Richard Ashcroft Holds Onto The Verve's Sound On Solo Debut

Singer's first solo disc due in June, with single 'A Song for the Lovers' hitting radio next month.

Although he's no longer in the Verve, singer Richard Ashcroft apparently hasn't abandoned the epic sound he and the group molded into such hits as "Bitter Sweet Symphony."

Ashcroft's solo debut, slated for June, is "heavy, beautiful, layered music," a spokesperson said Thursday (Feb. 10).

"It's big, full, euphoric-sounding stuff," Tim Vigon of the Coalition Group publicity firm said. Vigon said he has heard eight songs from the as-yet-untitled disc.

Ashcroft's first single, "A Song for the Lovers," will hit airwaves around the world in late March and reach stores in the UK on April 3, according to a Virgin International marketing manager who gave his name as Orgie. There are no plans for a commercial single in the U.S., Orgie said.

The single includes two nonalbum B-sides, "(Could Be) A Country Thing, City Thing, Blues Thing" and "Precious Stone."

Ashcroft will tour the U.S., although details are not final, according to Vigon. "Richard will play live, but when and where, we don't know yet," he said.

Other tracks scheduled for the album include "New York," "Brave New World," "You on My Mind, in My Sleep," "Get My Beat," "Money To Burn" and "Come On People."

Long a force on the British rock scene, the Verve broke onto American radio only with "Bitter Sweet Symphony" (RealAudio excerpt), the melancholy yet uplifting single from their third album, Urban Hymns (1997).

Last April, the group closed the book on its nine-year career, a tumultuous ride that saw one previous breakup, personal breakdowns and legal troubles, including disputes about the band's name and an uncleared music sample used in "Bitter Sweet Symphony." The song uses an orchestral recording of the Rolling Stones' "The Last Time"; settling a suit with the Stones' onetime manager, Allen Klein, in 1997, the Verve agreed to give Stones Mick Jagger and Keith Richards writing credit for the song and to turn over their publishing royalties to Klein.

At the time of the split, Ashcroft said he was working on solo material with Peter Salisbury, the Verve's former drummer. B.J. Cole, a pedal-steel guitar player who performed with the Verve on their final U.S. tour, also appears on the new disc, Vigon said. Urban Hymns producer Chris Potter co-produced "A Song for the Lovers" with Ashcroft, according to Orgie.

The time may be right for Ashcroft to reconnect with an American audience. The recent success of "Go Let It Out" (RealAudio excerpt), the new single by Ashcroft's friends Oasis, may signal that listeners are ready to accept big, traditional pop sounds along with the rap-metal hybrids such as Korn and Limp Bizkit, who are now popular on rock radio.

Q101 (WKQX-FM) in Chicago has been spinning the Oasis track regularly and taking numerous listener requests for it, program director Dave Richards said.

"Oasis have done pretty well in America, while the Verve have not," he said. "Maybe this time the record can turn things around. Some of the poppier sounds are making a comeback on alternative radio."