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At the BBC (4 Vol. Set BBC Version)

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Album Review

Not counting whatever live Jam or Style Council albums there may be — and there are many — there are two official live albums in Paul Weller's solo catalog, not counting the bonus live disc on the 1998 hits collection Modern Classics, the live DVDs, or the host of live tracks that have shown up on B-sides and compilations over the years. All of this begs the question whether there is a great need for the four-disc box set At the BBC — especially as it follows another four-disc box set, the career-spanning Hit Parade by roughly a year — but for hardcore fans (and there are many), this is necessary, the best representation of Weller live yet released. Certainly, this offers the most music of any live Weller set: its first two discs are devoted to sessions, culling 40 highlights from 1992-2008, with the second two cherry-picking 34 songs from full concerts aired on the BBC between 1990 and 1998, including one of his first high-profile solo concerts at the Town & Country in 1990, a Royal Albert Hall show from 1992, and a headlining spot at the 1995 Phoenix Festival. In terms of years, this is a lot of ground to cover, but musically At the BBC is largely divided between soulful rock jams — live, it sounds more than ever like a hybrid of Traffic and Humble Pie cut with a big dose of Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye — and his delicate folky acoustic numbers. Within these confines there is plenty of room for surprises, however small they may be. Usually, they arrive in the form of a loving cover — Weller revives Ronnie Lane's "The Poacher," Manfred Mann's "Pretty Flamingo" — but sometimes Weller and his band, fronted by guitarist Steve Craddock, simply sound bigger and bolder on-stage than they do on record, which can liven up the material, which is a subtle pleasure but a pleasure all the same. But what really impresses on At the BBC is Weller's fervent belief in the power of being a working musician, that there is value in working and playing steadily. At the BBC showcases Weller as a working musician, finding new meaning in familiar tunes and sometimes grinding through the ruts knowing that a peak is just around the corner. This attitude characterized Weller's solo career from its outset in 1990 until 2008's elastic 22 Dreams, and no other album captures that aesthetic quite like this lengthy live box and that's reason enough for it to exist.

Biography

Born: 25 May 1958 in Woking, Surrey, England

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

As the leader of the Jam, Paul Weller fronted the most popular British band of the punk era, influencing legions of English rockers ranging from his mod revival contemporaries to the Smiths in the '80s and Oasis in the '90s. During the final days of the Jam, he developed a fascination with Motown and soul, which led him to form the sophisti-pop group the Style Council in 1983. As the Style Council's career progressed, Weller's interest in soul developed into an infatuation with jazz-pop and house...
Full Bio
At the BBC (4 Vol. Set BBC Version), Paul Weller
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