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Setting Sons
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How do you follow something as beloved as 1978's "All Mod Cons"? You do it with 1979's "Setting Sons" that along with The Clash's "London Calling" probably represent Britain's Punk and New Wave period at its snotty full-throated working-class best. And as a nice boy from a nice part of Dublin - I'm down with that Mister Smithers-Jones (The Jam were huge in Ireland)...

Unfortunately like others who bought and loved the glorious embossed original vinyl LP (Polydor POLD 5028) back in the heady end-of-a-decade days of November 1979 - this December 2014 Universal/Polydor 2CD 'Deluxe Edition' feels like a hamburger instead of a steak. I think a lot of it has to do with the presentation of these newer 'Deluxe Editions' that are minus the plastic slipcases that came with the older variants (gave them a bit of class and the easy-to-crumple digipak within some much-needed protection). But like the "Some Girls" Deluxe Edition from The Rolling Stones which completely wrecked fabulous original artwork too – this one screws up the artwork as well and the flimsy exposed card digipak doesn't do this 4th 'DE' for The Jam any favours either.

Having said all that and having whinged like a big girl's blouse - for roughly a ten spot of your hard-earned there's a lot to like about this 2-disc reissue. The new 2014 remasters are superb, Pat Gilbert's liner notes explain the LP's impact really well and the pictured fan memorabilia is impressively in-depth. And on the bonus front you forget just how good all eight of those stand-alone 45s were (both A's and B's) and as evidenced here - The Jam 'live' was an awesome thing to behold - even it this BBC stuff has been released before. Time for some details of our own methinks – let's get to the missing bulldogs and added deckchairs...

UK released December 2014 - "Setting Sons: Deluxe Edition" by THE JAM on Universal/Polydor 0602537946952 (Barcode 602537946952) is a 2CD Reissue/Remaster and plays out as follows:

Disc 1 (58:00 minutes):
1. Girl On The Phone
2. Thick As Thieves
3. Private Hell
4. Little Boy Soldiers
5. Wasteland
6. Burning Sky
7. Smithers-Jones
8. Saturday's Kids
9. The Eton Rifles
10. Heat Wave
Tracks 1 to 10 are their 4th studio album "Setting Sons" - released November 1979 in the UK on Polydor POLD 5028 and in the USA on Polydor SD 6249. Produced by Vic Coppersmith-Heaven - it peaked at No. 4 on the UK LP charts but didn't chart in the States (the US LP also reversed the Sides - Side 1 beginning with "Burning Sky" and Side 2 beginning with "Girl On The Phone").

BONUS TRACKS - The Singles & B-Sides:
11. Strange Town
12. The Butterfly Collector
Tracks 11 and 12 are the non-album A&B-sides of their 6th UK 7" single released 9 March 1979 on Polydor POSP 34 (peaked at No. 15)
13. When You're Young
14. Smithers-Jones (Single Version)
Tracks 13 and 14 are the non-album A&B-sides of their 7th UK 7" single released 7 August 1979 on Polydor POSP 69 (peaked at No. 17)
15. The Eton Rifles (Single Version)
16. See-Saw
Tracks 15 and 16 are the non-album A&B-sides of their 8th UK 7" single released 26 October 1979 on Polydor POSP 83 (peaked at No. 3)
17. Going Underground
18. Dreams Of Children
Tracks 17 and 18 are the non-album A&B-sides of their 9th UK 7" single released 14 March 1980 on Polydor POSP 113 (peaked at No. 1)

Disc 2 - Live At The Rainbow Theatre, Finsbury Park, London, December 1979 (59:08 minutes):
1. Girl On The Phone
2. To Be Someone
3. It's Too Bad
4. Burning Sky
5. Away With The Numbers
6. Smithers-Jones
7. The Modern World
8. Mr. Clean
9. The Butterfly Collector
10. Private Hell
11. Thick As Thieves
12. When You're Young
13. Strange Town
14. The Eton Rifles
15. Down At The Tube Station At Midnight
16. Saturday's Kids
17. All Mod Cons
18. David Watts

THE JAM was:
PAUL WELLER - Lead Vocals, Guitar and Principal Songwriter
BRUCE FOXTON - Bass (wrote "Smithers-Jones", all others by Weller)

