Keys to the World [Bonus DVD]

Keys to the World [Bonus DVD]

by Richard Ashcroft

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Keys to the World [Bonus DVD]

Richard Ashcroft deserves kudos for his, um, balls. But then again, a man who claims his last recording, 2002's Human Conditions, was the artistic equal of Marvin Gaye's What's Going On is tough to like, too. While many thought he had slunk into the murky depths after the critical and commercial drubbing of Human Conditions, Ashcroft was simply pondering what happened and deciding it was everybody else's fault the record tanked. Three and a half years later, Verve's former frontman is back with a record not terribly different, though certainly more pastoral and perhaps more middle of the road. Those who fell in love with 2000's Alone with Everybody will have a tougher time here just as they did with Human Conditions. But really, it's not the record's fault. Ashcroft uses a burping horn section and a few layers of raw, rusty electrics on "Why Not Nothing," the opener on Keys to the World, a nefarious anti-religion rant. His snarling vocal riding down inside the rock & roll cacophony is such a breath of fresh air; it's a true departure from his solo work thus far. The messed up fuzz-tone guitar break is glorious. Ashcroft can strut and swagger with the best of them At least here, Ashcroft reveals he can spit out the rage with the best of rock's big time frontmen (Mick Jagger, Rod Stewart, et al.). "Music Is Power," reveals the true surprise. It's a Northern soul workout, with -- are you ready? Samples! -- from Curtis Mayfield no less. (Actually it's from Walter Jackson's "It's All Over," by Walter Jackson; produced and written by Mayfield.) Yep, the guy who ripped off and got raked by Jagger and Keith Richards' lawyers for the royalties to "Bittersweet Symphony" has dipped his foot into the digital ocean once more. It's a cool groove, and he rides it well, though there is a bit too much sonic separation between the singer and the musicians (the set was produced by Ashcroft and longtime mate Chris Potter -- who's worked with the Rolling Stones). "Break the Night with Colour" is full of strings, a concert grand piano, some synths (including treated backing chorus), and a patch of guitars to make it a beautifully layered soft rock tune. Nothing "indie" or alternative here, folks, except perhaps his disconsolate lyrics. It's a fine comeback single, but either of the aforementioned tracks would have fared better in luring punters to the album. Other standouts on this well -- if leisurely paced slab -- include "Words Just Get in the Way," with a set of lyrics that are near-narrative (read: not mind-bogglingly nonsensical) for a change. It's a sleepy folk-rock tune with its lonely piano and vocal intro before the muted guitars enter. The strings come in on that second verse and one could close their eyes and picture hearing "Bridge Over Troubled Water" as a bona fide rock song, or early-'70s Neil Diamond being a Brit. The programming blitz on the title track breaks the interior mood a bit and rocks it up. But the sampling is rather dreadful and boring. The rest of the disc simply follows a formula, though it's a pleasant one. Ashcroft introduces everything else here with skeletally placed guitars, he pours on the strings and keeps the tempo on slow, slower, and slowest, until the final track, "World Keeps Turning," is slick, mid-tempo pop
ock. There's nothing wrong with that; it's just a curious way to send a record off. It's got a fine hook, a cool guitar part in the mix, and Ashcroft's vocal is back to being the British Bob Dylan. What we learn from Keys to the World is that after nearly four years, Ashcroft, despite his own proclamations to greatness, is at the place where he delivers almost entirely what you'd expect -- even if its execution is more attractive. [This special edition comes with a DVD. It features a longish interview with our man of the hour; live videos of the single and "Why Not Nothing," and the official video of the single.]

Product Details

Release Date: 03/21/2006
Label: Virgin Records Us
UPC: 0094635452327
catalogNumber: 54523


Album Credits

Performance Credits

Richard Ashcroft   Primary Artist,Guitar,Keyboards,Vocals
Matthew Ward   Track Performer
Terry Britten   Bass,Guitar,Mandolin
Gerry Conway   Drums
Nick Cooper   Track Performer
John Giblin   Bass
Nick Holland   Track Performer
Peter Salisbury   Drums
Steve Sidelnyk   Drums
Arnie Somogyi   Bass
Fenella Barton   Track Performer
Chris West   Acoustic Guitar
Bruce White   Electric Viola
Cathy Giles   Track Performer
David Juritz   Track Performer
Edward Vanderspar   Track Performer
Martin Slattery   Piano
Jim Hunt   Flute,Saxophone
Jonathan Tunnell   Track Performer
Deborah Widdup   Track Performer
London Metropolitan Orchestra   Track Performer
Yvonne John Lewis   Vocals
Helen Hathorn   Track Performer
Richard George   Track Performer
Ben Nabarro   Track Performer
Martyn Campbell   Bass
Rachel Ann Roberts   Track Performer
Laura Melhuish   Track Performer
Chris Parkes   French Horn
Chris Fish   Track Performer
Martin Burgess   Track Performer
Andrew Haverson   Track Performer
Chris Vanderspar   Track Performer

Technical Credits

Richard Ashcroft   Composer,Producer
Kris Weston   Programming
Chris West   Producer,Engineer
Christopher Marc Potter   Producer,Engineer
Julian Kershaw   String Arrangements
Sonny Ashcroft   Paintings
Richard Roson   Programming

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