17 July 2023

Richard Ashcroft recreates The Verve's “Bitter Sweet Symphony” video for Sky Sports F1 Promo

Richard Ashcroft has recreated the music video for The Verve’s "Bitter Sweet Symphony" for Sky Sports. 

The singer recreated the visual accompaniment to the 1997 hit for a Sky Sports promotion of Formula One, and filmed the clips a couple of days before last week’s British Grand Prix 2023 kicked off.

Instead of walking the streets of London as in the original video, Ashcroft is seen performing the track around the UK’s Silverstone Circuit, which hosted the first British Grand Prix in 1948. The footage also features retro footage from previous Grand Prixs, including footage of the audience.

Arriving over a quarter of a century ago, "Bitter Sweet Symphony" remains The Verve’s most popular song, and first appeared as part of their third studio album Urban Hymns

This isn’t the first time that the frontman has revisited the single in the time since its release. Back in 2021, the singer re-recorded the hit for his Acoustic Hymns Vol. 1 album. In a three-star review, NME said: “Opener ‘Bitter Sweet Symphony’ is a sprawling, symphonic masterpiece reworked acoustically to allow Ashcroft’s gravelly vocals to take centre stage over subtle piano keys and twanging guitar chords.”

That same year, Ashcroft also revealed that Netflix showed interest in making a docuseries documenting the infamous copyright dispute revolving around the song. 

The band were involved in a row with The Rolling Stones’ former manager Allen Klein over its sampling of the Stones’ "The Last Time". The dispute was resolved in 2019, with Ashcroft and The Verve no longer having to pay royalties to Klein’s company ABKCO. 

“I saw an absolutely terrible script Netflix were going to do about "Bitter Sweet Symphony". It was an insight into just how far from reality these shows can go,” he said at the time. “It was an absolute piece of garbage. It’s quite scary [that] someone wanted to make it and make people believe it was the reality. I hope it doesn’t happen."

Currently, Ashcroft is embarking on a series of live performances around the UK, with a slot at Sheffield’s Tramlines festival set for later this week, as well as a gig at Englefield House in Reading on Saturday (July 22).

  • Source: NME, by Liberty Dunworth

22 June 2023

The Verve – Reflecting on the 30th Anniversary of “A Storm in Heaven”


The Album First Came Out on June 21, 1993

A century ago Rudolf Otto cultivated the concept of the “numinous” (from the Latin “numen,” “the divine, magic spirit of a place”), envisioned as “mysterium tremendum fascinans” (“mysterious, terrifying, and fascinating”). Romain Rolland called this the “oceanic feeling.” Carl Jung thought that the numinous could be a healing experience for the human psyche. Aldous Huxley associated the numinous with the psychedelic drug experience in his Doors of Perception.

During seven weeks at Sawmills Studio on the River Fowey in Golant, Cornwall, four young men in the band Verve (singer Richard Ashcroft and guitarist Nick McCabe were only 21 years old) recorded their debut album with producer John Leckie, who had previously worked as an audio engineer for Pink Floyd in the 1970s. These seven weeks of recording resulted in 10 tracks that are deeply numinous and often oceanic. This is also reflected in the album’s title, A Storm in Heaven. The album art by Brian Cannon completely summarizes the album’s mission statement, a front cover with a womb like cave and a figure of rebirth and a back cover with an old man giving a peace sign in a cemetery. A Storm in Heaven was released June 21, 1993, back when the band was just Verve and not The Verve, and four years before releasing the very different sounding hit “Bitter Sweet Symphony,” one of the defining songs of the ’90s. A Storm in Heaven stood apart from other albums that decade (and subsequent albums in the band’s discography) because of Nick McCabe’s guitar soundscapes.