MICK TALBOT - Future Style Council partner for Paul Weller is credited as "Merton Mick" and plays Piano on “Heat Wave”
RUDI - Saxophone on “Heat Wave”

The 24-page booklet tries hard to impress - a centre 2-page spread of concert tickets from the Oakland Auditorium in San Francisco in late April 1979 to the unbridled luxury of the Bridlington Spa in November of that Jam-momentous year. There are trade adverts, NME repros, WORDS magazine covers and other depicted memorabilia alongside some live photos. But every one of the flaps is covered in blurred concert photos that have been colour-tinted and look awful and the Red and Blue CDs themselves with a 'Bulldog' face don't impress much nor resemble the LP - and the Bulldog/Deckchair is missing from the back sleeve. The Inner sleeve that came with original British LPs is bizarrely AWOL and it doesn't seem to occur to anyone to provide basic catalogue numbers for anything like I've done above (and don't get me started on the cost of the desirable but extortionate Uber Deluxe Edition). Still - Pat Gilbert's new liner notes give insights into the sheer pressure Weller was under to top "All Mod Cons" and cement their huge and growing popularity and he gets behind the sheer Britishness of the band and the LP's music - how these angry young working-class men were angry at everything - especially the heartless Establishment of the day - and thereby put a single as physically violent as "The Eton Rifles" up to No. 3. And it does sound better...

I've had the "Direction" box set from 1997 and to my ears there's an improvement with these new KEIRON McGARRY Remasters - and those Bonus Single Sides tagged onto Disc 1 pretty much make it essential in any man's books. I don't have the BBC Sessions stuff so the Live Concert on Disc 2 is new to me. I like it - especially lesser-heard tracks like "The Butterfly Collector" and a storming rant through "Mr. Clean" (from "All Mod Cons"). But you'd have to say immediately - what is there here that would tempt a true fan who has purchased all of this before (docked a star for that)?

There's amazing punch in both "Girl On The Phone" and the stunning "Thick As Thieves" - both walloping your speakers as Paul Weller spits out "...says she knows everything about me..." and "...times are so tough...but not as tough as they are now..." (lets not mention the size of Paul's appendage as he does on the "Girl On The Phone" track). The sheer sonic wallop of "Private Hell" is thrilling - as thrashing as I remember it - and the words just as harrowing and locked into the reality of city living in an unemployed England town - singing about an unrecognisable junkie girl lost in their "Private Hell". When the in-yo-face "Eton Rifles" climbed to No 3 on the back of a Top Of The Pops appearance - the album arrived a fortnight later and didn't disappoint with tracks like the unemployed boys and girls holding hands in "Wasteland" and the equally disarming "Little Boy Soldiers" where Weller rages about picking up a gun to shoot a stranger for Queen and Country because you're a "...blessed son of the British Empire..."

Side 2 opens with a "...taxman shouting because he wants his dough..." in the attacking "Burning Sky" that's followed by Foxton's lone contribution and genuine moment of glory - "Smithers-Jones". The single version we're so used to hearing dropped the strings of the album mix - upped the Bass and plucked guitar notes - but I'm a fan of both versions. "Saturday's Kids" drinks lots of beer and work (if they can) down at Woolworths and Tesco's - dreaming of the Mod weekend and the dancehall (and probably seeing The Jam). I've always thought that their storming cover of the Martha and The Vandellas Motown hit "Heat Wave" is the most fantastic version and somehow bookends an angry LP with a moment of upbeat hope (Rudi on Saxophone).

The Bonus Singles throw Disc 1 into superstar territory. I'm fond of "Strange Town" but I'm always drawn to its brilliant flipside "The Butterfly Collector". I can vividly remember playing this side of the Polydor 45 much more than the A. Both the Single Version of "Smithers-Jones" and the Single Edit of "The Eton Rifles" are friggin' genius - but again your heart goes out to the fab B-side "See Saw" which Weller gave to the Glasgow Mod Band THE JOLT who put it onto Side 2 of their 4-Track "Maybe Tonight" EP on Polydor 2229 215 in June 1979 (a huge collectable piece ever since). As if that's not enough - Disc 1 ends on the undeniable brilliance of "Going Underground" backed with the equally cool "The Dreams Of Children". Both rightly took the No. 1 spot in March 1980 - the first of four number ones for this most British of bands.

