The Cost Of Loving is an album that I’ve heard many times. And have a special affinity for. Paul Weller’s earlier records for with the Style Council were fairly diverse musically And they met with mixed results from both fans and critics. . For the most part, the results of this album commercially weren’t mixed. And they weren’t that great either. Its possible that lack of accolades this album receives has to do with this music by and large is not only uptempo. But is based in different varieties of funk. The Style Council themselves went through an interesting process in the conception of this album too.
Some of the tracks from this album were also featured in a short film The Style Council made called JerUSAlem. The album itself was recorded in the autumn of 1986. But was released early in 1987. And its overall sound is very much bound to the international musical explosions pf that year. Obviously inspired by the music that Jam & Lewis were putting out during this time period “It Didn’t Matter” resulted in,musically one of the finest singles the band had put together thus far with it’s strong synth bass line,rhythm guitar and fairly slow dance beat-great in the mid 80’s funk context.
“Right To Go” is just out and out funk with one of the finest and most obvious bass lines of any of their songs and features an Reagan/Thatcher-based political rap by the UK’s own Dynamic Three. “Heavens Above” ups the tempo a bit and concentrates heavily on the drumming and the rhythm and a well executed use of horns. On “Fairy Tales” and the title song there’s a bit more of a balance between the slower beat and the horn oriented sound. There are also three ballads here in “Waiting”,which is beautifully structured 80′ soul in the same way as the Dee C Lee sung “Angel” and “A Woman’s Song” are.
Perhaps it was the heavy funk and R&B content from someone like Weller, who apparently had other expectations of himself, from the following he had earlier. Earlier Style Council music by and large focused on 60’s R&B and soul-jazz. With only the occasional nod to this type of music. And with very sleek production as well. However this album thoroughly acknowledged the 70’s in the music. And because of the closeness to that decade maybe it wasn’t given the kind of recognition it deserves. Especially considering the high quality of the songwriting,musicianship and general atmospherics.
Michael “Mick” Talbot could be described as the man who, even prior to James Taylor, pioneered the revival of Hammond organ based soul/funk on the British musical scene. In the late 70’s, Talbot played in a trio of mod revivalist bands. The best known of them in the end would be Dexy’s Midnight Runners. Mick of course found his voice with Paul Weller as The Style Council. They embraced an often jazz laced blend of contemporary funk,soul and dance music’s. All inspired by Weller and Talbot’s mutual goal to musically shatter the myths and culture of the rock music world.
The band released their debut EP in 1983 in several countries except for the UK, interestingly enough. The following year they released their be bop and hip-hop laced full length debut Cafe Bleu. On both these releases, a precedence was set for including Talbot composed Hammond organ based instrumentals into different sections of the albums. One of my favorites was originally featured as the B-side to the 1984 single version of the song “My Ever Changing Moods”. The name of this particular instrumental had a cute wordplay about it: “Mick’s Company”.
Talbot starts off the song playing an ultra funky riff-doubling up what sounds like a Clavinet setting on a DX-7 synthesizer-all before Hammond organ swirl breaks into the drum roll right into the song. The main theme is this Clavinet effect played with a round synth bass pumping heavy behind it. And Talbot’s bluesy organ playing a counter solo to the introductory synth riff. There are two B sections of the songs where it changes chords. And the organ solo becomes more elaborate. Talbot improvises more and more on the organ as the song processes towards its fade out.
“Mick’s Company”, perhaps the most of Mick Talbot’s organ based instrumentals with the Style Council, really epitomize a somewhat under explored instrumental funk direction for the 1980’s. It combines the bluesy song structure and organ improvising of hard bop/soul jazz, the guitar like Clavinet based sound of the 70’s and mixes both together with a mid 80’s digitized synthesizer/bass oriented approach. It really encapsulates the previous three decades of instrumental soul/funk in under 3 minutes. In the end, it helped give the Style Council their distinctive spin on funk and soul for the 80’s.
Dee C. Lee did backing vocals for Wham! during the early 80’s during the period when their debut album Fantastic came out. She left the band in 1983 to begin recording solo material-releasing her first singles that year. She finally joined with the new group being put together by The Jam’s Paul Weller known as The Style Council,which also included keyboardist Mick Talbot. She sang on a couple of songs on the groups first and second full length studio albums Cafe Bleu and Our Favorite Shop in 1984-1985. Later in the decade,she would marry Weller and the couple would have two children during decade together.
The Style Council were a group that always fascinated me. Weller,Talbot and Lee favored a sound that explored much of the black American musical spectrum-from jazz, R&B,soul to funk. Perhaps because the groups celebrated cleanly production and sweeping instrumental arrangements, Style Council earned the ire of many hard rock/punk admirers who are often still convinced that Weller abandoned his edge and sold out. Their next to last album The Cost Of Loving from 1987 came out during the height of this perception. It also contained one of my favorite songs by them in “It Didn’t Matter”.
A hand clap led drum machine beat begins the song before the high pitched violin like synthesizer chimes in-and proceeds to buffet every refrain of the song from then on. The main body of the song consists of Weller’s funky,low pitched rhythm guitar and a slamming synth bass bubbling underneath. On the bridge, Dee C. Lee sings over the refrain of the song played in more of a major key melody before returning to the main theme. Weller then plays a bluesy guitar riff before going into a higher pitched chicken scratch solo as the song fades out-with Lee and Weller singing the title line.
What makes this song so wonderful is that it is thoroughly late 80’s hard synth funk. One trap a lot of bands who just dabble in soul and funk music fall into is sounding almost totally retro. Much as with the American Boz Scaggs,the Style Council were totally contemporary with what was happening with soul/funk music in their time period. And that’s why this song has continued to live with me as a vital and important one-along with a good deal of the Style Council’s other recorded catalog of music. On it’s own this song blends the synth and sophisticated funk ethics almost perfectly.
Filed under 1987, Dee C. Lee, drum machines, jazz funk, Mick Talbot, Paul Weller, rhythm guitar, synth bass, synth funk, synthesizers, The Style Council, UK Funk