What a fantastic album this was. The Style Council was the natural progression for Paul Weller after the split of The Jam at the end of 1982, shedding the punk rock feel, but retaining much else of what The Jam had encompassed in their final phase. The Jam’s Beat Surrender, for example, is easy to imagine as a Style Council track, just as The Style Council’s Walls Come Tumbling Down (featured on this album), is easy to imagine as a Jam track.
But with the arrival of the Style Council, gone was the distorted Rickenbacker punk guitar, to be replaced by a typically cleaner, classic ’70s soul tone from a more conventional semi-acoustic. Former Merton Parkas keyboardist Mick Talbot, who’d had various levels of involvement with The Jam since 1979, was the only featured companion to Weller in the initial Style Council line-up. By the time this live 1986 album was recorded, however, The Style Council was a big project with a recognised full soul band. The group’s first hit – Speak Like a Child – isn’t on Home & Abroad, but that’s a measure of how many other great tracks they’d already released.
Despite being much less punky than The Jam, the Style Council were still very powerful on stage. Paul Weller’s vocal style hadn’t changed, and that in itself guaranteed a powerful feel. The sheer number of contributing elements – the Hammond tonewheel organ and piano, the brass section, the harmonised backing vocals, etc – would make for a big sound pretty much regardless of the songs, but make no mistake, the songs were brilliant. Catchy, very well arranged, and performed with passion.
The album is on Polydor, and has an orange label, rather than the classic red. Interestingly, whilst the writing on Side 1’s label is white, it’s actually black on orange for Side 2. The tape is a BASF chrome, but even though the shell has standard Type I spec, it does show evidence of high bias notches next to the write protect tabs. The notches are blocked in to preserve the Type I auto-setting, but it’s clear the shell is adapted from Type II spec.