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I have always been a massive fan of The Jam, The Style Council and even Paul Wellers early solo albums(Paul Weller, Wild Wood and Stanley Road). After "Stanley Road" came out in 1995, I went into a Weller wilderness and I hadn't listened to any of his solo stuff for years, I just couldn't get into it. Seven years later, it was 2002, and my girlfriend at the time knew that I liked The Jam, so she decided to buy me Paul Wellers latest album "Illumination". I was unsure at first, but from the first chords of the first track I was completely blown away. We soon booked tickets for a gig at the Braehead Arena in Paisley, rubbish venue but Weller played an absolutely blinding set....My god he was back at his best!
Illumination was Wellers first studio album on the Independiente Records label and his first number 1 in the UK Album Charts since Stanley Road back in 1995. The album also spurned two singles; The first, "It's Written In the Stars" scoring his first UK top ten hit since "Peacock Suit" from 1996, and the second "Leafy Mysteries" reaching number 23.
The album opens with "Going Places", a nice acoustic number that takes you on a nice whimsical journey, Weller might have aged but his voice has matured tenfold.
This next song surprised me, as I thought the angry young Weller had gone forever, I mean, I knew he still had strong opinions on current affairs but he hadn't sung about them for years....until now. "A Bullet for Everyone" is about how governments can't help out third world countries but can provide bombs and bullets to invade countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq, as that was happening when the song was written "And they say there's no provisions, there's not enough to go round, but when it comes to the gun there's a bullet for everyone!". The track is an upbeat rocky number with plenty of feedback, in parts of the track you can hear a harmonica and the thumping bass played by Damon Minchella of Ocean Colour Scene fame. The drums played brilliantly once again by Steve White, who has been a staple of Paul Wellers rhythm section since The Style Council days carry the song through.
From the politically charged "A Bullet for Everyone", we have another whimsical track up next, in the shape of "Leafy Mysteries"; another acoustic number, with lots of imagery about drifting away in your thoughts with that special someone only to realise there is no need to drift away when you are in love as it's right in front of you.
Next up is a great experimental track, when I say experimental I mean this track is unlike anything I have heard Paul Weller do. It starts off with a horns playing, then the drum beat kicks in, along with Wellers vocal and gradually the other instruments are introduced. The song just keeps building up before going back to the way the song started for the final verse. The song doesn't have a chorus, in its place is a mini jam session and this is how the song ends also, before abruptly stopping, reminiscent of The Beatles "I Want You(She's so Heavy)" from the Abbey Road album.
Moving along we have "Who Brings Joy", which I can only assume is a song professing his love for someone or the birth of a child(I'm not quite sure, maybe I'm reading too much into it) "In your voice sweet caress, it is you who takes over, whose gentle arms i rest, you who brings joy into the world makes me swirl of such love".
"Now the Night is Here" has a celtic folky feel to it with some nice finger picking guitar work and a great melody, "Let's cast the wind that brought us here, 'til we know not when. Now the night is here, to tell us...to be in love".
Next we have a 2.28 musical interlude; "Spring (At Last)", composed by Simon Dine and Paul Weller is a little too long in my opinion, although it fits in really well with the rest of the songs on the album and gives the listener a nice break in between.
For "One X One" Weller drafted in a couple of his friends in the shape of Noel Gallagher(Oasis) - bass, drums and percussion and Gem Archer(Oasis) - acoustic guitar. The song has a haunting lyric in "don't fear not, not where you tread, fear only- the lies you're fed". A great track with a great electric guitar solo during the fade out.
Next up is a song about a homeless man; "Bag Man", with the lyric written from the point of view of the homeless man as he goes about his daily business. "You may find me in the street somewhere, I may be floatin' round the bins". This song is done with a nice finger picking style and Wellers very morose vocal.
"All Good Books" seems to be a religious song condeming the violence that goes with most religions, especially with the war on terror going on. In this song he mentions Jesus; "If Jesus could hear us now bending all his words of which he's proud" and Mohammed "If Mohammed could see us now shaking down the walls but not as prayer".
Next up is a duet with Kelly Jones(Stereophonics). "Call Me No.5" is a rocky uptempo number, that despite it being lyrically poor, it is a great track to break up the solemn mood a little.
The penultimate track on the album; "Standing Out in the Universe" is a nod to "Something in the Air" by Thunderclap Newman. It starts off quite slow, builds up into a crescendo of noise then just when you think the song is over and you hear silence, it kick starts back up again before fading out for the final time.
For the final track it's back to the nice mellow acoustic sound that has been familiar throughout the whole album with the title track "Illumination" and this concludes the album.
