Friday, 3 August 2018

The Jam




My first memories of The Jam are of buying the singles In The City and All Around The World in the summer of 1977 and then going to see them live on Saturday 26th November 1977 at Friars, Aylesbury. They were fantastic (they had, incidentally, performed a matinee gig earlier that afternoon due to ticket demand). I had not experienced an atmosphere like it, it was electric. They wore those black mod-style suits and Bruce Foxton was doing his "jump" while playing his bass (as featured on the rear cover of This Is The Modern World). The three of them - Foxton, Paul Weller and drummer Rick Buckler played with such an intensity and commitment for ones still relatively young (only just into their twenties). As just a bit younger than Paul Weller, I loved this. They were punk, but not punk as well. They had that mod thing going on, a clear sixties influence and they played some breakneck Motown covers.

That began a love affair with The Jam for me. I was lucky enough to catch them live on ten occasions between the above-mentioned gig and their final tour in December 1982, before Weller, controversially, but possibly wisely, broke up the group. The Jam inspired football-style lads' loyalty from their parka-clad fans (no, I never wore a parka - although I did back in 1972) and the band always reciprocated with energetic, honest, committed live performances. Weller, as he probably still is, was always, shall we say, a "complicated" personality and, while I respect him immensely, I never particularly warmed to him as a person. That is from someone who has bought every recording he has ever released. Obviously, I don't know him, so take my comments with a pinch of salt.

Anyway, on stage, The Jam came on and did the business with the minimum of fuss and there was something to be said for that. They were never as ground-breaking, musically, as The Clash were, largely due to their obvious Who, Small Faces, Beatles and overall mod influences, but they definitely created their own style and the sound they produced for a simple three piece of guitar, bass and drums was immense. Weller suffered every now and again from lyrical naivety, not surprising as he started writing stuff in his teens, but he also proved to be an excellent songwriter - observational, cynical, tongue-in-cheek at times and also surprisingly sensitive and tender. He has taken that on into his remarkable, impressive solo career.

The studio albums are:-

In The City (1977)
This Is The Modern World (1977)
All Mod Cons (1978)
Setting Sons (1980)
Sound Affects (1981)
and The Gift (1982)

Others reviewed are:-

Dig The New Breed (1982)
Direction Reaction, Creation Box Set
Fire And Skill Live Box Set
About The Young Idea: The Very Best Of The Jam

Scroll down to read the reviews chronologically.

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 IN THE CITY (1977)

1. Art School
2. I've Changed My Address
3. Slow Down
4. I Got By In Time
5. Away From The Numbers
6. Batman Theme
7. In The City
8. Sounds From The Street
9. Non-Stop Dancing
10. Time For Truth
11. Takin' My Love
12. Bricks And Mortar    

Formed in Woking in 1975-76. The Jam were Paul Weller, with his harsh British working class vocals, and Who-like guitar, underpinned by Bruce Foxton’s rumbling bass and Rick Buckler’s metronomic drumming.

While they shared the "angry young men" outlook and fast tempos of their punk rock contemporaries, The Jam wore smartly tailored suits rather than ripped clothes, and, rather than rejecting the influences of recent rock history in common with other punk bands, they incorporated a number of mainstream 1960s rock and R&B influences, particularly from The WhoThe Kinks and from Motown music. This set the Jam apart from most of their contemporaries, and placed them at the forefront of a nascent mod revival movement.                                   
So, on to The Jam’s breakneck debut album. Was it punk or simply a throwback to thirteen years earlier and The Who? Probably a bit of both if we are brutally honest. A barked-out "1-2-3-4" and we are straight into Art School (exactly what were art schools?, even in the 70s I had no idea!). We had heard nothing like this, though. It was like The Who, but punked-up to the max. To me, it felt somehow more genuine than The Sex Pistols and somewhat contrived posturings. The Jam really were just three lads from Woking who wanted to form a band. You could relate to these three because they were like you and your friends. The Sex Pistols you would cross the street to avoid. The Jam had an intrinsic energy and anger that made this album a punk one, but Paul Weller already had an instinct for a hook that would serve him well as he developed his craft. Among his lyrics, too, despite a bit of teenage naiveté, was a pertinence and wisdom way beyond his years and average Secondary Modern school education. This was somebody who could be special. Time would prove that to be the case. His career flourishes to this day, as we know.

