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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Madonna

Ray of Light

Review by Gary Hill

In the interview that appeared on this site last month see the interview archives), Dave Brock mentioned the title track to this album as being space rock, so I decided to run this review. There are definitely space rock elements to much of this album. Perhaps this will be an omen of a resurgence of that type of music.

The music here is intriguing dance sounds with definite space rock leanings to much of the material. There is a certain sameness to most of the music on this album. The down side to that is that it can start to sound very similar. However, on the positive, if you like one song, you are probably going to like the whole album.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: The Early Years Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Drowning World/Substitute for Love
A rather strange intro leads into a pretty section. This ballad with keyboard overtones is slightly space rock influenced. Generally, this is a fairly slow electronic dance number, but includes a delicate picked guitar section, pretty vocals and an intriguing arrangement (complete with minor space rock layering). The song breaks into a rather progish, although definitely still pop, section late in its running.
Swim
Beginning as a guitar based rock tune, the techno/electro/ dance textures eventually come in to carry the piece. More of those space rock oriented keys make an appearance as the song is closing out.
Ray Of Light
Hawkwindesque keyboard work brings this piece quite securely into a space rock sort of vein. Certainly this is a dance number. The whooshing keyboards flow throughout most of the cut, bringing the Hawkwind aspect solidly to bear.
Candy Perfume Girl
This is a slow techno dance piece, and not overly interesting, but quite listenable.
Skin
Combining space rock weirdness, dance music beats and some Tori Amos influenced arranging, this is an unusual number with some entertaining tones. This one of my favorite tracks on this album, and it is a great mood piece. It includes Eastern sounding influences and some colorful textures.
Nothing Really Matters
This is a dance track with some very funky grooves.
Sky Fits Heaven
More Hawkwindish keyboards serve as the icing to much of this track`s cake. This is another dance number, which also features some very beautiful piano work.
Shanti/Ashtangi
More swirling keys start this dance track that also contains Eastern flavors. Most of the lyrics to this number are in Sanskrit.
Frozen
A pretty and contemplative (slightly melancholy) piece, this is a stand out track with some intriguing work. The string type section adds a haunting texture and is quite beautiful.
The Power of Goodbye
This cut should be the most familiar territory for fans of Madonna, have a feel similar to the Erotica and Bedtime Stories albums. However, it still features those Hawkish keyboard moments. The arrangement towards the end of the track becomes quite lush and graceful.
To Have and Not To Hold
To Have and Not to Hold is a pretty piece, although rather melancholy in texture.
Little Star
A very slow electronic piece, this is about Madonna`s daughter. The bass work on this track, a beautiful and uplifting piece, in particular, stands out.
Mer Girl
A very unusual textural oriented piece, this is quite intriguing, although not a favorite.
 
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