A patchy collection, but somehow all the more interesting because of it, Fly On the Wall
is almost exactingly thorough in correlating all of Paul Weller's solo career B-sides onto three CDs (a few live cuts are absent) and also serves as a worrying reminder of how much the music consumer--and more importantly the musician--may stand to lose if the single format ever becomes a thing of the past.
Sometimes unfairly maligned (and sometimes not) the B-side is the musician's opportunity for a little friendly informality or hopelessly misguided experimentation, perhaps even a chance to fulfil that long-cherished ambition to remix one's biggest hit in an acid-house style with Acker Bilk and a troupe of Senegalese drummers. Weller hasn't gone that far, but he's certainly game--Portishead's "pots and pans" drum sounds on "Wild Wood" now sound a little antiquated but it's a refreshing slant on one of his best songs while, less successfully, the Lynch Mob Bonus Beats remix of "Kosmos" is akin to being boxed around the ears by an army of amusement arcade machines. Fly on the Wall does contain an awful lot of instrumentals (much in the way of funky grooving, wah-wah-pedals and hysterical saxophonists but, alas, precious little in the way of pithy tunes), but these are counter-balanced by a generous portion of proper songs which may well have merited promotion to the status of album track. And never one to shirk from wearing his influences on his sleeve (and depending on your viewpoint, this is either Weller's strength or his Achilles heel), the third disc is given over to some entirely respectful and altogether more rockier cover versions of classics from Lennon, the Beatles, Sonny Bono, Bob Dylan, Tim Hardin and Neil Young. There's something solid here for Weller fans of all persuasions. --Kevin Maidment
With a back catalogue as long as Weller's, its surprising that a collection of rare cuts, cover versions and re-mixes hasn't been seen before. What may surprise some are the varied styles and eras of music Paul Weller has explored since the start of his solo career. This showcase of funky soul, pastoral folk, full on trad-rock and plaintive singer songwriter material all just goes to confirm that despite the accusations of a luddite approach in recent years, Weller's wide-ranging (but comprehensively mod) tastes have seen him shift musical emphasis far more than a cursory glance might suggest.
This 3 CD collection kicks off with an acid jazz era, mildly funky ''Here's A New Thing'' that isn't too much of a jump forward from some Style Council offerings, travels through the trendy re-mix template of Noonday Underground's re-working of ''There's No Drinking When You're Dead'', a very Portishead-heavy ''Wild Wood'' and the Pshychonought's take on Weller's most Jam-like solo offering, ''Science''. All these remixed tracks are a curious blend of Weller's traditional approach, filtered through the somewhat unlikely medium of samplers and drum machines. They work but in a mildly superfluous manner.
What is most telling is the selection of cover versions included here and the choices are not too much of a surprise. The Beatles' ''Sexy Sadie'' gets Wellered without many surprises included, however ''Don't Let Me Down'' makes a most suitable vehicle for Paul's throaty bark with ex-wife DC Lee & Carleen Anderson's backing vocals adding the required soul credentials. Weller drops his mod prejudices to include a rabble rousing live version of perennial hippy-rock idol Neil Young's ''Ohio'', and a version of Tim Harding's ''Black Sheep Boy''. A cursory walk through ''I Would Rather Go Blind'' doesn't add too much to the proceedings, whilst Weller's reading of Lennon's ''Instant Karma''(complete with echoing effects) may be a little unimaginative but its a good-natured nod and a wink towards some life long influences.
Paul Weller, at this stage of his career seems to divide audiences a dour, backward looking puritan to some, a passionate champion of a simple musical integrity to others, his most creative work may be behind him now, but this collection offers a fascinating glimpse into the influences, sounds and attitudes that reverberate around inside the head of one of Britain's most longstanding, successful and acclaimed songwriters. --Greg Boraman
Find more music at the BBC This link will take you off Amazon in a new window