Just when you’re beginning to loose faith in the arts, someone like Ashcroft comes along and leads you straight back on the path of straight and narrow. An artist who writes every lyric with heart and emotion is truly hard to come by these days.
After six years in the wilderness, Richard Ashcroft brought himself back from the brink with his previous album, 2016’s These People. Although it was still quite in an MOR style it was the closest he had ever come to recapturing the anthemic nature and sumptuous strings of his colossal former band, The Verve.
The second to be released by his own label, Natural Rebel is the fifth instalment of Ashcroft’s solo-career. In the build up of the albums release, the maturing Rockstar hasn’t shied away from openly declaring, in true Ashcroft fashion, how pleased he is with his new creation.
Fans of Ashcroft certainly wont be disappointed with the versatility Natural Rebel. The album contains every Ashcroft convention his fans loves, from the slow and melancholy songs, such as All My Dreams and Bird’s Fly, to more up-beat songs, such as Surprised By The Joy and Thats When I Feel It.
Ashcroft’s instrument of choice is the acoustic guitar which acts as the driving force throughout the album. The use of digitally stored orchestra instrumentals becomes slightly excessive and doesn’t do much to differentiate the songs from one another. The only song that differs is Money Money which contains a strong electric guitar riff and is a classic rock song. This certainly ends the album off on a bang!
The production value might have changed slightly since The Verve days and the music industry is at its most volatile stage in history, with musicians opting to change their styles completely, whether profit chasing or just through shear boredom. But, amongst this, Ashcroft has kept his attitude and wisdom in-tact. He makes no apologies for questioning the current climate of modern pop-music and the people in it, and continues to make music he and his fans love.
Like his friend Liam Gallagher – Ashcroft has revived the classic rock sound successfully and Natural Rebel is certainly a mature release. Although the songs mostly are not quite on a level with The Verve’s material where Ashcroft produced his best work (and that includes Forth), they are very good.
The songs to take away from the album are certainly Surprised By The Joy, Thats When I Feel It, A Man In Motion and Money Money. The rest almost act as stocking-fillers.
Certainly one of the best albums of the year and requires a couple of listens before you really get the desired gratification.