Japanese edition of their highly acclaimed 1997 album with the unmarked bonus track 'Lord, I Guess I'll Never Know'. 15tracks total, also featuring the hit 'Bitter Sweet Symphony' and singles 'The Drugs Don't Work' & 'Luck... more »y Man', plus 'Deep Freeze', a hidden bonus track on the U.S. edition. Black & white picture CD with a group shot of the band. A Virgin release.« less
Japanese edition of their highly acclaimed 1997 album with the unmarked bonus track 'Lord, I Guess I'll Never Know'. 15tracks total, also featuring the hit 'Bitter Sweet Symphony' and singles 'The Drugs Don't Work' & 'Lucky Man', plus 'Deep Freeze', a hidden bonus track on the U.S. edition. Black & white picture CD with a group shot of the band. A Virgin release.
This is a magnificent album, psychedelic/entactogen rock at its best. The key to fully appreciating this music, though, is to listen to the album at least three times before passing judgement; the songs are quite dense and your brain will likely need extra time to parse them. The first time I listened to it, I was underwhelmed, and wondered what people were on about, calling it "great". The second time I listened to it, I thought that I should probably listen once more. The third time I listened to it, I realised I probably had something special in my hands. By the fourth listen, I was hooked; the music had pushed its tendrils into my heart and soul and made itself at home. Once you develop an ear for the Verve you can't turn back!
Key tracks: Bittersweet Symphony, Sonnet, The Drugs Don't Work, Lucky Man (though all the tracks are worthwhile songs - no filler here). McCabe's guitar work is at times soaring, vibrating, shimmering, reflecting, tingling, echoing, rolling... any adjective you can think of that suggests physical sensation or different types of light. Paired with Ashcroft's insightful, cuttingly emotional, and poetic lyrics, you have a gorgeous musical achievement that will be remembered for a very long time.
This is a highly visual, colourful album for me, right up there with Disraeli Gears and In The Court Of The Crimson King in terms of the pictures it puts in my head. It's also one of the few albums that brings me to tears just about every time I listen to it (beware of The Drugs Don't Work and Weeping Willow if you're coming down or in a depressed mood!).
Invest some time and effort in listening to this album and it will reward you many times over. Give it half an ear or a single quick spin, and you'll be missing out on something beautiful!
A Note: Bittersweet Symphony is NOT a cover, as is incorrectly claimed in another review here - the band used a sample from an orchestral version of a Rolling Stones song and got sued by Allen Klein (surprise, surprise!) which is why Jagger/Richards is the credit on the song, despite it clearly being an Ashcroft masterpiece. This was one of the great injustices of music history, without a doubt. There is nothing Stones-like about Bittersweet Symphony.
Gregory S. (helden) from EASTON, PA Reviewed on 4/11/2011...
This album's fatal flaw is easy to sum up: it's got 60+ minutes of music and maybe 25 of substance. Almost every song is drug out tremendously, repeating the same chorus/verse over and over, or meandering through a boring groove or bland riff for much too long. Every three-minute song is pushed to five or six, and several songs have so little substance that they should have been cut. And there are almost no bridges or solos of any kind to break things up (does the guitar player actually play leads?). This album, like so many others of the CD era, is lacking something very basic -- simple pop-music songcraft -- and it's left drowning in repetition and dead space. It's a real shame, too, because there are some very memorable melodies buried in here.
(Two more quick criticisms: The band can't rock; and the best song is a cover song -- that's always a bad sign.)
1 of 3 member(s) found this review helpful.
Chris D. Reviewed on 3/4/2007...
Only liked the one song & don't listen to it anymore...not really my kind of music...
1 of 3 member(s) found this review helpful.