All songs written by Paul Weller unless otherwise stated.
1) Going Places
2) A Bullet for Everyone
3) Leafy Mysteries
4) It's Written in the Stars
5) Who Brings Joy
6) Now the Night Is Here (Simon Dine, Paul Weller)
7) Spring (At Last)
8) One X One
9) Bag Man
10) All Good Books
11) Call Me No.5 (Kelly Jones, Paul Weller)
12) Standing Out in the Universe
When I first got this album it got played to death, I loved every single track on it, the standouts being "Going Places", "Bullet for Everyone", "Leafy Mysteries...what am I talking about?? Every song on this album stood out for me in it's own special way, from the first chords to the last. This was the album that got me listening to Pauls solo stuff again and appreciating it a lot more, even the stuff I hadn't listened to for seven years. This album came with a nice cardboard picture sleeve and a lyric booklet, you can now purchase this album from amazon.co.uk for £3.62 including delivery, fantastic album for a fantastic price!
Paul Weller was the bass guitarist for the Jam, a band that was New Wave before the genre even really existed, and which grew to be hugely popular by the early 1980s.
Despite their popularity, Weller left the Jam to form The Style Council in 1983. In 1990 he went solo.
Weller's album Illumination came out in 2002 amid great critical acclaim, and ended up going to number 1.
This album is pop music but not in the throwaway, bubble gum sense. Instead it is well thought out, mature and interesting while the songs are at the same time catchy. The lyrics on this album are really beautiful and it's a great album to put on when enjoying a quiet evening at home with a loved one.
The album starts strong with the track "Going Places." After barely a few notes of intro, Weller starts singing and his warm, slightly raspy voice draws you in immediately. This song has a slightly country and western rhythm to it. It is enjoyable but isn't my favourite track.
The next track, A Bullet for Everyone, is a fairly violent song as you might guess from the title. It is a faster song than "Going Places" and is one of my least favourites on the album personally.
The third track on this album is where this disc really starts to shine in my opinion. It's called "Leafy Mysteries" and has a bit of a Simon and Garfunkel feel in places and in others is reminiscent of Creedance Clearwater Revival or Neil Young. I love the lyrics to this song - it's all about being a part of the earth and fits beautifully with the environmentalism of our age.
Next is the absolutely gorgeous song "It's Written in the Stars." This is an incredibly romantic song and I have listened to it over and over when thinking of a certain someone! It's about the timelessness of being in love but also blends with the theme of "Leafy Mysteries" about belonging to this planet and appreciating natural phenomena. Nearly at the end of the song the rhythm changes completely in a way that is reminiscent of the Beatles - one of Weller's influences.
The fourth song is "Who Brings Joy." While this is a romantic song also, it doesn't touch me the way "Written in the Stars" does, perhaps because it's a little too sappy for me, or because the rhythm is too slow for my taste.
Next is "Now the Night is Here," a beautiful and, again, romantic song with a lovely, rolling rhythm. It's a song about reconciliation with a lot of references to the natural world as well.
"Spring at Last" is a strange, almost experimental style song with many notes and instruments deliberately played off-key. The flute is haunting and there a North African influence evident on this track. This is an instrumental apart from some subtle chanting.
We're back in pop territory with "One x One". This is a melodic and charming song about shedding your chains and being free and unafraid.
"Bag Man" is a slow, serious acoustic song about homelessness, and is followed by "All Good Books" which is catchy but repetitive. Neither of these songs makes a great impression on me.
"Call Me No 5" recalls the country and western sound that came through loud and clear on the first two tracks of the album and was then really left behind until here. This is a great, rollicking track that would come into its own belted out in a smoky bar. It makes me want to pick up my guitar and sing and play along.
"Standing Out in the Universe" is another outstanding song along the same lines as "It's Written in the Stars" but this song is more about a call to social consciousness. The lines "Now it's time to open eyes and realise we all have parts to play" could have been written by an environmental activist. This song makes you think, and is beautiful to listen to as well, although perhaps a bit repetitive.
The album ends with the title track, Illumination" which is a beautiful and soft acoustic guitar song, again reminiscent of Simon and Garfunkel perhaps, or Neil Young, with a distinctly 60s or 70s feel.
In all, although I don't absolutely adore every song, I do find that this is a highly worthwhile album that creates an enjoyable and fun romantic mood when listening with someone special.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Going Places
2 Bullet For Everyone
3 Leafy Mysteries
4 It's Written In The Stars
5 Who Brings Joy
6 Now The Night Is Here
7 Spring (At Last)
8 One X One
10 All Good Books
11 Call Me No.5
12 Standing Out In The Universe