Richard Ashcroft: Human Condition (Hut)

There is a spirituality to his being, a higher understanding of the universe.

Agnostic (def): One who holds the view that any ultimate reality is unknown and probably unknowable. For Richard Ashcroft, this appears to be a driving force behind his life and music. He is a man who is continually searching for the meaning of the human condition. As a youngster, Ashcroft was heavily influenced by his stepfather, a member of the ancient secular order of the Rosicrucians, who regularly performed experiments in mind expansion and healing arts. It was during Ashcroft’s tenure as leader of The Verve that he entered into a period of mind expansion, mainly achieved through the use of Ecstasy. A very charismatic and shaman-like creative, Ashcroft is able to take you places only few singers have had the ability to do. There is a spirituality to his being, a higher understanding of the universe. After the fall and crash of The Verve, it seems as if Ashcroft is now entering into a time of healing.

With the release of his second solo album, Human Conditions, it appears that Ashcroft has entered into a period of reflection: reflecting on his past, his present, and the human condition. He is a man searching for a understanding of one’s own misgivings about the world. Once again, he has created a lush and atmospheric-sounding space. The strength of this record is the wise use of strings to create an airy backdrop for his eloquent lyrics. As the title suggests, this album is about human conditions—the highs and lows, love and hate, the search for meaning, and an understanding of one’s own demons.

On the final track, “Nature is the Law,” Ashcroft has crafted a very spiritual and personal song on which Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys adds harmony vocals. As Ashcroft sings in a deep, almost haunting voice, the listener can picture a lone figure standing on a cliff, staring out at the ocean, contemplating the world around him—a meditation on the power of nature. As Ashcroft repeats the chorus over and over—“Nature is the law, baby/nature is the law”—the strings and harmony vocals take this song to a faraway peaceful place we all desire. With this album, Ashcroft has blended his spiritual visions of the human condition with lush atmospheric sounds, creating a treat for both the ears and the mind. Let’s just hope he finds time to tour in the U.S. more extensively on this album than he did on his last solo release.

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