REVIEW: The Jam – Greatest Hits (1991)

 

THE JAM – Greatest Hits (1991 Polydor)

I’ll admit that this is the only Jam that I own; about 10 years ago I decided that I loved this compilation enough to buy the Direction Reaction Creation box set. That box contained the entirety of their studio recordings.  Maybe it was too much Jam at once, or maybe their albums were just not as good as their singles. Whatever; I found that this Greatest Hits was enough Jam for me.  Yet I love all 19 songs.  You’d think I’d be into their albums, if I already liked 19/19 Jam songs on this CD

There’s a great variety of tunes on Greatest Hits: everything’s here from the punk rock snarl of the opener “In The City” to the mournful “That’s Entertainment” to the upbeat fun of “Beat Surrender”. In between you will find some of the catchiest bass lines ever recorded, topped by the undeniable lyrics of Paul Weller. To write this many truly great singles…well you just don’t see it that often.

The Jam rocked, The Jam were cool, from punk rock to Motown soul and funk, these guys did it all and did it well. You would be well advised to pick this up.  It’s cheap now, too.  Less than $5, used.

Songs I really, really like that you may already know:

  • “Down at the Tube Station at Midnight”
  • “The Eton Rifles”
  • “Town Called Malice”
  • “David Watts”
  • “The Bitterst Pill (I Ever Had To Swallow)”

I later bought a second Jam compilation album called Collection.  It concentrated on album tracks and deep cuts and I didn’t like it.  Normally I would advise readers to pick up original studio albums rather than compilations.  This time I feel the opposite way.  I have to rate Greatest Hits:

5/5 stars

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21 comments

  1. Nice concise review of an excellent compilation, and in some ways your own take on my “Compilation Or Catlog?” concept (no worries…I won’t be suing). I first got a copy of The Jam “Greatest Hits” around ’91 or ’92 but my musical mind was not into this sound at the time (even though they were influenced by a lot of the bands I grew up with & was still listening to), so I eventually traded it in. It was probably about 4-5 years later that I heard a few Jam songs & they just hit me. Slowly I got their individual albums and now I consider myself a fan. I’m pondering doing a series on them next year, and possibly combining it with Weller’s later work with The Style Council & his solo output, since I own just about all of that as well. Uncut Magazine released one of their brilliant “Ultimate Music Guides” on Weller earlier this year, so I’ll be using that as my guide book whenever I get to that sizable catalog.

    [Side note: the first time I listened to “Down In The Tube Station At Midnight” I was playing my Discman very late one night in the NY subway system. As a lifelong New Yorker I’ve always felt safe on the subway no matter the time or place, but listening to those lyrics in that setting, it was one of the rare times I felt a little uneasy there]

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    1. Thank you for not suing me! It’s appreciated. Canada is scandalous enough with our crack smoking mayors! We don’t need plagiarizing bloggers added to the list!

      Listening to Tube Station in the subway must have been a freaking experience. I’ll tell you that the song usually gives me the shivers, like I need to look over my shoulder. I credit the vibrant lyrics of Paul Weller. They really paint a realist picture don’t they?

      Hoping to see some Weller coverage on your site in 2014!

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  2. Couldn’t agree more – i own ‘Setting Sons’ and I don’t rate it, but the singles? totally different matter. ‘Town Called malice’ is just genius.

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    1. Man, I scrolled down here specifically to say that I thought “Setting Sons” might be the one studio album beyond the compilation worth owning, but now I’m intimidated by the weight of a differing 1537 viewpoint. Oh well, I’ll still get on the bullhorn to declare “Thick as Thieves” and “Girl on the Phone” as great songs not on this compilation to which I believe respects should be paid.

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      1. Ha! Okay I like ‘Girl on the phone’, but ‘Eton Rifles’ sounds like a completely different (better) band to me.

        I’m pretty sure that’s the first time in my life, off a rugby pitch, anyone’s ever called me intimidating! I like it!

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  3. It is with great surprise I saw a post from LeBrain with “The Jam” in the title! Your boundaries of good taste in music knows no boundaries, Mike!

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  4. uncleb13 :
    It is with great surprise I saw a post from LeBrain with “The Jam” in the title! Your boundaries of good taste in music knows no boundaries, Mike!

    Seriously, though, I probably hold The Jam in higher esteem than you, but their catalog can be a little unwieldy to handle! I have to agree that some well-chosen compilation(s) is most all what people need from The Jam, though the compilations and collections are almost endless with this group! Still, as you said, great bass, great dry production, great songs, great shoes and clothes, and an early influence in my rock-n-roll transformation!

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    1. Great shoes clothes and even the haircuts were pretty cool. And the lyrics, as I was saying to Rich. Weller had a way with words and music.

      This might not be the final Jam album I ever buy, I’m sure something else will appeal to me. But buying that whole box set in one shot was not the way to ease in.

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