Urban Hymns

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"Weeping Willow (song)" redirects here. For the ragtime piano composition by Scott Joplin, see Weeping Willow (rag).
Urban Hymns
The Verve, Urban Hymns.png
Studio album by The Verve
Released 29 September 1997 (1997-09-29)
Recorded October 1996 – May 1997
Studio Olympic Studios, London
Genre Britpop[1]
Length 75:51
Label Hut
Producer The Verve, Chris Potter, Youth
The Verve chronology
Five by Five
Urban Hymns
This Is Music: The Singles 92–98
Singles from Urban Hymns
  1. "Bitter Sweet Symphony"
    Released: 16 June 1997 (1997-06-16)
  2. "The Drugs Don't Work"
    Released: 1 September 1997 (1997-09-01)
  3. "Lucky Man"
    Released: 24 November 1997 (1997-11-24)
  4. "Sonnet"
    Released: 2 March 1998 (1998-03-02)

Urban Hymns is the third studio album by English alternative rock band The Verve, released on 29 September 1997 on Hut Records. It earned nearly unanimous critical praise upon its release, and went on to become the band's best-selling release and one of the biggest selling albums of the year. As of 2015, Urban Hymns is ranked the 18th best-selling album in UK chart history and has sold over ten million copies worldwide.[2]

The album features the hit singles "Bitter Sweet Symphony", "Lucky Man" and "The Drugs Don't Work". The critical and commercial success of the album saw the band win two Brit Awards in 1998, including Best British Group, and appear on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine in March 1999.[3][4] "Bitter Sweet Symphony" was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Rock Song.[5]


The Verve had previously released two albums, A Storm in Heaven in 1993 and A Northern Soul in 1995. The band had only achieved moderate commercial success up to that point, and the band split shortly after their second album due to internal conflicts. Vocalist Richard Ashcroft quickly reformed the group, with Simon Tong, an old friend of the band on guitar, however Ashcroft realised Nick McCabe's unique guitar style was required to complete the true Verve unit and later asked him to return. Tong also remained adding more guitar and keyboard/organ textures, making them a five-piece band and expanding their sound.[6]

The four-piece had already recorded several tracks for the album with Youth as producer, but once McCabe returned they re-recorded several tracks and changed producers to Chris Potter. McCabe said that in the next seven months of work, "... the key tracks were recorded from scratch, but some of them were already there."[7]

The cover photo was taken in Richmond Park, London.[8]


The Verve were known for their music's complex, immersive sonic textures. "Bitter Sweet Symphony" was a hit on both sides of the Atlantic, and remains the band's most well-known song. "The Drugs Don't Work", the band's only number one single in the UK, became a concert staple for jam bands and other groups.

The rest of the album alternated between wistful ballads like "Sonnet" and "Space and Time" (written by Richard Ashcroft), spacey grooves like "Catching the Butterfly" and "The Rolling People", all-out rockers like the pounding "Come On" (which existed in demo from the "Northern Soul" era) and psychedelic driven songs like "Neon Wilderness". The hidden track "Deep Freeze" features distorted guitars and a baby's cry sound. It has strong ambient influences that set it apart from the rest of the tracks in terms of composition and overall mood.

Release and reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 5/5 stars[9]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music 5/5 stars[10]
Entertainment Weekly A-[11]
Los Angeles Times 3/4 stars[12]
NME 8/10[13]
Pitchfork Media 8.9/10[14]
Q 5/5 stars[15]
Rolling Stone 3.5/5 stars[16]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 4/5 stars[17]
Select 5/5[18]

Urban Hymns received nearly unanimous critical praise upon its release. Melody Maker hailed it as "an album of unparalleled beauty so intent on grabbing at the strands of music's multi-hued history",[19] later naming it as the number-one album of 1997 in its year-end list.[20]

However, reviews were more mixed in the States. American music critic Robert Christgau singled out "The Drugs Don't Work" as a choice cut.[21] Which according to Christgau, is "an album that isn't worth your time or money."[22] Writing for the Chicago Tribune, Greg Kot, awarded the album 2.5 out of 4, designating "Bittersweet Symphony" and "The Drugs Don't Work" as two "great moments." However, he felt that "unfortunately, there are not enough epiphanies like that to justify the 70-minute length of this exercise in overstatement."[23]

