To many, Paul Weller is the revered Modfather, the heart of the hallowed Jam, his decades of earthy rock and blues a monument to keeping it ‘real’ with amplifiers, sweat, and no nonsense. To others, he is a flat, bloke-ish example of what turgid monotony ensues when a talented musician chickens out of straying from his roots.
Despite apparently wishing to be anything but an enigma, he is one. How could the institution so admired by Noel Gallagher ever have detoured into something as literate, romantic and camp as The Style Council? That seems now to have been a collective dream we had, as if the gorgeous, soulful Long Hot Summer and Paris Match were exotic 80s fantasies, born of over-vivid imagination.
Last year’s 22 Dreams hinted that he, too, had a vague recollection that said inspired phase actually did happen. Many of those dreams were more Curtis Mayfield than curt grump-rock. They let the air in. The re-release of his 1992 solo debut album, then, is timely, reminding us that he does delve into riskier reveries. He can be a maverick motivated by the best timeless black music, as opposed to a slave to the rhythms of 60s makeweights like Traffic and The Yardbirds.
While singles like Uh Huh Oh Yeh! and Into Tomorrow are strong but unspectacular, this sidesteps into grooves influenced by his frustrated inner soul boy. In spells he’s seduced by Funkadelic and Blue Note, and then-fresh outfits like A Tribe Called Quest. The album, intriguingly, slides midway between what we think of as The Style Council and what we think of as Paul Weller. It’s aged well: if it seemed irrelevant and drab to the indie scene of the time, its classic flourishes are now flirtatious, vibrant.
Digitally remastered, it comes with 25 bonus tracks. In demo form Bull-Rush and Butterflies reveal even more of the sensitive side one wishes he’d believe in. His acoustic version of Marvin Gaye’s Abraham, Martin & John is a beauty. He was to ignore the whines of critics and immerse himself in a viable trad-rock career. Yet somehow, Weller tends to outlast detractors and have the last laugh. This sounds better today than it ever did. --Chris Roberts
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CD 1:1- Uh-Huh Oh Yeh 2- I Didn't Mean to Hurt You 3- Bull-Rush 4- Round and Round 5- Remember How We Started 6- Above the Clouds 7- Clues 8- Into Tomorrow 9- Amongst Butterflies 10- The Strange Museum 11- Bitterness Rising 12- Kosmos 13- Here's A New Thing14- That Spiritual Feeling Instrumental15- Into Tomorrow Demo Version16- Arrival Time17- Fly On The Wall18- Always There To Fool You19- Everything Has A PriceCD 2:1- All Year Round The Ritz Live Version2- Feeling Alright3- Hot Rod - Bath Demo4- I Didn't Mean To Hurt You Demo5- Bull Rush Demo6- Round and Round Alternate Version7- Remember How We Started Demo8- Clues Demo 19929- Into Tomorrow Alternative Acustic Version10- Butterflies Alternative Acustic Version11- Bitterness Rising Acustic Version12- Kosmos Demo13- New Thing Alternative Version14- Fly On The Wall Demo15- The Bitter Truth Demo16- Amongst Butterflies Demo17- Abraham, Martin and John Acoustic Unreleased18- Kosmos Lynch Mob Bonus Beats Full Version