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WHO: Justin Chadwick (Albumism Founder & Editor-in-Chief)
WHERE: Brooklyn, NY
ALBUM: The Verve's Urban Hymns (1997)
Nearly twenty years on, I still vividly recall hearing The Verve’s Urban Hymns for the first time. I was 19 years old, interning at the band’s North American record label (Virgin Records) in Beverly Hills during the summer between my sophomore and junior years at UCLA. It was my first formal foray into the record business, and partly due to my teenage innocence and naiveté, coupled with my insatiable music obsession, it was a truly magical experience for me. Made even more magical by all of the new music I was immersed in, not least of which was the album that commanded heavy rotation and giddy anticipation throughout the Virgin offices in the weeks leading up to its September 1997 release. Urban Hymns.
Though I’ve also since grown to adore The Verve’s first two LPs A Storm in Heaven (1993) and A Northern Soul (1995), as well as Richard Ashcroft’s subsequent solo recordings, Urban Hymns is the album I’ve played more fervently than any other during the past two decades. Ashcroft’s yearning vocals and earnest lyrics combined with Nick McCabe’s sprawling guitar handiwork is still such an irresistible pairing for me. No matter how many times I drop the needle on the record, it still floors me.
Not surprisingly, Urban Hymns has figured prominently in my personal life over the years. I’ve thankfully sustained a great friendship with Holly, the wonderful woman I worked for during my short time with Virgin. And though we live on opposite coasts now, on those all-too-rare occasions that we’re able to see each other, we invariably indulge our mutual nostalgia by reminiscing about the good ol’ days when The Verve were making amazing music together.
Seven years ago, “Bitter Sweet Symphony” figured prominently on my wedding day, as the wedding party processional. For the past few years, “Sonnet” has been one of my eldest daughter’s small handful of preferred bedtime songs, and we often sing it together duet-style. And I consider the euphoric “Lucky Man” a personal anthem of sorts.
I’ve loved Urban Hymns from the moment I first heard it, and I always will.