Although he hasn't made much of a splash on this side of the pond, Paul Weller's British career marks him as one of the most successful artists to emerge from the punk/new-wave scene. This CD sampler culls 23 tunes from the four-CD, 67-track Hit Parade retrospective box, and although it's easy to quibble about a track selection that excludes a few seminal hits, it's still a solid introduction to an artist who should be better-known in the U.S. Many Americans dismissed Weller's first band, the Jam, as a pale imitation of the Who. Both groups used American R&B as a template, but Weller's songwriting was always unique, with a distinct vision of Britain's youth culture. The Jam's blazing energy and social consciousness, represented here by "Going Underground" and "The Eaton Rifles," is still impressive 25 years later. In 1982, Weller created the Style Council to showcase the melodic, soulful side of his songwriting and arranging. That act's sound was polished and radio-friendly, with tunes like "Speak Like a Child" and "Walls Come Tumbling Down," dominated by Mick Talbot's commanding keyboard work and Weller's gritty horn arrangements. Since the early '90s, Weller has been a solo artist, making music that combines all his interests pop, soul, jazz, folk, R&B, Motown, and rock. Highlights include the swampy soul of "Peacock Suit"; "Sunflower," a Beatlesesque tale of aching nostalgia; and "Broken Stones," which combines a sunny '70s California folk rock vibe with a disconsolate lyric full of loss and longing.
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