“Star Sail” is a mind blowing opening song, with bassist Simon Jones and the band’s friend Mark Corley on choral background vocals while Ashcroft sings from a God’s eye point of view (“throwing stones from the stars on your mixed up world”) and McCabe’s space rock guitar soars. According to McCabe, the celestial textures of “Star Sail” were from the Eventide 3000, what he described as the “best effects box ever made.” “Slide Away” is sculpted from Jones’ opening bass groove while McCabe’s guitar flies into Ashcroft’s “night skies.” “Already There” is the album’s cosmic centerpiece, Peter Salisbury’s subtle tribal tom percussion and the lyrics at their most poetic (“If trees cut stars and eyes to heaven/I’ll bend them back and bend them again”), while McCabe’s Alesis Quadraverb effects on his guitar sound like a harp submerged underground and underwater. In a conversation with me, McCabe describes “Beautiful Mind” as “Van Gogh’s Starry Night contained in a snow globe.” McCabe used a Chorus Strings 2 effects patch on his guitar and a Solid State Bass Amp with “graphic eq tweak for sparkle.” McCabe says he “was very stoned, lots of red wine” and that the guitar on this track “seemed about four miles deep.”

The first four songs on A Storm in Heaven guide the listener on a mystical voyage. The album changes with the climax, the last track on the first side, “The Sun, The Sea.” McCabe exclaims that he was “power tripping with a Mesa Boogie Mark III!” The delicate, ethereal guitar of the first four tracks is now a hurricane accompanied by a free jazz freakout horn section.

The album’s sequencing is superb as there is an instrumental and lyrical shift on the second side. “Virtual World” has a spare, stark introduction that differs completely from the more psychedelic songs on the first side. After the high, the come down. All of the songs on the second side (with the exception of the last minute appended rock single “Blue”) had acoustic versions, as well, the second side of the album being a return to earth after the otherworldly explorations of the first side. “Virtual World” is Ashcroft’s contemplation of death (“I can see it now, the hearse”) while Yvette Lacey’s flute lightens the melancholy mood. The acoustic version of “Virtual World” (featured in the 2016 collector’s deluxe reissue) is graveyard blues, deeply haunting slide guitar by McCabe—he says he used the Crystal Echoes effect on the Eventide 3000 to enhance the ghostly vibes.

“Make It ‘Till Monday” is a meditation by Ashcroft about surviving a drug trip over a weekend (“another Friday night waiting for a revelation, I can see a million faces in the condensation”), McCabe’s guitar and keyboard visualizing these misty vapors. The acoustic version is early morning foggy folk. “Blue” continues the drug motif with a violent, wild story about the dark side of ecstasy, the power of the track is Salisbury’s backwards drum loops. “Butterfly” was, similar to “Virtual World,” a late night improvisation, the Kick Horns (from “The Sun, The Sea”) making another appearance and adding to the tempestuous atmosphere. The closing track, “See You in the Next One” is a plaintive, poignant song (possibly written from Ashcroft’s mother’s perspective to Ashcroft’s father who died young when Ashcroft was only 11 years old), the accordion and piano are nostalgic and plangent. “May be a lifetime before I see you again.”

I first heard A Storm in Heaven at the age of 16. My childhood best friend had tragically drowned at the age of 15 that summer. A Storm in Heaven spoke to my soul during this sad time. I met Nick McCabe and thanked him in person for his music the 10th anniversary of my friend’s death. I will never forget hearing the album on my headphones during my summer wanderings through Cornwall and Wales. The album saved my life at the end of my 20s when I was in a deep depression. I will never forget hearing the album on my headphones as I stargazed in the spring in the Gila Wilderness or now in my 30s sharing it this year with my international students at United World College in New Mexico, my teenage students now the same age as I was when I first heard this masterpiece, all of us staring out of the classroom windows at the swirling snow.

When I am at my darkest depths, Ashcroft’s lyrics and McCabe’s music enlighten and illuminate me. “You can do anything you want to/All you got to do is try,” Ashcroft sings in “Already There.” “I thought the best days had left me/My best years had left me behind/Then I watched them come back/If my skin looks tired and old from living/I’ll turn right back and live it again/ I’ll be hearing music ‘till the day I die.”

