Fire and Skill
The Jam Tribute Album Review

Carnation - Steve Craddock & Liam Gallagher

Carnation was originally released in March 1982 on The Jamís last studio album The Gift. This psychedelic version, which is released as Liam Gallagherís first non Oasis single, will grow on you but the haunting, questioning feel of the original is totally lost amid the noise and the sneering vocal. By the time the last verse comes along you canít help not Ďwondering by now who he isí In fact, not caring less. It is good, in itís own way, and certainly provoking but there are other Jam songs the London based Gallagher and Craddock could have better captured. Strange Town springs to mind

Start - Beastie Boyís

Start was released on 15th August 1982 and entered the chartís at No 3, soon rising to No 1. It was one of the bands best singles, ably supported by the Buckler inspired Liza Radley on the flip side. Everyone has been looking forward to the brilliant Beastie Boyís taking on a sublime Jam song but unfortunately it is virtually an instrumental and sounds more like one of those English Holiday camp house bands. If you have been looking forward to track two, bad news. It will seem instead as if you are listening to the last song of the night at Butlins, or perhaps you are stuck in a lift. This song is not, and never will be, any good without Bruce Foxtonís punching Bass line.

Thatís Entertainment - Reef

Thatís Entertainment debuted on Sound Affects on 28th November 1980 and made it as a single in many countryís around the World. Reef here have turned it into a punk song, and the vocal sounds like it was done in one take and the atmosphere captured forever, especially when they struggle to make the words fit in. That accounted for, it is actually quite good and sounds like the sort of version The Sex Pistols, if asked, might have come up with. You can't help wondering how close this is to the original Weller version, before it was stripped right back to the sound we came to know and love.

The Gift - Heavy Stereo

Originally released as the title track to the album Gift on 12th March 1982, going straight to number 1. It is a fantastic version of a fantastic song with vocals that do the sound justice. Great fun and takes you back a few years. It is highly polished and therefore lacks the raw feel of the Jam version, but despite that you are going to enjoy this one. Wind the sound up, close your eyes, and itís 1982 again.

Art School - Silver Sun

Art School was originally released on the Jam's debut album, In The City, on 20th May 1977. It kicked the album off in fine style and was also originally planned as the B side, and then as follow up single, to their debut release In The City, although neither materialised. This explains why they are the only two early song's that have Video's ( or Promo's as they were known then ) Silver Sun's version is quite brilliant, despite a very weak sounding 1..2..3..4.. ( early Jam fan's know what I mean ) They have worked this with all the power of the original, and added wonderful harmonies and keyboards. Great stuff, and one to look forward to. At 1.57 min it is too short. Maybe they should have gone through it twice, but listen out for a great new wave ending.

English Rose - Everything But the Girl

Originally tucked away on the classic album All Mod Conís, which arrived on 3rd of November 1978 and is widely regarded as the defining album of itís time. It was Paulís first real love song and he is on record as saying he found the lyric hard and embarrassing to sing. This version is very similar to the original, only without the lapping waves and shipís horn. It is beautifully sung by Tracy Thorn.

Going Underground - Buffalo Tom

Originally a powerful angry anthem synonymous with the sound of the Jam at their very best. Released as a single, on 14th March 1980, it went straight to number one, the bandís first of many. This version is so different I canít decide whether I like it or not. The instruments are different, the sound is different and the melody is different. The only similarity is the lyric and had that been re written we would have had a completely new, and great, song. No one would have cited ĎUndergroundí as an influence because itís nothing like it. This has been criticised all over England, making the virtually unknown Buffalo Tom very well known in the process. Itís a good song but, Going Underground it ainít.

The Butterfly Collector - Garbage

Butterfly Collector was originally released as a B side to the epic Strange Town on 9th March 1979. In this Web Siteís fan based top 100 Jam songs, ĎCollectorí comes in at No 7. Famously written about a new wave groupie on the London scene, known as Catwoman. For those who have never heard of Garbage, hear this. Most of what they have done is fantastic. They are a terrific band with some fantastic songs, but this isnít one of them. Lost, amid the noise, and voice enhancers, is the haunting theme and sneering distaste that was so obvious in the original. Worse than all that, itís boring.

The Modern World - Ben Harper

Modern World is one of the most highly regarded tunes of itís time. As Punk Rock in England was at itís aggressive best, this was a proper song, and was released as a single on 21st October 1977. This version would be a cracker if it had anything like the drumming Rick Buckler laid down on the original. That aside it is one of the better versions on Fire and Skill. Ben Harper lacks Paulís aggressive vocal but gets away with. In fact his American accent adds something, but I defy any real Jam fan not to have a laugh at the schoolboy ending.

Town Called Malice - Gene

A brilliant song, quite rightly straight in at number 1 on 29th January 1982. The original version had it all, power, passion, melody, punch. Sadly this version has none of that. Itís not bad, and it rockís along, but trying to cover a genuine classic like this is a tough one. I love Gene, I like this version, and they even put a great ending on it, but some things are just best left alone. Captured once and savoured for all time, just how it should be.

To be Someone - Noel Gallagher

This song was originally released as the second track on the most important album of itís day, All Mod Conís. From the moment Rick Buckler announces itís appearance, along with Bruce bending the early Bass notes before embarking on the line that was to re appear in Start a few years later, right through to Paulís soulful guitar that closes it down, it simply hooks you in. Noel Gallagher is now, and will be remembered for all time, as one of the most talented songwriterís of his generation. For that reason he should be put away for life, without parole, for his version of To Be Someone.

It should be against the law to put a Wonderwall guitar on such a fine song. Which leads me to an overall view of this album. When we played this to somebody ( very ) close to The Jam, his immediate reaction was that some of the artists were taking the piss out of the band. Not a bad point. But despite there being some terrific versions on this, Silver Sun and Heavy Stereo stand out with Ben Harper and Reef not too far behind, the overall impression is this.

Should a new, unsigned young talented band approach a record company with this, and say, ďlook what weíve done, itís a tribute to The Jam and they are our own versions of their songsĒ they would be thrown out on their ear. It simply isnít good enough to get them past the receptionist. So why itís deemed good enough for established starís to offer up, is beyond me. All of them, especially Noel Gallagher, are capable of classic songs, so how do they get away with this?

When I spoke to Tim Lovejoy ( of XFM and Soccer AM fame and who is a mate of Gem from Heavy Stereo ) he said he had spoken to some of the bands involved who explained ďthey are trying to be different, you canít copy The Jam and so they are trying to put their own interpretation on itĒ ď Nothing wrong with thatĒ I replied ďdifferent is cool, but they could have tried to be 'Good' or even 'Reasonable' in the process, different isnĎt enoughĒ

And another thing, why did everyone go for the easy options. Why is Tube Station missing, and Funeral Pyre? Where are Eton Rifles, Thick as Thieves, Precious and Absolute Beginners. How do you have a Tribute album without these tunes. The saddest thing is there will be millions of youngsters who never heard The Jam, who hear these versions on their radios, and will be left with no idea of how good the band really were. Thatís the tragedy!

No-one in the World - Paul Weller 1999

This song only saw the light of day as a demo on the 1992 Jam album Extraís. Presumably this version was tagged onto the end of To Be Someone to ensure anyone listening to the Gallagher version stayed with it until the bitter end. This is, without question, the only track on the album that is better now than it was first time out. It could easily have been a Steve Marriott song but itís not. Itís a Weller version of a Jam song, I wish there were a few more.

Graham Willmott - October 1999