Urban Hymns debuted at No. 63 on the Billboard 200, becoming the first album by the group to chart in the US[24] The album ultimately peaked at No. 23, and is the group's best-selling album in the US with over 1.3 million copies sold.[25] The album was certified Platinum by the RIAA on 4 April 1998.[26]

The album spent 12 weeks at the top of the UK Albums Chart, with a total of 124 weeks on the chart.[27]


In the years following its release, Urban Hymns received much acclaim. In 1998, it won Best British Album at the Brit Awards, it was also shortlisted for the Mercury Prize, and Q magazine readers voted it the 18th greatest album of all time.[28] The magazine placed it at the same position in 2001.[29]

In 2006, its editors voted it the 16th greatest album of all time. The Verve were awarded with the first ever "Q Classic Album" award for this album at the 2007 Q Awards. In a 2008 poll, Urban Hymns was ranked as the 10th best British album of all time.[30]

It was also nominated for "Best British Album of the Last 30 Years" at the Brits 2010 but lost to Oasis' (What's the Story) Morning Glory?[31]

On the other hand, some critics and music fans have felt that the album is somewhat overrated.[32][33][34] FasterLouder ranked Urban Hymns at number 32 in its list of the "50 Most Overrated Albums of All Time."[34] Likewise Emily Tartanella of Magnet wrote that Urban Hymns "is one of the most bloated, boring and overpraised albums of the ’90s."[33]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Richard Ashcroft, except where noted.

International version
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Bitter Sweet Symphony"   5:58
2. "Sonnet"     4:21
3. "The Rolling People"   The Verve 7:01
4. "The Drugs Don't Work"     5:05
5. "Catching the Butterfly"   The Verve 6:26
6. "Neon Wilderness"  
7. "Space and Time"     5:36
8. "Weeping Willow"     4:49
9. "Lucky Man"     4:53
10. "One Day"     5:03
11. "This Time"     3:50
12. "Velvet Morning"     4:57
13. "Come On"
  • "Come On"
  • [silence]
  • "Deep Freeze"  
The Verve 15:15
Total length: 1:15:57

Note: "Deep Freeze" is a hidden track. The album's digital version has "Come On" and "Deep Freeze" as separate tracks, without the silence in between.[35]

Japanese version
No. Title Writer(s) Length
13. "Lord I Guess I'll Never Know"     4:52
14. "Come On"   The Verve 6:38
15. "Deep Freeze"     2:14
Total length: 1:14:26


  1. "Lord I Guess I'll Never Know" (Ashcroft) (produced by Youth)[36]
  2. "Country Song" (produced by Youth)[36]
  3. "So Sister" (Ashcroft) (produced by Chris Potter)[37]
  4. "Echo Bass" (produced by Chris Potter)[36]
  5. "Three Steps" (Ashcroft) (produced by Chris Potter)[38]
  6. "The Crab" (Ashcroft) (produced by Chris Potter)[39]
  7. "Stamped" (produced by Chris Potter)[36]
  8. "Never Wanna See You Cry" (Ashcroft) (produced by Chris Potter)[40]
  9. "History" (Ashcroft) (produced by Youth, The Verve)[40]
  10. "MSG" (produced by Chris Potter)[41]
  11. "The Longest Day" (produced by Chris Potter)[36]


Songs that did not make the cut include

All of these five songs, however, would later be released; the first three rerecorded for Ashcroft's first solo LP, and the latter two on the band's compilation album, This Is Music: The Singles 92–98.


The Verve[edit]

Additional musicians[edit]

  • Youth – producer ("Bitter Sweet Symphony", "Sonnet", "The Drugs Don't Work", "Lucky Man", "One Day", "This Time", "Velvet Morning")[42]
  • Chris Potter – producer ("The Rolling People", "Catching the Butterfly", "Neon Wilderness", "Space and Time", "Weeping Willow", "Come On", "Deep Freeze"),[36] engineer, mixing, recording
  • The Verve – producer
  • Liam Gallagher – backing vocals ("Come On"), claps ("Space and Time")


