Richard Ashcroft releases his new album Acoustic Hymns Vol. 1 on October 29th. It contains 12 newly recorded acoustic versions of songs from his time in The Verve (including the classic Urban Hymns album) and his solo career.
The album features his regular live band and Wil Malone collaborations on string arrangements (recorded at Abbey Road Studios). Chuck Leavell is also on piano, Roddy Bloomfield leading the brass section, and Steve Wyreman contributing further acoustic guitar and backing vocal arrangements.
'Bittersweet Symphony' certainly lived up to its name when it was first released in 1997. A lengthy legal battle ensued over songwriting credits with the Stones late manager, Allen Klein. However, to Ashcroft's joy, the new recording of the song became the catalyst in Jagger and Richards returning the songwriting credit to Richard. 'Bittersweet Symphony' became a massive anthem of the 90s and is still as resonant today. Ashcroft's accusatory, vocal holds as much power as ever. 'You're a slave to money, then you die' along with a fresh, lucid production.
'C'Mon People (We're Making it now)' featuring Liam Gallagher is a favourite of theirs as Richard played it on the piano to Liam back in 1998. It's joyful and exuberant with a lively, steadfast piano. An uplifting song that is needed so much right now more than ever.
On 'A Song for Lovers', there's a 60s spy introduction on this beautifully evocative version. 'Sonnet' is sublime with complementary orchestrated production and fluid acoustic guitars.
'This Thing Called Life' sounds gospely, to begin with, then Ashcroft's vocal comes in with his poetic, heart-warming lyrics. The acoustics and strings really add to the flavour, particularly on the introduction to the soulful 'Space and Time' and 'Lucky Man.' 'Break the Night with Colour' is charming with Beatle-esque tones, harmonic strings and a flute that dances in and out of the song.
Acoustic Hymns Vol. 1 is a skillfully arranged album that brings together some of The Verve and Ashcroft's best material. The result of old songs given a new lease of life? It is life-affirming, eloquent and a stirring combination.