1977 - THE JAM
By the time The Jam called it a day in 1982 their last release "The Gift", was showcasing a smoother, more Northern Soul inspired side to the band. It sat in contrast to the raw and edgier sound of their first two albums, both released only five years previously in 1977
It is difficult now to remember that, given the subsequent animosity been Punks and Mods, the band first came to the fore in no small way due to the musical scene that also spawned the Sex Pistols. Visually, whilst The Jam's image of sharp suits made them stand out from their peers, I think it fair to say that in 1977 they were viewed by the public, if not the band themselves, as part of the burgeoning punk scene. So its nice that Polydor have re-released their initial recordings to celebrate their 40th anniversary, along with bonus CDs of demos, John Peel sessions, live gig at the Nashville and a DVD featuring TV appearances and promo videos.
As if to prove their punk affiliation, "Art School", the opening track of their debut release "In the City", starts with the punk's clarion call of "1,2,3,4!". Racing through largely 3 minute, amphetamine fuelled, tracks The Jam laid down a marker to show that they had arrived. Stand out tracks are the singles "In the City" and "All Around The World", but special mention should also be given to "Away From The Numbers" and "Sound From The Street" where the band started to indicate a level or musical and vocal professionalism largely missing from the punk scene at the time. There was even a slight nod to their later full on Mod sound in "Non Stop Dancing". And to show that they weren't entirely po-faced they included two covers in Larry Williams "Slow Down" and more bizarrely their take on the Batman TV theme.
Their second album was released less than six months later and largely retained the same formula of thumping bass, fast pounding drums and distinctive vocals which was the template for its predecessor. Whilst still written largely by Weller, two tracks ("London Traffic" and "Don't Tell Them You're Sane") were penned by Bruce Foxton and they again included a cover versions in "In The Midnight Hour" by Wilson Picket, perhaps indicating more where their future sound lay. Whilst a good album, the band appeared to have made little progress, which is not unsurprising given the rapidity of this further offering. However, the only single lifted from the album "The Modern World" would remain a standard of their live set for the remainder of their career. Poignantly it should be noted that the building shown behind the band on the albums cover is Grenfell Tower
The third CD is made up of demos for "In the City" recorded in February 1977.. Unsurprisingly, due to the immediacy and rawness of the tracks that would ultimately end up on the album, these demos are very similar. Largely unreleased previously, the vocals are weaker but, given that this may well have been the first time the band had been in the studio, that's understandable.
The final CD contains two John Peels sessions from May and July 1977 with tracks from both albums. Perhaps its because they are effectively live recordings these seem to be faster and more aggressive, maybe confirming their roots in the early punk scene. Finally, and to close out 60 tracks of Woking's finest, there is a full gig from the Nashville, complete with Wellers inter-song banter. Whilst obviously the majority of he set list is made up of the albums, there are a few nice touches with Otis Redding's "Sweet Soul Music" getting an airing midway through.
So, if you consider yourself a Jam fan, or just want to plug a gap in your record collection for the period straddling their transition from a punk band to the figurehead of the revitalised Mod movement, then this is the box set for you. Lovingly packaged, including a 144 page booklet, whilst not inexpensive its well worth forty notes of anybody's hard earned cash. So go on, Dig the New Breed, even if it is 40 years old.