The Weller camp have been busy this year having already released two albums, completed tours of the UK, Europe (twice), and starred in various sessions and interviews on radio and TV. The band are currently on a month-long North American tour before they head East in January to visit Japan and Australia for two consecutive nights at the Sydney Opera House. Then comes their February and March UK arena tour which finishes at London’s O2 Arena. Here’s a round-up of some of the projects Paul Weller’s band have been up to recently away from the band, plus some other juicy morsels of Weller information…
Weller wise, the Modfather will finish the year having released three vinyl singles. Two have been culled from A Kind Revolution. The first of which was a 7” version of Woo See Mama, many people’s natural choice for a single. It shot to #1 in the UK vinyl singles chart on release, backed with a cover of Eddie Floyd’s I’ve Never Found a Girl (To Love Me Like You Do), which received a live runout on BBC Radio 2 on the morning of A Kind Revolution’s release. Now in its sixth week in the vinyl charts, Woo See Mama is still as high as #12.
Next came the standalone Mother Ethiopia, recorded in three parts with several friends including Stone Foundation and released on 12” with a very appealing sleeve design. The physical release came last week, and equalled the success of Woo See Mama by entering at the summit of the UK vinyl singles chart. Calling heavily on African influences, it’s Weller as you’ve never heard him before. I chose it as one of Venue Magazine’s most important singles of the summer (below).
The vinyl trilogy will be completed in November by a 12” remix EP of One Tear, the funky A Kind Revolution album track featuring Boy George. Like Mother Ethiopia, the tracks were released to stream and download before the vinyl release and are out now in electronic form. Will November’s release make 3/3 vinyl #1s for Weller in 2017?
Weller and band appeared on Jools Holland’s 25th Anniversary celebration live from the Royal Albert Hall alongside the likes of Gregory Porter, Foo Fighters, Van Morrison and Songhoy Blues. The band set up like their live acoustic encore, with Ben Gordelier and Tom van Heel at their usual positions and Andy Crofts, Weller, Steve Pilgrim and Steve Cradock sitting on stools. They played three laid back numbers: Wild Wood, Out of the Sinking and recent release The Cranes are Back.
On the subject of TV, in the States Weller recently performed Woo See Mama as the musical guest on Stephen Colbert’s Late Show.
Weller is also featuring on Stone Foundation’s upcoming live album Live Rituals, out next week, and of course we can’t not mention this year’s obligatory Jam reissue, more later.
As a side note, congratulations are in order for Paul and Hannah Weller, who announced the birth of Paul’s eighth child (and their third together) Nova, in July.
There isn’t that much to report on the Steve Cradock front. Steve has been touring with The Specials and Ocean Colour Scene and has kept up his DJing in 2017. News is thin on the ground regarding a potential fourth solo album. If it’s to be anywhere near as good as his previous three, it’ll be worth waiting for. While Cradock is in the States with Weller, his solo band, including former Gramotone and Cupid Jake Fletcher on guitar and backing vocals, are on tour backing soul legend PP Arnold on her 50th Anniversary UK jaunt (plus a trip to Santiago too). Fletcher has also made his live debut with The Specials this year. Cradock has hinted at a possible new Ocean Colour Scene album some time in the not-too-distant future after the band’s live Record Store Day picture disc release recorded at the SSE Hydro charted in the UK.
Andy Crofts has taken receipt of a new sky blue Hofner bass (above and top) which he used on the second leg of the European tour. He also, one assumes, took advantage of EU limits to data roaming charges to Instagram live-stream a few hours of behind-the-scenes action on various European dates. Whilst this yielded some hilarious tour bus banter with the younger band members, a scorching soundcheck version of Above The Clouds, and a genuinely insightful look at the immediate run-up and stage entrance to an Austrian gig, the real gems were the off-guard moments. Weller’s wickedly dry sense of humour among friends was revealed, as was the flavour of Cradock’s vaping liquid and the band’s from-the-bottle alcohol preferences. Crofts’ philanthropy even extended to letting those unfortunate fans who had never experienced being given the cold shoulder by Mark or observed Bill’s hilarious indifference to seemingly everything have the chance to witness just that.
Andy has long been a supporter of streaming technology, as all of us who enjoyed his acoustic set on Periscope a few years back will attest to. We hope for more of the same soon.
