Keys to the World

Studio Album by released in 2006
Keys to the World's tracklist:
Why Not Nothing?
Music Is Power
Break the Night With Colour
Words Just Get in the Way
Keys to the World
Sweet Brother Malcolm
Cry Till the Morning
Why Do Lovers?
Simple Song
World Keeps Turning
75 Degrees

Keys to the World review

Keys to the World is Ashcroft's finest solo album yet

As the frontman for the epic British band The Verve, Richard Ashcroft proved himself the spiritual descendant of rock’n’roll icons like Mick Jagger and Jim Morrison – rivetingly charismatic, menacingly serpentine, and possessed of an almost shamanic intensity, he embraced and articulated the anthemic fervor of rock music with a power and eloquence unparalleled by any of his contemporaries. When Noel Gallagher, a man not known for showering his rivals in praise, calls him the best songwriter of his generation that must mean something. Yet after The Verve split up, Richard Ashcroft’s muse has led him further into introspective, acoustic territory. Alone With Everybody had some good moments, but his last album, Human Conditions, was bloated, self-important and filled with enough gushing declarations of love to his wife to make even the most romantic of souls a bit nauseous. After a lengthy hiatus, Ashcroft returns with his third album. Loyal fans will say his talent of writing a good tune never deserted him on both previous LPs, but the good news is on Keys to the World the rest will take notice once again. It is Ashcroft's finest solo album yet. His voice sounds better than ever, and while nothing here recaptures the glory years of The Verve, his songs are more focused than before.

Lyrically the bar has been raised across most of the tunes

The opening tracks Why Not Nothing and Music is Power suggest a rejuvenation not seen on his previous solo efforts; with the former foot-stomper easily his finest rock’n’roll moment post The Verve. On Why Not Nothing Ashcroft sounds angry, re-energized and important again – you couldn't really wish for a better opening track. Similarly, Music is Power sounds fresh and almost funky (it's built around a Curtis Mayfield sample). The lyrics appear to deal with coping with depression and the trademark strings make it one of the most uplifting moments here. Lyrically the bar has been raised across most of the tunes; Ashcroft's voice has matured into a rasp infused combination of Gallagher/Presley and there can be no doubt now he holds the finest voice of the long string of charismatic frontmen the UK has produced. Fine examples of this are on Cry ‘til the Morning and the timeless beauty Sweet Brother Malcolm. A true master of the ballad, Ashcroft exceeds even his own standards with Words Just Get In The Way and the beautiful but sad lament Why Do Lovers. The usual philosophical meanderings are apparent throughout, but never have the songs been so punchy as title track Keys to the World and focused as first single and instant classic Break the Night With Colour.

Return to basics for Britain’s finest troubadour

Keys to the World contains songs written over six years showcasing Ashcroft's sneeringly cocksure vocal in fine, mature form. His voice exudes charisma, whether on slow songs or rasping rockers. Recorded in London, the album was produced by Ashcroft and long-time collaborator Chris Potter. Ashcroft’s new emphasis on classic-tinged soulfulness – a nice change from his occasional, unfortunate tendency towards lumpen Britpop blokeiness – permeates Keys to the World, a factor that sets it on a par with the likes of Weller’s 2000 album Heliocentric in the return-to-form stakes. Simply put, it’s his best set of songs since Urban Hymns. At 44 minutes long and containing 11 tracks, it’s the return to basics for Britain’s finest troubadour. Finally, the man from ‘that’ video has a set of songs that can match anything from ‘that’ band. And the music world is a better place because of it. Richard Ashcroft may not be, as Chris Martin recently declared, the greatest rock’n’roll frontman in the world, but he matters more now than he has for quite some time.

(30.01.2006)
Rate review4.77
Total votes - 22


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