  • Mel Wesson – programming
  • Paul Anthony Taylor – programming
  • Will Malone – conductor, string arrangements
  • Gareth Ashton – assistant engineer
  • Lorraine Francis – assistant engineer
  • Jan Kybert – assistant engineer
  • Brian Cannondirector, design, sleeve art
  • Martin Catherall – design assistant
  • Matthew Sankey – design assistant
  • Michael Spencer Jones – photography
  • John Horsley – photography
  • Chris Floyd – photography



Chart (1997) Peak
UK Albums Chart 1
Chart (1998) Peak
US Billboard 200 23
Argentine CAPIF 20
Top Canadian Albums 18
Media Control Charts (Germany) 11
Lista Top-40 (Finland) 4


Single Chart (1998) Peak
"Bitter Sweet Symphony" UK Singles Chart 2
Top 40 Adult Recurrents 9
Adult Top 40 8
Modern Rock Tracks 4
Mainstream Rock Tracks 22
Top 40 Mainstream 23
The Billboard Hot 100 12
New Zealand Singles Chart 15
Lista Top-20 (Finland) 6
"The Drugs Don't Work" UK Singles Chart 1
Lista Top-20 (Finland) 9
New Zealand Singles Chart 10
"Lucky Man" UK Singles Chart 7
Modern Rock Tracks 16
Lista Top-20 (Finland) 16
New Zealand Singles Chart 38
"Sonnet" UK Singles Chart 74
New Zealand Singles Chart 43


Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Argentina (CAPIF)[43] Gold 30,000*
Australia (ARIA)[44] 3× Platinum 210,000^
Belgium (BEA)[45] Platinum 50,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[46] 2× Platinum 200,000^
France (SNEP)[47] Platinum 300,000*
Germany (BVMI)[48] Platinum 500,000^
Netherlands (NVPI)[49] Platinum 100,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[citation needed] 5× Platinum 75,000^
Sweden (GLF)[50] Platinum 80,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[51] Platinum 50,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[52] 11× Platinum 3,270,000[53]
United States (RIAA)[54] Platinum 1,358,000[55]
Europe (IFPI)[56] 4× Platinum 4,000,000*

