The Jam were one of the greatest rock and roll groups in history. Their entire catalogue, from "In the City" all the way through to "Beat Surrender" is fresh, vibrant, urgent, and real. They were a band whose B-sides (such as "Smithers-Jones") could be the top A-sides of lesser groups. Nothing in their catalogue is worthless...not even their cover of the "Batman" theme! And they didn't just stay in one place after finding success. "In the City", their debut single, is rough-hewn, Who-derived punk rock. A million sounds and fusions of pop, punk, and soul later (the crunching "All Around the World", the bright but alienated "Strange Town", the driving, hard-hitting "Eton Rifles", the gorgeous anthem "Going Underground", the wistful Motown rave "Town Called Malice") we get "Beat Surrender", their bow, an uptempo, horn-and-piano-driven sophisticated soul scorcher. Along with The Buzzcocks, The Jam are at the top of the stack when it comes to singles bands of their era. And ANY era, really.
That said...there is one tiny fault. This is a fault only a completist fanatic would quibble about, but anyone willing to spend $100 on just one band is probably, like me, a completist fanatic.
The problem is this: one of the most acclaimed entries in The Jam's catalogue, and my personal favorite, "That's Entertainment", does not appear in its ideal form. The version from "Snap!" (known in CD release as "Compact Snap!") is nowhere to be heard. They include the psychedelic-tinged version that graces "Sound Affects", and they include some bizarre up-tempo demo on the "rarities" disc. But for some strange reason, they don't include their greatest rendition of "That's Entertainment". The version is minimal but has a fiery intensity that the somewhat muffled album version just doesn't have. There's a note written muttering about "another version available on the 'Snap!' compilation", but would it really have been that hard to include it?
Like I said...it's just one song on a collection of a hundred, and it might seem petty. But for someone hoping to capture The Jam's entire catalogue on CD with this purchase (ESPECIALLY my personal favorites), the disappointment was palpable.
But that's the only problem. Everything else is aces. If you're new to The Jam, I suggest you buy "Compact Snap!" anyway just to get acquainted with them. But if you've heard some of Weller, Foxton, and Buckler already and think this is the way to go, then it almost definitely is. I certainly don't regret my purchase. But it's just not quite perfect!