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Paul Weller, 'Wild Wood (UK)' Paul Weller, 'Wild Wood (US)'

Wild Wood  (1993,  51.19/53.59)  ***½/TT

Sunflower
Can You Heal Us (Holy Man)
Wild Wood

Instrumental (pt 1)
All the Pictures on The Wall
Has My Fire Really Gone Out?
Country
Instrumental Two
5th Season
The Weaver
Instrumental (pt 2)
Foot of the Mountain
Shadow of the Sun
Holy Man (Reprise)

Moon on Your Pyjamas
[Later CDs add: Hung Up]
Paul Weller, 'Wild Wood' CDS  (1993)  ***½/TT½

Wild Wood
Ends of the Earth
Paul Weller, 'The Weaver' CDS  (1993)  ***/T½

The Weaver
This is No Time
Another New Day
Ohio (live)
Paul Weller, 'Hung Up' CDS  (1994)  ***/T½

Hung Up
Foot of the Mountain (live)
The Loved
Kosmos (Lynch Mob Bonus Beats)
Paul Weller, 'Live Wood'

Live Wood  (1994,  64.01)  ***½/TT

Bull Rush/Magic Bus
This is No Time

All the Pictures on the Wall
Remember How We Started/Dominoes
Above the Clouds
Wild Wood

Shadow of the Sun
(Can You Heal Us) Holy Man/War
5th Season
Into Tomorrow
Foot of the Mountain
Sunflower
Has My Fire Really Gone Out?
Paul Weller, 'Out of the Sinking' CDS  (1994)  ***/T

Out of the Sinking
Sexy Sadie

Sunflower (Lynch Mob Dub)
Paul Weller, 'Stanley Road'

Stanley Road  (1995,  52.07)  ***½/TT

The Changingman
Porcelain Gods
I Walk on Gilded Splinters
You Do Something to Me
Woodcutter's Son
Time Passes...
Stanley Road

Broken Stones
Out of the Sinking
Pink on White Walls
Whirlpool's End
Wings of Speed
Paul Weller, 'Brand New Start' CDS  (1998)  ***/T½

Brand New Start
Right Underneath it
The Riverbank
Paul Weller, 'Wild Wood (reissue)' CDS  (1999)  ***/TT

Wild Wood
Wild Wood (The Sheared Wood Remix)

Science With the Psychonauts (A Lynch Mob Remix)
Paul Weller, 'Heliocentric'

Heliocentric  (2000,  48.12)  ***/TTT

He's the Keeper
Frightened
Sweet Pea, My Sweet Pea
A Whale's Tale
Back in the Fire
Dust and Rocks
There's No Drinking, After You're Dead

With Time & Temperance
Picking Up Sticks
Love-Less
Paul Weller, 'He's the Keeper' CDS  (2000)  ***½/TTT

He's the Keeper
Helioscentric
Bang-Bang
Paul Weller, 'Sweet Pea, My Sweet Pea' CDS  (2000)  ***/TT

Sweet Pea, My Sweet Pea
Back In The Fire (BBC session)
There's No Drinking, After You're Dead (Noonday Underground Remix)
Paul Weller, 'Illumination'

Illumination  (2002,  47.41)  ***/TTT

Going Places
Bullet for Everyone
Leafy Mysteries
It's Written in the Stars
Who Brings Joy
Now the Night is Here
Spring (at Last)
One x One
Bag Man
All Good Books
Call Me No.5
Standing Out in the Universe
Illumination
Paul Weller, 'Fly on the Wall: B-Sides & Rarities'

Fly on the Wall: B-Sides & Rarities  (2003, recorded 1991-2001,  153.19)  ***/TTT

Here's a New Thing
That Spiritual Feeling
Into Tomorrow
Arrival Time
Fly on the Wall
Always There to Fool You
All Year Round
Ends of the Earth
This is No Time

Another New Day
Foot of the Mountain (live)
Wild Wood (remix)
Kosmos (remix)
The Loved
Steam
It's a New Day Baby
A Year Late
Eye of the Storm
Shoot the Dove
As You Lean Into the Light
So You Want to Be a Dancer
Everything Has a Price to Pay
Right Underneath it
Helioscentric
There's No Drinking, After You're
  Dead (remix)
The Riverbank

Science With the Psychonauts (remix)
Feelin' Alright
Ohio (live)
Black Sheep Boy
Sexy Sadie
I Shall Be Released
I'd Rather Go Blind
My Whole World is Falling Down
Ain't No Love in the Heart of the City
Waiting on an Angel
Bang-Bang
Instant Karma

Don't Let Me Down
Paul Weller, 'Studio 150'