A Storm in Heaven is a masterpiece, still as mesmerizing 30 years later as it was when it was first released.

28 May 2023

Nick McCabe releases "Present Imperfect"

 Liner notes

"Improvised early 2023, part of an ongoing practice of variable feedback looping (see also We Are Are We). 

Unreconstructed from the two sessions, captured by Sound Devices recorder, microphones in M/S, meaning interaction in the room is audible. 

Being a vérité recording = no value assumptions. Amp noise is free.

Released May 28, 2023

All live. Guitar, hum, post processing, Nick McCabe."

16 April 2023

Richard Ashcroft feels pride and anger at his 'Mad Richard' tag

The Verve were one of the greatest bands of the 1990s. From the psyche-infused shoegaze of the Verve EP and their debut album A Storm In Heaven right to the anthems of Urban Hymns, the stage presence and lyricism of Richard Ashcroft and the glorious guitar tones of Nick McCabe made the Verve the essential British rock band of the late 21st century.

As for Ashcroft himself, in the early days, he was cruelly tagged with the nickname ‘Mad Richard’. He was known to say some outlandish things in interviews – for instance (via NME), “I believe you can fly, and I believe in astral travel” – dance around on stage in skimpy clothing and bare feet and write at length about his deepest dreams and fears in his songs.

In hindsight, especially considering the strides that have been made in mental health in the music industry, it was a truly unnecessary and lazy thing to call one of the greatest vocalists, lyricists and frontmen of his generation.

In 2018, Ashcroft fired back at those early journalists who called him such a name. “That image of Richard Ashcroft keeping his shit together, marrying someone and having a family and not fucking up, funnily enough, wasn’t the image that people wanted projecting,” he told Radio X’s John Kennedy, “which I think says a lot of where we are now.”

It’s true that Ashcroft got it in the neck when he was just trying to make a living as a musician. “It was all about death, negativity and nihilism – that was the engine of this industry,” he added. “That’s why Kurt Cobain’s estate earns so much now. Death sells in this industry, nihilism… They want that to be projected at all times.”

The Verve frontman went on to highlight the fact that he was writing about his mental struggles, and the press still seemed to go after him without concern for how it may affect his mood. “So when you’re suddenly saying, hang on a minute, I was in this crazy band, and I was this lunatic. Check me out now. So not only were you calling me ‘Mad Richard’ when I was a kid… So now we’re all so right on about mental illness now, though, aren’t we?”

“But I was ‘Mad Richard’ then a few years later I was picking up an Ivor Novello Award for ‘The Drugs Don’t Work’,” he forcefully added. “So, who’s the mad one? Who’s the mad one?” That Urban Hymns classic single alone ought to prove that Ashcroft was doing his bit for mental health long before anyone cared about it as they do today.

Ashcroft then went on to note how people take the wild claims of Kanye West with a pinch of salt, given his mental disorders, but none of the press in the 1990s gave Ashcroft a second consideration. “So you’ve got Kanye saying people are exploiting him for being bipolar,” he said. “Did Kanye have, for the first X amount of years of his career, did he have the prefix ‘mad’ before his name? No, he didn’t.”

Further highlighting the hypocritical nature of journalists, Ashcroft continued, “And would any of these oh-so PC journalists now do the same thing to anyone else? Oh no, they wouldn’t.” And the Britpop icon now wears that title with pride. “So I’m proud of that tag,” he added. “You can call me mad. Call me mad. Ban me from music at school, don’t let me take it as a GCSE, ban me from art, call me the cancer of the class because it’s all food for me. It’s motivation.” Fair play to you, Richard.

02 March 2023

This is why The Verve didn't want to release Sonnet as a single


Richard Ashcroft claims that some of his songs are “so powerful” that they take on a life of their own, including this classic Urban Hymns track.

Richard Ashcroft has admitted that some of his songs are so powerful that they are “beyond him” - including the classic 1997 track "Sonnet."