   

Three more high speed thrashes in I've Changed My Address,  Slow Down and I Got By In Time  and we are into the mini-epic Away From The Numbers, which is very Who-ish as, of course, is The Batman Theme, which had already been covered by The Who on A Quick One in 1966. It seems hard to believe now, but the mid-sixties were less than ten years back in time. Even the more routine numbers bristle with an incredible energy and excitement. The Who meets Dr. Feelgood and listens to some fast-pace Motown. It hits you right between the ears. Just stick this on and play it loud. 

Up next is the towering In The City, a candidate for the best punk single, ever. Guitar, then bass, then drums then Paul Weller spits out his hymn to youth. Jam Heaven. Even now, you just can't get enough of it. I remember scrawling the lyrics out on the white paper sleeve of my 45 rpm single. (I didn't have a picture sleeve one, pictured below). 

  

Sounds From The Street sees Weller bemoaning coming from Woking because “his heart is in the city, where it belongs..” then some more amphetamine-driven three minute rides in Non-Stop Dancing,  Takin' My Love, the slightly embarrassing cod-politics of Time For Truth, with its riff lifted from The Who's The Good's Gone and finally the bitter cynicism of Bricks And Mortar (which contains the line - "a man whose house has cost forty grand.." - hard to conceive of that now) and its all over.

Wow.

What next? This was The Jam's equivalent of "The Clash" - another album with a few similarities, and, as with The Clash, soon it was on to considerable diversification. 



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THIS IS THE MODERN WORLD (1977)

1. The Modern World
2. London Traffic
3. Standards
4. Life From A Window
5. The Combine
6. Don't Tell Them You're Sane
7. In The Street Today
8. London Girl
9. I Need You (For Someone)
10. Here Comes The Weekend
11. Tonight At Noon
12. The Midnight Hour

Often maligned as “the difficult second album” when Paul Weller supposedly suffered from “writer’s block”. You what? You having a laugh?  There are actually some really good songs on here - The Modern World; the Who-influenced Standards; the poetic, acoustic/electric vague psychedelia fusion of Life From A Window; the rocking Here Comes The Weekend; the thoughtful The Combine; more Who vibes on I Need You and another dreamy one in Tonight At Noon.

This was a far, far better album than it was ever given credit for. The sound on it is good too - full, punchy and solid, lots of impressive bass and drums. Bruce Foxton and Rick Buckler were equally important to The Jam as Paul Weller at this point.

Indeed, The Combine, with its excellent guitar/vocal fade out and forerunner of In The Crowd lyrics, is the equal of anything on the much-lauded next album, All Mod Cons. It was the best thing The Jam had done so far, and is much underrated. You could make similar cases for Life From A Window and Tonight At Noon.

Back to Weller. Some writer's block. I believe those to be some of his best songs. Despite those that were to follow. Tonight At Noon is a great song, as is London Girl. End of.

  

In The Street Today bristles with punky energy. Check out the drum intro and the bit where Weller's guitar comes slashing in. Even the closing cover of Wilson Pickett'In The Midnight Hour is more than acceptable, full of youthful attack and energy. Bruce Foxton's short and frenetically punky London Traffic is enjoyable in its tinny guitar attack, but his Don't Tell Them You're Sane leaves something to be desired, however. Foxton's lyrics  are sixth-form at best.

The album, despite coming out at the height of punk in late 1977 had so many songs on it that The Jam were not going to be your basic three chord, frantic punk band. Only London Traffic and In The Street Today really fitted the punk blueprint. Yes, The Modern World and Here Comes The Weekend have the attitude and some of the anger, but they are, despite their solidity, slower in pace.

 The sixties influence from The WhoThe Small Faces and freakbeat/psych pop is all over this album. You could see how All Mod Cons developed out of this. The rough edges were ironed out and a poppier sensibility honed. The foundations were laid here, though, and as I said before, do not dismiss this album.

