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Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Revisiting Stanley Road - Paul Weller (1995)

Stanley Road - Paul Weller
Go! Discs
Produced by Brendan Lynch
Released 7th June 1995
UK Chart #1

The album was also released in a Limited Edition Box Set of 6 x 7" Vinyl Singles. I'm not exactly certain how Limited it was as I can't find that information anywhere.
 Record One (850 072-7)
A Porcelain Gods (Parts 1 & 2)     6:24
B Woodcutter's Son     4:42

    Record Two (850 074-7)
C You Do Something To Me     3:37
D I Walk On Guilded Splinters     4:46

    Record Three (850 076-7)
E The Changingman     4:01
F Out Of The Sinking     3:49

    Record Four (850 078-7)
G Stanley Road     4:22
H Pink On White Walls     2:36

    Record Five (850 080-7)
I Time Passes...     3:51
J Broken Stones     3:20

    Record Six (850 082-7)
K Whirlpools' End     7:08
L Wings Of Speed     3:12

Singles On Stanley Road
Released 24th October 1994
UK Chart #20

A-Side plays at 45RPM, B-Side at
33 ⅓ RPM

Released 24th April 1995
UK Chart #7

Released 10th July 1995
UK Chart #9

Released by arrangement with BBC Worldwide Ltd. Taken live from Radio One's The Evening Session transmitted May 1995.

A-Side: Broken Stones
B-Side: Steam
Released 18th September 1995
UK Chart #20

A-Side: Out Of The Sinking (LP Version) / I Shall Be Released
 Released 26th February 1996
UK Chart #16

Limited Edition 7" only available for one week. 

** Recorded October 1st 1995 at K.R.O Radio 3 "Leidsekade Live!".

It was also released on CD, but again was a Limited Edition for just one week.

Paul Weller's third Solo studio album, Stanley Road, was released on this day in 1995. Personally speaking I think it is still one of the best albums of his very long career that has seen some interesting diversions (fashion-wise, haircut-wise and music-wise) at times.

The artwork for the album was by Peter Blake who had created the iconic Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover.

Weller was asked whether Stanley Road was a Concept Album, his reply was straight and to the point, "It's just 12 songs!" But what an interesting bunch of songs they were. Some were very personal like The Changingman that kicks off the whole album (and in one sense an overriding theme of the album is Change). The song expresses Weller's mantra of breaking things up if they are getting too comfortable; the previous year, he had divorced his wife, Dee C. Lee, breaking up what appeared to the public to be a happy marriage. In an interview with Mojo in 2010, he expressed that this was because there were senses "that things were going too well, we were too happy, too comfortable, everything seemed too nice [and] that for me as a writer and an artist I might lose my edge. I had to break the shape up, re-arrange things". Dr Robert of The Blow Monkeys plays Bass and provides backing vocals as he does on the next song.

"Is happiness real or am I so jaded?
Can't see or feel like a man been tainted
Numbed by the effect, aware of the muse
Too in touch with myself, I light the fuse"

Porcelain Gods gets stuck into the whole issue of the destructive power of fame and not trusting pop stars or priests and the disappointment of realising that someone you had put up on a pedastal was "Just a porcelain god , that shatters when it falls".

I Walk On Gilded Splinters is the only song on the album that Weller didn't write and it's a barnstorming version of the classic Dr John song that was originally released in 1968. Noel Gallagher plays acoustic guitar on the track, though his contribution is pretty much well hidden among the blistering guitar sound.

You Do Something To Me was another Top Ten single and is one of the most beautiful songs on the album and again captures something of the urgency for personal change:

"Hanging on the wire, yeah
I'm waiting for the change
I'm dancing through the fire
Just to catch a flame
An' feel real again"

Woodcutter's Son is one of my favourites on the album and despite the fact that it was a song that was inspired from reading a bedtime story to his kids it's a powerful insight into Weller's own psyche, "chopping down the wood for the good of everyone" in almost a crazed fashion. Steve Winwood adds a fine performance on keyboards (Piano, Hammond Organ and Wurlitzer).

Time Passes is a wonderful, almost ballad-like song speaking of meeting an ex-love. The song is so picturesque:

"I saw you today, or at least I think it was
It's hard to say, we've all changed so much,
Compelled to look, but I hid my face
It's hard to trace, these feelings
Gone so soon, the time I spent with you
And like an old, old tune-keeps running through my head-
I wanted to say, so many things
But my mouth went dry, and one word and I'd cry". 

Stanley Road - just happens to be the street in Woking that Paul Weller grew up on so you expect it to be a little personal:

"And in my mind I saw the place
As each memory returned to trace
Dear reminders of who I am
The very roots upon which I stand

And there they were for all to see
My long, lost, used to be's
And all the dreams I had to dream
Were really something, not make believe" 

Broken Stones - Weller reconnects with his old sparring partner from his days in The Style Council, Mick Talbot (he also plays on the album closer Wings of Speed). Should have been a bigger hit I reckon (it only reached #20 on the UK Chart).

Out Of The Sinking - was first released in 1994 and re-recorded for the album. It's another of Weller's underrated songs I think.

"Far from the madness - out of the sadness
Into sunlight - out of the sinking
You know I feel it
I know you it too
Across the water, there's a boat that will take us away
And there we will stay" 

Pink On White Walls - Probably my least favourite on the album, it's not really bad but I just never really found myself quite believing in the "philosophy" that Weller gives creedence to in the song:

"There's no sign, there's no plan
There ain't even a helping hand
Just the bitter tang of sweet virtue

Don't waste your time
Don't hesitate
Life is but a moment - you can't wait
Go and have your fun
Go and lose your mind"

Whirlpool's End - listening to this again today I was quite struck by how relevant the lyrics are for the world we are living in today:

"The sun came out and hung above
Over our heads but far enough to see
A bomb exploding in another town
Children choking on a poison cloud
While on the streets, where lovers once walked
Side by side in idle talk
Bullets fall like unholy rain
People change as the panic sets in
A frightened baby by her dead mother's side
In a brutal world where there's nowhere to run, hide or cry

Now nothing feels the same way
Feel like it's changing again
Upon a street with no name
It's hard to find it again"

Wings Of Speed -  what a way to close an album that has been dominated by the noise of guitars and drums - a simple piano/organ part (played by Mick Talbot), the sound of a cello played by Joy Hawley and an almost gospel-like vocal from Carleen Anderson and lead vocal by Weller that to my mind is one of his finest ever!

What a contrast as well from the start of the album where Weller almost lays down a manifesto for personal confusion:

 "Is happiness real?
Or am I so jaded
I can't see or feel, like a man been tainted
Numbed by the effect, aware of the muse
Too in touch with myself, I light the fuse

I'm the changingman, built on shifting sands
I'm the changingman, waiting for the bang
As I light a bitter fuse"

and seems to end with a sense of clarity:

 "Now as the light is falling
One candle left to light the way,
Sailing home to the morning
She comes to me calling,

To brighten up my darkest day,
and the world fades away...
With her smile

Fly on wings of speed
That will bring you home to me
I'll never be free - from the darkness I see
As I wait for your smile"

The album was his first Solo  #1 album and rightly deserved as well as it was a magnificent follow-up to Wild Wood which had stalled at #2.  Weller said of the album that "It was the most complete thing I've ever done" (Uncut 1998). He also said in the same interview, "I was totally surprised at the success of Stanley Road because I thought it was quite dark. I remember playing the demo to friends and they were saying, Take It Off!" 

Stanley Road - Live 

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