Reissue CDs Weekly: The Jam, Ray Stinnett, Sandy Denny, The Servants | New music reviews, news & interviews
Reissue CDs Weekly: The Jam, Ray Stinnett, Sandy Denny, The Servants
Weller and co's swansong, lost American singer-songwriter, unreleased Sandy Denny on a budget and rediscovered quirky Nineties' indie
The Jam: The Gift
Thomas H Green
Given his continued artistic renaissance, it’s currently rather unfashionable to suggest Paul Weller was never better than with The Jam. Nonetheless, a trawl through their back catalogue will assure most this was the case. Musically, it’s arguable but lyrically it’s definitive. The Gift was The Jam’s sixth and final album, released in the spring of 1982. The trio were at the peak of their powers, riding chart success that melded punk’s snarl with Weller’s suburban angst, including, in “Going Underground”, one of the greatest and most furious songs ever to hit the British number one spot.
However, Weller was feeling trapped by their sound and finding direction in soul music (such as Curtis Mayfield, a version of whose “Stoned Out of my Mind” is an extra here). Weller said he wanted to make the perfect album. The Gift is not that, or even The Jam’s best, but it is lethally good, especially packaged in this Super Deluxe Edition with a multitude of alternate takes and B-sides on disc two and a Wembley concert from their final tour (disc three). Anyone who has The Jam’s Extras compilation will discover no new songs, merely raw demos that may intrigue, especially a chugging version of “Just Who is the 5 O’clock Hero?” and a Hammond-fuelled take of their final single “Beat Surrender”.
The original album itself contains plenty of Weller corkers, the superb chart-topping Motown pastiche and bitter suburban dissection, “A Town Called Malice”, the existentially lovely “Carnation”, the rising political anger of “Running on the Spot”, and the wah-wah funk of “Precious”, among others. On his lifelong mission to keep moving to pastures new, Weller famously split The Jam that same year and began the underrated Style Council, whose light, brassy sound and political pith can be detected in nascent form here. The Jam were a band so riveting it’s worth rooting round the back of their cupboard for titbits and, while disc one is the central attraction, the additional material, from the jazzy melancholy of B-side “Shopping” to a ballistic crowd-roared “Mr Clean”, is well worth a listen.
If Ray Stinnett is known for anything, it's as the guitarist of “Woolly Bully” hitmakers Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs. After a dispute, he left the band in 1966 and began a journey of self discovery that took in a stop at Haight-Ashbury and which climaxed in this, his solo album, recorded for A&M in 1971. Never released, its disinterment gives the opportunity to appreciate a wayward talent that probably wouldn’t have scored success back then but would certainly have garnered latter-day cult appeal. Stinnett's talent was recognised by Booker T Jones, who produced A Fire Somewhere at Memphis’ Ardent Studios. It's a great album, rich in American singer-writer craftsmanship. Overall, the flavour is that of The Band’s drawling take on country but the inward-looking songs are, mood-wise, closer to Big Star (who also recorded at Ardent) at their most downbeat and David Ackles. “Naturally High” fuses raga elements to the whole. Coming with a booklet in which Stinnett tells his life story, this album is long overdue for attention.
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