But The Verve almost didn’t release the song as a single from their hugely-popular album Urban Hymns.

The reason? "Sonnet" would have been fourth single to be taken from the LP.

The band didn’t want to milk the album too much; in fact, by the time the single was released, it was a full six months after the parent album hit stores, but their label Hut insisted.

The Verve’s label Hut insisted that they capitalize on the band’s huge fame at the time, so the band agreed to the single release - but only if it was as a limited edition.

The track was issued as 12”, limited to just 5,000 copies, which came in a cardboard envelope that you could stash the rest of your Urban Hymns singles in. The single was issued to shops on 2 March 1998 and crept to a lowly No 74 in the UK charts.

Despite the low-key release twenty three years ago, Richard Ashcroft still admits that "Sonnet" can still move an audience.

He told Radio Xt: “Songs like Sonnet… they’re so powerful, they’re beyond me and I think that’s an exciting thing.

“What’s good is that now I’m in a position where each drop of new material just makes [picking a] setlist a problem - it’s like having an incredible team, you know?”

"Yes, there's love if you want it
Don't sound like no sonnet, my lord"

In fact, Ashcroft can’t choose a favorite song out of his solo back catalogue and his work with The Verve.

He explained: “The only way I can answer that is by saying: Which one out of those tunes sums up that feeling best?

“Looking back at them all, I’ve got a new song on this album called That’s How Strong, then I go through things that people don’t even know, like Brave New World.”

11 January 2023

Liam Gallagher explains the brilliance of Richard Ashcroft and The Verve

During the 1990s, northwest England was famously fertile ground for music, with Oasis at the centre-point of the notoriety. Down the road in Warrington, The Verve were also creating magic, and Liam Gallagher was one of the biggest fans from the early days.

The Gallagher brothers built up a friendship with The Verve and grew particularly close with their frontman, Richard Ashcroft. On their second album, (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?, Noel Gallagher wrote the track ‘Cast No Shadow’ for Ashcroft. During an interview with Select magazine, Noel explained: “He always seemed to me to not be very happy about what was going on around him, almost trying too hard. That’s why it goes, ‘He was bound with the weight of all the words he tried to say.’ I always felt he was born at the wrong time and in the wrong place, and he was always trying to say the right things, but they came out wrong.”

Noel continued: “I played him the song, and he nearly started crying. I was like, ‘Come on, hold yourself together, son! Easy now. In a way, it’s about all my friends who were in groups. We are bound with the weight of all the words we have to say. We’re always looking for more.”

Ashcroft later described ‘Cast No Shadow’ as “a great honour” while in conversation with Q. To this day, the former Verve frontman still associates with Liam, most notably delighting fans as a special guest at Finsbury Park in 2018. The Britpop duo also collaborated in 2022 as part of Ashcroft’s single, ‘C’mon People (We’re Making It Now)’. The friendship has lasted the test of time and seems to have grown stronger with age. The Verve left an impression on Liam when he first saw them play an intimate show in Manchester, and the group went on to support Oasis at a series of concerts, including at London’s Earls Court in 1997.

Speaking to NME Gold (via Oasis Mania) in 2017, Liam recalled: “The first time I saw The Verve was in Manchester, at the Hop & Grape or somewhere like that. They were fucking heavy in the early days. I loved touring with them with Oasis. Whereas we were a bit more punky, they were out there: more a jam thing. I just remember Ashcroft having his socks and shoes off and all that. I saw Richard recently, we were both doing a gig in Finland: he was on fire. His voice has got really gnarly, and he was on his hands and knees, good energy about him.”

Liam proceeded to praise how The Verve changed their sound on Urban Hymns, which some believe was a result of Oasis’ success and a capitalisation on changing trends. Gallagher also dished out the ultimate compliment by claiming “they don’t make” bands like The Verve anymore. He added: “A lot of people, proper Verve heads, didn’t like Urban Hymns, but I think there’s some amazing songs on that. Before, they didn’t have that. ‘Blue’ is an amazing song, but all the songs on Urban Hymns are great. I remember when it was kicking off for them, we were in America and hearing about it. It was like. ‘What’s going on with this? better get back to England and sort this shit out.’ But I loved them, I really did. They don’t make them like that anymore.”

