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Classic Album Selection - Style Council
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Release Info

A Legacy Re-issue

Artist:
Style Council

Album: Classic Album Selection
Release Date: july 15th 2013
Label: Universal Music

Band members:

Paul Weller
Mick Talbot
Dee C. Lee
Steve White

Format: CD Boxset and selected tracks in MP3 via other titles

Background

The Style Council was formed in 1983 by Paul Weller following the break up of The Jam, and keyboardist Mick Talbot, previously of Dexys Midnight Runners. The line-up also include drummer Steve White and Weller's then-wife, vocalist Dee C. Lee. They released 6 albums and had 19 hit singles before disbanding in 1989.

Biography

Tired of the constraints of the Jam, Paul Weller shocked fans and the wider media world and broke up the most popular British band of the early '80s at the height of their success in 1982.  Frustrated by The Jam’s musical direction, he wanted to explore more soulful, jazz and R’n’B paths in his music. He formed a new band with keyboardist Mick Talbot and created a loose collective of musicians, added according to the style of music they were intending to produce, known as Honorary Councillors. Using American musical influences filtered through a fundamental European style, which harked back to some of the early roots of Mod culture, the band created a string of classic singles and albums.

2013 marks the 30th anniversary of the formation of the band and their first hit singles. This 6-album set features all the band’s studio albums as follows:

Introducing The Style Council

  • An extraordinary eclectic intro to the band - a round up of the first few British singles and b-sides.
  • Features the Jam-styled Speak Like a Child (UK no. 4 hit), the radical departure of Long Hot Summer (UK no. 3 hit) and the hard-hitting political Brit-funk of Money-Go-Round.

Cafe Bleu 

  • The official debut album released in March 1984, reaching number 2 in the UK album chart.
  • An eclectic and ambitious album combining classic pop with jazzy/beat instrumentals and experimental theme throughout. Blue Note records were a big inspiration around this time.
  • Features top-5 hits My Ever Changing Moods and You’re The Best Thing as well as perennial favourite – Headstart For Happiness - three of Weller’s finest pop songs.

Our Favourite Shop

  • Another diverse collection for the second full-length album and an overtly political statement from Weller - lyrical targets included racism, excessive consumerism and the effects of self-serving governments!
  • No. 1 in the UK - the only Style Council album to reach that spot.
  • Features the top-ten singles – Shout To The Top and Walls Come Tumbling Down, as well as some of Weller’s best songs - Come to Milton Keynes, Boy Who Cried Wolf and Down in the Seine.  
  • “I had a total belief in The Style Council. I was obsessed in the early years. I lived and breathed it all. I meant every word, and felt every action. Our Favourite Shop was its culmination.”  Paul Weller 2006

The Cost Of Loving

  • Released in 1987, the album saw the group concentrating on a more extreme, urban-soul style, influenced by soul music pioneer Curtis Mayfield and by the contemporary House music scene of the time, including the Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis sound.
  • Includes top-ten hit It Didn’t Matter.
  • Tracks from the album were included in the band’s surreal film Jerusalem.  

Confessions Of A Pop Group                

  • Probably the band’s most experimental and divisive album, with hints of Beach Boys, classical music (Weller was listening Debussy and Satie, amongst others around this time) and jazz influences.
  • Songs such as the nine-minute title track and the ‘Three Piece Suite’ of The Gardener of Eden, an avant-garde mix of classical and jazz stylings, were new territory for The Style Council, and an even more radical departure from the sound of The Jam.
  • Straight pop-oriented songs exist though – the hit single Life at a Top People's Health Farm, How She Threw It All Away and Why I Went Missing are regarded as lost Weller classics.

