...Paul Weller is as keen on re-invention as that other 80s icon Madonna and this...
Julie Cullen 2003
Paul Weller is as keen on re-invention as that other 80s icon Madonna - fortunately without the religious imagery and pointy bras - and this latest album is testimony to his determination to follow his own path.
Fans at an in-store album launch this week were unanimously supportive of Studio 150. A BBC 6 Music vox-pop found a wide cross-section who said Weller had introduced them to artists they'd never have otherwise discovered: "I'd never heard of Neil Young until Weller first played his version of "Ohio" in 1993" said one fan. Others said they admired him for avoiding the obvious, saying they thought he was pretty brave to record a version of Gil Scott Heron's "The Bottle".
When rumours first circulated that the Modfather was releasing his version of Rose Royce's "Wishing on a Star"as well as Sister Sledge's"Thinking of You",eyebrows were raised. But true Weller fans won't be fazed by this dalliance with disco.
The Style Council's cover of Joe Smooth's "Promised Land" heralded the advent of Weller's fascination with house music and as a true modernist he's always chosen breaking down musical barriers over reiterating a successful formula - witness his announcement that in October '82 that The Jam was no more whilst at the height of its popularity.
At the time he said he was frustrated with the trio's sound - coming as it did on the heels of the number two hit "The Bitterest Pill", and preceding their final single, "Beat Surrender" entering the charts at number one - it's been clear since the start that commercialism was never a factor in the workings of Weller's mind.
And so to Studio 150, named after the venue in Amsterdam where this collection was recorded. Opening with northern soul stomper "If I Could Only Be Sure", this promises not to be too much of a departure with a heavy Gibson riff underpinning Weller's gruff vocals.
Again, with his version of Aaron Neville's "Hercules" which fizzes along on a funky bassline,his B&H tinged vocal is a sharp counterpoint to the sweetness of the original. "Wishing on a Star" is "Broken Stones" for 2004, and Weller's voice is poignant on "Black Is the Colour" with Eliza Carthy.
Established fans of Weller will appreciate this opportunity to hear the Modfather take these classic songs and make them his own - but unfortunately, I doubt Studio 150 will bring him any new converts.