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Thursday, 1 March 2018

She's Got Herself A Universe


Madonna's Ray Of Light single and album are 20 years old. The album is a modern pop showpiece, borrowing from all over the place, mainly but not only dance music and dance music production, to make something new and up-to-date. The single was a blast, a riot of acid-tinged electronics merged with a soaring chorus and a feeling of freedom, flying, re-birth. Madonna had been through several life changing experiences in the previous couple of years, not least the birth of her daughter, and a desire to capture this newness, 'wonderment' she called it, was uppermost in her mind. The person chosen to bring it to life was William Orbit and he brings the sound, the electronic and dance influences and the production techniques. Ray Of Light, the single, still sounds fresh today. Orbit deliberately pushed her vocals as far as he could, making her sing just beyond the top of her range, a semitone above where she'd usually peak, to get that reaching and slightly straining effect. I was deep into stuff in 1998 that was often quite a long way from Madonna but I loved this single- and still do.  The video was also bang up to date...



The 12" and cd single came with a range of remixes. William Orbit's own 8 minute Liquid version of Ray Of Light was well worth the cost of a cd single (£3.99 probably), a stretched out, less hyper take on the pop version, with looped electric guitar parts for the intro and then burbling synths and bass, the vocal covered in reverb.

Ray Of Light (William Orbit Liquid Mix)

I may come back to the Ray Of Light album at a later date- I haven't listened to it for a long time but it's got a lot of songs worth re-investigating. While putting this post together I cam across this semi-ambient, floaty remix of Drowned World with a great backwards guitar part, again by Orbit himself- Drowned World- A Reverie Remix. Rather beautiful.



Punk bonus- Mark Vidler, as Go Home Productions, was a master of the 00s mash-up/bootleg scene. He spliced Ray Of Light with Pretty Vacant, added the filth and fury of the Pistols on Bill Grundy and some gig chatter of Lydon complaining about being spat upon.

Ray Of Gob

10 comments:

Michael Doherty said...

That's a gorgeous mix of Drowned World, one of my favourite "later" Madonna songs. Ray of Light was, for me, her last great album.

TheRobster said...

As you may know, Ray of Light is one of my favourite albums of all time. It sticks out like a sore thumb among my other faves but I'll never deny my love for it. I recently bought a beautiful coloured-vinyl reissue of it. It was exclusve to Sainsbury's, but as MrsRobster works there, I managed to grab one with discount!

Swiss Adam said...

That sounds like a good reissue Robster. I only have a cd copy and a cd single. Didn't buy it on vinyl at the time which in retrospect was a mistake.

Rol said...

The last great Madonna album? All a bit downhill after this.

Brian said...

You know you're old when you consider Ray of Light her newer stuff. Twenty years... wow!

Swiss Adam said...

I think you're right Rol. I'm no expert on Madonna albums though.

I know Brian, I know.

Craig said...

Loved this album. Orbits production bang on as ever, crisp and minimilist

Echorich said...

I didn't buy into Madonna until Erotica. She started as a downtown NYC wannabe and was basically treated as such in NYC for a very long time. Her label and her desire for success drove her to heights no female singer could ever have imagined to that point. But she didn't really reach any great musical heights until taking some seamy and left field chances with Erotica.
I would purchase the follow up, Bedtime Stories which owes a debt to Bjork, quite a debt.
I love her collaboration with Massive Attack on I Want You and her passionate reading of Rose Royce's Love Don't Live Here Anymore.
But art took the fore on Ray Of Light. William Orbit and Marius De Vries made some magic and brought in some brilliant people like Craig Armstrong as well. Ray Of Light managed to release Madonna and give her a second chapter.

acidted said...

I love this album. And bits of the next one. The rest of her career is a mystery to me.

JC said...

I feel old thinking that this dates back to 1998.