Thursday, November 15, 2012

Review: The Jam's 'The Gift' Super Deluxe Edition

The Jam’s final record is the one that most delivers on their mod image. It is rhythmically tight, with Rick Buckler slapping out the kinds of Benny Benjamin beats dapper modernists shimmied to in 1963. Paul Weller and Bruce Foxton’s songs are pure pop in the mode of the English groups that worshipped American soul in the salad days of the Vespa and the ventilated flack jacket. At times The Jam betray their fealty to their favorite era, as when Weller skids out Superfly wah-wah licks on “Precious”, but “Trans-Global Express”, “Running on the Spot”, and the glorious “Town Called Malice” find these mods at their most modish.

Because it doesn’t peel the paint like In the City and All Mod Cons, and it doesn’t supply wall-to-wall classics like Sound Affects, The Gift tends to get marginalized. Without a doubt The Jam’s most electrifying days did lay in the past. The road ahead was a path of maturity Paul Weller preferred to travel with his more far-out soul ensemble The Style Council. However, The Gift is a terrific album, heavier of beat and lighter of heart (musically, if not lyrically) than The Jam of old.



The bonus singles, outtakes, demos, and live performance from the Wembley Arena that augment Universal Records’ new super deluxe edition still may not satisfy those who felt The Jam went soft with The Gift, but those curious to hear them get even deeper into pure soul will be delighted by a euphoric cover of Curtis Mayfield’s “Move on Up” and a sweet version of The Chi-Lites’ “Stoned out of My Mind”. The demos on disc two are interesting, though not the raw items one might expect. The version of “The Bitterest Pill” on this disc is even overlaid with Muzak strings! The Gift numbers in the Wembley set feature the same keyboards, horns, and backing singers they did on vinyl and punky classic such as “Away from the Numbers” and “In the City” don’t quite snarl the way they did in ’77. Yet what the concert lacks in rage it makes up for in impeccable, adult showmanship. Plus there’s a cover of Small Faces’ “Get Yourself Together” on the demo disc that finds Foxton doing an impressively convincing Steve Marriott impersonation.

The super deluxe edition of The Gift gives a true and complete picture of The Jam in their final year, and despite what some naysayers say, they went out on top.

(This box set also features a DVD of live, TV, and promo clips that was not included with the review package I received. Oh well, the audio discs are still great).

Get The Gift Super Deluxe Edition at Amazon.com here.
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