Modernism: A New Decade

  • Motivated by the underground club scene Weller chose another new direction for the last album – his take on the UK deep-house or garage scene.
  • Featuring the gospel-tinged Promised Land - the band's final single, Sure Is Sure, which went on to become a big bootleg dance hit throughout Europe and the instrumental - That Spiritual Feeling - one of the key cuts of the then-new acid jazz scene.
  • However upon its completion in 1989, it was rejected by the label Polydor, which led to the band breaking up. It was eventually released in 1998 on the box set, The Complete Adventures of The Style Council.
Review

July 2013. By Alan Neilson for http://gettothefront.co.uk

Legend has it that in mid 1982 Paul Weller gave Mick Talbot a boxful of singles, including songs from classic record labels such as Motown, Immediate and Blue Note, with an understanding that The Jam were no more and his new venture would incorporate the sound captured on the vinyl within that box: the new venture became The Style Council.

To disband the highly successful Jam at its peak and return as a totally different product bordered on commercial suicide, but Weller’s artistic vision mattered more than record sales and his loyal Jam fans.

Over thirty years later Universal have released a 6 CD boxset of all The Style Council’s original albums, including the final one that was not deemed worthy by Polydor when it was first produced.

The Style Council’s first release was the excellent ‘Speak Like A Child’ and it was not a million miles away from some of The Jam’s later more soulful offerings. It certainly felt like an easy transition from one band to another, especially with the follow up ‘A Solid Bond In Your Heart’. However, the next single ‘Long Hot Summer’ would split Weller fans, with its homo-erotic video and musical vibe a million miles from ‘All Mod Cons’. Here was Weller, once a serious young man, now singing about love and weather, floating down a river caressing a man’s ear lobes: this may be the modern world, but this is worse than Dylan going electric… some would say. I would say, it is pop genius. For me, this is Weller at his best – no more the angry young man, now he is showing he has a sense of humour. This song, and the others that appear on the first disc of this collection (‘Introducing..’), happen to be some of The Style Council’s most interesting and consistent work.

Listening to the other five albums almost sounds like the work of five different artists. I still can’t decide whether this is good or bad. There is no doubt that when Weller’s songwriting is good, it is brilliant, but there are many moments on the 63 tracks when you are listening for something other than the band’s desire to continuous grow and develop. A big question mark hangs over my head when Weller dips into house music.. believe me it is not because I think artists should stick to their own genre, but only if the music is good enough to stand up against songs from the same genre. Too often I can picture a teacher in a classroom ‘rapping’ to the ‘kids’ in an attempt to appear ‘with it’.

There is an underlying arrogance with Weller, I feel. He almost tries to do what Prince did in Minneapolis; wanting to be an orchestrator and director of all under his wing, including artists signed to his Respond Records; wanting to be a genre-splitting, forever changing artist; desiring to be the one who brings jazz, or house, or classical music to the masses with his own version of these contrasting genres. But the main problem for me, is that it just doesn’t always work and maybe that is because it is Weller, and subconsciously one listens to this with that always in mind… because you always want it to be better.

It is too easy to look at these 6 Style Council albums and say the first three are essential: even Paul Weller’s own website, in The Style Council page, kind of skips the last three albums and condenses them into a couple of paragraphs, whereas the first three are given maximum coverage. However, if you listen and pretend this is just an album.. music that has no connection to Weller at all.. you will find that it is much more enjoyable – even ‘Modernism’, the final disc – the one that no one likes.

There are some essential tracks missing though. Songs that were singles or B-sides (for example ‘A Solid Bond In Your Heart’ and the single, band version of ‘My Ever Changing Moods’). And you can’t help but wonder why these were not included on a 7th disc, as it is a 30th anniversary celebration. Curious. Even so, if you are new to Weller or The Style Council, this is a great place to start you off.

The output from these six albums is an example of variety over cohesion. I sometimes feel that someone should have advised Weller to stick to what he does best, rather than dabbling in genres in which he has no particular insight. It seems to me that his experimentation, although admirable, was really fit for his own ears. Saying that though, Weller’s best, is better than almost anyone’s and despite this releases lack of extras, it really is a treat. And whether you like their ever changing mood, this council always tries to do it with the utmost style. For first time listeners, it is a great place to start, but make sure you pick up the missing pieces from The Style Council’s back catalogue.





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