AOM Logo August 1998

Madonna: Ray of Light

Warner Brothers / Maverick

Playing time: 66:50

Christopher Tocher

Madonna - Ray of Light Cover ImageHere is a record that will grow on you like a lichen on a rock. At first listen you groove, on second listen you try to dissect the self-exposing lyrical mystery, and by the third hearing, you're hooked! This disc will not be leaving the player.

It's extraordinary how time has matured Madonna. Ray of Light has detached her from her "Spice Girl" complex of past efforts, and jettisoned her into a musician of meaning. As such, musical experimentation isn't an issue on this album (like so many of her previous records). The tunes are trendy enough for top-40 play but absorbing enough to stand on their own merit.

Two tracks deserve special mention. Shanti/Ashtangi is sung in both Indian and English and is adapted from the text of Shankra Charya (Yogi). This tune is tastefully accompanied by a driving, droning beat, which, in combination with the obscure lyrics, really makes it come alive. Little Star is a delicious, soulful ballad which pays homage to Madonna's baby girl, Lourdes. Her sentimentality is something born clearly of motherhood rather than approaching middle age.

I don't feel it hyperbole to mention the name Madonna when using the phrase "pop genius". Who, if not Madonna, has played her cards so securely in the rock and roll of changing tastes? Her tenacity and ability to adapt to the generation of the time has helped her to maintain her enormous and diversified audience and, no doubt, expand as an artist.

Despite her artistic lapses (the book Sex / the movie Body of Evidence - definitely more body than acting evidence), she has always managed to come full circle with a fresh, varied product and do what she does best: make music. Her vision also extends to Maverick records; they support and promote up-and-coming bands.

If you're hedging whether or not to pick up this album, do it! Ray of Light highlights Madonna's variety of ideas and will leave you both energized and satisfied. And with her cornucopia of ideas, you may well ask the question: Whatever next?

Interestingly, there are two versions of Ray of Light available in most Canadian music stores: one is a US import limited edition with hologram cover and inside information included. The other is a standard version (both contain the same songs). Sadly, there are no plans for a tour. Perhaps, with her impending 40th birthday, Madonna wants a quiet night in with baby?

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