Although he hasn't made much of a splash on this side of the pond, Paul Weller's British career marks him as one of the most successful artists to emerge from the punk/new-wave scene. This CD sampler culls 23 tunes from the 4-CD, 67-track Hit Parade
retrospective box and while it's easy to quibble about a track selection that excludes a few seminal hits, it's still a solid introduction to an artist who should be better known in the U.S. Many Americans dismissed Weller's first band, the Jam, as a pale imitation of the Who. And while both bands used American R&B as a template, Weller's songwriting was always unique, with a distinct vision of Britain's youth culture. The Jam's blazing energy and social consciousness, represented here by "Going Underground" and "The Eton Rifles," is still impressive 25 years later. In 1983 Weller created the Style Council to showcase the melodic, soulful side of his songwriting and arranging. This band's sound was polished and radio-friendly, with tunes such as "Speak Like a Child" and "Walls Come Tumbling Down" dominated by Mick Talbot's commanding keyboard work and Weller's gritty horn arrangements. And since the early '90s, Weller has been a solo artist, making music that combines all of his interests: pop, soul, jazz, folk, R&B, Motown and rock. Highlights include the swampy soul of "Peacock Suit," "Sunflower" (a Beatlesesque tale of aching nostalgia) and "Broken Stones," which combines a sunny '70s California folk-rock vibe with disconsolate lyrics full of loss and longing.