Richard Ashcroft Alone With Everybody

Richard Ashcroft's solo release could easily be a new Verve record. While his former band is no more, the core sound remains. Much of this album comes across like follow-up to the last Verve release, Urban Hymns. The sweeping strings, soulful vocal melodies and grandiose production elements are all there. The prime difference, as expected, is the lack of a strong groove. The excellent rhythm section and superior guitar work of Nick McCabe are noticeably absent, but somehow Ashcroft has filled in the void and delivered an excellent release. There's a little more emphasis on love ballads throughout Alone With Everybody, obviously inspired by Ashcroft's intense love for his wife Kate Radley, with whom he has just had his first child, Sonny. It will be interesting to hear the next Spiritualized record, given that Radley used to be a band member and love interest for front man Jason Pierce. Pierce's bitterness might reach a zenith when he hears Ashcroft's "Money To Burn," which not only emphasises his love for Radley, but incorporates a gospel chorus akin to the signature Spiritualized sound. Songs like "A Song For The Lovers," "On A Beach" and especially "C'Mon People (We're Making It Now)" have the hooks to make them instant favourites. Slide guitar makes a welcome appearance on tracks like "Slow Was My Heart" and "Everybody," two more outstanding tracks that highlight Ashcroft's soft side. The anger and frustration that often came out in his music (Verve fans will recall he was known as "Mad Richard"), seems to have all but disappeared. It must be a family thing. Although finding love and happiness is often bad for music, in Ashcroft's case, it has centred him and given him a fresh new perspective on songwriting. Nice work indeed. (Virgin)