Wednesday, November 30, 2016

James: Strip-Mine (1988)

Manchester's James was supposed to be the next Smiths. Even Morrissey was a fan, but the next-Smiths-thing never really transpired, though the band released some solid records. On this record, there is some clear evidence at to why the band was once considered a successor to the Smiths. In the end, James just seemed to be a lesser version and they never really ignited a passion in me.

Strip-Mine is the band's second LP (released in September of '88) and it's not too bad, though I prefer the later 90s output.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Jam: Snap! (1983)

Snap collects all of the Jam's singles plus some b-side and rarities onto two LPs. For some reason, I have the original UK pressing, rather than the Canadian pressing. It's truly an excellent retrospective, and would be perfect as an introduction to the band.

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Jam: Dig the New Breed (1982)

And, so it ends. This live record was the last LP from the Jam, with the exception of future compilations. In 1983, Weller introduced us to the Style Council, with the mini-LP entitled Introducing the Style Council. This is a good collection of live tunes.

Friday, November 25, 2016

The Jam: Beat Surrender (1982)

Beat Surrender was the Jam's last single, released in December 1982. It contains a new version of War. The five-track release also contains Beat Surrender, Shopping, a cover of Curtis Mayfield's Move on Up, and a cover of Stoned out of my Mind, originally by the Chi-Lates.

I like the title track very much.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Jam: The Bitterest Pill (I Ever Had to Swallow) (1982)

I believe that this was the Jam's second-to-last single. It was, then, their penultimate single. The 7" version contains three tracks, while the 12" single (in some countries, including Canada) had five tracks, so maybe it's really a mini album or an EP.

Side One:

The Bitterest Pill (I Ever Had To Swallow)
The Great Depression

Side Two:

War (from Barrett Whitfield and Norman Strong)
Pity Poor Alfie
Fever (from Eddie Cooley and Otis Blackwell)

Fever has been covered by many people and I'm not really impressed with what The Jam did with it or with War, for that matter. I guess this is an OK release, but it's not fabulous.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Jam: Town Called Malice b/w Precious (1982)

This is a Canadian 12" single featured Town Called Malice with Precious on the flip-side. I love both tunes. That's all.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Jam: The Gift (1982)

For some an inexplicable reason, a few critics didn't like this record. I think it's great, especially as it contains my favourite Jam track, Town Called Malice.

Rows and rows of disused milk floats stand dying in the dairy yard
And a hundred lonely housewives clutch empty milk bottles to their hearts
Hanging out their old love letters on the line to dry
It's enough to make you stop believing when tears come fast and furious
In a town called malice, yeah

I'm also a big fan of the tune Precious.

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Jam: Absolute Beginners (1981)

Absolute Beginners is a five-track EP released in 1981. I have a Canadian pressing. It's a solid EP, and I like every track very much. What else can I say? Oh, how about this: I think I read somewhere that the title track is one of Weller's favourite pieces of music, or something like that.

Friday, November 18, 2016

The Jam: Sound Affects (1980)

A police car and a screaming siren
A pnuematic drill and ripped up concrete
A baby wailing and stray dog howling
The screech of brakes and lamp lights blinking
That's entertainment

A smash of glass and the rumble of boots
An electric train and a ripped up phone booth
Paint splattered walls and the cry of a tomcat
Lights going out and a kick in the balls

- That's Entertainment

The jacket for this LP opens at the top, which is unusual for LPs but not for 12" singles. Another possibility is that the images are turned on the side. Whatever. The other weird thing is that it's difficult to know which side of the cover is intended to be the front. Some sites display one side and some use the other. Take your pick, I guess. Also, the title is Sound Affects not Sound Effects.

In my ever so humble opinion, this might be the Jam's best record, and nothing that followed was quite as good. The most recognizable song on this record is probably That's Entertainment, a tune that was later covered by Morrissey. I like Mozzer's version too.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Jam: Setting Sons (1979)


Sup up your beer and collect your fags
There's a row going on down near slough
Get out your mat and pray to the west
I'll get out mine and pray for myself
Thought you were smart when you took them on
But you didn't take a peep in their artillery room
All that rugby puts hairs on your chest
What chance have you got against a tie and a crest?

