On paper, it's not a collaboration that makes a whole lot of sense -- Adrian Belew, the master of experimental guitar (and who has played with everyone from Frank Zappa and David Bowie to Cyndi Lauper and Nine Inch Nails), collaborating with Kevin Max, book author and one-third of the Christian pop/R&B outfit dc Talk. But somehow, this unlikely pair crossed paths, and collaborated on an album together, 2009's Raven Songs 101. Basically, the setup is simple throughout the album's 11 tracks -- Max recites bits from his book, The Detritus of Dorian Gray, while Belew supplies sonic accompaniment. Those expecting off-the-wall guitar à la such past Belew classics as Lone Rhino may be disappointed, as quite often Belew goes the "soundscape route," and on a few of the tracks he doesn't even appear to pick up the guitar at all (instead, going for electronics and atmospheric sounds). In fact, as evidenced by such tracks as "One" and "River," the album is reminiscent of an earlier effort that Belew was part of, Laurie Anderson's mid-'80s Home of the Brave. Some may write off Raven Songs 101 as being a bit too artsy, but longtime fans of Belew have come to expect the unexpected from this chameleon-like artist. The king of unexpected musical curve balls strikes again, in the form of Raven Songs 101.
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AllMusic Review by Greg Prato