Released November 1979
Recorded at The Townhouse Studios, Shepherd's Bush
The Jam released “Setting Sons” in late 1979, a year after they had conquered all before them with “All Mod Cons”, which took them from being (supposed) punks to champions of the “new wave”. It was talked up as being a (dreaded) “concept album”, ostensibly about three friends who grow up, get jobs, go to war then ummm..well...errr. That was that. No concept really, was there? Time for a Motown cover....
1. Girl On The Phone
2. Thick As Thieves
3. Private Hell
4. Little Boy Soldiers
6. Burning Sky
8. Saturday's Kids
9. The Eton Rifles
10. Heat Wave
That said, “Setting Sons” was/is a great album. Kicking off with the tongue-in-cheek “Girl On The Phone”, next up is a Jam classic in “Thick As Thieves”, all pumping bass runs and choppy guitar, Paul Weller spitting out invective on the way. “Private Hell” is stark and somewhat depressing, and the mood is not improved in “Little Boy Soldiers”. Nobody expected The Jam to be a barrel of laughs though, did they?
“Wasteland” is a tuneful slice of social comment, featuring (I think) a recorder, and “Burning Sky” is one of the only songs that relates to the “concept” thing.
Next up is an orchestrated version of the b side of “When You’re Young” in “Smithers Jones”. To be honest, I greatly prefer the “full band” version. The version present here is somewhat wishy-washy. “Saturday’s Kids” restores the venom, however, and “The Eton Rifles” takes it to the max with David Cameron’s favourite song. “There’s a row going on down near Slough” indeed. At times Weller’s lyrics reflected the early twenty-something that he was, on other occasions they showed the insight and wisdom of a much older man. It is fair to say, though, that these days I do not hang on his every word as I did back in 1979.
Back to the album. Incongruously, it finishes before time with a frenetic cover of Martha Reeves & The Vandellas’ “Heat Wave”. All done too soon. Bands still got away with 30 minutes and not much more in those days.
This is where the deluxe edition kicks in. You get great non album singles in the afore-mentioned “When You’re Young”, the soaring “Strange Town” and the chart-topping “Going Underground”, which sealed The Jam’s place as a “mainstream” chart band. The b sides are just as good - “Smithers Jones” (band version), the gorgeous “The Butterfly Collector” and the psychedelic “Dreams Of Children”.
Contrary to the tinny, sparse remaster offered to this album’s follow-up, “Sound Affects” the remaster here is not bad at all. I like a warm, bassy remaster and this is almost that. Not quite but 90% there. Perfectly acceptable. Certainly much better than the 1997 remaster. Much bolder, much bassier, much fuller. Use “Girl On The Phone” and “Thick As Thieves” as examples.
The “live from The Rainbow” third CD is rough and ready, but if, as I did, you attended live shows in the 1979 show it will take you back to those great nights in an instant.