True fans will probably feel peeved as their computer's access the Gracenote Name database only to be told that Disc 2 of this supposedly new 2014 Deluxe Edition is called 'At The BBC - At The Rainbow' - Disc 3 of the June 2002 3CD set "The Jam At The BBC" - in other words material that's already been released. Well at least its newly remastered making killer tracks like "To Be Someone" feel 'huge' and less muddied than before. People who invested money in 'that film' get a ribbing in the acidic "Mr. Clean" - the crowd secretly loving it when Weller says I'll 'nice' up your life. The gig is not audiophile for sure but it captures the raw power of the band in front of a devoted crowd and has you nodding at the quality of song after song.

I suppose there are two ways of looking at this 2014 DE - for fans it's a pain and apart from the improved Audio - something of a pointless exercise. But I'd say get past the naff packaging and concentrate on the music - The Jam in all their working-man's glory. Weller would go onto The Style Council and Solo glory and has pretty much remained at the top of his musical game every since - each release still awaited with an excitement this band engendered almost 40 years ago.

"...Saturday kids play one-armed bandits...they never win...but that's not the point is it..." - Weller sang on "Saturday's Kids" way back in 1979. It seems that in 2016 - not a lot has changed when it comes to reissues for fans. We're still at the grubby hands of fruit machine vendors...
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on 6 May 2018
No twenty-one year old has ever written song lyrics that capture pissed off boredom and stunted ambition as well as Paul Weller did in Setting Sons. Set to tautly aggressive music generated by nothing more than a drum kit and a couple of guitars, he, Rick Buckler and Bruce Foxton described what it was like to grow up angry and poor in one of the M25’s bleak satellite towns – the anonymous, newly-built, consumerist, ethically free, outer-London suburbs (in their case, Woking) where identity is conferred by a nod of recognition from the barman at your local and status by a suit, a salary and a company car. (Ballard did a good job of describing this world in “Kingdom Come”, referring to it as “a zoo for psychopaths".) Although it never quite morphed into the intended concept album telling the story of boyhood friends growing apart as they move from adolescence to adulthood, the vision of the songs is still quite extraordinary as Weller approaches this dystopian world from a very disparate array of viewpoints and hits his targets time and time again with withering hostility and, for a twenty-one year old, remarkable insight.
For me, the highlights start with the second track, Thick as Thieves, as Weller’s character looks back on his friendships during a flawed, tough adolescence and goes on with blunt regret to observe that, “…now we've gone and spoiled everything, now we're no longer as thick as thieves”.
This is followed by Private Hell – a stunning take (by a twenty-one year old) on the same desolate, suburban life from the standpoint of a middle aged woman. What could be more desolate than, “Think of Edward who's still at college, You send him letters which he doesn't acknowledge. Cos he don't care, they don't care. Cos they're all going through their own private hell”?
Then comes a time in the army (the inspiration for the album’s iconic cover) with Little Boy Soldiers and a chance to exchange the suburban wasteland for the lethal wastes of the battlefield; the result is as good a peace protest as the 70s produced. The final lyrics – “Then they send you home in a pine overcoat, With a letter to your mum, Saying find enclosed one son, one medal and a note… To say he won” – bring the little boy soldier back home.
And home is, of course, also a wasteland – the title of the next track. It’s an urban wasteland of “…the holy Coca Cola tins, the punctured footballs…” which is soaked in Weller’s brutal fatalism as he tells his girl (and us) to, “…watch the rain fall - tumble and fall - tumble and falling - like our lives.” It’s not the greatest track on the album but it fits both the mood and the narrative.
Because the narrative continues with Burning Sky – a song which shows a way (although a predictably repugnant way) of escaping the wasteland. Delivered as a letter, it is a paean to the sort of shallow materialism that Ballard fictionalised in “Kingdom Come” as it rejects the past with Weller singing, “…cos we've all grown up and we've got our lives, And the values that we had once upon a time, Seem stupid now cos the rent must be paid, And some bonds severed and others made.” The slick boys of Woking, it says, are on the make and they’ve no time for anything (or anyone) else.
