Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Jam 9: Extras

As evidenced by Snap!, The Jam had racked up a pile of standalone singles and B-sides that weren’t included on their albums. One would think that a collection of those “extra” tracks would mop everything up nicely. Despite the moniker, Extras does not fulfill that requirement. Instead, it follows through on its title by serving up a grab bag of B-sides, rarities and demos, making it as essential for the Jam fan as it frustrating.
Case in point: “Liza Radley” was a lovely chamber pop pastiche tucked on the B-side of “Start!” But the version included here is a raspy demo, with little of the charm of the band version. Still, some of the B-sides that are included—“Dreams Of Children”, “Tales From The Riverbank”, “Smithers-Jones”, “The Butterfly Collector”—are minor masterpieces on their own. They also covered the Who twice, first with an excellent “So Sad About Us” and later with the noisy “Disguises”, but later soul-heavy covers like “Move On Up” and “Stoned Out Of My Mind” become interchangeable with Weller’s originals on the way to the Style Council (“Shopping”, “The Great Depression”, “Pity Poor Alfie”).
Variously interesting are the unheard tracks. A demo of “A Solid Bond In Your Heart”, in contention for their final single, provides further comparison of what could have been, while James Brown’s “I Got You (I Feel Good)” is a better showcase for the whole band, as are demos of the Small Faces’ “Get Yourself Together” and the Beatles’ “And Your Bird Can Sing”, proving that only George Harrison could nail that riff. Digging a little deeper, an alternate “Boy About Town” and the half-spoken “Pop Art Poem” were fan club exclusives. To see how Weller’s ideas developed, “No One In The World” and “Hey Mister” are spare, pleasant songs that evolved otherwise. A quartet of guitar-and-voice demos of songs destined for Setting Sons show those in mostly finished state, but the most surprising revelation is “We’ve Only Started”, which shares an arrangement with “Tales From The Riverbank”.
While a few of the songs were already on Snap! (or even Compact Snap!), Extras was designed as more of a companion to 1991’s shorter Greatest Hits CD. A few years later, likely to cash in on both Paul Weller’s solo success and the emergence of Britpop, the UK got The Jam Collection, which collected some of the better album tracks and B-sides with the first-ever appearance of “Liza Radley” in full digital splendor.

The Jam Extras (1992)—

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