  

The sound on both these albums, as released on the "1977" box set, is excellent, as said earlier, as indeed it is on the more interesting than usual demo tracks and the live gig from London’s 100 club which is good as one could hope for from a sweaty, cramped room in 1977.

To boringly reiterate, this is an unfairly condemned album, containing some good material, in my opinion. I love the cover too, the lads looking out under the Westway with the sun on their faces on the front and that classic Bruce Foxton "jump" shot on the back, so evocative of their live performances at the time. The inner lyric sleeve had some excellent artwork too. Give this one a chance and re-visit it. Sermon over.



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ALL MOD CONS (1978)

1. All Mod Cons
2. To Be Someone
3. Mr. Clean
4. David Watts
5. English Rose
6. In The Crowd
7. Billy Hunt
8. It's Too Bad
9. Fly
10. The Place I Love
11. "A" Bomb In Wardour Street
12. Down In The Tube Station At Midnight  

The previous album to this one, This Is The Modern World, saw main singer/songwriter Paul Weller supposedly suffer from "writer's block". I a not sure about that. The album sounded pretty good to me. Nevertheless, he has admitted himself that he was struggling for creativity before it all suddenly came together with, this, The Jam's finest album.

The punk pretensions and 60s r'n'b stylings of the first album and, to a lesser extent, the next one, were gone by now. The songs became increasingly sophisticated, intelligently structured and lyrically surprisingly observant and mature for some in Weller who had only recently turned twenty-one. The band still was a three-piece, Weller on lead guitar, Bruce Foxton on bass and Rick Buckler on drums and it had never sounded as tight or as accomplished as here.
  
Rick Buckler's thumping drum intro leads into this short, sharp shock of an opening All Mod Cons that saw Weller railing, albeit briefly, against music industry greed. The track segues neatly into the next track, To Be Someone - a cynical song from Weller about the pitfalls and immorality of the "fame game" and music stardom. "Didn't we have a nice time" he wryly observes, amongst all the cocaine and "guitar-shaped pools". Great bass from Bruce Foxton on this one.

  

In Mr Clean Weller spits out invective against a seemingly uncaring middle class professional type, the like of which Weller would have seen regularly while growing up in stockbroker belt Woking. "I hate you, and your wife, and if I get the chance, I'll fuck up your life", he aggressively states. The upbeat, singalong hit single, David Watts, is next - a rousing, lads-together fist-pumping cover of The Kinks' 60s album track. Funnily enough, its lyrics sound as if they could have been written for The Jam, all that class difference stuff that is the cornerstone of this album in many ways. David Watts, of course, is the very opposite of Billy Hunt.

English Rose was the "surprise" unannounced track from the original album. A tender, acoustic guitar-based love song. Maybe it was not mentioned on the track list because Weller was genuinely embarrassed to include a love song on the album. A soppy love song? On a "punk" album? Are they punks or what? There's an establishment to rail at. In fact, in the song Monday on 1980s Sound Affects, he claims "I will never be embarrassed about love again". Maybe he genuinely was, as he looked down and spat on the ground between his teeth after dragging on his fag, as "lads" did.

In The Crowd is a somewhat rambling song where Weller expresses his feelings when swept along in a crowd of people, his disconnection, his alienation, maybe even traces of self-loathing. Quite a mature song for one so young but musically it is a little bit uninspiring and never really gets going.

Billy Hunt is a song about a working class lad who works on a building site and dreams of something better. It sounds a little like a cast off from the previous album, slightly punky in its guitar attack and pace. Early 60s Beatles influence to the fore in It's Too Bad, a She Loves You -style mid-pace love song. A nice beat and some appealing guitar and drums. "I could say I'm sorry, but that's not the point is it?" shows Weller's John Lennon-style cynicism at times when it came to relationships. Lennon turned this way by Beatles For Sale, Weller had pretty much always appeared like that, even in the early days, London Girl and I Got By In Time spring to mind.

  

The beguiling Fly is one of the album's most intricate and adventurous songs. Weller a bit "stream of consciousness" with lyrics about being in the "demi-monde", all a bit sixth-form philosophy, to be honest, but certainly a brave effort, both lyrically and musically. "Dreams it seems are weightless as sand" is an adventurous lyric for a tewnty-one year old. It betrayed Weller's sensitive, even romantic, side once again, however, although he was happy to acknowledge this one.

