by: The Jam

Released in 1983, just after Paul Weller disbanded the band at the peak of their popularity, Snap! was the first greatest-hits album from the Jam. At the original 29-track length and sequencing, Snap! is nothing short of a masterpiece, a record that briskly and bracingly tells the story of one of the great rock bands. This isn't just an introduction, it's a narrative, tracing the rapid rise of the Jam from nervy, confrontational teenage punks to sharp modern pop purveyors to stylish soul-inflected rockers. Since this is a compilation, their growth is more dramatic and evident than on their individual albums, and since a lot of this growth happened on singles that didn't reach the LPs -- particularly the brilliant middle years, when Weller was spitting out classic singles like "Strange Town," "When You're Young," "Going Underground" and "Dreams of Children," while leaving such remarkable numbers as "The Butterfly Collector" and "Tales from the Riverbank" as B-sides -- this is necessary to get a complete picture of the band; after all, even the farewell singles "The Bitterest Pill (I Ever Had to Swallow)" and "Beat Surrender" were not on the swan song The Gift, although their presence would have improved it considerably. So, as a way to get these, some of the band's very best songs, Snap! is essential. Arguably, it's even more essential for how it captures the essence of the Jam so completely. There are major songs missing -- "To Be Someone," "All Mod Cons," "In the Crowd," "English Rose," "Girl on a Phone," "But I'm Different Now" -- but they're present on already-essential albums like All Mod Cons and Setting Sons, and what is here tells the full story of the band at a breathless pace. For neophytes, it's a flawless introduction, but it's something more than a mere primer: it is a thrilling, addictive listen, so good that it stands as the definitive Jam album and one of the greatest greatest-hits albums of all time. [Many other comps would follow over the years but none would better this, especially in its original incarnation as a 29-track double-LP. It would later be trimmed by eight songs so it could fit on a single CD -- this truncation was called Compact Snap! and it was the only way it was available digitally until 2006, when it was released intact in a 29-track, double-CD set (along with a triple-disc deluxe edition that added the live EP -- recorded at the band's final concert at Wembley Arena -- included with limited editions of the original vinyl version).] ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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