Richard Ashcroft – album review

Richard Ashcroft – Keys to the world (Parlophone)

 

The ten songs on Keys to the world take the listener on a captivating aural voyage through the landscape of modern music.  Yet Richard Ashcroft’s third solo album is an astoundingly accessible effort which encapsulates his diverse influences and presents them in a package which will and, judging by tickets sales for his spring tour, does appeal to an assorted audience.  It was his appearance at Live8 with Chris Martin, who introduced the ex-Verve frontman as “the best singer in world”, that brought Ashcroft back into the fold as a notable musician, and allowed him to be re-established as such.  This album seeks to further that notion.

 

Although his prior releases were received with some favour, it was evident that Ashcroft was desperate to live up to the Verve’s final album, Urban Hymns, which is now recognised as one of the finest albums of the 1990’s.  This collection, however, is a distinct move away from the style of his former work and, although the down-beat indie-atmospherism is still perceptible, great attention is for the first time paid to vocal melody.  This shows off, more than ever, Ashcroft’s incredibly adaptable voice and will establish him as a great vocalist outside of his usual remit.

 

The diversity of musical style, and song subject, present on the album is indicative of this evolution.  From the wonderfully simple Music is power, to the evocative folk ballad Sweet brother Malcolm, in which Ashcroft’s collaboration with the London Metropolitan Orchestra is exploited to the full, the songwriting prowess of this resurgent musician is refreshing and marks a point in his career which can, at last, be favourably compared to his exceeding ensemble efforts of the previous decade.

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