It was continued in The Place I Love, a slightly whimsical, dreamy song inspired by the Surrey countryside that influenced many of Paul Weller's songs. Again, a notable Beatles influence in the music but finding room for Weller to stick with his contemporary anger and say that he is "making a stand against the world". Here, however, he does so very melodiously. "The place I love is a million miles from here, not within a yard of the trendy do's" and "only animals around me" showed Weller rejecting the city and its nightlife that he had previously championed. Was this the first of the "pastoral" songs that would so dominate much of his later solo career? I believe it was.



The Place I Love fades out and segues into the short, sharp shock of "A" Bomb In Wardour Street - a Honky Tonk Women style cowbell intro leads into this staccato punky guitar riff-driven tale of a violent incident in a gig venue, with mentions of London's Vortex punk venue and, of course, Wardour Street itself. This, appropriately, is the punkiest song on the album.

The album's A Day In The LifeDown In The Tube Station At Midnight. A nearly five minute masterpiece of violent, urban imagery dealing with a man being mugged in the bleak underground setting of one of London's tube stations. Underpinned by Bruce Foxton's magnificent bass, it is musically excellent, but, as with so much of this album, it was the lyrics that took centre stage. Yes, it is a musically impressive album, but it is the words to the songs that everyone still remembers.

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SETTING SONS (1979)


1. Girl On The Phone
2. Thick As Thieves
3. Private Hell
4. Little Boy Soldiers
5. Wasteland
6. Burning Sky
7. Smithers-Jones
8. Saturday's Kids
9. The Eton Rifles
10. Heat Wave                                                  

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....

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  the single 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, new wave pop of 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.

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SOUND AFFECTS (1980)

1. Pretty Green
2. Monday
3. But I'm Different Now
4. Set The House Ablaze
5. Start!
6. That's Entertainment
7. Dream Time
8. Man In The Corner Shop
9. Music For The Last Couple
10. Boy About Town
11. Scrape Away

Sound Affects was released in late 1980, with The Jam now at the height of their powers. Going Underground went straight to number one the previous March. In summer the lead-off single from this album, the Taxman-influenced Start! did likewise. The band were untouchable now, masters of ex-punk chart pop.

Paul Weller, much in admiration of The Beatles’ Revolver, seemed to want to produce a similar album - sparse, tinny, guitar-driven with some cutting lyrics scattered around for good measure. I have to admit that it is a bit of a difficult album to categorise - the old sixties influences are very much to the fore - the afore-mentioned Beatles, The Small Faces, sixties psychedelic pop. It is not an album that builds on the Jam sound crafted on All Mod Cons and Setting Sons, though, it strips things down. The sound is more minimalist, trebly and succinct and, by the old "side two" there is a bit of a lack of cohesion. This is where it gets a bit patchy. 

So, back in late 1980, this album was received like the second coming. My memories of my first few listens at the time are those of a slightly underwhelming nature, and an unwillingness to face up to the fact that I preferred the previous two offerings. I clung on to that guitar break in Pretty Green, the hooky appeal of Man In The Corner Shop and the magnificent atmosphere of That's Entertainment as great moments to help me overlook other more ordinary songs like the short But I'm Different Now, the vague Dream Time and the throwaway instrumental, Music For The Last Couple. Anyway, here are those pocketfuls of pretty green....

Pretty Green kicked things off as we all hurriedly put this on our turntables to hear Bruce Foxton’s rumbling bass let us know our favourite lads' band were back.Monday saw Weller going all romantic, with his accent to the fore - “rainclouds came to cloud my funder”, then it is on to the breakneck, punky But I'm Different Now with its typically Jam “aye-aye-aye” chorus.