Of the Weller band, newly married Ben Gordelier perhaps has the most to be proud of in terms of new music. He married and honeymooned long-term girlfriend Nicki Donohoe earlier this year. Warm congratulations to them both. However, wedding preparations didn’t stop Gordelier (Mr) from contributing drums to Spinning Out, the final track of The Charlatans’ critically acclaimed Different Days, a song also featuring Weller, before tying the knot. Gordelier also provides drums and percussion on most tracks of former Jam man Steve Brookes’ latest album Hoodoo Zoo. The album, and Brookes’ profile as a current musician, has also been bolstered by a couple of Weller guest appearances. Voodoo Zoo, which was recorded at Weller’s Black Barn Studios, also features the production talents of house producer and long-term Weller compadre Charles Rees.
We await a new Moons album from Crofts, Gordelier and co., but the band did release new tune Fly b/w a cover of The Go’s Invisible Friends on beautiful marbled 7” vinyl for Record Store Day on Schnitzel, a nice aesthetic companion to their Live at Bush Hall collection.
Former Moon Tom van Heel’s band Monroze (Van Heel and Jack Moody) have released their eponymous debut LP. Lead single Bathed In Colours is the highlight of the eclectic nine-track set, available on streaming services and Amazon.
Last but by absolutely no means least of the current band, Steve Pilgrim released his latest solo album Morning Skies, earlier in the year. Pilgrim has played a few dates in support of the album which features double bass legend Danny Thompson, and has received rave reviews for his rawest, earthiest solo sound yet. The lyrics are up there with his best (think Explode the Sun). He also sang a verse of perennial classic Wild Wood with Weller at the Royal Albert Hall. In perhaps the year’s most tenuous Weller link to date, Cast’s Kicking Up the Dust was released in Spring after a few delays to their Pledge Music campaign. Although not directly featuring Weller’s Drummer, Pilgrim is thanked in the liner notes for his involvement in one of the album’s early demos for the sublime Baby Blue Eyes, worth the price of the album alone with single Do That to boot.
Weller’s former bassist Andy Lewis hasn’t let his famous workrate drop since leaving the band. He has released an excellent album, Summer Dancing, with Judy Dyble on Acid Jazz, has kept up his DJing commitments and played for Spearmint, with another show to follow in November, their “final gig for the next couple of years” with a setlist chosen by a fan vote. As yet there is no word on the future of The Songbook Collective or whether Lewis (or new Weller band recruit van Heel) would be involved or not in any future recording or touring.
Social media has been abuzz on the American tour, with some of the Modfather’s longest-suffering fans being given the chance to see and meet their hero for the first time in a couple of years. Plenty of brilliant pictures of setlists and Weller with fans in various locations have been flooding onto Twitter and Facebook. There don’t seem to have been many changes at all to sets from the second leg of the European tour.
From The Jam (above, the keyboard player looks vaguely familiar…), are accepting preorders for a live album featuring, er, a very small selection of The Jam’s best-known 35-year-old songs performed almost as authentically as they were on Live Jam, Dig the New Breed and more bootlegs than you can shake an English re-press of Just Who Is the Five O’clock Hero at.
Just what we’ve always needed.
If you prefer the real thing, and don’t want to leave a penny in inheritance for the tax man, Polydor have your back. Jam retrospective 1977 is released later this month and features four CDs and a DVD, an impressive-sounding colour book, reprinted memorabilia and postcards. Only three of the discs are of any interest (the other two being the first two studio albums) but the remainder contain some gems like six unreleased demos from In the City (the album, not the song, thankfully) and an unreleased Nashville concert, plus the John Peel sessions and footage of TV appearances on the DVD. In fairness, the £40 price tag isn’t actually that bad for 2CDs and a DVD with a decent amount of unreleased stuff, plus the book, memorabilia and new liner notes.
In other reissue news, The Style Council’s six LPs (including the Introducing debut Mini-LP) were released on coloured vinyl in three waves this year. Several hit the UK vinyl LP charts.
For a final update, it was recently announced that The Strypes, band of recent Weller collaborator and Steve Cradock heir apparent Josh McClorey, would be supporting them for this tour – they have a tough act to follow after Pictures in Germany and Lucy Rose in North America.
If you’re seeing Weller and band over the next six months, you’ve got a treat coming!