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on July 7, 2000
"Urban Hymns" is a fine album, but "A Northern Soul" is the Verve's greatest record. Why? It's the intensity -- seldom have I heard rock music performed with such passion and desperation. The band, and especially Richard Ashcroft, pour their hearts and souls into every track as if their lives depend on it. Much has been written about the squalor surrounding the recording of "A Northern Soul" -- the drugs, the broken glass, the screaming arguments -- and you can hear the effects in the music. The production is far from perfect; it sounds murky, and the mixes sometimes sound odd. Every track is amazing, but special consideration must be given to "So It Goes," the title track, "History" and "No Knock on My Door." Richard sings with a far purer voice on "Urban Hymns" and his new solo record, but the pain he exorcises here -- it's about a break up of devastating circumstances -- and how he does it is stunning. It's absolutely tragic that this magnificent record tanked outside the U.K.; indeed, the band broke up because of it, almost for good. If you've only heard "Urban Hymns", I hereby command you, dear reader, to purchase "A Northern Soul" and bask in its imperfect, yet mesmerizing glory.
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on March 4, 2004
If you know of the Verve as the "Bittersweet Symphony" song and the Urban Hymns album, then you're definitely missing out on what the Verve is all about. A Northern Soul is in many ways, even better than Urban Hymns. Soul hads a slightly harder sound, with songs like "A New Decade","This is Music", the title track "A Northern Soul", and "No Knock on My Door". But the album also contains ballads like the excellent "On Your Own" and "So It Goes". It also contains a song that sounds a lot a track from Urban Hymns, which is "History". It also contains a few songs that sound a lot like A Storm in Heaven, their debut album, these being "Stormy Clouds", "Life's An Ocean", and "Drive You Home" All in all, the album has the right balance of sound, and at times, it's simply amazing. The album does have a weak song or two, one of which is "Drive You Home" But one of the best things I like about this album is being able to understand most of the lyrics. In their previous albums, the lyrics are echoed out and tough to hear, but A Northern Soul is much better, with Richard Ashcroft's lyrics coming to the front of the music.
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On their 2nd LP, the Verve have managed to use all their influences: Can, Led Zepplin, Miles Davis, Nick Drake, and more, yet have crafted original, powerful, timeless rock and roll. Every song is heartfelt and emotional with Richard's Ashcroft's painfully honest lyrics and soulful singing. Nick McCabe's guitar work here is miles ahead of any of his peers. His playing ranges from towering and immense to subtle and understated, but always tasteful, beautiful, and unique. Plus, the Verve have the benefit of having the best rhythm section in the world. Simon Jones' original basslines give songs an added rythmic flavor other bands fail to use ("Life's An Ocean" being the best example). Peter Salisbury displays his masterful drumming, which, not unlike McCabe's guitars, can provide full-on power or a quiet, underlying flow. All four elements combine perfectly, with a chemistry rarely seen in bands today. A Northern Soul offers touching ballads ("On Your Own" and "History"), experiments in noise ("A Northern Soul" and "Brainstorm Interlude"), straight ahead rock music ("This Is Music" and "No Knock On My Door"), and much more. With its densely layered production, it is the kind of record where you will hear new sounds with each listening. This is a dark, yet cathartic album of potent songs that will leave you wanting more and more. Here the Verve offer you wjat their name suggests: music full of life, passion, and vigor. Key tracks: every single one of them.
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on December 12, 2012
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This review is from: Northern Soul (Audio CD)

No one with a conscious mind fails to realize that death is a universal occurrence that lasts forever (at least from a physical standpoint) and that one day our existence is going to come to an end. The ramification of this awareness can be felt on a metaphysical and emotional level as well; some who believe that death lasts forever and extinguishes the force that animates human consciousness and emotion have a difficult time making a positive adjustment to this (perceived) reality with no love, life, or anything else of value existing after we cease to do so, and fall into both isolation and despair as a result.

