Former lead vocalist of The Verve, Richard Ashcroft's latest offering will shock fans of his previous band's sound, exemplified by 1997 hit Bitter Sweet Symphony. With the help of hip-hop producer No ID (Dion Wilson), and his new band RPA & The United Nations of Sound, comes United Nations of Sound.
The record starts strongly with Are You Ready? Ashcroft holds nothing back in this stirring anthem filled with synthesizers, strings and a rousing guitar solo.
Although single Born Again doesn't quite measure up to the opener, it is a catchy rock song with soaring strings set beneath guitar riffs. Other pleasant tracks include bluesy number How Deep is Your Man? and the piano-driven She Brings Me the Music.
It's when Ashcroft departs from the familiar that the album loses its way. He makes an awkward shift into hip-hop tune America, and This Thing Called Life, an R&B ballad that features Ashcroft rapping over a choir.
Ashcroft's lyrics hold the album back, too; they remain inane, despite tackling issues such as love and religion. In Are You Ready?, he says: 'Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist too, I feel so ... free I don't need all of you'. That's about as illuminating as his moralizing gets.
United Nations of Sound has some pleasant songs but doesn't reflect Ashcroft's true talent.