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Music Picks

Remember The Verve's 'Bittersweet Symphony'?

Even better tracks from lead singer Richard Ashcroft.

By Elaine Corden 17 Apr 2008 |

Elaine Corden writes about music and pop culture regularly for The Tyee.

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The sound of a man in love.

I am sitting here terrified. I am among the great unwashed at YVR, waiting to board my Air Transat flight to London, and I am not a good flier.

I am going, once I swallow a couple Ativans, to Glasgow, and there's really only one reason why: Richard Ashcroft.

He's the former/current lead singer of '90s Britpop band The Verve. (You may recall them from their hit "Bittersweet Symphony," a chart topper in 1997, that now makes me feel a bit old when I hear it played elevator-style at Shoppers Drug Mart.) But, though The Verve reunited last year in Glasgow, I am not going for The Verve, only for Ashcroft.

Ashcroft, you see, released one of my favourite albums, Alone With Everybody, in June 2000, his first solo effort after the breakup of the monumentally popular The Verve. Critics panned it, saying it was too sentimental, too lazily written and, most criminally, not at all like The Verve.

Myself, and my lifelong best friend, a woman with whom I have little in common except music, adored the album. Dreamy and string-gilded, it was the sound of a man in love, whereas The Verve's lyrics always come down to one dire message, best summed up in their 1995 single, "On Your Own":

You come in on your own And you leave on your own Forget the lovers you've know And your friends on your own

But in "Alone With Everybody," the lonely warrior, Ashcroft, had found love, and felt an elation that required epic string sections and beautiful, sentimental lyrics.

It must have been played a thousand times when we lived together, my music friend and I, usually at the end of a long night of misbehaving. We would place the album carefully in the player, then find a suitable spot to lie on the ratty old carpet of our living room. "Alone With Everybody" was our holy ritual: a communion between Ashcroft, my friend and myself. The singer exalted love and beauty, and the two of us believed every word of his gospel, despite the fact that love had not (yet?) drawn us to make epic symphonic albums of our own. It was lovely, and when I think of all the things I miss about my friend, who moved to Scotland a year ago, this is the memory I hold dearest.

So this week's music pick is an oldie that never got its due. I recommend starting with "You On My Mind In My Sleep," which is pure Sticky Fingers-era Stones, or the lovely, pastoral "I Get My Beat," which is as beautiful a love song as one could ever hope to inspire.

In a matter of hours, hopefully, the flight terrors will be over and my friend and I will be lying on the floor listening to these very songs. It's a testament to the power of the communion we shared that I'd get on a plane to see her. Music, as Ashcroft himself has said, really is power.

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