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Paul Weller
STUDIO 150
(V2)

No matter how much you loved the Jam or what reservations you have about Paul Wellerís current retro-soul direction, itís obvious that Weller is a far better singer now than he was in Jam days. Once a gruff barker, heís learned so much about nuance and feeling that heís become one of the great British soul men. In terms of material, his first all-covers album offers exactly what youíd expect: half vintage soul nuggets and half singer-songwriter standards, with only one song (a good one by Oasisís Noel Gallagher) written since the mid Ď70s.

Studio 150 is a casual, live-in-studio affair, and thatís both the albumís strength and its main drawback. Wellerís in great voice, and thereís a warmth and friendliness to his delivery that hasnít always come across in his recordings of original material. The soul tunes are predictably fine, even when he hangs a chugging groove and an acoustic guitar on Gil Scott-Heronís "The Bottle" ó an odd arrangement, but it works. Allen Toussaintís "Hercules" is kept true to the original, but thatís fine: originally sung by a pre-comeback Aaron Neville, itís one of the toughest songs ever to come out of New Orleans. Weller sings just as well on the non-soul tunes, but the arrangements let him down: his "Close to You" is just eccentric enough to work (sounds like Chicago instead of the Carpenters), but a clumsy horn chart crowds his vocal on Tim Hardinís "Donít Make Promises," and he doesnít bring anything new to "All Along the Watchtower," Bob Dylanís most over-covered song.

BY BRETT MILANO


Issue Date: October 1 - 7, 2004
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