£25.99 – x 2 Limited LP
Released in the UK on 3 July 1995, A Northern Soul, which spawned three Top 40 hit singles- This Is Music, On Your Own and History – was well-received by critics and fans alike, reaching No. 13 on the UK album chart. Over the past two decades it has continued to gather acclaim – readers of Q Magazine voted it the 53rd greatest album ever in 1998 while the NME ranked it the 28th best album of all time in 2003 and the 13th best British album in 2006. Undoubtedly, it is one of the most powerful British ‘indie-rock’ statements ever.
A darker, starker, and more personal affair than their debut, A Northern Soul saw Ashcroft eschewing the strung-out positivism of their debut for sober ruminations on the human condition. The result? Timeless ballads like On Your Own that contrasted with ambitious workouts even more explosive than before – notably A New Decade and the titanic This Is Music. A general mood of doubt, and even ennui, however, is there as an undercurrent, best exeplified by the prophetic torch song History, a Top 30 hit. When news of the band’s break up came shortly before its release it sounded like it might even become the band’s epitaph.
For this super deluxe reissue, the album has been remastered and, once again, augmented by the inclusion of all associated B-sides, two previously unreleased BBC radio sessions and seven unreleased studio tracks, including powerful early versions of The Rolling People and Come On (later re-recorded for Urban Hymns) as well as Mover and Muhammad Ali, songs that were to be revisited for The Verve’s 2008 reunion album, Forth.
The package, comes in a lift-off-lid box, covered with silver mirri board as with the original 2LP vinyl release, and features four post cards, a poster and a 36-page book featuring interviews with the band (Richard aside) and never-before-seen photos by bass player Simon Jones, Chris Floyd and Michael Spencer Jones.
“It was all about waiting for the inspiration. Feel was everything. And if it wasn’t there, we’d get really, really depressed. The song would sound good but there wasn’t that magic. We were waiting for the magic all the time. Then it’d just happen. But like any experience in life, when you go really up – when you reach the peaks – the comedown is incredible. And after six weeks of going up and crashing down, everything you’ve been doing takes its toll. You start losing it. I was elated with the record. I’ve heard of artists who tie themselves to the masts of ships so they could get more inspiration. They’d sail out in a huge storm. And it felt like that. It felt like I’d been through a huge emotional storm. But I got something out of it. Out of all the torment I had a diamond. And that’s what great groups survive on.”
Richard Ashcroft, NME, May 1995
“By the time we came to record A Northern Soul it felt a bit more serious. It had to go down properly. We had to get what the band was all about down. We were a great live band by that point. We were all confident players, but we were exploratory players as well. We wanted to do that justice in the studio because we hadn’t really captured what we did as a unit. It was such an intense period – it was engineered to be intense really. We engineered a situation that was stressful in some respects to get the most intense thing we could down on tape. Part of our culture as a band was that we played all the time anyway, but when it came to going into the studio there had to be that extra ingredient. We were always striving for this extra factor, of taking it to a new level. Because of that, we felt like we were under some kind of self-imposed stress and all the shenanigans that went on were part and parcel of our ceremonial approach to making music. When it worked it was incredible…”
Nick McCabe (guitar, 2016