Richard Ashcroft – Keys to the World (2006)
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Maybe I wasn’t listening to The Verve hard enough, but after “Bittersweet Symphony” came, went, and wound its way through the legal system, I wouldn’t have expected Richard Ashcroft to last for more than one solo album, let alone several — to say nothing of something as full of glorious, ragged swagger as Keys to the World.

There’s nothing new here, naturally; Ashcroft is a traditionalist in true Stonesian fashion (something that, I’m happy to say, not even a legal verdict can change). But songs like “Why Not Nothing?” (download) and “Simple Song” (download) prove that there’s still some juice left between the grooves of rock’s black vinyl heart.

A perfect blend of ’66 and ’06, built out of phlegm and whiskey and razor blades and every other ingredient in the rock & roll cookbook, Keys is a gem. A small gem, and one that I’d wager probably won’t make it to many year-end Best Of lists, but a gem nonetheless.