The Jam

1977

UMe/Polydor

Dec 20, 2017 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


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When most fans think of The Jam's best records, 1978's All Mod Cons, 1979's Setting Sons, and 1980's Sound Affects are the ones mentioned (and with good reason). They are all classics, but because of their stature, their first two albums are often given short shrift even by big fans. This box set attempts to correct that by making a case that they were already a great band circa their earliest recordings.

Of their first two albums, In the City is the one that gets praised most often. Released at the height of U.K. punk in early 1977, it shows the group clearly galvanized by the burgeoning scene, famously borrowing a Sex Pistols riff for the immortal classic title track that opens side two. As such, most of this is a full-scale mod-punk assault on songs like "Art School," "I've Changed My Address," and most of the other material here. However, they pave a way for their future by covering Larry Williams' "Slow Down" as The Beatles had done. "Away from the Numbers," their first ballad, also hints at where Paul Weller's songwriting would go in the future and was apparently an influence on Bruce Springsteen when he made The River a few years later.

Their second album, This is the Modern World, was released later in 1977 and suffered from unfairly poor reviews, as had other sophomore albums by The Damned and others from the U.K. class of '77, a casualty of the U.K. music press' desire for the next new thing. It's still discredited by some today, but this box set makes a strong case for its reappraisal. Though some of the songwriting is primitive compared to what they'd come up with just a year or two later when they were growing by leaps and bounds, the title track is fantastic and another nod to classic R&B (this time, a cover of Wilson Pickett's "In the Midnight Hour") is given. As for what's in between, one could say that Bruce Foxton's "London Traffic" is a precursor to more bike- and pedestrian-friendly urban planning. "Here Comes the Weekend" is another clear highlight, its lyrics influenced by the teenage mod culture that they were just coming out of.

Each album is assigned a CD of its own and bonus discs for each feature demo versions of just about every song on each album along with related singles like "All Around the World," plus a few Peel sessions and a live set from the Nashville Rooms in 1977. (www.thejamofficial.com)   

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