This Will Stand the Test of Time
James Choma | 06/19/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is one of those timeless albums that you can listen to now (six years after its initial release) and still enjoy it. Each of the songs still sound as fresh as today as they did back in 1997. With this album, the Verve hit a homerun. I remember I was browsing through a CD store when I first heard "Bittersweet Symphony." It immediately caught my attention, and I stood rooted on the spot just listening. Very few times has an album jolted me like that, but this was one of those times. I asked the clerk who this was and he said that it was from the new album by The Verve. After "Bittersweet" was over, he told me to hold on and listen to "Lucky Man." It was after that I was sold -- I had to buy the album. On this album, you get 13 little masterpieces -- there's not a filler track in the bunch. Besides the excellent songwriting, the production is outstanding. I haven't heard such a good mix of strings since Tony Visconti's work with T. Rex -- just listen to "Lucky Man," "Bittersweet Symphony," or "Sonnet" for proof. The only downside is that the group broke up after this -- their finest moment! Of all the dumb luck. While Richard Ashcroft has gone on to do a couple of solo albums, they don't seem to capitalize on what The Verve had done on this album. Yes, he's the voice, the did much of the writing, but as the old saying goes: the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.Best album of the 1990's? This one, no question about it. After the Britney's, the Justin's, and all the other drivel from that era fades, this will be one of the albums people look back upon fondly. Rating: A+"
"Let the melody shine, let it cleanse my mind, I feel free"
P. Nicholas Keppler | Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania United States | 04/04/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Like many others, I bought The Verve's Urban Hymns in early 1998 because of "Bittersweet Symphony," the fantastic ode to angst that became a minor hit. At that time, I was listening to such air-headed schlock as Dave Matthews Band and No Doubt. Needless to say, the somber, reflective brit pop album did not connect with me and I shelved it for several years. A few years later, Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon proverbially melted most of my CD collection. Since then, I have built what is, in my humble opinion, a collection of some of rock's most ingenious albums (Beatles, Bowie, Dylan, Young ect.) and become a bonafied classic rock geek. A few weeks ago, I was feeling a bit spiteful and wanted to hear the malicious refrains of "Bittersweet Symphony" and somehow let the track number slip past one. About seventy minutes later, I collected my jaw from the floor. After spending countless hours listening to some of the most profound and expressive rock songs ever written, I now recognize that lead singer, Richard Ashcroft, was a man possessed by inspiration. Like George Harrison's All Things Must Pass or Leonard Cohen's The Future, Urban Hymns is the sound of a songwriter in his absolute prime. Mr. Ashcroft dispenses lines that magnificently inspire ("One day maybe you will cry again/Just like a child/You've got to tie yourself to the mast my friend/And the storm will end"), lyrics that pierce the heart ("All this talk of getting old/It's getting me down my love/Like a cat in a bag, waiting to drown/This time I'm coming down/And I hope you're thinking of me/As you lay down on your side/Now the drugs don't work/They just make you worse/But I know I'll see your face again") and shove-offs that cut to the bone ("There ain't no space and time/To keep our love alive/We have existence and it's all we share/There ain't no real truth/There ain't no real lies"). There is barely a verse on Urban Hymns that is not absolutely spectacular.Meanwhile the band shows expertise at backing such powerful words. They mold their electric sludge into foundation-shaking, sonic ripples on tracks such as "The Rolling People," "Weeping Willow," and the towering closer, "Come On," a song that pushes forth youthful frustration as if it were an outtake from Who's Next. But they also show remarkable restraint and stunning gorgeousness on the more somber numbers such as "Sonnet," "Lucky Man" and "This Time." Whatever the mood, each song is given a radiant texture by this obviously gifted group of musicians. It took me a while to realize it, but Urban Hymns is a stunning success; thirteen excellent tracks (no duds) that echo in the depths of the soul. As a fourteen-year old high school freshman, I had never encountered such quality (even though I was obtuse to it) and as a nineteen-year old hopeless rock acolyte, rarely do I come across anything so fine. I will greatly value this album for years to come."
5 stars isn't enough...