And boy howdy, is this feeling channeled and otherwise communicated throughout the length of "A Northern Soul", to the point where it's the dominant vibration expressed on this release at an emotive level,despite the frequent interludes of truly compelling music on this recording. Typical instrumentation we universally associate with conventional arranged rock songs allow "A Northern Soul" to unfold in a more linear fashion than its predecessor, "A Storm In Heaven" which was situated at the intersection of shoegaze and space-rock, swathed and cocooned in a massive wash of reverb, echo, and delay. Nick McCabe's guitar is still the essential driving force behind the songs composed for "A Northern Soul"; it just isn't sounding like it's transmitting elongated drones that emerge into from a dimensional rift halfway across the universe as it seemed to do on "..Storm", sounding as if it's levitating resonating fragments of crystal in a multiplicative chiming pattern, or pushing the distortion pedal until it becomes a pipeline for the roar of the universe. Sure, we'll hear a swirl of arpeggiated notes, but they're by no means as uniformly present and universally sweeping as what appeared on their full-length debut, with the possible exception of the closing tracks," Stormy Clouds" and "Reprise". And while the peaks and valleys defining build-up to explosive crescendos haven't been abandoned, they're no longer the focal point either, because while there are many beautiful passages where McCabe's guitar hovers and glides in a slightly psychedlic fashion, the songs written for "A Northern Soul" seem to be more structured w/r/t melody and arrangement, and less about magnitude and the buildup of dynamic tension. For instance, "Drive You Home" is oriented around an acoustic guitar,joining "On Your Own" in unfolding as a ballad, while "History" is a track built around orchestration, a precursor of what was to come on "Urban Hymns". Most of the semipsychedelic material begins and ends with a moderately high level of intensity ("A New Decade", "This Is Music" and "A Northern Soul", just off the top of my head), and stays at that plateau in between, throwing off a tremendous amount of energy, but by and large never seeming to escalate organically, and while the production values give it a booming atmosphere, often displays a sense of tenseness approaching an almost oppressive quality at times.

No real unifying, universal thread is running through the music contained within "A Northern Soul"; there's too much disparity between each track from the standpoint of arrangement to argue that it possesses the singular quasi-orchestral focus of "Urban Hymns", or the quiescent-to-explosive, fluidly-toned dynamic of "A Storm In Heaven" that runs from tracks 1 through 4 and 7, while "Butterfly" and "Blue" come the closest in prior linkage. But the sound itself, augmented by Richard Ashcroft's plaintive vocals declaiming in anguished tones about peak experiences and mindsets that can never be relived or even definitively recaptured in a raw, wringing, emotive voice, lends itself to creating what is overall a soundscape driven by a feel of desperation, loneliness, and existential angst that can't be resolved by participating in addictive behaviors, and that's where the universal thread can be drawn through. I recommend it, but suggest that you listen to "A Storm In Heaven" and "The Verve" EP beforehand.
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on May 5, 2008
I hear older guys always complaining that they "don't make music like they used to." They always like to compare today's music with that which they grew up with, classic stuff from the 60's and 70's, where the music was a story, and the band made an album, not just a bunch of singles that were mashed together under the same title.

Well, this is an album, not just a bunch of singles, and it is a testament to the history and greatness of both Rock and the British Invasion.

Listening to "A Northern Soul" is a journey, reminiscent of Pink Floyd and the Moody Blues, wherein a story is told over the course of an entire album. Today's music is, yes, a bunch of singles meant to be published on the radio piecemeal by Corporate Radio and its sponsors. But the Verve have captured something far more meaningful than a handful of singles they intended to have sold separately to Corporate Listeners...they captured a feeling.

The title track is the best, undoubtedly, but you can't listen to it without the rest, and you can't listen to it jumbled; it has to flow from the first, to the second, to the third, right down to the last track.

Everyone knows "Bittersweet Symphony" is one of the best rock songs ever, and certainly one of the best in the modern era, but the Verve are much more than just that one song; they are a story waiting to be told...through haunting guitar and a timeless voice.

The Rolling Stones? With all due respect, they can kiss my @$$, because they decided to steal the Verve's well-deserved royalties for Ashcroft's incredible writing. HE wrote the song, HE deserves the credit for it, and the Verve deserve the royalties that THEY - not Mick Jagger and Keith Richards - earned.

