By Richard Ashcroft
I like Richard Ashcroft, not as a fan but as a music lover admiring from a distance: too young to be swept along with The Verve whirlwind and too na´ve to realise what Ashcroft was really saying in 'The Drugs Don't Work'.
'Music is Power' begins with an inspired Curtis Mayfield sample which leads into Ashcroft's gorgeous gruff vocals explaining how powerful and effective the art of his craft is. And he's got a fair point. After a crap day, a blast of heavy metal would plunge me deeper into despair; but a breezy tune such as this gem would lift my spirits.
'Are you invited to the party of life?' the singer-songwriter begs the question and although the lyric is seemingly abstract at first, the listener does not take long to soak up the true meaning. Ashcroft appears happier than previously, perhaps fuelled by the birth of his second child and asks you why you aren't happy too. And why aren't you, when you're 'in the deep sunshine'?
'Cos music is power... rocking like a cradle': an explicit link with fatherhood and his strengthening not only as a person but as a musician as well. Finding comfort in a craft often filled with writing of heartbreak and adhering to the over-used theory of 'the sourest relationships make for the sweetest music'; Ashcroft testifies that music isn't all bad and there's no cause for that: a quiet protest against the melancholy musicians we're surrounded by. Maybe.
Wow: even I didn't expect to write about 'Music is Power' like that and this is what's so amazing about Ashcroft's work: soul searching and without patronising effect. So he may not be doing anything drastically different with current LP 'Keys to the World' but why should he when it's good enough? Time I think we music journalist stopped being so demanding and appreciating the output of one of the finest singer-songwriters around today.