Best tunes of 2000: #5 Richard Ashcroft “A song for the lovers”

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For the first two thirds of 2000, I shared a two-bedroom apartment in the St. Clair and Bathurst area of Toronto with my good friend Ryan and my cat Lucy. Ryan and I met while at York University and whiled away many an evening over beers, discussing music. After I graduated, I moved to the apartment and he moved in after my previous roommate moved out with her boyfriend after one year. Ryan and I got along pretty well as roommates. When we weren’t working or spending time with our respective significant others, we’d hang out, go out to watch films, attend concerts, take a quick streetcar down to the Dance Cave on a Saturday night, or just stay in and spin tunes.

I remember when Richard Ashcroft’s first solo record, “Alone with everybody”, was released because Ryan and I both came home with a CD copy of it the day it came out. We had both been fans of The Verve’s final record, “Urban hymns”, and though were sad at the band’s passing, had reason to be optimistic for his solo work, given the debut’s advance single, “A song for the lovers”. I may be completely reinventing the evening in my mind now but I feel like we ordered takeout (probably Pizza Gigi), grabbed some beers, and gave the album a listen or two. There was likely a sense of disappointment after the first spin that it wasn’t a masterpiece. On the second, we began to identify the obvious high points and after the third, realized that though Ashcroft is a mad genius, he needs a sounding board. There are some incredible tunes on Ashcroft’s debut, lush and beautiful, yes, but he also had a tendency to get bloated and over-extravagant without Nick McCabe reining him in.

“A song for the lovers” is one the great tracks on “Alone with everybody” and telling that it was one of a handful of tracks on the album that he originally wrote for “Urban hymns”. It is not a pure love song like “Lucky man” but a love song nonetheless, very likely inspired by his muse wife Kate Radley. It starts with the riff of a string orchestra and a plaintive horn response and then instantly deepens with layers and layers of sound. The song is pure Ashcroft in its construction. There’s almost too much going on with the different guitar effects, the aforementioned horns and strings, and bongos but everything is okay once he starts singing. That voice of his is inimitable.

“I spend the night
Yeah looking for my inside in a hotel room
Waiting for you”

It sounds like he must’ve found his insides somewhere and poured them all into this tune, not just the lyrics but every facet of the song. And that’s what is great about Richard Ashcroft. You may not like every tune but you really have to be impressed by his passion.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2000 list, click here.

11 replies on “Best tunes of 2000: #5 Richard Ashcroft “A song for the lovers””

That closing line is a great reason to admire an artist – can’t argue when an artist goes all in, even if he doesn’t always hit the mark.
I haven’t been that far north on Bathurst but I really like the stretch from Bloor down to the water, in the Toronto 1/2 marathon that’s a beautiful downhill stretch from kilometres 3-7 or so!

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Yes indeed. Ashcroft does not “take off” any shift, he gives every one his all. As for that half marathon route: I gotta say, even if I were in shape enough to pull off such a thing, the lure of Sneaky Dees would pull me off course whenever I reached College & Bathurst.

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I’ll be honest, I never much cared for the album this was from (I bought it on the strength of this track) or Ashcroft’s solo work in general, but this is a cracking tune. I’m with you all the way on that.

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Like this album, I find most of his solo material spotty but he does have some real gems. I’m glad you agree that this is one of them.

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