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4.0 out of 5 stars
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on 4 January 2006
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.
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on 6 January 2006
I am one of these Ashcroft fans that takes issue with those who say his post Verve material is not very good. I agree that Alone With Everybody was a little polished and probably suffered for the fact that Ashcroft seemed a bit too happy when he wrote it, but I thought that Human Conditions was a fantastic example of great songwriting.
What "Keys to the World" has over the first two, however, is a bit of what was missing. On "Urban Hymns" the ballads were interspersed with rousing numbers "Rolling People" and "Come On". Well those kind of tracks make their return here, with opener "Why not Nothing" as rock n roll as Ashcroft has ever sounded, and the superb title track Keys to The World, which samples a soul singer strangely enough!?! But these songs make all the difference, put in amongst more fine ballads, especially "Sweet Brother Malcolm", that make this Ashcrofts strongest effort since the Verve, and should be the Album we've all hoped he would make to put him back on top of the tree
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on 25 January 2006
Having been a big fan of the Verves stuff over the years, I continually find that once albums like Urban Hymns or A Northern Soul get in the CD player, they are in there for a while. With Richard Ashcrofts last two albums, although they were good, they didnt really have a lot of staying power. But having listened to Keys to the World for a couple of days, I can honestly say that there is definitely something about this one that makes it different from the others, some of the tracks on the album just flow so nicely and you find yourself reaching for the replay button over and over again. Notable tracks include - Music is power, Break the night with colour and World keeps turning, to name a few. Hopefully this will be the album that reminds people what an excellent singer, songwriter Richard Ashcroft is.
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In my opinion, album number three, 2006's 'Keys to the World' is Verve singer Richard Ashcroft's best solo offering. Unlike his debut, it has a very different sound to that of the Verve. This album establishes Richard with his own style away from the band, hardly an original or ground-breaking one admittedly, but this is a very playable indie-rock record (with a hint of soul thrown in), filled with mature and singable songs (which we have always associated with the man anyway), of which there is very little filler to be found amongst the great stuff.

For me, it doesn't get much better than the single 'Break the Night With Colour', which is one of his biggest hits, and a perfect song really, followed by the more cheerful 'World Keeps Turning', and the uplifting 'Music is Power'. I really do rate this album highly, it's just great music that is to easy-to-listen to anytime, and further proof (as if it were needed) of Richard Ashcroft's song writing talents and one very addictive voice.
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on 27 January 2006
On the surface, 'Keys to the World' is not a groundbreaking or original album. As many critics have pointed out, his lyrics are cliched and some of his songs come across as simple and shallow.
However, repeated listenings reveal a true masterpiece... the cliches become profound and the simple songs reveal themselves to be quite complex and meaningful (even 'Simple Song' itself!) It's difficult for me to rate 'Keys to the World' because it feels almost as if it can't be rated.
Richard says (in the accompanying DVD) that the album is just another part of a journey that he wants people to take with him... and once you're on that journey, the music takes on a whole new meaning. As Richard himself puts it: "Music is power/Let it flow through your mind".
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on 1 April 2006
The title pretty much says it all. For me, Richard Ashcroft's solo work had, up until this album, been somewhat patchy. He's had some sensational songs, Buy It In Bottles, C'mon People (We're Making It Now) and Check The Meaning to name but three. But his albums seemed to be very much made up of fillers. This album on the other hand is solid all the way through, whilst still keeping some truly great works such as the opening single Break The Night With Colour, and some examples of Ashcroft straying from familiar territory with the opening rocker Why Not Nothing, which is written from an athiest point of view, and the albums closing track, World Keeps Turning, perhaps the most upbeat song Ashcroft has written, with superb lyrics and as is to be expected, superb vocals from one of the best voices of the past ten years. Any fans of The Verve, Britpop in general, or just good music would be well advised to give this album a listen, they won't regret it!
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on 5 December 2006
Keys to the world is a good, solid album but is certainly not on the same scale as The Verve's 'Urban hymns'

I think the album has 5 very good songs (why not nothing, break the night, keys to the world, cry til the morning and why do lovers) and I feel that if all the songs were at this quality then this album would be great, but the other 5 are a bit boring, though not poor songs, they just don't do much for me

so a solid effort by Richard Ashcroft but he still seems to be lacking something since his Verve days
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on 19 February 2006
listened to this album throughout the weekend, and just think its fantastic. Excellent lyrics, I just love his lyrics. Been a long time fan, and was slightly concerned following the Coldplay link and some reviews. But I am more than impressed with this, and like all his past music. The more I play them, the more I like and fell the tunes (hope that makes sensem well does to me).
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on 23 January 2006
I'm a lucky man - i've spoken to Mr Ashcroft on a number of occassions over the last 3 years of his hiatus and on each occassion he proclaimed he was working hard to get the very best album he could get out. As time went on I started to wonder whether it was possible to get something that's taken 3 years to perfect to sound as mindblowing as he was proclaiming...
Keys To The World answers all my questions and doubts with a big ear-drum-smashing belt of positivity. There's a bit of everything here for the hardcore Verve fan to the Ashcroft lovers. The whole album wreaks of songwriting genius and reaffirms Richard Ashcroft as a rock legend.
Highlists of the album are definately summed up in the title track, Keys To The World, Sweet Brother Malcolm and Why Do Lovers - however take nothing away from any of the other songs - they are all par excellance!
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on 26 January 2006
Having followed Richard Ashcroft since the beginning of his solo career, which now spans 3 albums, i was always expecting something alittle different from what else is on offer in todays music industry.
refreshing is a good superlative for this album. a good old typical singer/song writer record that doesnt feel quite as heavy as his other two offerings. a good mix of energetic, soulful, contemplating tunes.
overall its an album of progression, you get the feeling there is alot more to be offered from this rare breed of artist. as for this version with bonus DVD, that in itself is maybe for the 'fan' mostly. the gem being an interview with richard where he discusses the topics of each song, its always interesting hearing the artists take on songs to discover their true meanings. the live performances are top notch and the first single's video is just a nice addition.
Stand out tracks would be 'Music is Power', 'Break the Night with Colour', 'Keys to the World' and maybe my favourite... 'Why Do Lovers?' as richard says in his interview its a great song to stick on at 2am in the morning!
9/10, go on treat yourself!
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