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The Verve

  • All In The Mind,
  • She's A Superstar,
  • Gravity Grave,
  • A Storm In Heaven,
  • A Northern Soul,
  • Urban Hymns
  • Forth

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    The Verve

    All In The Mind ****
    All In The Mind / One Way To Go / Man Called Son

    The Verve, then titled simply Verve, emerged in 1992, the year of a scene called 'Shoegazing'. They were from Wigan, hardly a hotbed of rock n roll! Believe me, I've been to Wigan many times - ah there was a girl with eyes so full and.... sorry! Let's get down to the business at hand! This was The Verve's first ever single, and it owed a lot to the skyscraping guitars of Ride, Slowdive - etc. But, all along, The Verve wanted to be the new Echo And The Bunnymen! They never ever sounded like them in a million years! A sure sign of a great group! 'All In The Mind' itself rolls along, the guitars sure are skyscraping - but nothing startling, nothing to blow your mind or make you fly - as the band had intended. Second song 'One Way To Go' is more like it, although not yet fully executed. A seven minute long b-side, with lots of wonderful sounding, rolling bass guitar. Even better was third song, 'Man Called Son' and suddenly Verve ( they were forced to change their name thanks to Verve records! ) were out on their own. A haunting vocal and bass line - little else. Slightly psychedelic lyrics. Enough to make you want to track down their next release, anyway.

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    top of page She's A Superstar *****
    She's A Superstar / Feel

    Name me one other band in the history of music - whose second single was ten minutes long? Name me one? This kids, is originality! This is doing something different from the rest of the pack. Of course, you've got to do it well. Unluckily for The Verve, few understood what the hell they were trying to do - releasing two songs adding to twenty minutes of music, as their second single? Yes, well - luckily for them, 'She's A Superstar' has lovely tender vocals and even lovelier guitars and bass. It's ambitious, it's sometimes the entire world, if you get into the mood of it. The b-side was a short ten minute long ditty called 'Feel'. The atmosphere is everywhere now, and the bass guy excels himself especially by repeating the same lines over and over again. Excels? Yeah, well.... It's all about the sound, the mood, the atmosphere. The vocals are truly otherworldly, so quiet and out into space - you really couldn't even begin to pretend to imagine them. Let's pretend you had all the talent in the world? Would you come up with something like this? Or would your talent lend your hot new group to rip off The Rolling Stones - because, you know - you can. The Verve existed outside of all of that kind of thing. Mention Pink Floyd if you will - but Pink Floyd certainly never came from Wigan!

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    top of page Gravity Grave ****
    Gravity Grave / Endless Life / Man Called Son ( live ) / Gravity Grave ( live )

    AND! 'Gravity Grave', the song, is even better!! An eight minute long track full of spooky, skyscraping, wonderful guitars. A totally wonderful bass line. A vocal reaching for the heavens, and suddenly it was as if progressive rock had never been invented! As if psychedelic had never been invented! The Verve at this stage - if you were one of their very few fans, made you believe, simple as that. But, first signs of strain. 'Endless Life' was all atmosphere and no melody. The last two songs on this four track EP were live renditions of previously heard songs, albeit very well done. Ah, well. Tiredness comes to us all. 'Gravity Grave' itself really is superb though, and seeing as this is a single - it still gets four out of five for 'Gravity Grave' alone.

