Sunday, April 15, 2007
Promised Land (1989)
"Promised Land," The Style Council (1989)
The Style Council. Again. The last time we saw them, it was 1984. The latter-period Jam and early Style Council can be seen as part of the same continuum, and it was in these years (1980-85) that Paul Weller's creative juices were running at full steam. He managed to blend soul, 80s sounds and all manner of influences in order to shape a new and decidedly sophisticated sound. This five year period would be an apex that, sadly, Weller would not be able to approach for years.
The decline occurred quite abruptly. 1987's "The Cost of Loving" did away with the eclecticism of the first two albums. Instead, listeners were treated to homogeneous, faceless and excessively slick exercises in modern R&B. Then, in 1988, listeners were in for a bigger shock. "Confessions of a Pop Group" has been seen as an exercise in self-indulgence and excess. Apart from some bitter and jaded lyrics, the sound of the album is an odd blend of stale 80s clattering, stiff funk, lifeless pop and, most shockingly, classical music. In fact, half of the album is devoted to orchestral suites and crooning. Much maligned at the time of its release, it is not as bad some would suggest. It's got a creative ambition and barely-supressed aggression that was sorely lacking in the 1987 effort.
By 1989, the band was ready to released a compilation of their best work. The Singular Adventures of The Style Council was a deeply flawed but exciting primer for those who were curious about the band. To promote it, two singles were released. One was an ill-conceived re-recording of 1983's "Long Hot Summer," entitled "Long Hot Summer '89." Bedecked in irritating clinkety-clankety sounds, it submerges the original seductive bass and is sung in a lifeless manner. The other single was a cover of a house song called "Promised Land."
The original "Promised Land" came out circa 87/88. Joe Smooth's original (Myspace, YouTube) was a punchy and catchy house track that is still remembered by many house aficionados. The Style Council's version successfully assimilated the overall house sound, thus signaling another phase of the band's ever-changing sound. Their cover also adds a surprising gospel element, one that cleverly augments Joe Smooth's lyrics ("When the angels from above/come and spread their wings like doves/we'll walk, hand in hand/brothers, sisters, we'll make it to the Promised Land").
The version on aformentioned TSC compilation was just bellow the three-minute mark. The 12" single offered a lengthier version that clocked in at 7 minutes. In addition, it came with a 'Pianopella' version that stripped the track of some its housier elements. The b-side, both in Club Mix and Dub form, is a rather anonymous bit of house music.
The single, which was very much a stylistic departure from anything that the band had previously pursued, foreshadowed the end of The Style Council. The band's next album, "Modernism: A New Decade" effectively followed the house vein that characterized "Promised Land." Anonymous rave/hippy harmony lyrics supplanted Weller's critical lyrics regarding the self and society. Upon hearing the new album, the label promptly dropped the band from its roster. The new album was immediately shelved, and no singles were released (outside of Japan). The house-inflected album was not released until the band's box set came out in the late 90s.
And so, after giving you a bit of context, I give you... "Promised Land":
1. Promised Land (Club Mix)
2. Promised Land (Pianopella)
3. Can You Still Love Me? (Club Mix)
4. Can You Still Love Me? (Dub)
Download (21.28 MB)