06 December 2022

Watch neo-psychedelic visionary Nick McCabe demonstrate his Lucem Paradox guitar


The Verve and Black Submarine guitarist is a master of dreamy soundscapes.

The Verve’s 1993 debut album, A Storm in Heaven, owed more than a small debt to the work of the Stone Roses.

That influence was apparent in the vocal approach of each band, the mood of their songs and their unashamed plundering of the best of the 1960s' experimental psych-pop sounds.

Interestingly, guitarist Nick McCabe, like the Stone Roses’ John Squire, has also maintained a very low profile since his time with the Verve.

McCabe often spoke of wanting to make his guitar sound like a synthesizer. Certainly, he was unafraid to create soundscapes that suggested anything but a guitar in his playing.

He had a fondness for using the instrument as an aural paintbrush to spray unconventional colors across songs that were otherwise fairly traditional in structure and ambition.

Utilizing a heavily processed sound, he would often have banks of reverb and delays bouncing against each other to develop a polyrhythmic bed.

As such, McCabe’s always captivating playing elevated the band’s songs to something much more substantial than the sum of their parts.

His go-to guitar was a 1979 Fender Stratocaster that he ran through a Mesa/Boogie Mark III tube amp combo or a Roland JC-120 transistor amp combo.

A panoply of delay units combined for the uniquely expansive sound that McCabe achieved, particularly a vintage Watkins Copycat, Roland Space Echo and an Ibanez flanger.

These days, McCabe also likes to use high-tech digital modelling amps and custom guitars. And in this video, he demonstrates his awesome Lucem Paradox.

Featuring cool retro styling and versatile electronics, this offset boutique beauty was originally developed in collaboration with the guitarist as the limited-edition Old Nick model.

Lucem currently offers Custom and Deluxe versions of this unique axe.

“In many ways, this guitar reminds us of the long-lost era of guitar design when different was best,” wrote Guitarist magazine in their review of the Lucem Paradox Custom.

“It’s hard to imagine any mainstream company creating something quite as out there as this – unless, of course, it was an obscure design from the '60s.

“Yet along with an extremely good build, it’s not only hugely individual, it’s a fine guitar with musical, organic sounds, plus the endorsement of one of the most visionary guitar players we’ve ever heard.” 

27 June 2022

Nick McCabe and Pete Salisbury release "Home Is Where the Heart Is"


Liner Notes:

"This is a product of COVID, but, more appealing than that sounds, it's a collaboration between friends. Myself, Nick McCabe and Pete Salisbury longtime of, and founders of the Verve, plus a last minute collaboration with friend and solo artist (and Black Submarine/Litter and Leaves member) Amelia Tucker.

COVID's interruption of an ongoing project including Simon Jones, also of the Verve, forced our hand back to working independently.  Independent work is a mixed blessing, "natural flow" allows honesty, forces abundance, but with that, output can become sidelined and misappraised, unappreciated.

Collaboration provides a route out of that kind of neglect, you're forced into appraisal, but for me also breaks the personal deadlock of whether to release or not.

I'm very happy to finally allow this out.  Positive, occasionally feel-good, occasionally reflective bunch of tunes.  What is it...? the music is yet more natural outcome of a decades long diet of psychedelic soul, mixed with typically British flavours: 4ad, 60s 70s British folk rock, landing somewhere I hope in the healthier area that exists between prog and post punk.

Of note, the final track Omega is the first track Pete and I collaborated on for the soundtrack to Dan Carter: A Perfect 10, the experience was so positive and fluid we just carried on where setups and schedules permitted.  Here I've restored to its original ecstatic angle.  Working title was Budd/'Gelis, I guess it's only right that I dedicate the piece in part to both men who passed not long ago." 

