Is it just me or is there a sign amongst the "Sound Effects" style sleeves notes and the carefully chosen tracks, that with "Days of Speed" someone, somewhere has at last woken up and smelt the cappuccino?!
The skies have broken on the horizon in a new 21st century era for Paul Weller. We will never know who it was that took our hero to one side and suggested that it was time to have a look over the shoulder to remember why it is there are those of us who buy tickets to see him still - or even stay up late to watch him on later with Jools.
Who knows, Paul even himself may have decided it was time to doff his hat to a back catalogue stretching back almost quarter of a century. With "Speed" there is still inventiveness and style. For me its is a better live listen than "Live wood", "Home and Abroad" and even, in places, "Dig The New Breed".
Lets take the Jam tracks which appear - and have been so welcome this year on a seemingly never-ending tour. "Entertainment" and "Malice" ( the two songs picked by the record company on an advance two track cd sent to the media ) are recognised as the timeless classics they are. Just a moderated reverb on his mike is enough to give "Entertainment" the resonance it so richly deserves. ( Enough to lend a title to the album as well. ) "Malice" is strutted out in an almost postmodern bluesy beat breathing a new life and soul into the number one from 1982.
Then there is "English Rose" - a masterpiece which some of us may have thought was a little too soft in the "Mod cons" years, now comes out of the dusty attic to haunt a new audience and to wake us up to just what a good songwriter Weller was at just 20.
As far as The Style Council is concerned, "Headstart" and "Seine" are fine choices and fine songs, the former always for me a better indication of where The Jam would have gone had 1982 never happened.
Amongst the rest take your pick from "You do Something", "Science" and "Clues" as the best of the rest from me. "Days of Speed" is a recognition that, sooner or later, you ignore your back catalogue at your peril....and recognise it again to the delight of many.
If you have seen the tour - or the TV appearances you may agree with me that for the first time in a while - Weller, although still edgy and nervous, is ruling a kingdom again and showing the peasants and serfs of mediocrity just where the tax of talent should be paid.
Listen to "Days and Speed" and welcome Paul home.
Peter Gordon - Oct 2001