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    top of page A Storm In Heaven 8 ( 1993 )
    Star Sail / Slide Away / Already There / Beautiful Mind / The Sun, The Sea / Virtual World / Make It Til Monday / Blue / Butterfly / See You In The Next One

    The legendary John Leckie produces the debut Verve album, but it isn't at all an accurate representation of their standing at this time. Stung by certain press complaints about the length of their songs, they decide to release 'Blue' as a single, only three minutes long and nothing like as good as previous singles. Yes, this is compromise, folks! This is pandering to the big money guys!! But, even so - this album is a fine debut, because The Verve's ambition and vision still shines through most of the songs here. If you are only familiar with 'Urban Hymns' chances are, this record will sound like the work of a different group altogether, as will the three early singles. So, be warned! Opener 'Star Sail' for example, is all soaring guitars - psychedelic tinged guitars, wonderful bass. It lacks a certain structure and ends without reaching any sort of conclusion, but it sounds great. The sound of The Verve at this stage is encapsulated by 'Star Sail' even though it's only three minutes long. The bass guitar sounds wonderful and pins everything together, allowing lead guitarist Nick McCabe to express himself. Richard Ashcroft is slightly buried beneath the musical mix, but this is a fine, grand song. And, things are building up! 'Already There' is five minutes long, one of the lengthier songs here, and it's absolutely wonderful. The bass and drums set the atmosphere, very quiet with the guitar adding minimal but beautiful lines over the top. The vocals reach upwards, get louder as the song goes on, as does the music. It reaches a crescendo through the chorus, and it's a wonderful thing and a good use of dynamics.

    'Beautiful Mind' is all soft, slow atmospheric bass with beautiful guitar over the top. Richard sings softly - this rivals 'Man Called Son' for atmosphere, but is better recorded thanks to John Leckie. 'The Sun, The Sea' is all guitars, rivals 'Gravity Grave' but is half the length of that song. It maybe could have stretched out - but really, is fine as it is. 'Virtual World' is all bass and lead guitar, the music dominates - the drums support the bass whilst the vocals become another instrument. Richard Ashcroft was not really the most notable aspect of the group at this time, they were very together, a proper band. He got most of the press attention when he claimed he could fly, or something equally as silly - and he looked striking. Basically, everything added together. 'Make It Til Monday' dispenses with the guitars partly to incorporate keyboards - the bass still sounds wonderful and the vocal is suitably soft and airy. 'Blue' is back to the mix of 'Gravity Grave' - all guitars and bass guitar, but mixed in an even more prominent psychedelic fashion with backwards sounding percussion running though the song. 'Butterfly' is the longest song here, topping six minutes in length but unfortunately is a formless, tuneless jam, lacking in structure and with everything seemingly buried and swimming in the mix, so no one musical or vocal aspect really stands out. The closing 'See You In The Next One' although featuring a nice vocal, marks Richard Aschroft's debut on acoustic guitar, whilst the talented Nick McCabe is relegated solely to keyboards. The vocals do sound nice, and this is a suitably mellow closing track, but following the lack-lustre 'Butterfly' you wanted something a little more. Still, the first half of this album at least is brilliant, and enough to earn this a good grade.

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    Readers Comments

    Sure it's a good album but just for one second imagine how good it would have been if the three preceding singles had NOT been left off it. It would have been unbelievably good. Fans should also track down Voyager 1, an extremely rare piece of vinyl (1000 made although 300 were ruined on transit between US and UK) of live Verve recorded in US in 1992-Slide Away is particular is just incredible in it's power. It's unlikely you'll find a copy though so try and download from fan websites. It's unfortunate so few people have heard it as it shows just how tight, dynamic and powerful Verve were live. Much of the credit for this must go to guitarist Nick McCabe, along with Johnny Greenwood of Radiohead, the best guitarist of the 90's: perhaps unfortunately for him his role would diminish over the years as Richard Ashcroft started to take centre stage by writing 'proper' songs such as History. As a result their live performances lost some of the magic.

    Gazza garyhess44@hotmail.com
    I remember a friend playing me this back when it was 1st released . We both thought this band would be massive , couldnt see them failing - Eventually the sucess came but ironically much later with a reformed line up and their weakest record . but hey lifes strange but this record still sounds good today . This was a classic post rave come down record , It had a beautiful sound , drenched in echo and fx , horns pushing in and out of the mix,one minute gentle and strung out next guitars raging. an epic sound reaching for something unnatainable but admirable for trying, the verve had ambition and new they were good . Spiritualised were the only other band in the same area .The guitar playing is stunning for sure , the songs themselves tend to bleed together as one and the whole thing maybe could have been mixed a little better but listening to something like slide away and butterfly it defies belief that they werent bigger at the time .