But then we seem to get a break as Bruce Foxton takes over the writing and constructs a beautiful song about a man (Smithers-Jones) who seems to have found some kind of contentment, even if it is empty contentment in his banal commute into London from the suburbs to Waterloo. Inevitably, though, the serenity hinted at (by what is, pretty much, an orchestral arrangement) implodes into bitter introspection as Smithers-Jones loses his job. A mate of mine – aged 57 – has just been made redundant and the first thing I did was fire off the familiar final lyrics of this track to him: “It's time to relax, now you've worked your arse off, But the only one smiling is the sun-tanned boss, Work and work, you work 'till you die, Cos there's plenty more fish in the sea to fry.”
This dislocation triggers a return to a moving portrait of the peripheral suburban badlands in Saturday's Kids, a song touched with real sadness for the futility and worthlessness of what Weller sees around him. He sees that “Saturdays kids play one arm bandits, They never win but…” he asks, “…that's not the point is it?” After that, though, he goes up to another level when he notes that, “Their mums and dads smoke capstan non filters, Wallpaper lives cos they all die of cancer…” Genius – and more brutal than anything in Eliot’s Wasteland.
Then, paralleling the anti-war message in Little Boy Soldiers, there’s a reaction to the social injustice in Saturday’s Kids with The Eton Rifles. For me, although an iconic song, it’s not the best song on the album – I think that’d be Private Hell but I change my mind every time I listen to it – but, as the years since 1979 have demonstrated, it’s a song that speaks the truth. “What chance have you got against a tie and a crest?” It should be a rallying call for anyone who understands that, even in Woking in the late 70s, silver spoons were in short supply, that our elite is still largely composed of those who have benefitted from childhood privilege and that, once upon a time, a song attacking private education was one of the most popular songs in the country; hilarious that David Cameron said that the song meant a lot to him.
So, there you have it – the best album that The Jam made. They did produce other songs that match Setting Sons – Mr. Clean and Down in the Tube Station at Midnight for two – but, as a body of work, this is pretty well untouchable.
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on 2 July 2013
I really love this album, as it is one of my favourite jam albums. I find the songs on this feature, reflects to the many troubles of what Britain is going through at the moment, e.g the current government, austerity, and the economy, but these issues nowadays, are a lot worse now, than they have been. I find this cd really good and I use this music as political and also enjoyable. I love 'eton rifles' and the album closer 'heatwave' this is a must have cd' as it redefines the punk and new wave era.
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on 7 April 2011
Great stuff some of this still stands up Lyrically & today,sometimesposing the question,sometimestrying to answer them& at times both in turn..
One song that hits raw nerves for some is "Little Boy Soldiers" - "Come on outside - i'll sing you a lullaby" the following & preceding words are no lullaby,how did Weller write such great lyrics when he was this age ???Setting SonsSetting Sons [VINYL] Great on Vinyl on the old record turntable deck!
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on 12 March 2018
Not their best is it.... contains the awful version of Smithers Jones.
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on 8 October 2015
This remains my favourite Jam album and the first one I bought when it came out (on cassette!) The Deluxe version adds of The Jam's greatest non-album singles; Strange Town, When Your'e Young and Going Underground, along with their brilliant B-sides.
The second disc is a full gig from 1979 which captures The Jam at their peak.
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on 13 February 2018
Quality original album released for the modern era.
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on 8 April 2015
The Jam at their finest, I don't think Weller has ever written a better, more cohesive set of songs in his life. This is the sound of a band at their peak, , from rousing anthems Like 'Thick as Thieves' and 'Eton Rifles' to the fairly chilling, 'Butterfly Collector' there isn't a duff track on this album. The addition of the live tracks is just the icing on a sumptuous, moreish cake.

If you only ever buy one Jam album in your life, hell if you only ever buy one album in your life, buy this one.
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on 25 August 2012
I have this album on vinyl from way back when it first came out ...yeh I'm well into my forties !

I have not heard or played it in 25 or more years other than hearing Eton Riffles on the radio or similar !

Let me tell you now ......this is a Brilliant album and it competes on all fronts this is a classic example of the music scene then and how it should be now !

I only wish I'd purchased it again sooner !
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on 23 April 2018
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