Studio 150  (2004,  45.19)  **½/½

If I Could Only Be Sure
Wishing on a Star
Don't Make Promises
The Bottle
Black is the Colour
Close to You
Early Morning Rain
One Way Road
Hercules
Thinking of You
All Along the Watchtower
Birds
Paul Weller, 'As is Now'

As is Now  (2005,  53.24)  ***½/TT

Blink and You'll Miss it
Paper Smile
Come on/Let's Go
Here's the Good News
The State of Forever
Pan
All on a Misty Morning
From the Floor Boards Up
I Wanna Make it Alright
Savages
Fly Little Bird
Roll Along Summer
Bring Back the Funk (pts 1 & 2)
The Pebble and the Boy
Paul Weller, '22 Dreams'

22 Dreams  (2008,  69.10)  ***½/TTT

Light Nights
22 Dreams
All I Wanna Do (is Be With You)
Have You Made Up Your Mind

Empty Ring
Invisible
Song for Alice
Cold Moments
The Dark Pages of September Lead
  to the New Leaves of Spring
Black River
Why Walk When You Can Run
Push it Along
A Dream Reprise
Echoes Round the Sun
One Bright Star
Lullaby für Kinder
Where'er Ye Go
God
111
Sea Spray
Night Lights
Paul Weller, 'Wake Up the Nation'

Wake Up the Nation  (2010,  39.53)  ***/T½

Moonshine
Wake Up the Nation
No Tears to Cry
Fast Car/Slow Traffic
Andromeda
In Amsterdam
She Speaks
Find the Torch, Burn the Plans
Aim High
Trees
Grasp and Still Connect
Whatever Next
7 & 3 is the Strikers Name
Up the Dosage
Pieces of a Dream
Two Fat Ladies
Paul Weller, 'Sonik Kicks'

Sonik Kicks  (2012,  43.25)  ***/T

Green
The Attic
Kling I Klang
Sleep of the Serene
By the Waters
That Dangerous Age
Study in Blue
Dragonfly
When Your Garden's Overgrown
Around the Lake
Twilight
Drifters
Paperchase
Be Happy Children
Paul Weller, 'Saturns Pattern'

Saturns Pattern  (2015,  43.34)  ***½/T

White Sky
Saturns Pattern
Going My Way

Long Time
Pick it Up
I'm Where I Should Be
Phoenix
In the Car...
These City Streets

Current availability:

Mellotrons used:

I've just read an article on Paul Weller which commented on his '25 years in the biz', which knocked me back slightly; it's easy to forget just how long someone's been around, especially when you can remember their first flush of success. After The Jam and the Style Council, Weller reinvented himself for the second time at the turn of the '90s as a rootsy singer-songwriter, sounding like nothing more or less than an early-'70s 'Whistle Test' regular (Traffic et al.), complete with a 'back to the country' ethos circa '72. His debut, Paul Weller, was extremely low-key, but by the time Wild Wood came out, the press had sat up and begun to take notice, amusingly coining the phrase 'dadrock' to describe Weller's retro-rock, probably to his considerable chagrin, although I suppose he may wear it as a badge of pride. Can't say I could imagine my dad listening to this sort of stuff; must be a generation thing...

Anyway, Wild Wood's a well-written, well-produced album, if not entirely to my personal taste. Mostly quite laid-back, Weller's taken care over the vocal melodies and the instrumentation, recruiting Brendan Lynch and Helen Turner to help him out with the keyboard parts, although he plays many of them (including most of the Mellotron) himself. The 'Tron use is as low-key as the rest of the album, to be honest, with some very background strings on Sunflower and Can You Heal Us (Holy Man), and a subtle flute melody on Wild Wood itself. The one Mellotron-heavy (-ish) track is the album's 'epic', the seven-minute Shadow Of The Sun, 'Tron played by both Weller and Lynch, with quite overt string and flute parts. Nice. Incidentally, the Hammond work throughout is superb, reminding you of any number of long-lost turn-of-the-'70s outfits, giving the album an organic quality missing in so much music since the end of that decade.

I'm quite surprised Weller saw fit to put a live album out as his third release, but live work has always been his forté, so I presume he decided to play to his strengths. The material on Live Wood is mostly culled from his first two solo albums, recorded at various gigs between '93 and '94, with a five-piece band including Helen Turner on 'Wurlitzer, piano, organ, Mellotron, Pro-One', so top marks for the nice analogue rig. Of course, as is often the way with live albums, arrangements change, so Above The Clouds, from Paul Weller has Mellotron strings added, while Shadow Of The Sun, a 'Tron monster in the studio, is all piano here. Actually, I expected to hear it on more tracks, to be honest, but what there is is strong and upfront, rather than buried beneath studio arrangements. I've just realised what this album reminds me of, by the way: Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. It's got that early-'70s 'jammin'' thing going on several tracks, with authentically retro keys and guitar tones; funny how people revert to their early influences, innit?