    David A d.atkinson@maxfordham.com
    This album has been almost forgotten; a shame because it shows Verve (as they were) at their psychadelic best before britpop and stealing Jason Pierce's girlfriend. The more song driven 'A Northern Soul' is probably a better record but there's a uniquness to their first effort that I like. Wonderful guitar playing and soundscapes, unfortunately half ruined by a terrible mix. The famous third effort I don't really like, 3 or 4 great tunes apart.

    top of page A Northern Soul 9 ( 1995 )
    A New Decade / This Is Music / On Your Own / So It Goes / A Northern Soul/ Brainstorm Interlude / Drive You Home / History / No Knock On My Door / Life's An Ocean / Stormy Clouds / Reprise

    Owen Morris had manned the desk for the Oasis debut 'Definitely Maybe'. The Verve and Oasis had something of a mutual admiration society going on, so Owen got the call to help The Verve nail down their musical vision a bit better than they'd accomplished on the still entertaining 'A Storm In Heaven'. Richard Ashcroft believes 'A Storm In Heaven' will achieve great posthumous acclaim, but given that The Verve are, at the time of writing, five years extinct, that seems unlikely to me. More likely is that 'A Northern Soul' will eclipse the far better selling 'Urban Hymns' to become THE Verve album. And, that's something of a story in itself, the name change. The Verve, formerly Verve, were forced to change their name prior to this album following complaints from the similarly titled Jazz label. Options were considered, 'Verve UK' for example, but the simple addition of a definitive solved the problem. The Verve. Sounds ok, doesn't it? The band and producer may well have, shall we say, 'indulged' during the stressful recordings for this album, but it all turned out OK in the end. Tension and stress can sometimes be beneficial to the creation of a great album. Did Bob Dylan feel stress and tension recording 'Blonde On Blonde'? Well, that record doesn't indicate any stress, but Bob was undoubtedly 'wired' on the tours he was performing. He was staying up all night on artificial energy and something had to give. Luckily for the sake of art, it didn't give until he'd created the likes of 'Highway 61 Revisited' and 'Blonde On Blonde'. Bob would recover of course, and this is all history anyway.

    Do The Verve deserve to be mentioned alongside an acknowledged classic icon of Rock such as Dylan anyway? Well, not in terms of longevity, influence, innovation. So? Well, Rock seems to grow more fragmented with every passing year, so the question isn't easily answerable. I'm not going to even try, things have changed. One thing is clear however, and that's songs from 'A Northern Soul', songs as incandescent and triumphant as 'This Is Music' and 'A New Decade' are as good as anything recorded in the Nineties, at least. And that should mean something, provided you, the listener of Rock & Pop music, are open to music created after Rock's 'golden' era. There are so many moments on this album I enjoy, even if the album as a whole isn't quite the perfect work it should have been. Sloppy editing - two instrumental 'interludes' spoil this records flow, and the next to closing track 'Stormy Clouds' also lacks the thrill and distinction of the finer songs here. The finer songs, these moments I so enjoy, include the beautiful, perfectly crafted ballads 'On Your Own' and 'History'. The latter features a string section and points the way clearly towards 'Urban Hymns'. 'Drive You Home' is the longest track here, six and a half minutes of bass guitar that sounds like waves gently caressing an ocean on a balmy summers evening. Reminiscent of earlier Verve material such as 'Feel', 'Drive You Home' features a very affecting and genuinely lovely vocal from Richard. In a similar vein is the only slightly less enjoyable 'So It Goes'. 'No Knock At My Door' and 'This Is Music' allow guitarist Nick McCabe to show off his psychedelic guitar lines to full exhilarating effect and 'Life's An Ocean', which would have made a great album closer, contains a notable rhythm section performance.

