In a career synonymous with the beginning of punk, the Mod revival, British folklore and world-class musicianship, Woking, Surrey’s very own Paul Weller exceeds everything presented on the table. For a man who began his career at the age of seventeen, as the guitarist and primary songwriter with the mega-influential British trio, The Jam, up until the present day with his solo works, the fifty year old musician certainly looks back at his achievements with the release of 22 Dreams. If the saying does hold up, as it gets harder each day as the next day passes, Paul Weller is truly is one of those musicians who is in a class by himself, and much like the saying goes…they don’t make them like this anymore.
With the release of his ninth solo album, 22 Dreams, Weller brings all of his musical legacies together in one mixed bag of great, raw material. Influences runneth over the cup from British folk, pub rock, alternative, nightclub jazz and straight up maximum R&B, just like in the old days. Weller’s voice has matured greatly as well. Compared to his younger, youth-filled days with The Jam, Weller’s voice in the present day feels much like the old, wise man of the world with a soothing, yet bittersweet tinge added to it. Weller to say the least sounds great for his age and his impeccable work ethic certainly has not slowed down a bit.
From the get go, the album opens with the acoustic ballad “Light Nights.” Weller’s musicianship here creates a progressive, dirgelike atmosphere complete with a haunting string section and excellent guitar work thanks to Ocean Colour Scene guitarist Steve Cradock. It is certain from the get go that Weller has achieved much in his musical world and this only fuels more of his creative genius. The roaring pub rock “22 Dreams” follows next with a swinging party vibe that brings back the spirit of London, 1974. Images of post-60’s twist dancers and the souls of old pub rock bands, Dr. Feelgood and The 101ers certainly make their presence felt here. Weller wails his guitar with direct precision and proves he still is the Modfather amongst his British contemporaries.
The next batch of mixed tunes, “All I Wanna Do (Is Be With You), the catchy and smashing “Have You Made Up Your Mind,” the jazzy dreamscape of “Empty Ring” and the soulful piano ballad “Invisible” certainly showcases Weller at some of his best songwriting musicianship since The Jam. Each tune has a different flavor, much like a bag of Swedish fish, but they’re all great in their own way. One of the album’s highlights, the nightclub jazzy “Song For Alice” showcases why Cradock is a great sideman for Weller with jazzy, smoke filled images of London nightlife amidst a foggy evening on top of some great piano arrangements.
Weller certainly goes all out on the rest of the album with a array of piano infringed tunes (“The Dark Pages Of September Lead To The New Leaves”, “Black River”), acoustic storied folklore (“Why Walk When You Can Run,” “Where’er Ye Go”) and the ultimate swinging pub rock bonanza (“Push It Along,” “A Dream Reprise,” and “Echoes Round The Sun”). Just like a Chinese buffet, Weller throws in a little bit of something for everyone to enjoy and indulge.
As mentioned before, for the fifty year old working class Woking, Surrey native, Paul Weller has outdone himself and given this summer one of the best albums by far. Whether you’re strolling down a country road, whistling through the high grass, driving in the city or meeting friends at the pub, 22 Dreams is the perfect soundtrack for these last summer days and a watershed work of music for anticipating the autumn season. They don’t make them like this anymore, so definitely enjoy this slice of British heaven while you can.