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Friday, Feb. 10, 2006

LISTENING POST: CD REVIEWS

Richard Ashcroft "Keys To The World"


By SHAWN DESPRESY

After years of toiling on the edge of the mainstream, The Verve finally achieved commercial success in 1997. Unfortunately, their "Bittersweet Symphony" was not meant to last and the British group parted ways in 1999.

"Keys to the World" is ex-Verve lead singer Richard Ashcroft's third solo effort since, and aside from the title track, which would have worked well on 1997's "Urban Hymns," he continues to distance himself from his shoegazer past. After opening with the rambunctious, big band- esque "Why Not Nothing?" the disc slows considerably. Dominated by strings, the mid-tempo ballads feature Ashcroft's soulful vocals and contemplative lyrics over lush instrumentation.

Occasionally he takes himself a bit too seriously and treads close to cheesy, adult contemporary territory, but for the most part "Keys" is a solid collection of pop-rock tunes. Admittedly, those pining for Ashcroft to relive The Verve days may be disappointed. On "Break the Night with Colour," he sings, "Fools, they think I do not know the road I'm taking." Although his solo material has yet to rival that of his former band, "Keys" is the sound of a confident artist who knows where he wants to be at musically -- whether people like it or not.



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