Brit and Ivor Novello award winning and Grammy nominated artist Richard Ashcroft returns with "These People", his first new album in six years. Recorded in London in his home basement studio, it was produced by Richard and long-time collaborator Chris Potter with additional production from Mirwais. "These People" deals with the dark issues we find ourselves experiencing in these modern times, such as media lies, oppressive governments, wars and personal issues such as the death of a friend.
The album kicks off with "Out of My Body", described by Ashcroft as a mixture of Johnny Cash and electric funk, mixing old school song writing with modern technology. "Out of My Body" is a great start to the album, sounding like nothing he has done before. Ashcroft continues to explore new sounds and textures with the first single release, "This Is How It Feels" It sounds like a hip hop track , the slow synth sound moves along before the vocals come in and it sounds otherworldly and quite infectious. It went Top Ten in the UK Viral Chart on the week of its release.
"They Don’t Own Me" Is a more traditional sounding Ashcroft song. It's a gorgeous track- the chorus repeats and gets under the skin. Strings are provided by Wil Malone who has worked with Richard from back in the Verve days and his debut solo album. The anthemic "Hold On" is the album's pop moment - it has a driving beat that sounds like it was designed for the Radio One playlist and perhaps may disgruntle some Verve fans but it is a real uplifting song.
The electronic feel returns with "Everybody Needs Somebody to Hurt" - this is easily the "Stand out" track on the record, it's worth hearing the album for this song alone. It's the best thing he has done since "Check the Meaning" - It's a belter!
The gentle acoustic "Picture of You" is disappointing - it's hard to suppress an expectation of one of Richard's anthemic choruses but it isn't to be in this case. Richard Ashcroft harmonises with himself for album closer "Songs of Experience " which proves to be an uplifting finale to "These People".
For some, Richard Ashcroft's solo music is watered down compared to his previous work with his former band. After all, it took all four members and later Simon Tong to create that unique sound and the legend that was The Verve. Unfortunately this is something which Ashcroft has failed to recognise in recent promo for this album, which is a real shame. Richard Ashcroft , the solo artist is a different beast altogether - he should put the negativity behind him, acknowledge those who helped him along the way and let the music do the talking.
That aside, apart from the electronic tinged tracks, most of these songs could easily sit on any of Ashcroft's previous solo albums but that's not a bad thing. Stick with it as the songs and melodies will slowly reveal themselves with repeated listens. Richard Ashcroft is still one of the best voices in British music and "These People" is a thoroughly enjoyable album and his most consistent solo work since his debut solo record.