Album Review by Mark Bayross
Now that Richard Ashcroft has gone and launched his solo career, I guess we can finally be certain that The Verve’s days are over. He scaled some pretty breath-taking heights with his former band, and A SONG FOR THE LOVERS (which opens the album) is clearly an attempt to prove that he didn’t really need those other guys to get there.
ALONE WITH EVERYBODY is most definitely a Statement Album. It’s a declaration of independence, a celebration of love, and a rite of passage. BRAVE NEW WORLD, the first of many songs to feature the pedal steel guitar of BJ Cole, may be directed at his father (“I hope I see you on the other side”), but its message of entering into a brave new world also hints at a reborn and re-focused Richard.
NEW YORK ups the tempo somewhat, with swirling guitars, freeform saxophone and a screwed-to-the-floor bassline evoking the psychedelic intensity of Ashcroft’s former band. YOU ON MY MIND IN MY SLEEP returns us to lush ballad territory, with the full strings and piano monty. As an open love-letter to his wife Kate Radley, it’s a pretty grandiose gesture.
In the context of this, the country blues of recent single MONEY TO BURN makes a lot more sense, even if Ashcroft’s Dylan-esque posturing irritates a little too much. Book-ended by ON A BEACH and SLOW WAS MY HEART, it is a strutting come-on to on one level, Kate, and on another, possibly his audience.
The only time he loses the plot is on the annoyingly cheesy “Yeah, yeah”-filled C’MON PEOPLE (WE’RE MAKING IT NOW) (sample lyric: “There are so many things I could do / Just like falling in love with you”). Fortunately, he makes up for it straight afterwards with the closing EVERYBODY, a work of grace akin to a revised THE DRUGS DON’T WORK.
So, lavish production and some hook-laden songwriting have won the day, but, like The Verve, it’s all a bit middle-of-the-road. Richard Ashcroft obviously rates himself as one of the great contemporary singer-songwriters, and he’s not wrong there, but I would have appreciated just the odd hint of rebellion somewhere in the album’s hour duration.