's sound on this one, despite some high points - Foxton's Town Called Malice intro for one. 

The album also suffered from a modicum of self-importance, presented as it was in a candy-striped paper bag (does anyone still have their copy of that, I wonder?), proclaiming that this was, indeed, a "gift". Somehow it made you feel as if we should be grateful for this offering. All marketing hype, of course, but when an altruistic, honest band like The Jam fell prey to such things...

The Northern Soul dancer image on the inner cover was a good choice, though. This album had considerable Northern Soul influence. 

TRACK LISTING

1. Happy Together

2. Ghosts
3. Precious
4. Just Who Is The 5 O'Clock Hero?
5. Trans-Global Express
6. Running On The Spot
7. Circus
8. The Planners' Dream Gone Wrong
9. Carnation
10. A Town Called Malice
11. The Gift

The afore-mentioned Motown-influenced A Town Called Malice was, of course, a huge chart topping single. Its B side, Precious, a worthy first stab at funk that left some early punky fans of the band a bit in two minds. 

Carnation and Ghosts were beautiful Weller "slowies" and Happy Together, a reasonable, upbeat opener. Trans Global Express continued the funk experimentation, its hook directly lifted from the Northern Soul obscurity So Is The Sun by World Column. Its vocals are, unfortunately, so low down in the mix as to be almost buried. If it is was deliberate, and one can only presume it was, or it would have been changed, it was an odd move. Pertinently, when it was played live, the vocals came across loud and clear, so there you go. 

Running On The Spot is upbeat enough, and suitably breathless, but to be brutal, it is nothing special. Just Who Is the 5 O'Clock Hero? is a quirky number with cynical lyrics about the working life and The Gift is a sort of energetic rock meets Northern Soul groove. The latter two are reasonable tracks, but not ones that make you really sit up and take notice I can take or leave them.

The Planners' Dream Gone Wrong was a bit of a calypso-influenced mess, to be honest, while Foxton's instrumental Circus was somewhat inessential considering that the excellent A Solid Bond In Your Heart (later to be recorded by The Style Council) was not included (it appears in the bonus tracks). 

The bonuses include the great non-album singles of The Bitterest Pill and the band's final single, Beat Surrender and some ill-considered soul covers in  War  and Stoned Out Of My Mind.


The remastering on this is, a bit like that used for Sound Affects a bit to tinny for my liking. The best remasters of this material can be found on the Direction Creation Reaction box set. As with Sound Affects though, the extras are remastered in a much more bassy, appealing fashion which is equally perplexing.

So that was it, after a couple more great singles in the afore-mentioned The Bitterest Pill (I Ever Had To Swallow) and Beat Surrender Paul Weller pulled the plug on The Jam, leaving poor old Bruce Foxton and Rick Buckler high and dry. Buckler took it the hardest, it is said. One could see which direction Paul Weller was going here, with the music on this final album. What was amazing, however, was that he called the whole thing to a halt virtually overnight. Five great years. Maybe, like The Beatles, The Clash, Fawlty Towers and The Office, he was right. The Jam left a great musical legacy. We will never know what would have become of them. Would they have become The Style Council anyway? What is clear was that Weller wanted to diversify considerably in ways that the other two did not. He was still comparatively young and his life was just growing in a a different direction. It happens to all of us. 

C+



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