Fire And Skill: The Jam Live
One of the biggest unsolved crimes in music history is how criminally underrated The Jam has been among American audiences. Despite churning out two of the best albums to come out of London’s punk scene in the late 1970s (1977’s In the City and 1978’s All Mod Cons), the band is too often overlooked on their influence of today’s music, even by the same folks who have no problem remembering the contributions of The Clash and The Sex Pistols.
Just in time for a much-needed refresher course, lest the next generation of punk rockers and Mod fans adopt the bad habits of their older siblings, The Jam’s former label, Polydor, has just released the massively brilliantly (and brilliantly massive) 6 CD live box set. The collection (as Jam purists will tell you is named after the phrase painted on Paul Weller’s guitar amp) is six unreleased concerts recorded between 1977 and 1982 from venues as small as London’s 100 Club and Reading University to the enormity of Wembley Arena. The sound quality is amazing, thanks to some remastering, begging the question why these sets have not seen the light of day before.
While the band certainly had more hits to play by the time they got to Wembley in ’82, it’s the first couple of CDs in this set, when the band was newer and a little rawer (1977’s 100 Club set and at The Music Machine the following year), that are the most exciting. Their evolution from punks to New Mod devotees is captured perfectly throughout all 6 shows. The set comes packaged in a cool lift-top box with an essay on the band and rare photos from the late 70s/early 80s.
While The Jam remains one of the last great punk pioneers who have yet to reunite (and never will, according to Weller), this stellar collection is a perfect reminder of exactly why they still matter – even if American audiences have shamefully ignored their charms up to this point. Fire And Skill will hopefully right that wrong. (John B. Moore)