Released June 27, 2022

Nick McCabe - keys, guitars, production, mastering
Pete Salisbury - drums and percussion
Amelia Tucker - all vocals and lyrics on "The Eleventh Hour"

22 February 2022

Verve 'Voyager 1' Limited Print and release history

Despite being made to appear as a bootleg, Verve's Voyager 1 (released in 1993) was actually an official release with a Microdot sleeve.  Brian Cannon, who photographed iconic album covers and sleeves for The Verve in the 1990s, has issued a limited run of artwork prints on the Microdot Boutique website.

A link to the limited edition print for sale can be found here.

In addition, the history behind Voyager 1 and the sleeve artwork can be read here, as told by Brian Cannon.

14 January 2022

Richard Ashcroft releases "C'mon People (We're Making It Now)" new mix & lyric video


"Richard Ashcroft has today released the Don’t Stop Now mix of ‘C’Mon People (We’re Making It Now).’ The duet with Liam Gallagher featured on ‘Acoustic Hymns Vol. 1’ and is now supported by an exuberant, full band wall-of-sound. Richard Ashcroft and Liam Gallagher deliver their performances in a typically iconic and charismatic style, clearly relishing the opportunity to collaborate on a song that they both cite as a personal favourite."

26 November 2021

"Sankey Brook Rat Lab, N​.​O​.​S" released by Nick McCabe

12 November 2021

Exclusive - Acoustic Hymns, Vol. 1 review

Lacking Verve
Richard Ashcroft’s acoustic hits underwhelm
By J. Adams

Ever since The Verve’s breakup after the multiplatinum Urban Hymns in the late ’90s, frontman Richard Ashcroft’s career has been strewn with puzzling decisions. Even as one of the finest singer-songwriters of his generation, without the band he’s struggled with production and arrangement, squandering many potentially great songs.

The area where Ashcroft has most consistently excelled is live solo acoustic performance, eschewing hired hands to highlight his craft in purest form. So the announcement of an acoustic collection promised a major addition to his catalog—revisiting tracks that hadn’t been fully realized while revitalizing familiar classics.

Instead, the new Acoustic Hymns, Vol. 1 is a strangely extraneous rehash of mostly Urban Hymns-era material closely approximating the originals. It isn’t bad—lavishly produced with Ashcroft singing at his usual high standard—so much as a redundant missed opportunity.

Plenty of artists have revisited their hits for artistic or contractual reasons, uncovering new shadings or taking the songs in different directions, but with few exceptions this set faithfully imitates the originals to lesser effect. And while these recordings may utilize acoustic instruments, the production is as mannered, overdubbed and string-laden as on any of Ashcroft’s previous albums.

Take “Sonnet” and “Lucky Man,” for instance, singles from Urban Hymns. They’re beautiful songs, and Ashcroft sings these new versions beautifully. But they’re so close to the originals that they emphasize the absence of The Verve without developing their own groove. In live solo performance they can take on a shamanic quality at least as compelling as on the iconic recordings, but little of that comes through here. If playing in the background, few would notice that these are even different versions, if less viscerally satisfying.

Some of the tracks are more obviously different, and not for the better. “Bitter Sweet Symphony” abandons the big drums and infamous sample, losing much of its momentum. “A Song for the Lovers” adds a somewhat intriguing 30 seconds of romantic atmosphere before settling into a less captivating recreation of the original, while “Break The Night With Colour” lurches to a noisy conclusion.

On a few songs it works: “Weeping Willow” is successfully recontextualized among Ashcroft’s array of late-night confessionals, and “One Day” unassumingly comes from an older and wiser perspective. “Velvet Morning” gains a striking new outro. But almost everyone will still prefer the originals.

What’s frustrating is that Ashcroft is often at his best performing acoustic, dating back to early Verve radio sessions, routinely putting his studio recordings to shame. Simply turning on a microphone would have yielded far better results, but we’re left with a decent enough pseudo-greatest hits missing several key songs, even as his neglected back catalog deserves much more attention.

