Friday, 31 October 2014

The Style Council 'Promised Land'

Chart Peak: 27
For their 17th single, the Style Council chose to do a cover version of Joe Smooth's 'Promised Land'... It had reached No. 27 by 19th February 1989.
Exactly how much choice they really had is a matter of some speculation; it's now a well-known story that the Style Council delivered a fifth album called Modernism: A New Decade that reflected Paul Weller's new-found interest in house music (and presumably Mick Talbot's too, though his contributions seem to get less attention generally, I don't even know why he had a beard on Top Of The Pops) and which was rejected by Polydor. With hindsight, delving into house was no more of a shock than the duo's dabbles with gospel, jazz or even classical music; indeed some would go so far as to argue that the late-80s UK house scene was in some respects a successor to the Northern Soul that Weller had been celebrating since the first Jam album. Still, it was probably a bridge too far for an act with a now severely declining audience, some of whom would inevitably be lost to this new direction.

Although it wasn't included on the album, 'Promised Land' supposedly comes from the same sessions, and was picked off as a non-album single in early 1989 - indeed it entered the Top 100 just three weeks after the Joe Smooth original, though that had been released in the US as early as 1987; maybe it was even advance promotion for the Style Council version that gave the original a boost. I would surmise that Polydor were willing to greenlight this single in the hope that a name act covering a club hit was likely to prove a smash. In the event though, it never preceded past that peak of 27, which probably has more to do with devoted Weller fans buying up all five (!) available formats than major interest in the single itself. If this was supposed to be some sort of test case for the band's new direction, it failed and in the event they ever made another album, fulfilling their contract with a singles compilation a few months later, with the "lost" album finally showing up as part of a boxed set in 1998. I know some fans of the original really dislike this version but as I mentioned a few days ago, I've never really been into house music so I'm not precious about it and I can like both versions, though I must say neither of them really moves me. Weller does at least contribute rather a good vocal performance but it's fair to say he doesn't bring much else to the song that wasn't already there: I suspect this might be another case of a cover where he was too much a fan of the original to do anything special with it. At least he earned Joe Smooth some extra money in songwriting royalties and remix fees.

Also appearing on: Now 3, 4, 5, 10
Available on: Gold

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