Medleyville staffers Chris M. Junior and Donald Gavron go over the latest solo album by one of British rock’s most respected musicians.
Chris M. Junior: Like most albums with a lot of songs, Paul Weller’s latest (21 tunes total) covers a lot of musical ground. And listening to the soul-based material on 22 Dreams made me wonder why modern-day R&B artists don’t record versions of Weller tunes or look to him for songwriting inspiration.
Donald Gavron: Eveyone knows who Paul McCartney is, but a lot of people aren’t familiar with Weller or The Style Council or The Jam. It’s almost as if he exists in his own time continuum. I think Weller during his career has produced some of the great songs in pop/rock/R&B history.
Junior: No argument here — although the first few songs on 22 Dreams (Yep Roc) aren’t among them. “Light Nights” is OK, with Weller in early ’70s Rod Stewart mode, and the title track is kind of a throwaway, albeit a rockin’ one. He gets into a groove with the steady “All I Wanna Do (Is Be With You),” with a bristling guitar countering his soulful vocal. “Have You Made Up Your Mind” is the first real gem on 22 Dreams.
Gavron: I thought the first song had a Cat Stevens vibe, and I have to disagree: I liked it. “All I Wanna Do” is vintage Weller, though. On the haunting “Invisible,” he shows us what he can do with just a few chords on a piano and his voice. 22 Dreams, on the whole, is an ambitious affair, and there are some gems here as well as some downers. I can imagine songs like “Cold Moments” and “Why Walk When You Can Run” sounding great live (as they do on the album), but I don’t think anyone will be waiting to hear “Sea Spray” in concert. Weller’s vocals are also a little scratchy in spots, but why quibble? 22 Dreams is like a warm, comforting breeze on a starry night.
Junior: I second your thoughts on “Invisible,” and add “Push It Along” to the list of new tunes that ought to sound great in concert. And on the subject of his voice — sure, it’s a little rough, but I think that adds so much character to his songs. The instrumentals “Song for Alice” and “Lullaby for Kinder” make for a nice change of pace.
Gavron: On 22 Dreams, which clocks in at more than 68 minutes in length, Weller did a nice job covering a lot of different styles and genres, as he always does. The liner notes (“The Missing Dream”) are also a very funny read, and reminiscent of his “Cappuccino Kid” liner notes from the Style Council boxed set. Kudos must also go out to two of Weller’s longtime collaborators: Simon Dine (guitar, percussion, mandolin) and Steve Cradock (guitar, piano, percussion), both of whom also co-produced.
Junior: In a recent Spin interview, Weller said he considered going the duets or covers route for his new album — thankfully, he didn’t. 22 Dreams may be a bit long and may not win him many new fans, but it sits nicely alongside his other solo albums.
Gavron: I tend to agree. This album isn’t equal to Heavy Soul or Stanley Road, but not many are. Paul Weller is still a considerable force to be reckoned with in the music world. I’d like to hear the covers album one day, but as long as he’s putting out discs Like 22 Dreams, I’ll be satisfied.