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Richard Ashcroft
Alone With Everybody
(Virgin Records)


I have been an all consuming fan of Verve from the moment I heard them around 7 years ago. That listening induced a frenzy of collecting every single, E.P., and any bonus tracks from compilations that I could get my grubby mitts on. And I never stopped. With my intense interest in Verve, I can't help but compare them to Ashcroft's stunning solo debut. The first Verve full length, A Storm In Heaven, was more of a full band effort with Ashcroft and guitarist Nick McCabe forming the center of gravity. A Northern Soul, their second release, you can begin to see a struggle developing between the creative juices of Nick and Richard. The album seemed unfocused at times, but on a few tracks we can hear the shift of Ashcroft's voice from his earlier wispy, breathy style to a more soulful, sometimes gospel feel. The same voice that helped shape the album that knocked the industry on its bewildered ass; Urban Hymns. The last Verve release that showcased the new soulful style of Ashcroft on every single and most of the album. With all this, Ashcroft's solo release seems the perfect next step. Richard is definitely more in control of everything and playing more instruments than ever, but this CD still feels like what would've been the next logical Verve release given their progression on each album. Not a complaint, but just a thought on much Ashcroft has nurtured his talent at singing, playing, writing and producing. And all for the better.

Ashcroft enlisted a variety of talent for Alone With Everybody (the CD title was inspired by a poem of the same name by American author Charles Bukowski.) He's joined by old band mate Peter Salisbury on drums for most of the album and Gospel bassist Pino Pallidino, who has recorded with Oleta Adams, Joan Armatrading and Claudio Baglioni. Another heavily featured player is Country legend and pedal steel guitar specialist B.J. Cole. Wife and former Spiritualized keyboardist Kate Raldey plays on a few songs as well. After all, the CD is dedicated to her and their new baby Sunny. This ensemble and the efforts of Will Malone, who arranged and conducted the strings and the mixing abilities of Chris Potter, has been a very successful mixture. Two singles have already been released, "A Song For The Lovers" and "Money To Burn" and are doing well on the charts, with a third, "C'mon People (We're Making It Now)," on the way. The album debuted at the top of the U.K charts. And in their own way, each and every tune on the CD is strong enough to stand alone as a single. Even all the b-sides, that are only available on import releases, would be strong tunes for singles. I would think the catchy and melody laden track "New York" will be the next single or at least the one that gets released in the U.S. It probably has the most promise and mostly 'cause of the title and it's about the city (you know how we Americans are, more stuff about US).

Each and every track has so much to offer, some being lush and full of strings, organs or pianos and a variety of other instruments gives each song it's own life. Some being so rich with melodies that you get lost in the weave. You should conceivably be able to play any tune from the album and convince your friends that this is the next release they must unyieldingly purchase, lest they be stripped naked, shaved bald, rolled in a cactus patch and dipped in Tabasco sauce. Well maybe the shaving thing would be a bit much. Still yet, this is one of the best releases you could-should--no must add to your collection. You can take credit for it among your friends or just listen to it at home and pat yourself on the back for such a great idea.

-Jeff Turner

Track Listing:
1. A Song For The Lovers
2. I Get My Beat
3. Brave New World
4. New York
5. You On My Mind In My Sleep
6. Crazy World
7. On A Beach
8. Money To Burn
9. Slow Was My Heart
10. C'mon People (We're Making It Now)
11. Everybody


Mike Doughty



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