Ranking Paul Weller

I’m not crazy enough to attempt and rank Weller’s entire back catalog, including the Jam and Style Council. This list is just the solo years. If one was to graph Wellers solo career it would resemble something like a reverse bell curve. Starting at the top of the graph, moving downward in the middle and shooting back up again to the top. Wild Wood broke him, Heavy Soul was his nadir and the recent trilogy of albums has catapulted him to heights he’s not seen since the Jam days. Like so many other solo artists (Costello, Lowe, Jackson, Parker, Collins (Edwyn, not Phil), etc) he has a frustrating and challenging discography. If you’re a Weller fan you will be for life and you’ll snatch up virtually everything he puts out. You won’t always be blown away by it, but I’m sure you’ll find something to like in each one. His new stuff is fantastic, and the thing that I like most about it is his willingness to experiment and take chances.

 So here we go, Weller’s solo albums, ranked by moi.

#10. Heavy Soul (1997): Weller’s soul and R&B tendencies run wild. The album focuses more on sound rather than songs and the record suffers for it. A few choice tracks, though.

#9. Heliocentric (2000): A little too ‘by-the-book” Weller here, but much better than Heavy Soul.

#8. As Is Now (2005): Known as the one that came before 22 dreams, this one’s been lost in the shuffle, and it’s a really good album. Blink and You’ll Miss It, Come On Let’s Go, the bouncy Here’s The Good News and the amazing From The Floorboards Up make this a very worthwhile addition.

#7. 22 Dreams (2008): I didn’t really take a shine to this one when it came out. As you can tell it kind of sits smack dab in the middle for me, although it may grow in stature over time.

#6. Illumination (2002): Love this one, especially It’s Written In The Stars, Standing Out In The Universe, Call Me #5 and Leafy Mysteries. It’s a happy-happy joy-joy type of album. I dig it!

#5. Wake Up The Nation (2010): I know a lot of folks who didn’t like this one at all. I really like it…a lot. Totally experimental, it sounds like an Eno/Weller collaboration, and that’s no bad thing.

#4. Stanley Road (1995): His third official solo release and the culmination of his Traffic fixation, which worked better than I thought was possible. Many rank this as his best; I think it’s great, but certainly not his best. Too one dimensional for that designation.

#3. Sonik Kicks (2012): Ok, maybe it’s a bit early to rank his most recent album at #3, but that’s the way I feel right now, so screw it! Building on the sonic exploration of Wake Up The Nation he crafts an exciting album that sounds like a 2012 version of The Jam. Excellent record.

#2. Wild Wood (1993): Wild Wood will always remain a favorite. I abandoned Weller during the Style Council period and didn’t come back until this album brought me back to the fold with it’s mix of rustic ballads and jazzy instrumental interludes. If you can find it, get the deluxe edition, or More Wood, which is it’s equal. Should have been a double album judging by the quality stuff he relegated to B-side status.

#1. Paul Weller (1992): Again, a controversial pick for my #1! I’m not trying to be difficult or ‘edgy’ here, I just love this one the most. It’s a laid back crazy album full of psychedelic flourishes, a little Curtis Mayfield (not a bad thing at all!), a little Traffic and even a smidgeon of Electronica thrown in for good measure (Kosmos, probably my all time favorite Paul Weller number). It’s just got a great vibe running all the way through it, and I consider it his most enjoyable listen to date. Still.

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