Next up is the anti-fascist put-down Set The House Ablaze. More “la la las”. Those choruses can sometimes sound a bit "naff" but at other times they seem to fit perfectly. Nobody else used them as much as The Jam did. The song has a mysterious, dense, almost claustrophobic feel to it, though, similar to the following year's non-album single, Funeral Pyre

  

Start! was an odd, short song for a single, but it has a quirky, staccato appeal. Just check out Bruce Foxton's huge bass sound on it too. The very essence of The Jam. The interplay between him and drummer Rick Buckler was integral to their sound..

Thats Entertainment is a pure Jam classic. Written by a semi-drunken Weller late one night in fifteen minutes, sung against a stark acoustic guitar backing, it is a slice of late 70s urban British life in three minutes. Magnificent stuff. 

Dream Time is a touch of sixties psychedelia and Man In The Corner Shop  another singalong semi-tragic Jam social conscience anthem.

  

The instrumental Music For The Last Couple is a bit of a waste, considering some of the great tracks left off the album but it all ends strongly with the Small Faces-ish Boy About Town and the dense, introspective Scrape Away, which has become one of my favourites from the album in later years. Initially, however, it didn't do much for me. Ones tastes change over the years. The same applies to Set The House Ablaze.

Now, on to the remastering. I have to say it is dreadfully tinny and does the album something of an injustice. The 1997 remasters and the one used on the Direction Reaction Creation box set are both much better. What is bizarre, however, is that the extra tracks on disc two are remastered to a much higher standard, warmer and bassier. 



Also present on disc two are the quality extras in Liza Radley, the plaintive All Mod Cons-ish No-One In The WorldDreams Of Children and the Beatles cover And Your Bird Can Sing. Any of those could, and possibly should have made it on to the album.

Still worthy of owning, but the remastering could have been better. I am currently playing it on a better system than I have in the past and it sounds a bit better, so all is not lost.

For many, this is considered to be The Jam's best album, rather as many prefer The Beatles' Revolver to Sgt. Pepper. I can sort of see why, but the tinny sound and some patchy parts on the album's second side will always place it below both All Mod Cons and Setting Sons for me.

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THE GIFT (1982)

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

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. 

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 BeatlesThe ClashFawlty 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. 

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DIG THE NEW BREED (1982)

1. In The City
2. All Mod Cons
3. To Be Someone
4. It's Too Bad
5. Start!
6. Big Bird
7. Set The House Ablaze
8. Ghosts
9. Standards
10. In The Crowd
11. Going Underground
12. The Dreams Of Children
13. That's Entertainment
14. Private Hell                                    

The importance of this live album from The Jam has lessened over the years. In 1982 when it was released it was received like the Holy Grail because there was simply no other Jam live material available and we craved it. Now, there is the fantastic Fire And Skill six gig box set; the Jam At The BBC live sessions; various live gig extras as part of the “deluxe” remaster series and the Live Jam release which plays like a full live set, even though it might not be one.

  

Dig The New Breed, however, is a 14 song collection derived from live gigs between 1977 and 1982. The quality is variable but we were grateful at the time for anything that captured that feeling of being at a Jam gig. I was lucky enough to be at ten of them. It would have made more sense at the time to have released a full gig, but this was how the band chose to reward their legions of loyal fans. At the time, nobody complained. They really didn’t. Everything was lapped up.

I remember at the time, though, being slightly underwhelmed by the album, feeling that indeed it did not reflect the true thrill of being at a Jam gig and that the tracks chosen were not the best either. I would have liked to have seen Tube Station, Strange Town or Wardour Street on there, along with maybe Life From A Window or Here Comes The Weekend from the earlier days.

As it is, is it good to hear In The CityTo Be Someone and It's Too Bad.  Big Bird is an interesting inclusion but sonically it is a mess and not a patch on the original. The take of Going Underground on here is somewhat clumsy too.

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DIRECTION, REACTION, CREATION BOX SET

   

This review is for the big coffee-table sized “ear book” edition, which is excellent. Of course, it has five CDs containing every studio recording this seminal punk/new wave band ever made but it also has interesting essay-style text about the band, some high quality pictures, obviously in large size, and listings of every gig the band ever played (including the ten times I saw them myself). The sound on the music is superb, still the best remasterings, in my opinion, of The Jam’s work. Certainly better than the tinny, questionable masterings presented to us on the 2010 “deluxe editions” of both Sound Affects and The Gift (particularly the former). While the 1997 CD remasters are ok, however, the sound on this collection is certainly better.

