Thursday, January 9, 2014

Mix CD: "The Best of Paul Weller-the Solo Years"

Paul Weller

I’ve been kind of obsessed with Paul Weller’s solo albums lately. I’m a big fan of Weller’s group The Jam, which is how I first got into Weller’s music. At some point I decided to give his solo albums a try, and I’m very glad I did. Weller’s solo work is generally quite different from his more aggressive work with The Jam, as his solo albums are very jazzy and in general a little more laid-back. Of course, there are exceptions to this, like 2010’s “Wake Up the Nation,” which is the complete opposite of laid-back. I’ve gradually collected all of Weller’s solo albums and I’ve been re-listening to them a lot in the last few weeks. I made a mix CD of my own favorite Weller solo tracks, which I dubbed “The Best of Paul Weller-The Solo Years.” Here are the tracks I put on it:

1. Remember How We Started
2. Amongst Butterflies
3. Above the Clouds
4. Bull Rush
5. Wild Wood
6. You To Something To Me
7. Mermaids
8. Peacock Suit
9. Science
10. Sweet Pea, My Sweet Pea
11. Leafy Mysteries
12. It's Written in the Stars
13. Come On/Let's Go
14. Here's the Good News
15. From the Floorboards Up
16. I Wanna Make It Alright
17. Blink and You'll Miss It
18. 22 Dreams
19. All I Wanna Do (Is Be With You)
20. Wake Up the Nation
21. The Attic
22. When Your Garden's Overgrown
23. That Dangerous Age

All songs written by Paul Weller. Here are some brief comments about the songs:

“Remember How We Started,” from 1992’s “Paul Weller” After The Jam broke up in 1982, Weller quickly formed a new group, The Style Council, which enjoyed great success in the UK. However, by the end of the 1980’s The Style Council’s popularity was on the wane, and when their record label rejected their album “Modernism: A New Decade” in 1989, the group broke up. (The album was finally issued as part of a box set in 1998.) Weller was at loose ends, and eventually he decided to re-launch his career as a solo artist. His first solo album, “Paul Weller,” came out in 1992. It’s a low-key, jazzy affair, and for me “Remember How We Started” is one of the highlights, a sexy song that details how a love affair began. “Better to cry than never smile” Weller sings, as he aches to go back in time to the beginning of that relationship.

“Amongst Butterflies,” from “Paul Weller.” Again, a very jazzy song, all about a summer relationship. “And in the woods was a soldier’s tomb/the ghost of which looked over you” is one of my favorite lines from the song that really sets the scene. Weller also has some great live versions of this song. 

“Above the Clouds,” from “Paul Weller.” Another jazzy song about summer. I think I sense a theme here…

“Bull Rush,” from “Paul Weller.” The lyrics refer to the plant, which grows near water. A little more up-tempo than the previous songs.

“Wild Wood,” from “Wild Wood.” A gentle acoustic song, from Paul’s second solo album. 

“You Do Something To Me,” from “Stanley Road.” Not to be confused with the Cole Porter song of the same name. I could have picked more songs from “Stanley Road,” since it’s considered one of Weller’s best solo albums. But I just got “Stanley Road” a couple of weeks ago, so it’s the album of his that I’m least familiar with. Some of the songs from “Stanley Road” will definitely go on Volume 2 of the best of Weller’s solo years.

“Mermaids,” from “Heavy Soul.” A jaunty rocker, with a catchy “sha-la-la” chorus. 

“Peacock Suit,” from “Heavy Soul.” A strutting rocker, with great riffs and a defiant Weller singing the chorus, “I don’t need a ship to sail in stormy weather/don’t need you to ruffle the feathers/of my peacock suit.” I love the image of a peacock suit, and the kind of self-obsessed person who would wear such a suit.

“Science,” from “Heavy Soul.” Another up-tempo song, with another excellent chorus. “I’ve got a pen in my pocket does it make me a writer/standing on the mountain doesn’t make me no higher/putting on gloves don’t make you a fighter/and all the study in the world doesn’t make it science.”

“Sweet Pea, My Sweet Pea,” from “Heliocentric.” A folky sounding tune about Weller’s “sweet pea” girlfriend. 

“Leafy Mysteries,” from “Illumination.” A rocker that has a very 1960’s feel, and ends with a Who-like flurry of drums and power chords.

“It’s Written in the Stars,” from “Illumination.” This song opens with a very catchy horn sample and slips into a good groove. 

“Come On/Let’s Go,” from “As Is Now.” This is a great Weller rocker, featuring aggressive vocals and guitar work. “As Is Now” is one of my favorite Paul Weller albums, so I picked quite a few songs from it. “Come On/Let’s Go” has some great lyrics, like: “There really is no purpose/definitely is no need/to go running round the houses/like a racehorse on speed.” 

“Here’s the Good News,” from “As Is Now.” This is one of my favorite Paul Weller songs. It has a very Kinks/Alan Price sound to it, and it features a trombone solo. 

“From the Floorboards Up,” from “As Is Now.” Great charging rocker, with tons of kinetic energy.

“I Wanna Make It Alright,” from “As Is Now.” A tender, gentle ballad, as Weller croons, “I wanna be the kind you want to come home to/I want to be the one who gets to make it with you.”

“Blink and You’ll Miss It,” from “As Is Now.” A heavier rocker, with lots of fuzzy guitar.

“22 Dreams,” from “22 Dreams.” “I had 22 dreams last night/and you were in 21/last one I saved for myself/just to save my soul” Weller sings in this frantic song from his epic 2008 album. 

“All I Wanna Do (Is Be With You),” from “22 Dreams.” This song shares some lyrical similarities to Bob Dylan’s 1964 song “All I Really Want To Do,” but Weller’s song is better because Weller can actually sing and write a decent melody line.

“Wake Up the Nation,” from “Wake Up the Nation.” A rollicking number from Weller’s hard-edged 2010 album, with Paul exhorting listeners to “Get your face off the Facebook and turn off your phone.” 

“The Attic,” from “Sonik Kicks.” An energetic, pulsating song from Weller’s most recent album. 

“When Your Garden’s Overgrown,” from “Sonik Kicks.” Weller’s lyrics sound a little Bryan Ferry-like here. “Drinking wine in the Moulin Rouge/sipping coffee in Berlin/might take in the colored lights/in the city they call sin.” 

“That Dangerous Age,” from “Sonik Kicks.” A great catchy tune about a man who “Every chance he gets to fly he goes high in his car,” and who likes “3 sugars in his coffee.”


Uncle E said...

I love all of his solo albums, some better than others, but all contain at least a few gems. The debut remains my favorite, followed by 22 Dreams, Wild Wood, then Illumination. All the others fall under 5th place. My list would be slightly different as Kosmos and his cover of Sexy Sadie are musts for me, but the rest I agree on wholeheartedly. Great post.

Mark said...

Uncle E, I agree, all of his albums have some great songs on them. I do really like "Wake Up the Nation," but those songs seem to work better in the context of the album than alone. His debut album is excellent, as are the other ones you mentioned. Several songs from "Illumination" will be on Volume 2 of my "Best Of Paul Weller." I also think "Sonik Kicks" is very good. And yes, his version of "Sexy Sadie" is awesome sauce.