Where To Start With... Richard Ashcroft
Richard Ashcroft is probably best known to most as the frontman of 90s rock group The Verve, responsible for towering hits like 'Lucky Man', 'The Drugs Don't Work' and the Rolling Stones-sampling 'Bittersweet Symphony', but the band had already split once by the time they recorded their most commercially successful album, 1997's Urban Hymns, and split again after the resulting tour, citing a breakdown in the band's internal relationships, particularly between Ashcroft and the band's guitarist Nick McCabe.
A third, short-lived reunion followed in 2008, accompanied by the band's wryly-titled fourth album Forth, before the band finally split for good. In the years in between, Ashcroft has released a number of solo albums and spawned hits of his own, as well as popping up from time to time as a guest vocalist with other artists like U.N.K.L.E and the Chemical Brothers.
Following the third and final split from The Verve, Ashcroft released one more album in 2010 under the moniker RPA & The United Nations of Sound - basically an Ashcroft solo outing disguised as a band featuring some L.A. session musicians and, interestingly, produced by legendary Chicago hip-hop producer and mentor to Kanye West, No I.D. However, reviews of the album weren't exactly glowing and when he stormed from the stage at 2010's Splendour in the Grass festival after just one song - telling the audience he was going to watch The Pixies instead – some fans were left wondering if this would be the last we'd see of Mr. Ashcroft. And for a while, it was.
Ashcroft eventually emerged from his self-imposed exile in 2016 with These People, the first solo album released under his own name in just over a decade, which climbed to No. 3 in the UK album chart and yielded a handful of singles. Just two years on, Ashcroft is set to return this week with a follow-up.
Natural Rebel arrives in stores today and includes 10 brand new tracks from the former Verve frontman, recorded and co-produced with the help of Jon Kelly, who has previously worked with the likes of The Damned and Kate Bush, and Emre Ramazanoglu, whose impressive list of mixing credits includes everyone from Carly Rae Jepsen to Ali Farka Toure.
You can find the video for Natural Rebel's lead-off single 'Surprised by the Joy' below, beneath that we've picked out five of Richard Ashcroft's post-Verve moments to date...
'A Song For The Lovers'
Originally written for – but not included on – The Verve's 1997 master work Urban Hymns, 'A Song For The Lovers' is Ashcroft at his best, with a swooning melody and an upbeat arrangement that would soundtrack any summer's day. Not usually known for his cheery disposition, this is as happy a song as you'll ever hear from him.
'Lonely Soul' (U.N.K.L.E)
Some of Ashcroft's best moments outside of his former band have come by way of collaborations or guest appearances with other artists and this is one such example. Featuring on Psyence Fiction, the debut album from James Lavelle & DJ Shadow's side-project U.N.K.L.E., 'Lonely Soul' is one of the album's highlights and Ashcroft lends his distinctive voice in fine style here.
'Keys To The World'
Possibly one of the most overlooked tracks in his post-Verve career, the title track to his third solo album, 'Keys to the World' is a melodic wall of sound with Ashcroft lamenting the harsh realities of life, while offering hope in the face of adversity.
'C'mon People (We're Making It Now)'
This cut from his first solo outing Alone With Everybody may owe more than a little bit to The Four Tops' 'Reach Out (I'll Be There)', but a tune is a tune and next to 'A Song For The Lovers' this was undoubtedly one of the highlights of his debut album.
'The Test' (Chemical Brothers)
Our final pick is another of those collaborations we mentioned earlier and, in our humble opinion, this is the best of the bunch. Featured on the Chemical Brothers brilliant fourth album Come With Us, Ashcroft is one of several guest vocalists on the record but he puts in a star turn on 'The Test' and it's up there with the best things he's ever been involved with.