Richard Youngs - Beyond the Valley of Ultrahits

by James Briscoe Rating:8 Release Date:2010-07-19

Beyond the Valley of Ultrahits is the new album from the Glasgow-based songster, Richard Youngs. According to Youngs, the album is a response to a dare from his colleague, Andrew Paz, to "Make a proper pop album". From listening to the album, I can see this intention singing through. Whether I would ever describe or simplify this album as pop, I doubt it. Furthermore, the title of the album seems to suggest that this is a record 'beyond' the sometimes low-lying valley of pop music. Maybe Youngs has refused to turn his back on what he believes in.

As soon as the premiere track of the album, 'The Valley in Flight', begins and you hear Youngs' voice, chanting like an Indian shaman, you think, "what the hell is this?" However, a bit like when you first try snails, it is actually quite nice after a small earful.

Some of you will have been equally unaware of Richard Youngs until now, but he actually has been quite prolific in the music industry during the last 20 years. His music is out there as well. If you type 'Richard Y' in to YouTube, his is the first name in the list.

Youngs' music has always been atmospheric and based on his angelic voice and it is his voice which he builds the foundations of this new album upon. If I was to compare Youngs to anyone, I would probably say that he is a more chilled out Tom Vek sans the hypnotic beats.

'Summer Void' is a track that lifts the mood of the album for a while. The warm beat and Youngs' summery harmonies make your heart beat slow and strong. The title of the song suggests a summer of emotional emptiness but 'emotionally empty' is not something that could be used to describe this track.

Looking at the album cover and the titles of the songs on the album, it seems that, in making the record, Youngs has gone out looking for ideas and answers in nature and the big wide world, e.g. 'Like a Sailor', 'Love in the Great Outdoors' and 'Collapsing Stars'. 'Love in the Great Outdoors' has the same ancient and spiritual feel of 'The Valley in Flight' and the love he finds there seems to be with the wilderness itself, not another person. It is a song about Youngs' relationship with nature, the same sort of experience felt by Wordsworth and Coleridge 200 years ago. Youngs' voice is like the wind howling over hillsides and whistling through the grass.

'Oh Reality' is maybe the only conventionally 'catchy' song on the album. It is also the most pop-like in the way that Youngs repeats the words "Reality, oh reality". It is not my favourite on the album but it is one that will keep you singing to and from the bathroom. If the previous nine tracks on the album were full of questions and learning then the tenth track, 'Sun Points at the World', might be the point where Youngs finds some answers and his eyes are opened, maybe by the light of the sun which is pointing at the world. See what I did there? It is in-keeping with the style and mood of the rest of the album but the drum beats are more determined and steady. He sings, "I know 'cause I've felt it, I know that I want it".

Youngs has done well with Beyond the valley of Ultrahits to stay true to his style and his ideas, whilst also finding new ideas 'beyond the valley'. It is not a record which panders to the conventional tastes of the masses but it is a record that will be loved by those lucky enough to discover it.

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