- Eton Rifles, The Jam  

Eton Rifles was the band's first top ten UK hit. In reading about this LP, I found out something that I bizarrely did not know:

"Singer, guitarist, and songwriter Paul Weller originally conceived Setting Sons as a concept album detailing the lives of three boyhood friends who later reunite as adults after an unspecified war only to discover they have grown up and apart. This concept was never fully developed, and it remains unclear which tracks were originally intended as part of the story, though it is commonly agreed that "Thick As Thieves", "Little Boy Soldiers", "Wasteland", and "Burning Sky" are likely constituents; extant Jam bootlegs feature a version of "Little Boy Soldiers" split into three separate recordings, possible evidence that the song was intended to serve as a recurring motif, with separate sections appearing between other songs on the album." [source]

Once again, the record company was up to its usual nonsense, but in this case, I don't mind too much. The Canadian LP has two extra tracks. True, they messed with the song order, but I guess I can live with that.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Jam: All Mod Cons (1978)

Where the streets are paved with blood
With cataclysmic overtones
Fear and hate linger in the air
A strictly no-go deadly zone
I don't know what I'm doing here
'Cause it's not my scene at all
There's an 'A' bomb in Wardour Street
They've called in the Army, they've called in the police too

- 'A' Bomb in Wardour Street, The Jam

This might sound odd, but I had never heard the phrase "all mod cons" before I became familiar with this record, probably because it is a UK expression. I  guess we don't use that term on this side of the pond. I have even see the phrase mangled to become "all cons mod" and "all mods con."

The amazing thing about this record is that Paul Weller was only 20 when it was released. I find that amazing. I was 20 years old once, so this seems extra amazing. Apparently, Paul Weller had been suffering from writer's block, which he managed to overcome in time for this record.

This LP is a vast improvement over its predecessor.

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Jam: This is the Modern World (1977)

The Jam's first LP was released on May 20, 1977. Somewhat amazingly, the second record came out on November 18 of the same year! Perhaps the record company put pressure on them? With this time-frame, it's probably inevitable that the second record wouldn't be quite as good as the first, though I still like it very much. This is one of two Jam records that I also have on CD.

Friday, November 11, 2016

The Jam: In the City (1977)

The Jam were the leaders of the mod revival, which was a return to earlier styles, like The Who and some others. So, the band is often categorized as mod-revival, punk, and new wave, though I resist the latter label. I think it's punk, with a 1960s influence. And, the lyrics could be political:

In the city there's a thousand men in uniforms
And I've heard they now have the right to kill a man

- In the City, The Jam

Paul Weller, the lead singer and primary songwriter, went on to form The Style Council, followed by what I gather was a successful solo career.

I have a US copy, even though the record was pressed in Canada. I think the Jam were a really great band, with lots of great tunes. I love the intro to this video:

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Joe Jackson: Blaze of Glory (1989)

A year or two before this record came out, I bought a CD player. When that happened, I paid less attention to records, and although I picked this up (somewhere), I didn't listen to it very much. That's probably too bad. Wikipedia's post about this record is very good, so maybe you should just read that.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Joe Jackson: Live 1980/86 (1988)

This is a double live LP from recorded in Melbourne, Utrecht, Manchester, Sydney, Tokyo, and Vancouver over four different tours. The record runs as follows:

Side A: The Beat Crazy Tour, 1980
Side B: The Night And Day Tour, 1982/83
Side C: The Body and Soul Tour, 1984
Side D: The Big World Tour, 1986

I guess it's worth noting that I have never seen Joe Jackson in concert. Again, this is a problem of having grown up in a small town. It sucked. In the early days, it was difficult to get hands on records, and bands never came to town. In later days, there was a small record store, but bands never came to town. I know I would have been happier in a big city, one where you could see concerts and where the record stores carried a wider array of artists. I remember having to travel to KW to find a Billy Bragg record.

In other news, Trump has won, and I find that to be simply incomprehensible.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Joe Jackson: Big World (1986)

Big World is an odd record. Firstly, it extends to three sides, with the fourth being blank, though there is one groove with nothing recorded on it. The way Jackson presented it was that it came with a bonus side, since the record cost the same as a regular record. Secondly, it's a live record with no audience noise. Jackson asked the crowd to remain silent until each song was completely over. I've read that he wanted to capture the spirit of the live recording without the audience participation. It's interesting that he invited people to attend, rather than just playing to an empty hall. Amazingly, it seems that no one coughed or opened a piece of candy wrapped in cellophane. Apparently, there were no re-recordings to fix anything and no overdubbing.

