The legacy of the Jam is founded on just half-a-dozen studio albums--all crammed into an incident-packed five years. Yet their impact was much, much more significant than a mere six albums would suggest. The trio's intensity was born of punk but, uniquely at the time, the Jam were willing, quite literally, to wear their musical influences on their sleeves--the Who
, Tamla Motown, James Brown
, the Kinks
, soul, the Beatles
, etc. This was heady stuff for the revisionist Year Zero that was punk.
The Jam hammered out of 1977 with punk singles like "In The City" and "The Modern World"; but soon Paul Weller was finding his own voice as a writer, with songs like "Down In The Tube Station At Midnight", "Saturday's Kids", "The Eton Rifles" and "Town Called Malice"--songs which reflected the suburbia that bred him and put Weller in line with Pete Townshend and Ray Davies as an observer par-excellence of the English scene. And like them, Weller was also capable of knocking out striking pop singles like "Going Underground", "Start!" and "Beat Surrender".
Direction Reaction Creation is a welcome 5CD box which gathers together pretty much everything the Jam ever recorded: B-sides and hard-to-get singles as well as every track from those six albums. The package also includes a strikingly designed and well-written 88-page book commemorating every release and every gig the Jam played. But the fifth disc is the real bonus: 22 unreleased tracks, including demos ("In The City", "Precious", "The Bitterest Pill"); covers ("Rain", "Dead End Street", "Stand By Me"); and alternate takes ("A Solid Bond In Your Heart", "Billy Hunt", "That's Entertainment").
The music here is a fine reflection of those frantic times a quarter of a century ago, and you can only marvel at the quality, and the quantity, of material the Jam produced--they were gigging constantly, yet still managed to churn out a string of singles and albums that lived up to Weller's high standards. Albums like Setting Sons and Sound Affects saw the Jam really coming to the boil, but sadly--with Weller's interest taking him off into folk, jazz and R&B--the band's days were already numbered. Direction Reaction Creation is, however, a fine souvenir--and one that offers positive proof that, after the Sex Pistols and Clash, the Jam were the most original band to be thrown up by the New Wave. --Patrick Humphries