Last fall, Paul Weller released As Is Now, his best studio recording since 1997s Heavy Soul. He sounded as young and tough as he did with the Jam on "Blink and Youll Miss It," while "Bring Back the Funk" echoed the smooth soul and jazz of the Style Council. Catch-Flame! captures Weller live with his band at Londons Alexandra Palace, and hes in fighting form. The two-disc set, which retails for the price of a single, pulls in songs from throughout his career, but the emphasis is on his solo work. There is nothing from his first disc, 1992s Paul Weller, or Heliocentric (2000), but his other five discs are well represented.
The two Style Council tunes, "Long Hot Summer," and "Shout to the Top," demonstrate the versatility of Wellers band, but the electronic keyboards arent an adequate substitute for the horns or strings on the original studio recordings. On the rock'n'roll tunes, including songs originally done by the Jam, the band is on firmer ground. The electric guitars on Catch-Flame! are loud and biting, and Weller sings with the powerful conviction of a guy who still believes rock'n'roll can move people. Guitarist Steve Craddock, who has played with Weller since Live Wood (Wellers first full-band live disc, unavailable in the US), trades riffs with him throughout the disc, and both guitarists manage to avoid the obvious.
The recording is a little muddy and Wellers great drummer, Steve White, is too far back in the mix. But Catch-Flame! proves Paul Weller is a confident musician who is still in the game.
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