The record industry has been complaining for some time about its own imminent demise. In an attempt to avert this fate, some labels have started considering how they can ‘add value’ to the products they make. And much of the time the answer seems to be "sell the same thing over and over again to people who ought to know better."

Hence Universal’s move into what it calls “super-deluxe” box sets (the label even has its own online box-set shop). We reviewed the super-deluxe edition of Nirvana’s 'Nevermind' recently, which clocked in at four CDs, not including the books, DVD and other gewgaws, and an eye-watering £90. The reissue of the Jam’s final studio album, ‘The Gift’ weighs in at three CDs, a DVD, a book and some more gewgaws, and £10 lighter than its stablemate.

'The Gift' is an odd choice to reissue in this way – the album may have been the Jam’s only UK number one, but it both cemented the band’s move away from a pure punk/post-punk sound and into a Motown-influenced new-soul mod revival mode, and ultimately it heralded the collapse of the band entirely. It’s thirty years since release of 'The Gift' – although that anniversary fell in March – and, in December, thirty years since the band finally split. So how has it fared?

Even by the standards of the time, the Jam’s output was phenomenal – they released six full albums in barely five years before calling it a day, and, even on this most mixed of releases, they sound fresh and explosive.

The first disc contains the album in its entirely along with the singles that came from it, their B-sides and the tracks that made up the 'Beat Surrender' EP, which include three superb Motown covers, Edwin Starr’s ‘War’, the Chi-Lites’ ‘Stoned Out of My Mind’ and Curtis Mayfield’s ‘Move on Up’.

In these digital days it’s increasingly hard for record companies to find ‘unreleased’ material that’s truly new, and so it’s the case here. Disc three is taken up with the band’s set from their December 1982 show at Wembley Arena. It’s very good, making up for in concerted, confident musicianship what it lacks in the raw power of the band’s earlier live shows.

While the then-newer songs – such as ‘Beat Surrender’ and ‘Ghosts’ – sound ever so slightly overworked, older numbers such as ‘To Be Someone…’, ‘Down in the Tube Station At Midnight’ and ‘In the City’ (the band’s first song, appropriately closing their last ever London show) sound incredibly exciting, with a real, biting, aggressive edge.

It’s been available for some time in the form of bootlegs at record fairs and, latterly, shady downloads. For those who haven’t sought these tracks out, the Wembley live show is a superb addition to the band’s recorded output. But then how many people who are prepared to shell out £80 for this box set will not have already heard the live recordings?

As is often the case, the disc with the demos is the most problematic. It’s certainly fascinating to hear the works-in-progress that would become finished songs (particularly, for example, the early-sounding ‘Alfie’ demo that becomes the full-band number ‘Pity Poor Alfie’), but as they’re not finished items they have little ‘repeat value’ – all but the most die-hard fans will listen to them once or twice and then put them back on the shelf.

So is the Super-Deluxe 'The Gift' worth it? It’s certainly not a good place to start – newcomers would be much better served by picking up the 1997 box set 'Direction Reaction Creation', which anthologises the six studio albums, singles, b-sides and more – and is half the price of this release. And while we haven’t been able to review the physical parts of this box set, the book, DVD and packaging certainly looked appealing. It’s a lot of money to shell out for old material, but this release has been thoughtfully and artfully put together, and will certainly appeal to Jam collectors.











Related Links:


http://www.thejamfan.net/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Jam


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