I recently read one great Uncut magazine specific issue dedicated to Paul Weller (#11 in our TOP 100) and it made me want to listen once again to his records, starting with his solo career.
Paul Weller (1992) : or how to be back from nowhere… After having been the most popular artist in the UK at the end of the 70’s and start of the 80’s with The Jam, the soul/dance/jazz work he did afterwards with his second band The Style Council had not really found its audience and critics were so-so. It eventually fainted, leaving Paul Weller with no recording company but moreover no real will to keep on doing music. He found the sparkle back little by little by playing back to his roots and this 1992 LP was the first one under his own name. And what a great album, mixing soul/rock influences but with a style that would become his personal one (influenced by band such as Traffic for instance or called “dad-rock” by lazy critics). Everything was already there and I remember personally being so full of joy to find him back playing such great news songs. Top songs : “Bull-Rush”, “Into Tomorrow” and “Amongst Butterflies”. (8.5/10)
Wild Wood (1993) : or how this LP definitely put back Paul Weller on the music scene. It was indeed with this fantastic album that Paul Weller confirmed he was back with a revenge (and was to become again one of the most popular artists ever in the UK). There is not one weak song on this LP and each of them, either being a punchy pop/rock number or a beautiful ballad has enough life and emotion to stand on its own. Lots of efforts as well to create an ensemble with nice instrumentals often linking two songs. Indispensable! Top songs : “Sunflower”, “Wild Wood” and “All the Pictures on the Wall”. (9.5/10)
Stanley Road (1995) : or how to confirm. This LP was probably Paul Weller’s most expected one since The Jam period as he was definitely back on the music scene and one was not disappointed as it was one of his best. I had forgotten the quality of the songs and re-listening to it again was a good reminder about how pleasant having the man back on top was (he was only in his mid-30’s after all…). Top songs : “The Changinman”, “You do something to me” and “Broken Stones”. (9/10)
Heavy Soul (1997) : or how to stay at the top of the Major Leagues. This is probably Paul Weller’s most groovy LP and heavy soul indeed it is. One of these albums in which you feel at ease immediately when listening to it. The tunes are strong as well but one could feel that Weller had gone to the limit of the soul/rock formula and that something else was to arrive… Top songs : “Heavy Soul, Pt. 1”, “Up in Suze’s Room” and “Science”. (8/10)
Heliocentric (2000) : or how to reach excellence. To my mind the best Weller LP, it was the one mixing still great tunes to sing along with but with a new sounding structure influenced by psychedelic rock in particular. Strings were back in the game as well, reminding the fantastic under-estimated Style Council LP “Confessions of a Pop Group“. Top songs : “He’s the Keeper”, “Frightened” and “There’s no drinking after you’re dead”. (9.5/10)
Illumination (2002) : or how to start the intermediary period. Where do you go after such a brilliant LP ? Well, you do another one, trying at the same time to have a look backwards and imagining what one’s future will be like. It gives “Illumination”, the first LP not produced by Bredan Lynch and the first one after the so-called “classic” Weller period. This LP though should be re-discovered as there are interesting songs, announcing great things to come in the future. Top songs : “A Bullet for Everyone”, “Bag Man” and “All Good Books”. (7.5/10)
Studio 150 (2004) : or how to find inspiration in classics. The covers’ LP is a classic album for well-known artists and the fan is generally delighted by such an initiative. However, it gets generally thick after a couple of listening and these albums are not the ones which are the most listened to. Let’s say that Paul Weller found back enthusiasm in these songs and that his versions are indeed really good, although not revolutionary… Top songs : “Wishing on a Star”, “The Bottle” and “Early Morning Rain”. (7/10)
As Is Now (2005) : or quite a rediscovery. I had more or less forgotten this LP, probably as it was the album coming before Paul Weller’s latest so-called trilogy but this is a really good one. Songs melodies might appear not that strong sometimes but the music is top notch here, mixing his soul influences as ever but as well modern sounds. Top songs : “Come On / Let’s Go”, “The Start of Forever” and “From the Floor Boards Up”. (8/10)
22 Dreams (2008) : or how to be fifty and be more relevant than ever. 21 moving and great songs (the 22nd dream being a poem in the booklet) with all kinds of influences raging from pastoral folk to soul and jazz instrumentals. This album reminds partly the subtleties of The Style Council when they were at the top of their games but with more experience and quality in music craftmanship. A very rich-sounding LP to listen to again and again. Top songs : “Invisible”, “Cold Moments” and “Push It Along”. (9/10)
Wake Up The Nation (2010) : or how to get young again. This album is the second part of the latest Paul Weller’s trilogy which has been called this way to describe long albums with lots of ambitious songs whereas in reality they are really different. 16 punchy short (or sometimes very short – too short?) songs with the more than welcome presence of The Jam bass player Bruce Foxton on two tracks. Top songs : “Wake Up The Nation”, “Aim High” and “Two Fat Ladies”. (8/10)
Sonik Kicks (2012) : or how Paul Weller gets Krautrock sounding. Well, it might be too strong a statement but this is indeed true that one will find more repetition and samples throughout these songs than ever before. A remarkably fresh sounding LP by a young man of 54-year old. This LP was part of your 2012 best of by the way. Top songs : “Kling I Klang”, “By the Waters” and “Dragonfly”. (8.5/10)
11 studio albums then and I hope this post will help you chose the LP’s that you will enjoy the most. There are as well many live or different compilations albums and they are often as good as the studio ones. DVD’s/Blue Rays are very nice as well, especially those which bring back the particular atmosphere of his London Hyde Park shows.
Long live Paul and looking forward to listening to your next album!
…and here it is (update done in January 2016 / November 2017)
Saturns Pattern (2015) : A bit less adventurous than on his last LP’s, it still remains a very good album of solid songs. More emphasis on melodies and a bit less on soundscapes, which does not mean this is a bad thing as all great artists need/like this ying and yang alternance. Top songs : “Saturns Pattern”, “Pick it Up” and “These City Streets”. (7.5/10)
A Kind Revolution (2017) : Paul Weller is slowly but surely reaching his late 50’s and it looks the older he gets, the youngest and inventive his music gets. Another very good album with a few top invitees such as soul/funk singer P.P. Arnold on one track or the great Robert Wyatt on trumpet on another one. All melodies are not that memorable but one can only congratulate Paul Weller to keep on searching and not resting on his laurels. …and it looks another album is already closed to be completed! Top songs : “Nova”, “She Moves With The Fayre” and “New York”. (8/10)