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A real keeper

Richard Ashcroft - Keys To the World
4 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: April 14, 2006
Richard Ashcroft

Review by Andy Argyrakis

If Coldplay's Chris Martin calls someone "the best singer in the world," chances are most everyone in the U.K. will give that person's CD a shot. And now that the "Clocks" and its accompanying singles have trickled down towards America, chances are its legions of followers in the States will also comply. Even with that extra attention and a supporting slot of Coldplay's spring tour, the name Richard Ashcroft is more than just any new troubadour trying to break big, but rather someone who's already seen chart action and is attempting to reinvent himself. In fact, the singer/songwriter's original group The Verve has actually influenced the aforementioned and rose to significant fame with the single "Bittersweet Symphony," though Ashcroft has avoided riding on his previous laurels to reinvent himself as a solo artist.

Although it might not be a complete makeover (considering his sophomore CD unquestionably falls under the "Brit-pop" umbrella) he's become even more engaging as a songwriter, while diversifying his palette to also incorporate folk, rock & roll and even a soul sample. "Music Is Power" touches on that latter genre, pulling from the Curtis Mayfield songbook to adapt a swanky 70s groove with glistening melodies. "World Keeps Turning" takes on a Bob Dylan swagger, touching on humanity's many flaws but efforts to still improve and spread love. Such reality steeped idealism also seeps into harpsichord peppered "Break the Night With Colour," which talks about blasting through the strongholds of depression in favor of finding light.

On a lighter note, "Words Just Get In the Way" is a straight-forward love sonnet fans of Oasis, Coldplay and The Verve will devour while "Simple Song" is maxed out with carefree but catchy choruses. Yet "Cry Til the Morning" further addresses themes of longing and loneliness, tracing what Ashcroft describes as a "personal exorcism," but with a cleansing pattern of peaceful pianos, entrancing guitars and serene vocal moans. Such a series of personal expressions, along with the sparse beauty and additional sonic stretching makes Keys To the World a keeper, only amplified by the original acclaim, but certainly worthy of standing tall all by itself.

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