Gift [Bonus DVD] [Limited]

by: The Jam

As good mods, the Jam always had a healthy respect for R&B and soul -- even the first album featured the revved-up Northern soul of "Non-Stop Dancing." With The Gift, however, Paul Weller seems to have become completely absorbed in it, and more specifically, in Stax-style soul with more than a hint of psychedelia à la "Psychedelic Shack." An uneven album marked by overindulgences like the instrumental "Circus" and unnecessarily long songs, The Gift still has no shortage of terrific songs, like the simply sublime "Ghost," "Town Called Malice" (the hit), and the funk workout of "Precious." Weller can obviously do "soulful" -- his voice has never sounded better -- but unfortunately, The Gift, with its excesses and marginal tracks, doesn't show his talents in the proper light. Points for ambition, but ultimately, this is their least consistent effort since This Is the Modern World. [Improbably, the Jam's final album, The Gift, is the one subjected to the Super Deluxe single-album box set treatment. Chalk that up to it being slated for reissue in the midst of the album box set craze, and this one really is lavish, packaged in a snazzy slipcase, containing a hardcover book, postcards, and a replica of the group's 1982 tour program, then the heart of the set: the original album remastered with accompanying singles and B-sides added; the entire album in demo and rarity form, most of the versions unreleased; a previously unreleased live concert at Wembley in December 1982; and a DVD containing the album's three music videos ("Precious," "A Town Called Malice," and "The Bitterest Pill"), live tracks from the farewell tour, the Jam performing on Danish television, and their Top of the Pops performance of "A Town Called Malice" and "Precious." Hardcore Jam fans considering putting down their money for this know the strengths and weaknesses of The Gift, so they're happy to get the (good) demos and other rarities, and just revel in this handsome package. For the dedicated, it is indeed worthwhile.] ~ Chris Woodstra & Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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