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Laws, Mike (11 December 2014). "The 10 Best Britpop Albums of All Time (or At Least Since 1993 or So)". The Village Voice. Suzan Gursoy. Retrieved 13 December 2016. 
  2. ^ "Top 40 Best Selling Albums: 28 July 1956 – 14 June 2009" (PDF). Official Charts Company. Retrieved 2011-07-26. 
  3. ^ The Brit Awards: The Verve Brits.co.uk. Retrieved 11 February 2012
  4. ^ 1998 Rolling Stone Covers Rolling Stone. Retrieved 11 February 2012
  5. ^ 41st Grammy Awards – 1999 Rock on the Net. Retrieved 12 February 2012
  6. ^ Follow the Yellow Brick Road
  7. ^ "Nick McCabe Interview - Excellent Online". 
  8. ^ Tipton, London History Tours, Adrian Sill, Jeremy. "Scene of Verve's Urban Hymns". 
  9. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Urban Hymns – The Verve". AllMusic. Retrieved 1 March 2016. 
  10. ^ Larkin, Colin (2007). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-857-12595-8. 
  11. ^ Lanham, Tom (10 October 1997). "Urban Hymns". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 1 March 2016. 
  12. ^ Scribner, Sara (12 October 1997). "The Verve 'Urban Hymns' Virgin". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 1 March 2016. 
  13. ^ Kessler, Ted (27 September 1997). "The Verve – Urban Hymns". NME. Archived from the original on 17 August 2000. Retrieved 1 March 2016. 
  14. ^ DiCrescenzo, Brent. "The Verve: Urban Hymns". Pitchfork Media. Archived from the original on 28 August 2001. Retrieved 1 March 2016. 
  15. ^ "The Verve: Urban Hymns". Q (134). November 1997. 
  16. ^ Fricke, David (8 January 1998). "The Verve: Urban Hymns". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 2 December 2007. Retrieved 1 March 2016. 
  17. ^ Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian, eds. (2004). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. Simon & Schuster. pp. 849–50. ISBN 0-743-20169-8. 
  18. ^ "The Shining Path". Select (93): 76–77. March 1998. 
  19. ^ James, Martin (4 October 1997). "The Verve – Urban Hymns, Hut Records". Melody Maker. IPC Media: 51. 
  20. ^ "Albums of the Year 1997". Melody Maker. 74 (51). 20–27 December 1997. pp. 66–67. ISSN 0025-9012. 
  21. ^ Christgau, Robert. "Consumer Guide Reviews - Uurban Hymns". The Village Voice. Retrieved 1 January 2017. 
  22. ^ Christgau, Robert. "CG 90s: Key to Icons". The Village Voice. Retrieved 1 January 2017. 
  23. ^ Kot, Greg (26 December 1997). "Music - Album reviews - The Verve". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 1 January 2017. 
  24. ^ Author unknown. "Bridge to the Past". Rolling Stone. 8 October 1997.
  25. ^ Trust, Gary. "Ask Billboard: "English Beat". Billboard. 23 January 2009.
  26. ^ "American certifications – Verve, The – Urban Hymns". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 2010-02-09. 
  27. ^ "VERVE / Artist / Official Charts". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 2012-12-12. 
  28. ^ 100 Q Magazine – Readers 1998
  29. ^ In our lifetime #2; at RockListMusic
  30. ^ "BBC NEWS - Entertainment - Oasis top best British album poll". 
  31. ^ BRIT Awards 2010 Homepage
  32. ^ "The Most Overrated Album In The World....Ever". BBC Music. Retrieved 1 January 2017. 
  33. ^ a b Tartanella, Emily (18 August 2009). "The Over/Under: Britpop". Magnet. Retrieved 1 January 2017. 
  34. ^ a b Levin, Darren (24 September 2012). "The Most Overrated Albums Of All Time". FasterLouder. Retrieved 1 January 2017. 
  35. ^ "Urban Hymns". 29 September 1997. 
  36. ^ a b c d e f "Verve Discography". 
  37. ^ "Verve Discography". 
  38. ^ "Verve Discography". 
  39. ^ "Verve Discography". 
  40. ^ a b "Verve Discography". 
  41. ^ "Verve Discography". 
  42. ^ "Verve Discography". 
  43. ^ "Discos de oro y platino" (in Spanish). Cámara Argentina de Productores de Fonogramas y Videogramas. Archived from the original on 6 July 2011. Retrieved 19 December 2012. 
  44. ^ "ARIA Charts – Accreditations – 1999 Albums". Australian Recording Industry Association. 
  45. ^ "Ultratop − Goud en Platina – 2007". Ultratop & Hung Medien / hitparade.ch. 
  46. ^ "Canadian album certifications – The Verve – Urban Hymns". Music Canada. 
  47. ^ "French album certifications – The Verve – Urban Hymns" (in French). Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique. 
  48. ^ "Gold-/Platin-Datenbank (Verve; 'Urban Hymns')" (in German). Bundesverband Musikindustrie. 
  49. ^ "Dutch album certifications – The Verve – Urban Hymns" (in Dutch). Nederlandse Vereniging van Producenten en Importeurs van beeld- en geluidsdragers. 
  50. ^ "Guld- och Platinacertifikat − År 1987−1998" (PDF) (in Swedish). IFPI Sweden. 
  51. ^ "The Official Swiss Charts and Music Community: Awards (The Verve; 'Urban Hymns')". IFPI Switzerland. Hung Medien. 
  52. ^ "British album certifications – Verve, The – Urban Hymns". British Phonographic Industry.  Enter Urban Hymns in the field Keywords. Select Title in the field Search by. Select album in the field By Format. Select Platinum in the field By Award. Click Search
  53. ^ Myers, Justin (24 October 2015). "Official Charts Quiz: Who sold more?". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 25 October 2015. 
  54. ^ "American album certifications – Verve, The – Urban Hymns". Recording Industry Association of America.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH
  55. ^ Trust, Gary (23 January 2009). "Ask Billboard: Mariah Carey, Abba, Oasis, The Verve". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Archived from the original on 7 February 2009. Retrieved 12 April 2013. 
  56. ^ "IFPI Platinum Europe Awards – 1998". International Federation of the Phonographic Industry. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Be Here Now by Oasis
Let's Talk About Love by Celine Dion
Titanic (OST) by James Horner
UK number one album
11 October 1997 – 14 November 1997
3 January 1998 – 7 February 1998
21 February 1998 – 27 February 1998
Succeeded by
Spiceworld by Spice Girls
Titanic (OST) by James Horner
Titanic (OST) by James Horner