It's a little unusual to kick off your career at a new label with a greatest-hits package, but that's precisely what Ra have done with Raw, their Cement Shoes Records label debut. Actually, it's a best-of live, and was recorded at the Machine Shop in Flint, MI, in 2006. Running through numbers from their two previous studio albums, their From One debut and 2005's Duality, their set inevitably included "Fallen Angels" and "Do You Call My Name," as well as such fan faves as "Rectifier," "I Lost Everything Today," "Sky," and "Violator." A surprising omission, though, is their always crowd-pleasing cover of the Police's "Everything She Does Is Magic." Never mind, its Ra's own music that people really want to hear, not their covers. They want to hear "Violator," where frontman Sahaj Ticotin's vocals soar into the intricate cadences of the Indian/Arabian scale, as he also does on the tabla-driven intro to "Name." It was such spices of the East as these that had some critics pegging the band as prog rock. If so, Ra are not your dad's or his dad's prog rock -- no spacy excursions, no five-minute guitar or ten-minute drum solos are found in their music, not even on-stage. In reality, Ra are nu metal with an exotic twist, as they take their tightly written rockers into Eastern climes, while never leaving behind their hard rock and metal cores. And no matter that the guitars sparkle and soar, or buzz and churn -- the bass may even turn to fuzz, but the melodies remain the focal point, something proggers and the more metal-edged bands neglect. Then again, the band's influences don't end in the rock realm, swirling into new wave and out to such '80s heroes as Peter Gabriel and Sting. It's a heady mixture, which Ra have spent a decade carefully brewing, and now they're finally beginning to reap their reward. Their latest single, the anthemic "Don't Turn Away," was rock radio's number one most added, and is appended to this set. A heavy-hitting number, it doesn't sound a bit out of place, an equal reflection of Ra's studio power and their ability to flawlessly re-create their intricate music live on-stage. Fans will eat this album up, raw or otherwise, but it also provides the perfect introduction to newcomers, a best-of set showcasing their biggest numbers to greatest advantage.
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AllMusic Review by Jo-Ann Greene