Listen to "The Last Time" by the Stones, then listen to "Bittersweet Symphony." They're not the same song.
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on October 22, 2005
It's just incredible to me that Verve (or "The Verve," if you prefer) released only three albums. Their second album, "Northern Soul," perfectly bridges the lush swirling guitar sounds of "A Storm In Heaven," and the more mainstream, heavily orchestrated "Urban Hymns." While guitarist Nick McCabe clearly dominated "Storm," on "Northern Soul" (and continuing with "Urban Hymns") their is no doubt that vocalist, Richard Ashcroft, became the leader and chief visionary of the band. As compared to the prior album, Ashcroft sings with much more emotional depth and confidence. His lyrics are almost achingly personal and painful. It's notable how he uses repetition of certain phrases to imply deeper meaning in a number of songs, much the same way that the brilliant Thom Yorke of Radiohead does this.

While "Northern Soul" is a fine and consistent album (I like several of the tracks alot, namely "A New Decade," "This is Music," "On Your Own," "So It Goes," "History," "No Knock On My Door"), I don't think it reaches the level of the best portions of "Storm" or "Hymns," wich is why I gave it "only" four stars. Additionally some of the songs run on a verse or two too long. Nevertheless, "Northern Soul," holds its own as part of the extraordinary Verve trilogy of albums. Why did they break up?
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on September 12, 2005
I don't think there has ever been a band that has elicited so many contrasting emotional responses for me as The Verve (pain and joy, beauty and tragedy, loss and love). Followers will know the blue collar boys from Wigan viewed their contribution to rock as something that could expand the conscious of what music is. Singer Richard Ashcroft talked of how the band were creating music as if it were the last time they'd step foot in a recording studio. These to me are examples and qualities of a mindset that is so sadly lacking in most of todays rather unobtrusive market.

To me "A Northern Soul" reaches isolated depths of harrowism without ever sounding pretentious. Guitarist Nick McCabe's psychedelics is like a hard-hitting assault on the senses, and Ashcroft complements and enchances that with a vocal fervor only matched by Eddie Vedder. Bassist Simon Jones and drummer Peter Salisbury are often overlooked yet invaluable in their rhythmic positions.

ANS does contain some prettier tracks (On Your Own, Drive You Home), but Ashcroft and McCabe's "broken glass" relationship helped propel the Verve sound into a whole nother level of loudness and madness. For my money "A Storm In Heaven" and ANS are the best 1-2 punch of the '90s.
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on May 16, 2015
Verve!!!! They were great before the "the." If you like psychedelic rock to zone out, dream, and discover worlds within worlds to, then they are for you. Music to trip too.
Unfortunately, this is probably their weakest output. Their debut, A Storm In Heaven, is miles above this. This albums successor, Urban Hymns, though a commercial breakthrough, is deservedly so, and has many more songs then this album. Their debut e.p.s, Verve & No Come Down, are both better than this, too.
Northern Soul is a little to hokey. But the first four tracks are pretty good. On Your Own and History are both essential, wonderful songs. Get their albums in order, is my advice.
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on January 10, 2000
My grieve of seeing a small number of reviews was soon replaced by incredible feeling of pride. This music is created for someone who craves a flight above grayness and fuss... It draws down the curtains of small empty world beyond dark window and opens the one to see Heaven, to talk to God. Listening to visual poems and seeing the sounds of music gives me a feeling I was endowed with a great gift of flying... While talking to "A Northern Soul" I feel a pair of wings spread beyond my back taking me away again...
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on February 18, 2005
At first I thought this albumn was disappointing when compared to "A Storm in Heaven" and "Urban Hymns." I had to play it a couple times to really get into it, but now I can't take it out of my CD player. It definitely does not take a back seat to any other albumn I've ever listened to. I regret my initial judgment, but I often need to listen to an albumn a few times before I get its vibe. If you are thinking about buying this because you like "Urban Hymns", stop thinking and buy it - you won't regret it.
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