Here in the US the Jam's albums are out of print. There are some compilations discs, but the individual albums are gone. I was delighted to find that they're still available in the UK and that I could get them here. This may not be the Jam's best, but it's still a great record and I'm glad I picked it up. I also got "All Mod Cons," which is certainly better, but the gift if still pretty strong. I'm going to get the rest of them....
A good album gets the deluxe edition treatment. I remember buying this album in Clapham, as a young kid I strutted through the high street with the album clad in its lilac and white candy striped bag, singing 'A Town Called Malice' - those were the days. Never a classic album in my mind though, but one that helped shape my youth. My point in writing this review is this, in comparision to the remastered single version from 1997 this sounds a little less punchy and less vibrant. I'm slightly disappointed with the sound quality. However, the various demo's on the second disc make this a good purchase though - an early version of 'Absolute Beginners' ('Skirt')is very good as is the demo for 'A Solid Bond In Your Heart'.
'The Gift' is in no way a bad album, but comparing it to some of it's rich and colourful ancestors, it was clear Weller was in need of a fresh challenge.
To his credit, he broke The Jam just in time .. while they were in pole position. It was the right thing to do - just as going on the horrific farewell tour was the wrong thing. Ill-advised and slowly but steadily becoming wretched, Weller slipped away .. with the drawn out horror of 5 nights at the Hammersmith Odeon plaguing the dreamy nights of loyal Jam fans. And a bombing combination of dodgy politics, the appalling Style Council, and even dodgier solo career - where he started playing Jam songs again - confirmed how uninspired and desperate it'd all become. 'Weller' and 'desperate' in the same sentence.. doesn't look right, does it?
'The Gift' has good stuff on it : 'Ghosts' is fine, Weller was obviously listening to Ian Hunter's 'Letter to Britannia From the Union Jack' while he wrote it; and 'Carnation' pulls the right strings, but it all sounds a bit strained. Sort of a collision of the last 4 year's styles and influences bundled together in a sack and bunged half-formed at the expectant listener. There's no way Weller would've let 'the Gift' happen two years before, but like a dying man giving all his possessions away, he knew the end was fast coming.
As the dissolute pop-chart mongrels asked more and more of Weller and co, the hungry and fastidious Jam legions began to look elsewhere.
I am a huge Jam fan. Following on from the majestic Sound Affects I never really got The Gift. It seemed fractured and virtually unlistenable at the time. Plus it was very bleak lyrically, perhaps rather pompous. I love the Deluxe version. All the very good Paul Weller solo albums show The Gift in a very different light. It's eclecticism is now its strength. Plus some knowledge of Northern Soul music helps a lot. The punchy re-master sounds gorgeous and the album is a great play from start to finish. Plus the Bitterest Pill and Beat Surrender tracks and associated B-sides make a lot more sense than they did at the time. Highest compliment is that it sounds contemporary whereas, say, Setting Sons does sound a bit dated. Give it a listen and you won't be disappointed.
A lot of Jam fans haven't really listened to this album. Shame really - people always pick out the singles as the highlights (Malice, Carnation, etc) but this album has a track that is, for me, the quintessential Jam track - it distils the best of their power-pop arrangements with the best of Weller's lyrics: It's called 'Happy Together'. Sing it in the bath a few times, and you'll see. Especially the lines ..."I never let my feelings fool you...." and later the "...thought I was an angel with no wings". Sing it and hear the 'lift' that the best songs on Sound Effects or All Mod Cons gave you. Nothing captures the essence of seeing the Jam quite as much as Happy Together. Worth the purchase on its own.
I did hear this album back in the eighties when it was originally released and thought it was quite good at the time, however having recently purchased it for the first time I was very disappointed with it. I found it to be an unfocused piece of work, containing elements of funk, calypso and soul. A few tracks benefit from that, such as Precious, which is one of the strongest tracks on the album. The planner's dream goes wrong is the calypson influenced track is really quite bad. Town called malice is also a very good track, but the rest of it is poor and on the strength of this work it is just as well that The Jam split up. The evidnence provided on this album suggests that Paul Weller was running out of ideas.
A superb album which still sounds good today. But, be carefull there are several formats to choose from. The deluxe edition may seem to most to be a more realistic purchase than the Super deluxe version. However, I dont understand why Amazon have got the track listing COMPLETELY wrong. There are far fewer tracks on both the actual discs than was advertised. From the advertised listings, It seems that Discs 1 and 2 of the deluxe version are the same as the first two discs of the Super deluxe version when in reality there are far less tracks Incidentally, no one seems to have picked up that the versions of "Stoned out of my mind" and "War" are not those from the Beat Surrender doublepack single.