Prime Cuts: Ezekiel 16, Make Much of You, Rend the Heavens
Izzi Ray isn't into conveyor belt cookie cutter CCM. "Make Much of You" is an album free of plagiarism. On these 10 tracks, you won't find predictable melodic developments or borrowed hooks or those clichéd love-song-cum-worship lyrics that pervade so much of what we hear on Christian radio. In fact, Ray, like her mother Crystal Lewis and other avant grande artists such as Plumb or Brooke Fraser isn't afraid of experimenting with sounds. Not too often on a CCM album will you hear the cacophony of sounds coming from instruments as diverse as the Wurlitzer, B3, omnichord, mellotron, strings, and harmonium. On "Make Much of You," thanks to Ray and producer Blaine Stark (Switchfoot, BeBe Winans), the cold metallic sounds of modern polytechnics gloriously meet the more organic warmth of wooden instruments.
Despite such ingenuity that goes into this record, Izzi Ray is only 20 years-old. Ray is none other than the daughter CCM veteran Crystal Lewis and producer Brian Ray. She began playing guitar and writing songs at the age of eleven. In 2012 she released her self-titled debut. "Make Much of You" is her sophomore record preceded by the album's lead single "Rend the Heaven." One of five songs Ray wrote solo, "Rend the Heavens" recalls Brooke Fraser's "Psychosocial," where Ray's voice seems to start off mechanical and cold. But as the song progresses, you can hear Ray's voice accelerating more and more in warmth and immediacy until she explodes into a cry of desperation before God.
"My Song," a co-write between Ray and Stark, finds a 70s Stevie Nicks-esque coolness in Ray's vocal command coming together with a contemporary New York-ish guitar-driven rock sound. Described as her life's mantra, the electronic ethereal sounding title cut "Make Much of You" speaks of how God can use our failings to make His name glorious. Here, Ray is at her vocal best as her voice serpentines around a roller coaster of melodic sharp drops and highs. Never one to be confined to just singing the predictable, "Soon" shows Ray's aptitude to take on a challenge. "Soon" is a haunting acoustic ballad that functions as a love song for a departed soul. Here, Ray describes not only the grief surrounding death, but she also anchors her hope in Jesus' return and how she could see her loved one again.
On her debut album, she sings about the prophet Jeremiah. On album #2, she delves again into the Hebrew prophets, this time with "Ezekiel 16." One of the Old Testament's darkest passages where God chronicles his pursuit of Israel the adulterous whore, Ray brings intrigue and perspicuity to this pericope as she sings about how God continues to woo us today. "Make Much of You" isn't your standard CCM album. It's filled with experiment, intrigue, creativity, careful wrestling with Scripture, and even quirkiness. If you are in for something fresh, exciting yet spiritually rewarding, give this CD a spin.
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