    Little here lyrically approaches poetry, but the lyrics are perfectly appropriate and a line such as 'I was buying some feelings from a vending machine' enough to at least gain your attention. So, 'A Northern Soul' may be a flawed, imperfect work. Three of the twelve tracks do little for me. The rest of this album is perhaps as good a record as The Verve were capable of. And, that's enough. They reached in places a state they were aiming to reach. Beautiful songs, and wonderful performances full of feeling and passion. <

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    Phil Waines philwaines1@hotmail.com
    Urban Hymns by the Verve, granted is not one of their best efforts. But at the same time gave Richard Ashcroft time to be cherished. If any album of the Verve's was ever to be remembered for being put forward in a commercial aspect (i.e the singles on here) it should've been this one. The album is more of a triumphant end to an illustrious career and the start for Ricahrd Ashcroft into his now illustrious songwriting solo career, as he is one of the greatest Rock and Roll personalities UK has to offer. I would certainly place him up their with the Modfather himself, Mr Paul Weller. And hope he can succeed as well as the ex-Jam front if not superseed him. He deserves to be recognised and how else better to do than with this album as his first step onto the ladder. As a northern lad myself you get to appreciate good northern soulful indie music. Take 'Lucky Man', 'Sonnet' and 'Drugs Dont Work' they are some proper awesome tunes. I know they were three of their singles but but ! to get the ball rolling you've got to let the people hear. Arguably not their finest but it was there send off album. And by far the most poignant, well for Ashcroft anyhow.

    top of page Urban Hymns( 1997 )
    Bitter Sweet Symphony / Sonnet / The Rolling People / The Drugs Don't Work / Catching The Butterfly / Neon Wilderness / Space And Time / Weeping Willow / Lucky man / One Day / This Time / Velvet Morning / Come On

    The Verve split up, Richard Aschroft began work on a solo album with the remaining members of The Verve, and the addition of Simon Tong on guitar and keyboards. But, it was felt a certain spark was missing. Nick McCabe was re-integrated into the group after Richard swallowed his pride and asked him to rejoin. The trouble was, nine of these thirteen songs had already reached advanced stages of completion. Nick found himself with little to add to songs such as 'Bitter Sweet Symphony' or 'Lucky Man'. They sounded 'full' already. He tried his best, and then The Verve recorded four new songs, full band performances and compositions to finish off the album. But, that's the problem. This isn't really a Verve album at all. It's a Verve EP married to, what is in effect, the first Richard Ashcroft solo album. And, that's not all. 'Bittersweet Symphony' with the help of the bands Massive Attack inspired 'walking down the street' video rocketed to number two in the UK charts. Success at last! Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, ludicrously, ended up collecting all of the royalties thanks to the similarity between the string section here, and an orchestral version of their own 'The Last Time'. They didn't write or arrange the orchestra for that version of 'The Last Time'. They didn't write the lyrics to 'Bittersweet Symphony' either, so it seems astonishing to me that The Verve had to surrender 100% of the royalties and the writing credits as well. The string drenched 'The Drugs Don't Work' followed 'Bitter Sweet Symphony' into the UK charts, actually reaching number one this time round. A lovely ballad, in the style of 'On Your Own' from 'A Northern Soul', although a little more 'blown up' production wise than that particular heart-warming, acoustic charm.