1995 brought the critically-acclaimed Stanley Road, named for the Woking street in which Weller grew up. Aficionados rate it as highly as Wild Wood; it's certainly in the same vein, although as a non-fan, I can't really attest to the quality of the songs. As far as its Mellotron content goes, it was played by Weller and Helen Turner this time, with decidedly audible strings on three tracks, Out Of The Sinking, Whirlpool's End and best of all, the title track, with a great string melody. The other couple of credited tracks are very background, to be honest, and one excellent effort doth not really a 'Tron album make.

Weller's fourth solo studio outing was the uncharacteristic Heavy Soul, which bears at least slight comparison with Oasis' Be Here Now, with a similar tendency to meander through a rather substandard set of songs without actually going anywhere much. Also, it seems Weller hit the 'Mellotron Wall' with this record, keeping it in mothballs for the sessions. However, it was back to business as usual on Heliocentric, with little real change on the music front and a decent chunk of (uncredited) Mellotron, apparently played by the man himself and Steve Cradock, the latter particularly on He's The Keeper. I'm afraid I can't warm to this any more than to the rest of his catalogue, but it seems to do what it does perfectly well, so I'll leave my comments on its content at that. As far as the 'Tron goes, it's the usual flutes and strings across the board, really. Few of the parts stand out particularly, although the string part (along with real strings, by the sound of it) in There's No Drinking, After You're Dead works well, as do the string chords in Picking Up Sticks, on two of the album's few uptempo songs.

2002's Illumination starts off sounding as if Weller's forsaken the Mellotron, until it suddenly appears on track 6, Now The Night Is Here, with One X One being particularly heavy on it, with strings, flutes and choir smothering the whole thing. Excellent! Loads more on Standing Out In The Universe, too. The music? It's Weller. More acoustic than some of his albums, probably less so than others. Shit, I'm running out of things to say here...

2003's self-explanatory Fly on the Wall: B-Sides & Rarities does exactly what it says on the tin. Over the previous decade, Weller had released a whole slew of singles and EPs, and while the odd remix seems to have been missed, this triple-disc set (why? They'd fit on two) mops up most of the stragglers, with a few compilation tracks and outtakes added to tempt the completist. I'm all in favour of artists making their entire oeuvre available, so top marks to the Modfather for releasing this, although it does, sadly, highlight what a stunning bore the man's become in his later years. Track after track after track of mid-paced, early-'70s (un)inspired waffle, with insipid versions of other people's songs (Lennon's Instant Karma and vicious Beatles Maharishi put-down Sexy Sadie, Bobby "Blue" Bland's Ain't No Love In The Heart Of The City, done vastly better by, er, Whitesnake), thoroughly faceless originals and dull live versions of dull studio tracks. A massive yawn-fest, but essential for those into the man's style.

Its one real saving grace is the collation of several Weller 'Tron tracks, otherwise lost on b-sides, with strings on Wild Wood flip Ends Of The Earth and The Weaver EP track This Is No Time, flutes and strings on one of Hung Up's b's, The Loved and the aforementioned Sexy Sadie, originally found on '94's Out Of The Sinking. There's a couple of tracks from an otherwise Mellotron-free period of Weller's career, with strings on Right Underneath It and The Riverbank, both on the back of the non-album Brand New Start, which may or may not have a few seconds of strings itself, and a Portishead remix of Wild Wood on the back of a reissue of the song itself, which sounds like, er, Portishead plays Weller. With Mellotron. Heliocentric's He's The Keeper is Weller's only 'across the board' Mellotron single, with another two 'Tron tracks on the virtual flip: a vague string part, mixed in with something else, on the heavily electronic Helioscentric and regular strings on Bang-Bang, one of the album's better cuts, while the 'Noonday Underground' remix of the same album's There's No Drinking, After You're Dead features some seriously full-on strings. The collection's final 'Tron track is a string part on Instant Karma, an Uncut mag freebie track, making this quite a 'Tron album, in its own, quiet way.

The following year's Studio 150 is the kind of record artists tend to make when they've run out of inspiration: a covers collection. And indeed, inspiration is in pretty short supply here; in short, we're talking 'mostly soul covers', Weller tackling Rose Royce (Wishing On A Star), Gil Scott-Heron (The Bottle) and Dionne Warwick/The Carpenters (!) (Close To You), with most of the other tracks having a soul feel, even when they're by Gordon Lightfoot (Early Morning Rain) or Dylan (the ubiquitous All Along The Watchtower). The occasional ray of light peeks out from the turgid gloom of most of the album, notably the lovely American folk song Black Is The Colour, also tackled by The Twilight Singers, but we're talking slim pickings here, folks. Very little Mellotron (the album was recorded in Holland, so I don't know whether Paul took his own machine over or hired one in), with a brief, high strings part at the end of Watchtower.

