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Richard Ashcroft - Natural Rebel (Album Review)

Monday, 22 October 2018 Written by Graeme Marsh

Photo: Robin Pope

Here’s a thing. Do you remember when Rod Stewart was cool? Probably not. It’s been over 40 years since Faces, the original lad-rockers, split. Perhaps you remember when Sting was cool instead, then? But once the Police went the same way as Stewart’s mob, their frontman launched a similarly disappointing solo career.

It’s not like Richard Ashcroft has offered nothing since stepping away from the Verve. His chart-topping 2000 solo debut ‘Alone With Everybody’ had some fine moments, particularly the singles A Song For The Lovers and Money To Burn. But since then, commercial success hasn’t been able to hide the fact that his band’s shadow has become longer and longer. That swaggering air of cool he once had is gradually diminishing as a result.

‘Natural Rebel’ is his fifth solo collection, and one that mirrors the strings-heavy sound of the Verve’s biggest legacy, ‘Urban Hymns’. At times it does feel like a reverberating echo of the past, and unfortunately that is its main draw.

Verve fans of that era may point to the anthemic chorus of A Man in Motion as a highlight here, but do we need to be reminded of ‘Urban Hymns’ anyway? That record’s singles have been played to death, and continue to be flogged on radio.

The best songs here stick out like sore thumbs. Born To Be Strangers is irresistible, its simple riff and backbeat sounding fresh and original for the album’s true high point. But the first single, Surprised By The Joy, didn’t leap out upon its release and doesn’t now thanks to some uninspiring melodies.

Opener All My Dreams has a simplistic riff that’s frankly rather dull, as is the country twang of Birds Fly, a song that manages to sound like a hundred that have gone before it. Rocky closer Money Money is much more appealing, its snarl and sneer reminiscent of Billy Idol not least because of the – hopefully unintentional – fact that its title is a couple of letters removed from Mony Mony.

With a few cracks appearing in that magnificent voice, Ashctoft’s path is starting to resemble that of Echo & The Bunnymen’s Ian McCulloch. That’s How Strong is anthemic for the sake of it, as is also the case with the melancholic We All Bleed. Here, he declares: “I’m born to sing.” Without the Verve, though, will there be many out there who care to listen in future?

Richard Ashcroft Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Fri October 26 2018 - GLASGOW Barrowland
Sun October 28 2018 - MIDDLESBROUGH Middlesbrough Town Hall
Mon October 29 2018 - NOTTINGHAM Rock City
Wed October 31 2018 - MANCHESTER Albert Hall
Fri November 02 2018 - LONDON O2 Forum Kentish Town
Fri April 19 2019 - PORTSMOUTH Guildhall
Sat April 20 2019 - CARDIFF Motorpoint Arena
Mon April 22 2019 - NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE O2 Academy Newcastle
Tue April 23 2019 - EDINBURGH Usher Hall
Thu April 25 2019 - HULL Bonus Arena
Sat April 27 2019 - BIRMINGHAM O2 Academy Birmingham
Mon April 29 2019 - DUBLIN Olympia Theatre
Wed May 01 2019 - DONCASTER Doncaster Dome
Fri May 03 2019 - LEICESTER De Montfort Hall
Sat May 04 2019 - LONDON Olympia

Click here to compare & buy Richard Ashcroft Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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