    The four full band performances include the skyscraping guitars and psychedelic atmosphere of 'The Rolling People' in addition to the forgettable 'Neon Wilderness'. 'Catching The Butterfly' was better, and the first good use of the sound of The Verve's bass guitar. 'Come On' made for a fine, guitar led closer, and that was the end of the group compositions. There's a surplus of mid-tempo ballads clogging up the second side of this album. 'Weeping Willow', 'Space And Time', 'Lucky Man', 'One Day'. These songs all appear together on the album, and it's really not great sequencing. It's simply too many mid-tempo ballads, full stop, actually. Lose a couple of them, lose 'Neon Wilderness', and you might have yourselves an album here! 'Velvet Morning' is another slow song, but at least this has an affecting, slightly desolate atmosphere about it. So, in short? To long term Verve fans 'Urban Hymns', once the initial excitement of the opening two singles had died down, was a terribly disappointing work. To many more others, it was their first introduction to the group - it also broke the group in America, incidentally. They could have progressed from here, but sadly it wasn't to be. The band split once more, this time for good. Richard Ashcroft went solo proper, and that was that.

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    Readers Comments

    in responce to your review on urban hyms "So, in short? To long term Verve fans 'Urban Hymns', once the initial excitement of the opening two singles had died down, was a terribly disappointing work." fuck off... urban hyms is the greatest album of all time.....

    Andy Senior lfc4eva02@aol.com
    You know what really annoys me is idiots like Matt who claim an album or band to be the gr8est ever. Hey if lennons not in your group ur just not the best band that ever lived! And Urban Hymns? well its not as gud as previous albums/ e.p's. Its basically an album of 4 great songs and the rest is crap. so i'd proberbly agree with your review

    Urban Hymns was the first Verve album I bought and I loved it. It was moody, atmospheric, yet also angry and loud. I later bought Northern Soul and couldn't quite get into it. The difference between Northern Soul and Urban Hymns seems quite dramatic, so there's no surprise original fans of the band prefer the early work, and Urban Hymns fans don't get the first couple albums.

    Hatchy hatchking@hotmail.com
    Well done! I hate this dreary album and I am so glad someone agrees with me. I am happy that Verve/The Verve/Bore Mongers UK have ceased to exist, my life will be complete if Robbie Williams follows suit. Fuck off Verve!

    Adam adampkmorris@hotmail.com
    the reason why the stones collect the royalties on BSS is not as you state but because the strings on the verve record are actually sampled from the rolling stones, or rather an album of orchestral versions of stones songs produced in the 60's by their manager of that time, andrew loog oldham. it was, apparently, nothing to do with the verve at all but more to do with the fact that their manager approached the stones to sort out this "uncleared sample", with an attitude so bad that they decided to take the full monty to teach him some manners, an expensive mistake that cost the verve millions in lost royalties. great pages btw thanks

    Brian badger@gregory1972.fsnet.co.uk
    Average album that has dated badly with a couple of nice tracks on it. I saw the verve in '92 and they were great, their first few eps were brilliant, All In the Mind and Man called Sun especially. Then later I bought A Storm in Heaven and it had none of the eps/singles on it and was a real dissapointment. I was amazed when after underachieving for so long,they hit it big with this album. Don't get me wrong, I loved Bittersweet Symphony and the video but I've since heard the album that they sampled it from and the entire melody was lifted not just the string samples! the whole-"well, it's a bittersweet symphony......" bit, infact the whole song! even the rythm! They should still get credit for a great track but the royalties battle didn't do them any harm as everyone bought the album and they made a fortune. Incidentally, Jagger and Richards shouldn't have got anything either as the instrumental by Andrew Oldham bares no relation to their original song!!! !!

    emma diamonds_r_a_girls_best_friend@hotmail.com
    i would give anything to witness the verve perform live in front of me. its just such a shame that they split because their music was immense. it has to be said though, that Richard Ashcroft is not as successful as he was when he was in the band. I love to put on ther album; urban hymns because it reminds me of so many happy times. even though there is so much new talent, no- one seems to be forgetting how utterly immense and great the verve were... and are still.

