Friday, 26 August 2016

"Setting Sons: Deluxe Edition 2CD Version" by THE JAM (2014 Universal/Polydor 2CD Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...







"...No Match For Their Untamed Wit..."

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 (with an equally crappy and costly Uber DE edition to fleece fans) – this one screws up the artwork too and the flimsy exposed card digipak  doesn't do this 4th 'DE' for The Jam any favours either.

Having said all that and whinged like a big girl's blouse - there's good here too. The new 2014 remasters are superb, Pat Gilbert's new 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 those stand-alone 45s were (both sides) and The Jam live is a quite awesome thing to behold (even it this BBC stuff as been released before). Time for some embossed details of our own methinks – let's get to the missing bulldogs and added deckchairs...

UK released December 2014 - "Setting Sons: Deluxe Edition 2CD Version" by THE JAM on Universal/Polydor 0602537946952 (Barcode 602537946952) is a 2-Disc 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 (didn't chart in the USA).

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)
RICK BUCKLER - Drums

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..." - Paul 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...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Love this band so it was great to see a review. Weller and company were notoriously underrated in the US, don't understand why. I'm also completely shocked that you don't get any comments on your thorough and informative reviews. Keep up the good work!

Geno

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