2005's As is Now, featuring a nattily-suited Paul on the sleeve, is typical Weller, throwing all his usual influences into the pot. Best tracks? Maybe the jamming Bring Back The Funk and closing ballad (with real strings), The Pebble And The Boy, making for one of the most listenable Weller albums in years. Mellotron (from yer man) on three tracks, with some beautifully clear 8-choir and flutes on Pan, high-in-the-mix flutes on Savages and a strings part on Roll Along Summer.

2008's lengthy 22 Dreams has been regarded as something of a comeback by Weller-watchers, although that shouldn't be a great surprise after the passable As is Now. It's an eclectic, diverse collection of songs, little like any previous Weller album and all the better for it, says I. Mellotron from several players, presumably including the man himself, uncredited, as he seems to prefer these days. Assuming it's him, Weller adds strings and very obvious cellos on All I Wanna Do (Is Be With You), strings on Have You Made Up Your Mind and, unusually (uniquely?) for him, background choirs on Song For Alice, plus string swells on Cold Moments and a flute part on closer Night Lights. Although the strings on the Noel Gallagher co-write, Echoes Round The Sun, sound real, both Gallagher and Oasis' Gem Archer play 'Tron on the track, so maybe they're doing some shifty Mancunian pitch-shift thing? Maybe it's a combination of real and Mellotronic strings? Who knows. Anyway, one more 'Tron track: 111 is Weller's Mellotronic crowning glory, with flutes, cellos and choppy strings from regular collaborator Steve Cradock and little else. Superb. The album is overlong, and the CD version only has 21 tracks, making a mockery of the title; the 22nd is an 'iTunes bonus track - bloody rip-off - of a probably fairly inessential live version of Echoes Round The Sun. However, this is actually a satisfying listen, even for a non-fan, crapping on that awful covers album from a great height.

2010's Wake Up the Nation is a more 'normal' Weller release, squeezing sixteen tracks onto a 'vinyl length' album, so don't come here expecting any jammed-out epics. The album's notable for the thawing of relations with Weller's old Jam compadre Bruce Foxton (although Rick Buckler's notable by his absence); is this a 'new, more relaxed' Weller? Not going by the musical evidence: short, snappy, '60s-influenced efforts like opener Moonshine, Grasp And Still Connect, the loungey In Amsterdam or closer Two Fat Ladies. Presumably Weller on 'Tron again, with a high flute line on the title track, barely recognisable flutes on Trees and strings (alongside real recorder) on Whatever Next, making this one of Weller's lesser Mellotronic efforts. The title of 2012's Sonik Kicks gives Weller's latest game away slightly, both it and track three, Kling I Klang, referencing krautrock. That isn't to say that he's suddenly gone all Neu! on us, merely that he's incorporated ideas from that era, not least the staccato synth that opens the album, the drones on Kling I Klang and the synth-laden, twenty-second Twilight. Better tracks include the odd Kling I Klang and the humorous That Dangerous Age, but the bulk of the album's exactly what you'd expect from Weller, with a few extra analogue synth parts. I presume it's yer man on Mellotron, with flute and string parts on Study In Blue and distant flutes on When Your Garden's Overgrown, although most of the album's strings are real.

2015's Saturns Pattern (quick! Nurse! An apostrophe!) is, essentially, a distillate of everything Weller's done over the two preceding decades, the end result resembling nothing so much as an early '70s Traffic album. Best tracks? The second-half cluster of the slightly trippy Pick It Up, the trippier I'm Where I Should Be, the insistent In The Car... and the lengthy, meditative These City Streets, although I'm less convinced by the more urgent material at the beginning of the record. Not an awful lot of Mellotron: Andy Crofts plays about two strident brass notes on the title track, while Weller adds another two (uncredited) flute notes to Going My Way and some drifting strings and flutes to These City Streets.

So; if you like Paul Weller, you'll already know these albums, and if you don't, I'd have trouble recommending him over many far better singer-songwriters (the sublime Richard Thompson springs to mind), but, as always, it's all a matter of opinion. You'll find advocates of all of these, even Heavy Soul, so I expect the general consensus is that they're all pretty good. Few of them really cut the mustard on the 'Tron front on their own (22 Dreams possibly excepted), though a compilation of the best tracks would work well. Weller still regularly tours with a Mellotron, which I heartily applaud, although I'm told that despite (allegedly) owning Steve Hackett's old Novatron, he usually hires one in. Mind you, do you blame him?

links

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