‘Natural Rebel’ by Richard Ashcroft (Album)
Songwriting Magazine Autumn’s album of the issue is the fifth solo long-player from the former Verve frontman, released on RPA/BMG
Natural Rebel is the fifth solo album from the former Verve frontman. Ashcroft’s previous efforts have been well received and, for listeners of those albums, this will contain few surprises. All of the songs were written by Ashcroft, and it was co-produced by Ashcroft, Jon Kelly and Emre Ramazanoglu. Aside from the vocals, guitar, bass and drums, most of the tracks have the backing of a subtle string section.
Things start in familiar territory. The opening song, All My Dreams, kicks off with a jaunty, upbeat guitar strumming over a steady beat. The first half of the album carries on in the same fashion, and the pace is unvaried. When listening, therefore, with no deviation in the tempo, the songs can seem middle of the road and the production uninspired.
Things then pick up on the second half of the album. Born To Be Strangers contains a simple, but glorious, riff. Ashcroft’s percussive vocal cut pounces over the guitars, singing off the beat. As soon as the song starts, you can sense a change in the record’s direction. The string section has been dropped. That’s When I Feel It – possibly the standout song – energises the listener once more before things slow down for We All Bleed. This variation of speed and instrumentation works, the production is slicker, the songwriting is powerful.
Scattered throughout the second half are beautiful phrases and rhymes. Contained within Streets Of Amsterdam Ashcroft sings, “You could be Yoko/and I could be John. We’ll stay in bed/and they’ll ban the bomb.” Natural Rebel closes with a blast… Money Money, with its overdriven guitar, played in a Keith Richards-esque style, is surely designed to ignite any stadium into a frenzy.
This is very much an album of two halves. The second, stronger half has everything a listener would need: fast rock, softer and subtle songs, crafted with strong, witty songwriting. That’s not to say there is something wrong with the opening half of the album: there isn’t. It just isn’t quite as exciting.