Paul Weller has had one hell of a career- one that’s still going strong by the sound of current single Wild Blue Yonder. Rarely has someone had such success in three different guises, and this collection aims to celebrate that by covering the best of The Jam, The Style Council and the solo years for the first time. A tall order indeed.
There’s bound to be some notable exclusions, but Hit Parade does an admirable job of telling The Modfather’s story. In these day of cut-price back catalogues and downloading, it’s debatable whether his career really needs to be condensed in this manner, when a Jam compilation of this length is an essential purchase on its own.
Weller gigs of recent years have embraced his past, though, dipping into both his punk and eighties heritage, so this could be seen to act as a tidy companion to that, and a symbol of a man happy to bask in his achievements while also looking to the future.
10 tracks come from the past 15 years, with the rest split equally between The Jam and Style Council eras, which will no doubt upset a few. The obvious punk mega-hits are here, and the rest is easily discoverable for anyone uneducated in the raw power of the young Paul Weller, but putting those classics on an equal footing with his more questionable dalliance with soul is a bold choice to say the least.
The Style Council stuff does sound horribly dated at times, but at their best (Shout To The Top, Walls Come Tumbling Down), they dealt in glorious power-pop that no amount of ’80s production schmaltz could spoil. There is a tad too much of it here, but perhaps a slight re-appraisal is in order, as material from what is roundly viewed as a mid-career slump sits comfortably next to the like of That’s Entertainment and The Changingman.
The non-chronological order, often used needlessly on compilations of this ilk, helps massively to make sense of the three chapters of his career, and ensures there are no genre-clashes or jarring progressions from one era to the next. Links become apparent between the beautiful, stripped down Broken Stones and the Style Council’s coffee table soul-lite sound, or the visceral groove of From The Floorboards Up and The Eton Rifles’ burning ball of class fury.
Aa a whole, it’s a quite breathtaking listen. Classic follows classic with remarkable ease, confirming what anyone with any sense knew already- that Weller is a bona fide national treasure and a truly great songwriter.
The four CD box set released at the same time is a better bet for anyone wanting to get the full story, as this collection omits more quality than most artists have based their entire careers on. If you want the basics on one nice little disc, however, then this is for you.