If there is to be a Vol. 2, it deserves a more adventuresome approach, with deeper cuts more thoroughly reimagined. How ironic that an album of so many of Ashcroft’s greatest songs could turn out easily the weakest of his career.

Grade: C

Track by Track:

Bitter Sweet Symphony – A solid retread of Ashcroft’s biggest hit, but just a touch too slow. There’s some nice vocal multitracking and percussion throughout.

A Song For The Lovers – Slightly too on-the-nose Mediterranean intrigue introduces a performance exceedingly close to the original, but a little less lush.

Sonnet – A good performance of an Urban Hymns-era classic too close to the original to benefit from the comparison. Ashcroft sounds great, even better than in 1997, but the song doesn’t quite soar without The Verve’s contributions.

C’mon People (We’re Making It Now) – A major missed opportunity given how much better solo performances have been compared to the middling single, as this new take sticks closely with the old arrangement. Having Liam Gallagher guest star is an interesting novelty, but he and Ashcroft lack much in the way of chemistry or interplay.

Weeping Willow – One of the few tracks on the record distinctly different from the original, replacing Nick McCabe’s churning guitars with moody strings. A definite highlight, and a damn shame more of the album didn’t take this approach.

Lucky Man – Another solid performance so similar to the original so as to magnify the missing Verve magic. Richard Ashcroft can make stadiums of grown men cry by playing this alone on an acoustic, and yet opted for a lesser soundalike.

This Thing Called Life – The most surprising inclusion, an obscure entry off the United Nations of Sound LP from years after anything else on the collection. It’s a strange selection, a dynamite chorus stapled to somewhat awkward verses and overly similar to the original, but the album’s one reboot that betters its predecessor.

Space & Time – Another missed opportunity that too closely approximates the original, except for some oddly out of place horns. The song builds to a slightly country-flavored new outro that would make more sense live than in the studio.

Velvet Morning – To its credit, one of the few songs much different than twenty-some years ago, building to a lovely new outro. The band does a good job conjuring a countryish atmosphere and Ashcroft delivers a tremendous vocal performance not through a megaphone as in the original. The problem is that the megaphone distortion and Verve guitars were key to the song’s defining wooziness. Still, easily an album highlight.

Break The Night With Colour – Another somewhat surprising inclusion, one of only two songs on the album not dating from the Urban Hymns era, and also way too similar to the original—at least until it shifts to the noisy outro that Ashcroft typically performs in concert, far less elegant than the original fade-out.

One Day – Now this is more like it! Genuinely stripped down, distinctly different from the original, and sung with the wisdom of years. The entire album should have been along these lines.

The Drugs Don’t Work – Not an improvement on the original but a rawer take perhaps more attuned to 21st century sensibilities (and media placements). More interesting than most of the record and a decent conclusion to a disappointing LP.

Regarding a Vol. 2

Amid promotion Ashcroft mentioned maybe releasing further acoustic volumes, but over the years has teased other projects—most notably a b-sides compilation—that never came to fruition. Hopefully he will record another, to do greater justice to his remarkable catalog.

Frankly, the impetus for Vol. 1 was likely more economic than artistic: streaming royalties. The bulk of Ashcroft’s come from four singles on Urban Hymns that he largely wrote but must share with estranged bandmates, plus the Stones until recently, and then to a lesser extent other Verve-performed tracks. To the extent that digital and physical sales still matter, the only package previously offering his biggest songs (besides Urban Hymns itself) was The Verve’s This Is Music singles compilation, which emphasizes Ashcroft but lacks any solo material.

So glossy studio versions of his big tracks with The Verve, but now officially by Richard Ashcroft, are presumably a lucrative prospect, and probably explain the strange soundalike redundancy of many of the rerecorded songs from Urban Hymns. Perhaps they will become the standards offered by algorithms, even if less compelling than the originals. If Ashcroft does record another acoustic collection, it will be more for pride than revenue.

