Monday, September 25, 2017

The Verve – Urban Hymns 20th Anniversary Deluxe Reissue

The Verve made their American mainstream breakthrough in the summer and fall of 1997 with their massive, string-laden single, “Bittersweet Symphony”.  Taken from the Britpop band’s multi-platinum worldwide smash hit album, Urban Hymns, the song along with its iconic video - that depicted the dead-eyed frontman Richard Ashcroft as he walked through a busy street as if no one else existed – resonated with fans and critics alike.  On their third album, The Verve toned down the heavy psych-rock of their previous two releases by blending elements of soft-rock and pastoral country into their Britpop sound; successfully incorporating gorgeous strings, driving acoustic guitars and subtle psycheldia along with big, hip-hop inspired beats and plenty of melancholic yet melodic sing-along melodies.  Besides the anthemic “Bittersweet Symphony”, other standout tracks include, “The Drugs Don’t Work” with its sweeping pedal steel, “Lucky Man” with its swirling strings and the emotionally-charged “Sonnet”.           
To celebrate its 20th anniversary, Virgin Records and Universal Music Enterprises recently released an expanded 5CD/1DVD deluxe reissue of the album.  It is also available in remastered form on CD, deluxe CD and as a super-deluxe 3LP box set, which comes in a gatefold package with a 20-page booklet.       
Two discs of B-sides, demos, remixes and rarities are included and standout tracks are the soulful ballad “So Sister”, the aching “Lord I Guess I’ll Never Know” and the bass-led cosmic funk groove of the aptly-titled “Echo Bass”, all of which were originally released as B-sides to the “Bittersweet Symphony” maxi-single and are equally as powerful and just as memorable as anything on the original album.  Other standouts include a great remix of “Bittersweet Symphony” by James Lavelle, The Rolling Stones-like “Country Song” and the rollicking, bright melodies of “This Could Be My Moment”.  Also included on both CD and DVD is the previously unreleased live recording and video of their legendary performance at Haigh Hall in May 1998 in their hometown of Wigan. The DVD includes all of the promo videos from the album and features the 1999 documentary The Video 96-98, previously only available on VHS as well as their 1997 performance on Later with Jools Holland
To complete the package is a 56-page hardcover book of photos from the era as well as an oral history from the band members themselves that gives engaging insight into the writing and recording process for the album as well as the events surrounding their hometown show at Haigh Hall and 5 postcards and a poster round out the collection.    
The ambitious Urban Hymns was The Verve’s pinnacle and this fantastic expanded edition serves as the perfect epitaph for the band as they broke up two years after the album was released and didn’t reform again until 2008 before breaking up the next year.       
Revisit the “Bittersweet Symphony” video:    

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