Ray, Rick - Manipulated D.N.A.

Year of Release: 2001
Label: Neurosis Records
Catalog Number: n/a
Format: CD
Total Time: 74:13:00

Having produced 16 albums (at least as of this writing) in a little more than two years is an amazing feat, though in this age of CDRs and home studios, it is not quite as amazing as it would have been even five years ago. Listening to these albums, one finds a familiar pattern emerge. The focus and driving force, of course, is the stellar and varied guitar play that for periods of time takes, if not the backseat, at least the passenger seat, to the vocals. That is, everything else is just support and set up for the solos. I won't dwell on this, as I've commented upon this balance in previous reviews, but this isn't to suggest that everything else is just added in a slapdash manner. Or that Rick Ray's just tossed out a few well-trod lyrical ideas -- he's got too many opinions for that (though I'll admit that within his own catalog, there are similar themes from album to album). And whether you agree with those opinions or not, he certainly delivers a complete package, even if the package is a little thin at times. Somehow, despite the amount of guitar present, you just find yourself wishing that guitar had an even bigger share. As I've commented before, Ray has a particular writing style for his lyrics, a pattern and rhythm that is fairly consistent. The instrumentation behind it fits in with his vocal phrasing, but also make each track sound different. At least from track to track on each album; stepping back to look at the body of work in its entirety, maybe not quite so much. I won't delve into the lyrics but know that Ray has particular philosophy of and outlook on life that can be viewed as either paranoid, astute, or both, depending upon your own particular view of the same topic. That said, Manipulated DNA is one of Ray's stronger releases, containing material recorded in 2000 and 2001. This is why "Psychonaut" is track worth highlighting - it's all instrumental and eschews the typical Ray format for something a more interesting, more varied. It's a long track that has enough contrasts that you feel you've taken a journey.

The spirit of Rush infuses the opening track, "The Nothing Man." With keys, effects, swirling and overlapping guitars, it is a lot like a track from Rush's heyday in the 80s, shades of Signals and Moving Pictures. All but for the vocals, as Ray only sounds a smidgen like Lee and that's stretching it. Not a knock on either Ray or Lee's singing voice, mind you, but Ray isn't a Rush clone. The usual rhyming pattern here undergoes a bit of adjustment, and makes this track all the fresher sounding for it. He follows this with the bluesy, guitar-centric "Selling Confusion." Ray is a guitarist first, multi-instrumental second and the intro to this track underscores that fact. For two minutes we get tightly focused guitar rock. When we get deep, an effects laden vocal, the whole vibe changes, shifting the focus to the commentative lyrics.

"If The Truth Was Told" is a hazy, blusey, psychedelic, Pink Floyd-like piece, where Ray plays a restrained, but no less impressive fuzzed guitar solo over a musing bass line. Obscure reference: the bass line reminded me of one that appears in the Altered State track "Ghost Beside My Bed" (perhaps their only "hit") - slow and a bit sultry. The pace of this track however drags a little, giving one the impression that the batteries are running low (in a portable cassette player, not so much anymore with CDs). "Orangutan Ballet" is a shimmery track with light, lyrical layered guitar phrases from Ray - simply beautiful. All instrumental, Ray allows his compositional skills shine through. This is the overall best track here; interestingly, you can hear a distinct difference in recording quality and level, as everything gets suddenly louder... you feel as if you are inside the acoustic guitar that provides the backing melody over which the electric leads are played. This is followed by the squishy, spacey "Requiem For Sanity" -- the squishy part needs some variation long before it collapses into a bubbly mess, but the spacey keyboard wash holds one's interest. "It's All Too Clear" has a 60s rock groove that makes me think of some period, irreverent TV show. Even "Flies On Simon" gets into a fun groove at one point.

Rick Shultz, as usual, contributes clarinet, saxophone and percussion, mostly noticeably (at least to me) on "Could This Be Me." At but for a bit at the beginning, works in quite well. He reappears again in the untitled bonus track; this is an even better instrumental arrangement that highlights Shultz lightly trilling lines. Often his placement in the mix seems...awkward; here it is the lead instrument in this very jazzy piece. (Note this is the third best track, though not necessarily in the order that I've mentioned them).

This is a recommended buy primarily for the three instrumental tracks.

The Nothing Man (6:52) / Selling Confusion (6:37) / Manipulated D.N.A. (6:35) / Psychonaut (10:54) / If The Truth Was Told (4:57) / Flies On Simon (7:19) / Orangutan Ballet (3:25) / Requiem For Sanity (2:12) / Could This Be (5:15) / Ignorance And Apathy (5:47) / It's All To Clear (3:47) / They'll Never Learn (5:41) / Bonus track: Untitled (4:52)

Rick Ray - guitars, guitar synth, piano, keyboards, vocals, percussion, bass, RX8
Rick Schultz - bass, clarinet, electric clarinet, bass clarinet, saxophone, percussion

Abnormal Road (1999)
Balance Of Power (1999)
The Great Antagonist (1999)
Clone Man (1999)
Atomic Soldiers (1999)
Neurotic Tendencies (1999)
You People (1999)
Looking Into the Past (1999)
The Key To The Bottomless Pit (1999)
Cast Into Our Dimension (2000)
Living In An Insane World (2000)
Mind Control, Inc. (2000)
Guitarsenal (2000)
Manipulated DNA (2001)
Insanity Flies (2001)
Existing Passages (2002)
The Guitarsonist (2002)
Rick Ray Band - Into The Hands Of Sinners (2003)
Rick Ray Band - Out Of The Mist Of Obscurity (2003)
Rick Ray Band - Night Of The Living Dedicated (2004)
Chainsaw Manicure (2005)
Rick Ray Band - Temporary World (2005)
Rick Ray Band - Nothing To Lose (2007)
Rick Ray Band - Violence Marred By Peace (2008)
Rick Ray Band - The Setlist (2009)

Genre: Rock

Origin US

Added: April 21st 2002
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: www.rickray.net
Hits: 456
Language: english


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