Here are 22 songs for a prospective Vol. 2, several of which really should have made Vol. 1, that could readily make up a new classic:

See You In The Next One (Have A Good Time) – The composition that more or less marked Ashcroft’s initial emergence as a singer-songwriter back in 1993, it received a number of solid solo acoustic performances during the ’98 tour.

On Your Own – Anticipating Urban Hymns, but with more angst, the A Northern Soul single that heralded Ashcroft the troubadour replacing Mad Richard the psychedelic frontman. A piano-driven acoustic version was released by The Verve as a b-side.

History – The Verve’s final single and biggest hit at the time of their first breakup, a searing lament Ashcroft has routinely nailed over the years.

Misty Morning June – A lovely unreleased gem from the early Urban Hymns sessions, would fit perfectly with Ashcroft’s more pastoral solo material.

Never Wanna See You Cry – A promising but underrealized Urban Hymns b-side that could benefit from Ashcroft’s deeper, craggier vocals a quarter-century later.

You On My Mind In My Sleep – One of the highlights from Ashcroft’s solo debut, but at least as overproduced as the rest of the album. An acoustic radio version released on a promo points the way to a new arrangement combining the best of both.

Money To Burn – A fun Vegas-era Elvis pastiche that got inflated into a dubious imitation of Spiritualized, resulting in a mediocre single, but ripe for rawer reinterpretation.

Check The Meaning – One of Ashcroft’s all-time greats, but a poor choice for his solo magnum opus Human Conditions’ lead single. Always a highlight of his acoustic sets and a song that deserves more recognition.

Buy It in Bottles – An almost-great single from the underrated Human Conditions that would be child’s play to upgrade, one of Ashcroft’s near-classics that most demands revision.

Science of Silence – Arguably Ashcroft’s greatest solo composition, another almost-classic single suffering from bloodless production. It should have been a massive hit, regardless, and warrants more exposure.

Nature Is The Law – A profound spiritual meditation that concluded Ashcroft’s second—and best—solo album, but that suffered from cloying overdubs courtesy of Brian Wilson. An ideal choice to revive.

Music Is Power – One of Ashcroft’s better-known anthems, originally built off a Curtis Mayfield sample, and consistently a highlight of his acoustic sets.

Words Just Get In The Way – An underrated single from Ashcroft’s third solo album, Keys To The World, that would benefit from grittier, more countrified production.

Keys To The World – The title track of Ashcroft’s third solo LP suffered from an instantly-dated electronica arrangement that ruined an otherwise excellent song. Rare acoustic performances were almost shockingly better.

Rather Be – Perhaps the best of the Ashcroft-centric songs on The Verve’s reunion album Forth, and its second single. One of Ashcroft’s stronger compositions, but one he’s never performed solo.

Mona Lisa – At one point a contender for Forth, the band just couldn’t quite make it work, at least on the bootleg recording in circulation. But the bones of a better song are there.

Are You Ready? – The lead single from the United Nations of Sound project, the original was a somewhat generic Britpop jock jam, but occasional acoustic performances revealed a more compelling composition.

She Brings Me The Music – A promising but seemingly unfinished devotional from the frustrating United Nations of Sound album that was undermined by an incongruous outro and Ashcroft’s pneumonia during recording.

Glory – An underrated tune from United Nations of Sound that suffered severely from inexplicable overdubs, and wouldn’t take much to vastly improve.

They Don’t Own Me – One of the highlights of Ashcroft’s excellent comeback album These People that’s become more and more relevant in ensuing years. The song is too subtle to work in live performance, but ideal to revisit in a studio setting.

Hold On – The electronic arrangement of These People’s second single arguably overshadowed one of the best anthems Ashcroft had written in years, which could easily fit other sonic contexts.

Surprised By The Joy – One of Ashcroft’s finest singles, and the highlight of his last album Natural Rebel, that held up well in acoustic performance.