One problem for Jam fans who are so used to the running order of the tracks from the original albums is that the singles and their ‘b’ sides come before their respective albums, thus changing the running order away from the all-too-familiar one. This is not a problem if you, like me, you have a digital collection. You can re-number the tracks accordingly.

The majority of the tracks are well-known to everyone, but there are some interesting rarities - the cover of The Beatles’ Rain; a cover of Every Little Bit Hurts; and some original demos - Dead End StreetStand By Me and Walking In Heaven's Sunshine. There is also an appealing “swing version” of the ‘b’ side Pity Poor Alfie, and the first version of A Solid Bond In Your Heart, which would go on to be a Style Council track.

An essential reminder of just what a great band The Jam were. A treasured possession for me.

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FIRE AND SKILL: LIVE BOX SET

 

Live recordings from 1977 to 1982

The collection contains six full Jam concerts from 1977 to 1982:-

1977 - From London's 100 Club - Featuring mainly tracks from In The City plus a few from This Is The Modern World

1978 - From London's Music Machine - concentrating on material from This Is The Modern World.

1979 - From Reading University This Is The Modern World and All Mod Cons.

1980 - From Newcastle City Hall - largely material from Sound Affects.

1981 - From London's Hammersmith Palais - showcasing material from the forthcoming The Gift.

1982 - From London's Wembley Arena - from the last tour - tracks from The Gift and all the albums.

There is no gig from the excellent tour showcasing material from Setting Sons in late 1979 early 1980, although tracks from that album are played at the Newcastle City Hall gig. Live gigs from that tour can be found on various versions of Setting Sons Deluxe. Best to download them - Brighton and The Rainbow in London.

The sound quality is variable. Obviously the earlier ones in smaller venues are more "rough and ready". However the sound is never bad. Indeed the rougher ones have a certain atmosphere. A Jam gig was never for audiophiles anyway. Thank God. I was lucky enough to see them ten times live between 1977 and 1982 - four times at Friars, Aylesbury. Great memories.

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ABOUT THE YOUNG IDEA: THE VERY BEST OF THE JAM

  

A compilation of The Jam's material 1977-1982

As compilations go, this is one of the best from The Jam. Obviously there are omissions which will vary from person to person, depending on taste. What is great about this is the truly impressive remastered sound.

As I, and many others have stated across various media, there were problems with the “deluxe editions” - Sound Affects in particular - in that they were very tinny and the bass seemed very low down in the mix. The Gift was marginally better and Setting Sons better still, but none of them match up to the punchy, bassy beauty of this remaster. The set covers all the singles, some of the 'b' sides and the perceived "best tracks" from the band's six studio albums. Obviously, what tracks are included is open to conjecture - I would have liked a few more from This Is The Modern World and It's Too Bad or Fly instead of Billy Hunt, and the original Burning Sky instead of a "demo version. These are small matters, however.

  

For me, and for many, The Jam’s sound was underpinned by Bruce Foxton’s big, rumbling, rubber band bass on track after track (I am thinking particularly of Down In The Tube Station At Midnight right now), so, to hear it so blissfully up in the mix is a delight. The sound here is clear, warm and precise. Bruce Foxton is back in the mix, big time, and doesn’t he deserve to be.

What you get on this compilation, it must be noted, are all those truly great non-album singles and some 'b' sides in excellent remastered sound - the punk attack of All Around The World ; the catchy Strange Town; the lovely The Butterfly Collector; the upfront blast of When Your'e Young ; the full band version of Smithers-Jones (which is the best one); the now iconic Going Underground ; the psychedelic Dreams of Children; the intense Funeral Pyre; the horn-driven Absolute Beginners; the soulful The Bitterest Pill and the upbeat Beat Surrender.

  

What is a shame is that if these 47 tracks can be remastered so well, why not the other 40 odd in The Jam’s output? These are so good, it would be great to hear the rest of them given the same treatment. A Clash-style "complete studio recordings" using this standard of remastering would be most welcome.

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