This was a tricky one for me to write as I have a good mate, Jonny who is the original die-hard Ashcroft fan. I need to tread carefully here as this guy is light years ahead of me in terms of the in-depth analysis of this particular band and it’s frontman. Anyone else who knows Jonny will second this. When this guy talks about Mr Ashcroft, it makes you look at this band in an entirely different light, then go straight away and listen to his music again to double confirm what he has just said, which was usually bang on.
What can you possibly say about one of the finest collections of beautifully produced songs ever written? I’m not even going to get too deep into this particular review as one little Facebook post couldn’t possibly do it justice.
There are so many underrated and possibly overlooked songs on this album as a lot of people just flick through to the heavy mainstream hitters. It’s the entire story that this album tells around it’s big songs that is equally as important. The spiritual ‘Weeping Willow’ has a wonderful, subtle depth that easily makes it as big as every other track and ‘Neon Wilderness’ is the stuff of a beautiful Jim Morrison dream. Yes there are big mainstream hits like ‘The Drugs Don’t Work’ and ‘Sonnet’ which have the potential to tear off your head, but I believe that there’s not one track that really overpowers the rest on this album, which is in itself a rare quality.
The stunning Fender Rhodes led ‘One Day’ is such a beautiful and subtle interlude, and a breath catcher as you scrape yourself off the ceiling after ‘Lucky Man’ The sequence of the songs on this album took a lot of careful consideration. The parting shot of ‘Come On’ could not have been better placed to leave you with a taste of just what these guys were all about.
The work of Chris Potter on the production of ‘Urban Hymns’ is on a completely different scale to anything else of its genre and time, the layering and his acute ear during the mixdown of levels is just sublime. Subsequently Potter went on to win a Brit award for his production on this masterpiece, there was nothing even remotely close in 1997’s nominations.
This album continues to grow on me even further as I have grown myself and learned more about the many levels it takes to create a true band. All the ingredients required very rarely ever gel to create a band such as The Verve.
Albums like this only come along a few times in a lifetime and I believe that the world of music owes Richard Ashcroft a huge debt of gratitude for his contributions over the years.