Paul Weller

Studio 150 (V2)

Free of lyrical worries, Paul Weller spent five relaxing weeks in Amsterdam, turning a dozen of his favorite songs into a curiously appealing all-covers album. By reinterpreting everything from an anonymously penned Scottish traditional tune ("Black Is the Colour") to a sugary Top-40 hit that could still rot teeth from fifty paces (Burt Bacharach's "Close to You"), Weller demonstrates incredible range. In his folksier moments, the former mod heavyweight tackles Bob Dylan ("All Along the Watchtower"), Neil Young ("Birds") and even Gordon Lightfoot ("Early Morning Rain"). But it's when he transforms himself into a soul balladeer that Weller shines the brightest -- breathing new life into tracks by Gil Scott-Heron ("The Bottle"), Sister Sledge ("Thinking Of You") and the album standout: an ecstatic, Sting-laden take on Rose Royce ("Wishing On a Star"). With a gravelly voice reminiscent of Joe Cocker (who along with Mark Kozelek never met a cover he didn't like), Weller manages to avoid turning his project into a scrapbook of personal indulgence and instead churns out a true gem.
 
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