If the range of influences is wide, so is the cast list. The song 111 was recorded with Weller, producer Simon Dine and Ocean Colour Scene's Steve Cradock playing three different keyboards with their backs to each other. There was no rehearsal and no discussion. Song For Alice, meanwhile, is dedicated to Alice Coltrane, the musician wife of jazz great John Coltrane, and features Robert Wyatt on piano and trumpet. Other guest musicians include Graham Coxon, formerly of Blur, Scottish multi-instrumentalist John McCusker and - on the fizzing acid-rock jam Echoes Round The Sun - Noel Gallagher and Gem Archer from Oasis.

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Not everything on 22 Dreams works. God, the spoken-word track, is voiced by former Stone Roses guitarist Aziz Ibrahim and sounds like John Cooper Clarke reading a Billy Graham sermon. But the ambition of the project as a whole reveals a musician whose influences and interests are becoming more wide-ranging as the years pass.

Amid the new there is plenty of the old, however. The pastoral and folk themes that have cropped up throughout Weller's work, even in the days of The Jam, can still be found - on Black River, for instance, Sea Spray and Where'er Ye Go - while songs like current single Have You Made Up Your Mind have antecedents which are even more familiar, namely the soul and R&B that inspired the Mod groups of 1960s England and which in turn have framed Weller's musical and visual aesthetic over the course of his more than 30-year career.

Quite how important that visual aesthetic has been can be seen in A Thousand Things* , a new book compiled by Weller and Simon Halfon, the designer responsible for every album and single of Weller's since he formed The Style Council in 1983. Limited to 2000 copies, with each one signed by Weller, it contains photographs, album artwork and other memorabilia and is split into three sections covering The Jam, The Style Council and his solo work. It also comes with a copy of The Jam's first demo, which Weller uncovered in the vaults of a London production company. Remastered and now pressed on white vinyl, it features raw versions of In The City, Time For Truth, So Sad About Us and Sounds From The Street.

"Rather than do an autobiography, where you're using the written word, we thought the best way to represent Paul's career would be through his record sleeves and through the photos from the same period that the records were released," Halfon explains. The book will be formally launched tomorrow at - where else? - a Paul Smith boutique in London.

Much of the content came from Weller - and a great deal of it came from his mother - but for some of it he and Halfon had to turn to rock photographers such as Pennie Smith and Laurence Watson. It was Smith who took the famous picture of Clash bassist Paul Simenon smashing his guitar on stage, an image later used on the cover of the band's London Calling album. Her most iconic image of The Jam is of a full-throttle concert appearance: Weller stands legs apart while bassist Bruce Foxton leaps high in the air. Smith opened her archive to Weller and Halfon and let them choose what they wanted. But the search went even further afield than that. "We even trawled through photo libraries, where we chanced upon things that had just been given catalogue numbers," says Halfon. "That was where we found the Soho Market shots."

This is a famous moment in Weller mythology. In 1976 The Jam - in suits, ties and white shoes, with Weller playing his trademark red Rickenbacker guitar - set up in Soho Market in London and played an open-air guerrilla gig while the members of The Clash ate breakfast in a café opposite. Until Halfon found the original colour images, Weller had only ever seen a black-and-white photocopy.

The book itself underlines a significant fact about the 50-year-old: that it's his stylishness as well as his music that has made him the iconic figure he is today. Even in the ferment of 1970s London, with punk at its height, The Jam's stage gear of matching suits and two-tone shoes set them apart from the other main movers on the scene, and it was Weller, a devotee of sharply-dressed 1960s bands like The Small Faces, who drove the look. So while The Sex Pistols and The Clash were making album covers using punk's DIY aesthetic - newspaper headlines cut up to look like ransom notes, that kind of thing - The Jam looked neat and sharp (if a little threatening) on the cover of their 1977 debut In The City.

On the cover of This Is The Modern World, released in the same year, Weller wears a round-necked jumper with arrows on it. On 1978's All Mod Cons he wears a crisp white shirt tucked into sky-blue Sta-Prest trousers, while Foxton wears two-tone shoes, a white jacket and what can only be described as slacks. The record's inner sleeve shows a diagram of a Lambretta, the Mod's vehicle of choice, and a collection of carefully chosen ephemera: singles by cult 1960s Mod band The Creation and Motown act Junior Walker And The All Stars, Union Jack patches, a cappuccino and a photo of Brighton pier. None of this exactly screams punk rock.

After he disbanded The Jam in 1982 and formed the Style Council, Weller continued to plough his own sartorial and stylistic furrow. His genius, though, was to never seem like a man out of time - even, during the Style Council years, when dressed like a 1960s Tour de France competitor or a 1950s Left Bank dandy. Working with him throughout that period on albums like Cafe Bleu, Our Favourite Shop and Confessions Of A Pop Group, Halfon found a man already steeped in pop classicism but always eager to assimilate new influences.

"We were both discovering Blue Note records, so that was the major influence, but peppered with Beatles references. And that's pretty much the way we've gone ever since - maybe less on the Blue Note thing but certainly keeping an eye on the 1960s reference points. But I would hope we give it a contemporary feel as well."

Halfon's favourite album covers are 1984's Cafe Bleu, 1993's Wild Wood (a guitar-playing Weller silhouetted against an open door: his tank-top-and-no-shirt phase) and 1995's Stanley Road, a collage designed in collaboration with Sir Peter Blake and which features at its centre a painting by Blake of Weller as a boy holding a picture of Weller as a man. Stanley Road, by the way, is the street in Woking on which Weller grew up. It was at this point, with the Britpop scene coalescing around him and its leading lights - primarily Liam and Noel Gallagher - paying him homage, that Weller was christened the Modfather.

The name stuck, and for good reason: Weller still lives, works and dresses according to the same Modernist credo that has guided him for over 30 years. "He would be the first to admit it," says Halfon. "You're never going to catch him out of uniform. It's not like he has his stage persona and his day-to-day persona. You're never going to see him going down the newsagent in a tracksuit and a flat cap and a pair of slippers. He is that guy - it's not like Elvis slipping into the jumpsuit before he goes on stage."

Noel Gallagher tells a story about Weller visiting him at home in London recently and turning up in a long leather coat, yellow trousers and suede shoes - and leaving his Mini parked in the middle of the road, where it attracted the attention of a parking warden. Robert Wyatt has a more thoughtful take on his friend, saying that "he has achieved something that is almost taboo in rock music: maturity". He could have added that, with the honourable exception of Elvis Costello, Weller is the only musician from the punk era who is still relevant today and will continue to be so tomorrow. Not bad for a man who wears yellow trousers.

* A Thousand Things published by Genesis Publications