I have a vague memory of buying this record when it came out, after having heard two tracks: Wild West and Right and Wrong, two genuine political tunes. I'd say that this is a good record, and perhaps one that causal Joe Jackson fans probably don't know much about.

The LP that followed this record was Will Power, his foray into classical music. I was not interested in it, which is probably a good thing. Allmusic said this: "Joe Jackson finally becomes the "serious composer" on Will Power. A good exercise in self-indulgence but little of anything else."[source]

Monday, November 07, 2016

Joe Jackson: Body and Soul (1984)

My copy of Body and Soul has lots of sibilance, and I've read that this is a common fault with this record. It must have been cut hot. This production fault distracts from the record which is too bad because I really like this jazzy record. You Can't Get What You Want (Till You Know What You Want) and Go For It are probably the most well-known tracks from the record.This is a very good record.

Friday, November 04, 2016

Joe Jackson: Mike's Murder - The Motion Picture Soundtrack (1983)

Apparently, this movie -- Mike's Murder -- sucks. The good news is that I have never seen it. Side one contains five pop songs, in the same vein as Night and Day, while side two is all instrumental. The five pop tunes from side one later appeared on the deluxe CD edition of Night and Day. According to Wikipedia, very little of Jackson's material ended up in the film, so I guess there is no reason to see it, unless you are a fan of Debra Winger or James Bridges, whoever he is. It also means that the subtitle (The Motion Picture Soundtrack) is misleading, to say the least.

This is a good record, but not as good as Night and Day, which is fine. The best track might just be ZĂ©mio, the 11+ minute instrumental.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Joe Jackson: Night and Day (1982)

In my ever-so-humble opinion, this is the best record that Joe Jackson ever made. It's also one of my favourite records of all time. I'd almost call it a masterpiece. The record contains Steppin' Out, one of the finest pop singles ever released. My first copy of this record was on cassette and I played it so much that the tape stretched and it became unplayable.

Of course, there is Jackson's weird take on Cancer:

Everything gives you cancer
Everything gives you cancer
There's no cure, there's no answer
Everything gives you cancer

On one level, that's fair enough, but then he says:

No caffeine
No protein
No booze or
Remember –

On the surface, this is also fair enough, since we know that tar is the cause of cancer not the drug nicotine. But, the primary medium for most people to use nicotine is smoking, and that is definitely cancerous. I wish he would just accept that he is an addict and dump the smoking apologies. But, back to the music.

There is not really a bad track on the record. I just wish the record was a bit longer. The weakest song might be T.V. Age, mostly because of his vocal delivery.  Steppin' Out, A Slow Song, and Real Men are highlights for me.

You don't want to sound dumb – don't want to offend
So don't call me a faggot
Not unless you are a friend
Then if you're tall and handsome and strong
You can wear the uniform and I could play along

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Joe Jackson's Jumpin' Jive: Joe Jackson's Jumpin' Jive (1981)

Somehow, we have been saved from the ridiculousness of discogs overly-specific categorizations, meaning that this record is listed under Joe Jackson, despite the protestations of one person who made a comment that this release that it should listed be under Joe Jackson's Jumpin' Jive, as if that was the name of the band. I mean, maybe it was, but really?

Anyway, this record contains all cover versions of 1940s swing and jump blues (mostly from Cab Calloway and Louis Jordan), and it's really really catchy, though I remember being somewhat surprised by it and I avoided the record for a while thinking that I would not like it. When I finally picked it up, I found that I liked it. It's packed with energy.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Joe Jackson Band: Beat Crazy (1980)

Beat Crazy is credited to the Joe Jackson Band, rather than to Joe Jackson, so sure enough, Discogs lists it under the Joe Jackson Band. How stupid. I repeat, there should be uniform titles. Under this rule, Joe Jackson's Jumpin' Jive should be listed under the artist "Joe Jackson's Jumpin' Jive," not Joe Jackson, which it isn't. Someone screwed up, or they did it right, IMHO

I guess one could say that Joe left new wave and added lots of other musical styles, like reggae. This is a great LP, but not as great as the first two. I admire the guitar work on the title track, especially.

Beat Crazy, Biology, Pretty Boys are all great tunes. I'd say that Joe was three for three at this point.