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Album review

The Jam 

Classic Album boxset

added: 16 Dec 2012 // release date: 3 Dec 2012 // label: Universal
reviewer: Andy Snipper

The Jam - Classic Album boxset - Printable version
Ok, what can you say about The Jam that hasn’t been said, time and again, over the years. They were, and probably are, the quintessential Mod/Punk band. They were one of the greatest bands in any genre of all time.
Weller’s songs are better than any hundred other songwriters of the time, the music has all the power and immediacy of Punk at its best as well as the soul and swing of The Who at their early best.

This collects all six of their classic albums together and it is like a ride in an E-Type with the throttle full on and no brakes worth a damn (much like the real thing actually!).

From the first album, ‘In The City’, they blast out of the stocks with Foxton’s bass throbbing and Rick Buckler smashing all around him but it is Weller’s angry and hard-edged vocals alongside his stabbing and edgy guitar work that catches the ear. While they didn’t sound massively different from their punk contemporaries and they certainly didn’t have the immediate impact of the Sex Pistols their sound was furious and had plenty of passion. The sound is probably closest to the American garage bands and their cover of ‘Slow Down’ (Larry Williams) is the best ‘song’ on the album while ‘I Got By In Time’ shows the direction they would move in in the subsequent albums.

With ‘This IS The Modern World’ you have the Jam in all their pomp – Weller’s vocals had developed and they had learnt to slow down – just a touch – in order to get their angry and aggressive vocals out. Weller had found a voice – in both meanings of the word – and they were rapidly becoming THE London punk band. ‘London Traffic’, ‘Life From A Window’, ‘London Girl’ and the title track were the sounds of London in 1977 and they began to emulate the Rolling Stones and their heroes The Who in making statements about the state of the nation. The album is brilliantly punchy and even 354 years later it has the dynamism of the band at theyir best.

‘All Mod Cons’ took the power and focus of ‘...Modern World’ and developed a punchier and funkier sound. Weller’s guitar was developing into a true instrument and the band were creating music that you both dance to and listen to. The pogoing rhythm of the previous albums was replaced by a throbbing and changeable stance. There were throws back to the sixties and The Who and Small Faces in the music and their cover of Ray Davies ‘David Watts’ is still a Weller standard today. Add to that ‘Mr Clean’, ‘The In Crowd’, the incendiary ‘Billy Hunt’, ‘’A’ Bomb In Wardour Street’ and ‘Down In The Tube Station At Midnight’ and you have the best Mod album since The Who and The Kinks were at their peak.

‘Setting Sons’ takes another step forward towards a less frantic and more structured sound, this time around a concept album about three childhood friends (a Punk Concept album !!!), using more backing vocals and telling real stories. From ‘Girl On The Phone’ through ‘Thick As Thieves’, the dark power of ‘Private Hell’ and on to the wonderful ‘Little Boy Soldiers’ and ‘Eton Rifles’ the music is all-consuming. He – Weller – seems to trying to change from a ‘Pop’ band into a communicator and the messages don’t always hit but they are all worth listening to. ‘Smithers Jones’ was the first song to get a credit for Bruce Foxton and fits perfectly into the album although it has a very different feel to the Weller written material.

‘Sound Affects’ is almost The Jam return to their roots as the punk feel of the earliest albums returns. ‘Pretty Green’ is a classic Jam number with a great bass line from Foxton, ‘That’s Entertainment’ seems to sum up the boredom of youth better than even The Who ever managed and ‘Man In The Corner Shop’ has a real Kinks feel to the storyline. ‘Start’ has always been a favourite of mine with its Beatlesque bass line and choppy rhythm and the album sees probably the band at their most settled in terms of their music and taking in influences from contemporary bands as well as their heroes.

Final album in the set is ‘The Gift’, the final album by The Jam – Weller went on to form the Style Council soon after. It doesn’y feel like a goodbye album. The band are playing well and the music has real structure and all the passion that they had had from the off. The songs have a strong funk and Soul feel to them and Weller’s vocals show he has a real voice as well as his strident gobby sound. ‘Ghosts’ is an understated gem and ‘Precious’ an incredibly soulful dance number. The best number on the album is the universally praised ‘Town Called Malice’ with its Booker T sound but ‘Circus’ and ‘The Gift’ are great numbers that any collection should feature proudly.
The Jam managed to make more music in 5 years than many band achieve in thirty and while they have nnever apologised for being heavily influenced by some great bands never ceased developing their own sound and place in musical history.

The one thing that comes over after listening to this collection is that The Jam made music that is as essential today as it was in 1977 and as relevant and very, very few bands could say – or even hint – at that.


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