Richard Ashcroft is one of England’s most talented musicians but has not reached the kind of celebrity his music actually deserves. After his hit “Bittersweet Symphony” with The Verve, he has had no other hit single while he has released several strong albums. There are very few modern day songwriters who have his talent for stringing words together. His lack of commercial success is probably due to his strangeness and unwillingness to play the game. Good for him, I say.
With his signature voice he has taken his time (four years) in creating his ode to the music he loves – soul, funk and gospel. Contains several lovely ballads and some up tempo toe tappers. What might turn some off are his continual references lyrically to religion, humans and the universe. Lofty aspirations, no? Maybe he is having a midlife (he recently turned 40) crisis or something and feels the need to examine what it all means. He is trying to prove (yet again) that music can be a powerful medium. While others might fall short, Ashcroft has the chops and charisma to pull it off.
The arrangements on the songs are ear catching with sprinklings of beautiful strings, funky guitar work and cool percussion. Sometimes, though, I felt he was trying a little too hard to make it all sound like a “classic” rock album.