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Sunday, 25 June, 2000, 06:37 GMT 07:37 UK
CD Review: Richard Ashcroft
Richard Ashcroft
Richard Ashcroft: Alone With Everybody (Hut)
Welcome to the brave new world of Richard Ashcroft.

If his work with The Verve was hungry and troubled, this long-awaited solo debut is the sound of a man finally at peace with himself.

Anyone expecting the volcanic passions of old may find it something of an anti-climax, but dig beneath the softer veneer and the new-found optimist proves to be every bit as compelling as the old-style prophet of gloom.

The songs still have a sense of space and grandeur, but this is a more contented songwriter than the one who conquered all with his former band.

Richard Ashcroft
The Verve split up in April 1999

There could be any number of reasons - ambitions finally achieved, fatherhood - but the edginess has given way to an altogether gentler collection of Suburban Hymns.

Not that the album represents a complete break with the past - more of a trial separation.

The obligatory strings and meandering melodies are still there, but the sonic guitar workouts and feral howls which represented the flipside of The Verve's personality are largely absent.

With its more countrified sound, plus the odd touch of ghostly wah-wah guitar to remind us of past glories, Alone With Everybody finds Ashcroft veering courageously - dangerously even - towards the middle-of-the-road.

Quite how he carries it off is difficult to pinpoint - but carry it off he does, from the fragile and prophetic Brave New World to the lush strains of You On My Mind In My Sleep.

If you're looking for something more traditionally energetic, there's New York - all bristling guitars and clipped chorus - while fans will already be familiar with the joyous, gospel-tinged high of Money To Burn.

Serious-minded musicians sometimes come unstuck when trying to express more positive feelings, yet throughout the album Ashcroft has succeeded in creating music that is uplifting yet never flippant.

Why, it's enough to put a smile on anyone's face - even his.

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28 Apr 99 | Entertainment
The Verve's bitter sweet career
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