James Choma | 10/30/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"What else can you say? "Bittersweet Symphony"--an instant classic. "Sonnet"-a great ballad in the words of Noel Gallagher, and mine. "Rolling People"--rocks you throughout. "Drugs don't work"--I cry every time. "Catching the Butterfly"--a chilled out jam. "Neon Wilderness"--a nice come down. "Space and Time"--reminds me of Revolver-style song crafting. "Weeping willow"--melancholia at it's best. "Lucky man"--my personal anthem, along with everyone else in the UK. "This time"--sums up my feelings about life. "Velvet morning"--describes that feeling you get when you wake up after the long evening. "Come on"--Rock anthem for the ages. Totally solid album that has remained in my personal top 3 rotation since it debuted in 1997. My pick for album of the year in 97, and probably in my top 2 of the decade with the Pumpkin's "Siamese Dream" as the other album. Ashcroft knows how to write a good songs and McCabe knows how to take it to the higher level. I wish the guys much luck in their solo careers."
Probably The Most Complete Album Ever
Neil | Great Britain | 07/23/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Verve have come a long way since the pondering lyrics and dreamlike acoustics of their debut album "A Storm In Heaven", and in doing so they created some stunning songs, i.e. "History" and "Stormy Clouds" from "A Northern Soul", their second album. But it here that we hear a band that has truly reached the peak of its powers, and in The Verve's case, these powers are awe inspiring. The album opens with "Bitter Sweet Symphony", an song that just has every emotion in it, showing singer and songwriter Richard Ashcrofts' disenchantment with life, the vicious cycle of it all, all over a beautiful orchestral rhythm, with a little help from Pete Salisbury's drums, well it all creates a swagger in your step from the knowing that someone else shares your misgivings with life in general. The album moves on the the acoustic "Sonnet", a busking classic, very easy-listening, taking you deep into Ashcrofts thoughts and memories. Then comes the rock 'n' roll high point of the album-"The Rolling People". Drenched in overdubs, full of classic lyrics such as "I'll be the first to toast, yeah, to my rotten soul", the rhythm section of Salisbury/Jones is at its very best here thrashing its way along with McCabes and Tongs guitars. Great rock 'n' roll, very similar to a lot of The Stone Roses "Second Coming". Following that is "The Drugs Don't Work", a song that really oozes emotion, he really means every lyric on that song, it is truly beautiful. Next is the simple "Catching The Butterfly", full of the moody guitars and effects that made "A Storm In Heaven" such a memorable record. Following that is guitarist Nick McCabes "Neon Wilderness", wacky, and slightly drug induced I feel, it is food for thought to say the least. "Space And Time" follows, it is another easy listening song, not quite as memorable as the preceding 6 tracks, yet good in its own right. "Weeping Willow" is a very downbeat Northern Soul song, though provoking and intimate to its intended listener. "Lucky Man" is quite the opposite, showing a happy side to Richard Ashcroft, almost euphoric, it is the nemesis of "The Drugs Don't Work". "One Day" is fairly forgettable, trying to hard to be an emotional epic, but as always with The Verve, they really do mean what they write. "This Time" combines a funky rhythm with simplistic and poppy lyrics, and make no mistake, this is as near to poppy as The Verve will ever get. Very similar to early Stone Roses, i.e. "Fools Gold", through its recurrent riff and basslines. Then comes the third of three epic and unforgettable tracks from the album, "Velvet Morning" (the others being "Bitter Sweet Symphony", and "The Drugs Don't Work"). A dull and lifeless verse is followed by a rhythmatic and stunning chorus that makes you want to sing along at the top of your voice, because you really do have an empathy with Richard Ashcroft on this one, just like "Bitter Sweet Symphony". The closing track "Come On" is pretty standard fair, but the reprise is very reminiscent of "The Rolling People" with its swirling guitars. There's a hidden track if you let "Come On" keep playing too, its a prophetic Blake-esque instrumental effort, strange to say the least. All in all, this album has everything, it is a natural progression from "A Storm In Heaven", and it is everything a classic rock 'n' roll album should be; smooth, arrogant, understanding, performed by brilliant musicians, this is a truly under-rated album. It is as good as "Sgt Peppers", if not better. I doubt another band will ever come close to making an album as complete as this one. And as Richard Ashcroft says "With the music comes an attitude", just like the swagger that he has on the promo for "Bitter Sweet Symphony" this album means business. If you like The Beatles, you'll like The Verve, they're a modern equivalent in their melodies. Buy it and you won't be disappointed, it's the soundtrack to your life; its your Urban Hymns."