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THE JAM - THE GIFT OF LIFE!
on 4 December 2012
The Jam's sixth & final studio lp was given the super-deluxe treatment by Universal in respect of 30 years since its release and 30 years since the bands split. This review is not going to breakdown each track (quality reviews already exist on Amazon) but is more on the overall presentation of the actual box set & its contents.
First impressions are positive as the lp sized candy striped box (based on the original paper bag that initial copies of the lp came in) looks very appealing. Inside we get a reproduction of the "Trans-Global Unity Express" tour program, 3x (A4 sized) prints housed in a smart wallet & a 72 page hardback book (which includes contributions & memorabilia from fans own personal collections) complete with a new interview from Paul Weller himself looking back on the album. The 4x discs are housed in individual card sleeves at the back of the book & this is what we get folks:
Disc 4 - Is the dvd and all the content on here has been available on YouTube for a few years now. You get the edited "Trans-Global Unity Express" gig from 21/03/82 (9 tracks) but we all know that the full version is out there including super-rare soundcheck footage of the band. The Spil-Op show (12 tracks) from 23/04/82 is also present here with the Danish subtitles thankfully removed. Three promo vids and the double helping of "Precious" & "Town Called Malice" from TOTP end the disc. There's no TV or live footage from Belgium, France, Holland, Sweden, Japan, Canada or the USA - a real shame as the lp was heavily promoted in these countries at the time.
Disc 3 (RT: 79:05) - Is the live cd from Wembley Arena 03/12/82 (23 tracks). The previous nights show has been heavily bootlegged ("Ready, Steady....Gone") but it's nice to have the gig in re-mastered (ie: officially released!) form. An earlier gig from 1982 or even the Hammersmith Palais gig from 14/12/81 would have been a better choice though as you do get backing singers, Afrodiziak, providing vocals on a number of classic tracks.
Disc 2 (RT: 41:43) - The demos disc (16 tracks), which includes 3 instrumentals. "The Planners Dreams Goes Wrong" feels more like a Jam track than the final lp version & "Beat Surrender" is played at a slower tempo than the single version. The bootleg cd "Skirt!" had demo versions of "Circus", "Happy Together" and the Small Faces cover, "My Mind's Eye" which could all have been included on this release and possibly omitted the previously available versions of "Precious" & "Get Yourself Together". Surprisingly, (I Got You) I Feel Good is missing. What would have rounded this cd off nicely would have been the Weller interview from the SFX tape (Issue 6 - February 1982). Weller also remarked that his demos had a more soulful feel than the finished band versions - judge them for yourselves!
Disc 1 (RT: 73:22) - Features the original 11 track lp & 10 (previously released) bonus tracks. Considered (& rather unfairly) to be the Jam's "Ball of Confusion" due to the eclectic nature of the tracks but it's still stands the test of time & is a great listen today. One little quibble is that the "Just Who is the 5 O`Clock Hero?" EP version of "War" (incidentally, available here as an extended mix) should have been track 13 (& not 21) while the Swing version of "Pity Poor Alfie" should have been on the demos disc as should have "Stoned Out of My Mind" as this definitely sounds like a demo with Weller's vocals sounding very high pitched. Minor? Maybe. Sloppy? For the price, certainly. This track was also rumoured to have used a drum machine & perhaps a direction in what Weller wanted with The Style Council. There could also have been room for the rare live outing of "Give Me Just a Little Bit More Time" to be squeezed on as this is a great cover of the Chairmen of the Board classic.
So is it worth the £80+ quid asking price. In my honest opinion, no & this should have been nearer the £45 mark as this would have been a fairer price as a lot of Jam fans will feel a bit short changed about this (especially with the 6 studio albums being released as a boxset soon for under £20). With the high asking price, there should have been a bit more content included - replicas of the Japanese "Town Called Malice" and Swedish "Just Who is the 5 O'Clock Hero?" 7" singles could have been included for starters as well as the ticket stub for the last ever gig at Brighton (11/12/82). A re-master of the actual lp on heavyweight vinyl or even the tracks made available across 3x 7"(33 rpm) singles would have been a nice touch if included. There was talk of a 10" vinyl release of the Spil-Op show intended for this set but the powers that be decided to release this separately at £20 a pop and limited this to 1000 copies (which, not surprisingly, is already fetching big monies on Ebay!).
With the music biz trying desperately to compete with the internet, they really need to take a good hard look at themselves & think of future releses that fans want & at a price thats afforable to all (some of the prices for the Pink Floyd & The Who editions are eye-wateringly high!). This release crept into the U.K charts at #86 meaning that a lot of fans gave this (& the standard 2x cd version) a miss. One positive about this release though is that it got the actual fans involved (something that should have happened for the deluxe versions of "All Mod Cons" & "Sound Affects"). The main downsides are, of course, the lack of quality control before its release and missed oppurunities for something REALLY special for fans to treasure.
Not sure what 2013 has in store for us Jam fans, although, its rumoured that a new dvd and live cd boxset ("Jamplification!") may be doing the rounds soon - hopefully with a few rare foreign performances being included. Universal should, in my book, get Dennis Munday back on board to oversee any future projects & also to take a look at the 2x Facebook sites - The Jam Anthology & The Jam Memorabilia (both a credit to the band) - when planning any future releases, just to get a truer flavour on what fans really want!
Can I also recommend the new book, "Thick as Thieves - Personal Situations With The Jam", as this gives you a fantastic idea on what the band really meant to their fans (The Jam-Army!) between 1977-1982. Cheers!