    Jayson jayson_colhoun@yahoo.co.uk
    Have you ever noticed how old people never watch Extreme Sports? At first I thought that it may be due to the fact that as they could not undertake the subject matter at hand they had little interest in it. Then I realised that I liked Judge Judy but had no intention of going to court. This is obviously a subject that cannot be debated and settled by going straight from point A to point B but rather should be dissected and studied until we find the reasoning behind the 9th Dan coffin dodgers viewing habits. Oh and Urban Hymns is a pile of s**t. 3/10

    Thought id check this out again in lieu of a new verve album on the way .This album along with ok computer was omnipresent 10 years ago. To be honest i wish i hadnt bothered as its such a dreary uninvolving album . Your bang on with your review by the way this is a verve album in name only and is essentially ashcrofts 1st solo album with some mccabe overdubs . Sadly The 1st 2 albums were much more interesting than the cod stadium rock bluster contained here . I like the singles and while"sonnet" and "this time" have urgent melodies i still had to take it off before the end as it was getting on my nerves . 5/10 .

    top of page Forth 7 ( 2008 )
    Sit And Wonder / Love Is Noise / Rather Be / Judas / Numbness / I See Houses / Noise Epic / Valium Skies / Columbo / Appalachian Springs

    The Verve are back and they sound like they've always sounded. Well, a little older and wiser, as you'd expect. A few tracks here nod towards the groups pre 'Urban Hymns' days but mostly this is a 'perfect' match between Ashcroft solo and Verve as a band, as they used to be before they started splitting up after every album. The six minute plus opener 'Sit And Wonder' is also the best song here, a sprawling epic of the skyscraping kind they used to do so well before Britpop infiltrated their ranks and guitarist Nick McCabe's role was reduced to that of a session man. Here we have the great Verve bass lines and McCabe reaching for the heavens whilst Ashcroft spins out nonsense words designed to be shamanic. Well, Ashcroft always did but there are effects on his voice such as echo and 'Sit And Wonder' is, all in all, as good an album opener as we could have hoped for. The lead single 'Love Is Noise' makes for a thoroughly satisfying first ten minutes or so when taken in conjunction with 'Sit And Wonder'. It's a clever, melodic and upbeat single that has deservedly become a hit song. There's little else on the album as anthemic as this. No 'Bitter Sweet Symphony' or 'Drugs Don't Work' to numb the masses. The aggression of Verve's earlier work has gone for good it seems and editing has become something of a problem as they try and win back fans of their early work. Those first few singles could have lasted forever, such were their hypnotic attributes. The lazily titled 'Forth' very rarely matches the groups best pre or post 'Urban Hymns' work after 'Love Is Noise' has finished playing.

    Something like 'Judas' contains atmospheric tinkling, shimmering guitar parts from McCabe but doesn't actually go anywhere. 'Numbness' sounds nice thanks to some great bass lines but ultimately Ashcroft screaming out 'numbness on the brayeeeeeayinnne' becomes deeply annoying. 'Houses' however is a definite highlight and funnily enough sounds like a superior 'Urban Hymns' track. Their is still chemistry within this band but all that has passed between the various members has irrovocably changed The Verve dynamic. So, the album somewhat peters out due a lack of variety rather than a lack of quality. There is quality playing here but original ideas are absent. It will please Verve fans well enough, but like recent work by the likes of Coldplay or Editors, is a little too middle of the road to really change anything.

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    Readers Comments

    Brutalli_honest@hotmail.com Birmingham
    Pretty fair review, although I think people in general are being a tad over critical, all in all I find it a consistent album, but it doesnt hit the peaks some of their songs have (Gravity Grave will always be the one for me) Surprised you didnt mention appalachian springs however, maybe the best song on the album, and ana amazing end track

    Saniette New Jersey
    Agree with your review, though I might even rate "Forth" lower - at about 5 or 6. And the 4 songs credited to Ashcroft alone are what ruin the album, but as you noted most of the band collaborations go nowhere. It's nice to have The Verve back, but I doubt that they'll ever again record an album on a par with "A Northern Soul." (And the chorus of "I See Houses" seems like a rip-off of "Check the Meaning.")

    top of page this page last updated 17/10/08

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