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review added: 8/7/03



The Jam
The Complete Jam on Film 1977-1982

2003 (2003) - Interscope (Universal)

review by Matt Rowe of The Digital Bits

The Jam: The Complete Jam on Film 1977-1982 Program Rating: A

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/A/A

Specs and Features

235 mins, NR, full frame (1.33:1), 2 single-sided, dual-layered discs (no layer switch), Digipak packaging with slipcase, film themed menu screens, scene access (29 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 & DD 2.0 stereo), subtitles: none


Back in the late 70s, rock music was undergoing a transformation. The bluesy guitars and honky tonk jazz inflections, that filled much of our rock diet up until then, were paring down to shorter and simpler tunes. As we moved into a new era of pop rock, the trail veered off in many directions with punk, pop, new wave, and electronic pop changing out the old guards.

Leading the charge were Elvis Costello, The Clash, The Sex Pistols, and a band that extracted some of the same excitement and aura of the these bands, yet helped stylized a time in need of styling. That band was a three piece dynamo known as The Jam. Incorporating the 60s mod style with the new emerging pop, Weller, Foxton, and Buckler became the first radio friendly hit machine of the new era that didn't compromise its integrity to churn out songs. Instead they relied on quality. And if the song worked, so be it. Work they certainly did.

The Jam was a band full of surprises. From their meteoric jump into the music scene of England to their trans Atlantic stretch onto American turntables, they became the choice of a discriminating audience. And while American audiences were a more fickle bunch when it came to the realization of The Jam's greatness, Weller and the guys' brilliant song crafting wasn't lost on them entirely. England adopted and revered the band while America enjoyed them.

Helping to usher in the MTV generation, The Jam produced single after single, all melodically and lyrically sound. They carried the torch for 5 years, generating more than their fair share of hits. And many of those hits are available on this DVD, in the form of the videos that were produced for MTV airplay. This packaging of videos is an ambitious, but necessary, one. It's a collection that I'm glad Universal saw fit to release. You'll get a kick out of the production values of these old ground-breaking videos back, but if you remember those times, you'll probably get a little nostalgic watching this 2-disc release. Don't feel bad. I'm always nostalgic.

The Complete Jam contains a number of British television performances and spreads them out over two discs. There is the BBC's popular The Old Grey Whistle Test, Marc (hosted by the flamboyant Marc Bolan of T-Rex fame), The Tube (which features an impromptu Peter Weller interview), and Something Else. There are 12 television spots with over 30 song performances. Also included are 16 videos of some of their most popular songs including Town Called Malice, That's Entertainment, Eton Rifles, and Start!. The set continues with contribution pieces Scene: The Fan Phenomenon and The Jam: A Time and a Place, which are insightful looks into the band and serve to augment the videos.

Picture quality here is a moot point. Why? Because these are film videos shot back in the late 70s/early 80s when the art of the MTV music video was just beginning. Some are grainy and some are surprisingly good. But you're not here to bicker about quality film; you're here because you're a Jam fan. You're here because this set pieces together an exhaustive collection of Jam treasures. Quite frankly, I'd love to see this treatment for a number of other deserving bands. Jo Cavanaugh, assisted by Jane Murch, has devotedly assembled an extraordinary collector package that should become the benchmark for future "Complete" titles.

The remastered sound is the clear winner of the package. The old soundtracks should have deteriorated somewhat by now, but the quality here is pretty good, if not great. While the film of many of the videos show their age, the sound never does. The stereo mix is the definite way to enjoy The Complete Jam. There is a 5.1 mix included for fans of surround. For me, unless the band's output screams for it (like Pink Floyd, for example), I prefer stereo. The 5.1 mix is minimal but effective and, like the stereo, sounds pretty good. My disinterest in 5.1 does not suggest that the 5.1 mix on this set is underwhelming - stereo is simply a personal preference of mine. It may be that I'm largely unimpressed by the sense of 5.1 distribution for a band that only consisted of a guitar, bass, and drums but I don't oppose it for those who like that format.

The packaging of the DVD shows thought and care. The discs are in a tri-fold Digipak holder that also provides a set of glossy photos, one with the entire track listing and credits printed on the back. A high quality slipcover protects the DVD holder. Overall, The Complete Jam is a highly satisfying video collection that any Jam fan would be immensely pleased with. Let's hope that other bands are given the chance to emulate this labor of love on DVD, to provide fans with the best that can, and should, be offered.

Matt Rowe
mattrowe@thedigitalbits.com
Visit Matt Rowe's MusicTAP ------ Music Flows There!




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