“Keep on burning” are the three words that accompany this collection of The Style Council’s greatest hits and more. They’re also the words that define the Northern Soul movement Paul Weller’s ever-changing collective dipped in and out of from 1983 to 1988. Big singles, classic album tracks and underrated curios dominate Long Hot Summers and its restless spirit.
Music moves from Philly-style soul to jazz-funk workouts and all points in between. But it’s on the likes of My Ever Changing Moods, Walls Come Tumbling Down!, Shout To The Top and Have You Ever Had It Blue? that Weller’s songwriting chops shine and move in unison with whatever record was spinning on his turntable that week. Recruiting ex-Dexys keys hero Mick Talbot, Weller announced The Style Council’s arrival in ’83 with brassy debut 45 Speak Like A Child, before beginning to coalesce around a core group including drummer Steve White and singer Dee C Lee. Instrumental b-side Party Chambers, semi-acoustic lilting lament It Just Came To Pieces In My Hands and the eerie Ghosts Of Dachau are all early highlights on this definitive collection demonstrating that The Style Council were never going to follow The Jam into the hearts of one hundred lonely housewives.
Their anti-Thatcher politics and Red Wedge affiliation have often cast them inside mid-80s stone, but Weller’s true Mod tendencies and constant searching lift the legacy out of the history books and make Long Hot Summers an essential collection of modern soul. Boy Who Cried Wolf, How She Threw It All Away and A Man Of Great Promise all transcend any of-its-time production techniques and leave you to enjoy the melody, musicality and muscle The Style Council delivered across half a dozen albums and EPs. Now all is said and done, and collected across two CDs and three LPs forever here, what we’re left with is a catalogue emblematic of its creator: audacious music walking unafraid into the limitless possibilities of pop.
The Style Council might mean less than The Jam to many, but they mean more to the few who dig as deep as Paul Weller.
By Alan O’Hare