Thursday, 25 October 2018

Paul Weller - Modern Classics


After disbanding The Jam and idling around in white jeans and sunglasses reading French newspapers with The Style Council for several years, Paul Weller resurfaced with his artistic credibility in considerable doubt in the early nineties. He was now a solo artist playing contemporary laid-back, often bucolic in tone, rock music but with a definite retrospective slant to late sixties/early seventies Traffic, Nick Drake, The Small Faces, Humble Pie amongst others. Weller gigged at small venues and soon his old, loyal fan base were back with him (they had never really left) and he gained a new army of younger fans who hailed him as "The Modfather". The albums this compilation derives its material from are the first four solo ones - "Paul Weller"; "Wild Wood"; "Stanley Road" and "Heavy Soul". These albums saw Weller at his rockiest but also as a man who spent much of his time taking it easy in the Surrey countryside and writing songs that reflected an artist who had found considerable peace of mind, for once. It didn't last too long, however, because Weller has always been a restless individual who strives to push himself on to other things after a while. He doesn't (and didn't) stay in one place musically, but these four albums were pretty representative of that early phase of his solo career.

Unfortunately the songs do not appear chronologically, but the highlights are:-

“Out Of The Sinking” - a live favourite, full of alluring guitar work and affecting quieter pieces. It is a bit of a dark-ish and dense track, though. The riffy rock of "Peacock Suit" is thoroughly irresistible, however, with Weller on superb, growling vocal form. "Sunflower" has a riffy, late 60s Beatles intro and is a rocky, tough edged track. Despite the guitar attack, lyrically it is concerned with sunflowers and "sunshower kisses" that shows Weller's peaceful, pastoral direction. "The Weaver" has a strong opening riff which heralds another guitar-driven 60s r'n'b-influenced number with more pastoral lyrics. Who would have thought Weller would be going about "the weaver of your dreams" like something off a 70s "prog rock" concept album? Certainly not the man himself.

"Wild Wood" sees Weller at his most lazy, hot afternoon, pastoral best. This mellow song is well-loved by fans and features just Weller and his acoustic guitar and has a few hints of Neil Young about it. It is blissfully atmospheric and in its urging to escape from the urban "traffic's boom", thoroughly appealing. A highpoint of the album is the ballad “You Do Something To Me”, usually featured in concert dvds with shots of “loved-up” couples gazing into each others’ eyes as the sun goes down. It is a good song, and one that is liked by not just Weller fans.

“Uh Huh Oh Yeh” has strong redolence of Traffic’s early 70s output with its bass/saxophone fade out, while the beautiful white soul groove of “Above The Clouds” are both examples of Weller's new gentle, sensitive soul/rock as played on his debut solo album. “Into Tomorrow” is the most funk rock of the material, with an identifiable funk hook, but that sort of thing is few and far between amidst all the loved up reflection and 60s -influenced rock.

The commercial-ish soully “Mermaids” was a hit single and garnered quite a lot of radio play, "Broken Stones" also has a laid-back, melodic and soulful feel to it. Probably the most important song on the album is the rocking, riffy “The Changingman”, sees Weller telling the world that he is, indeed, attempting to change his image, musically, at least. He did just that.


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