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His lucky third album,
This review is from: Keys To The World (Audio CD)
Richard Ashcroft is not the first frontman to become a victim of his own success. And he probably won't be the last. His debut album ‘Alone With Everybody’ shot straight to number one, sold over a million copies & produced a top 5 single. While most would consider this a success, it met a lukewarm response from well-respected journalists the world over & was dubbed an underachievement.
It also seemed to cement what direction he was going with both his songs & sound. His follow-up ‘Human Conditions’ gained a more hostile response, with some denouncing it as a man so embroiled in his ego that he had completely lost whatever magic spark he had left. (for anyone who doesn’t know, Ashcroft was chief songwriter on the 7 million selling Urban Hymns LP that produced hits ‘Bitter Sweet Symphony’ & ‘The Drugs Don’t Work’).
Loyal fans will say his talent of writing a good tune never deserted him on both previous LPs, but the good news is on ‘Keys to the World’ the rest will take notice once again.
Simply put, it’s his finest set of songs since Urban Hymns. At 44 minutes long and containing 10 tracks, it’s back to basics for Britain’s finest troubadour.
The opening tracks ‘Why Not Nothing’& ‘Music is Power’ suggest a rejuvenation not seen before on his previous efforts, with the former foot-stomper easily his finest rock n roll moment post Verve. ‘Music is Power’ samples a track produced by Curtis Mayfield with Richard asking you to ‘Submit to the sound.’ Trust me, you will. White-boy soul has never sounded this good.
Lyrically the bar has been raised across most of the tunes too; his voice has matured into a rasp infused combination of Gallagher/Presley & there can be no doubt now he holds the finest voice of the long string of charismatic frontmen the UK has produced. Fine examples of this are on ‘Cry ‘til the Morning’ & the timeless beauty ‘Sweet Brother Malcolm.’
A true master of the ballad, Ashcroft exceeds even his own standards with ‘Words Just Get In The Way’ & the beautiful but sad lament ‘Why Do Lovers’. The usual philosophical meanderings are apparent throughout, but never have the songs been so punchy as title track ‘Keys to the World’ & focused as first single ‘Break the Night With Colour’. An instant classic, it exhumes Richard’s persona of man that no matter what he has on his plate, he’s discontented, insecure & suffering a state of ennui that if it helps produce music like this, we should all be thankful for it.
Finally, the man from ‘that’ video has a set of songs that can match anything from ‘that’ band. And the music world is a better place because of it. Welcome back Captain.