Relentlessly contemporary, Ray of Light pairs Madonna with producer William Orbit, an electronics wizard who has worked with major R&B acts and even such modern rockers as Blur and Depeche Mode. Reportedly, Madonna tried to snare Liam Howlett of high-strung techno-rockers the Prodigy into the project -- Howlett claims to have turned her down. But the more dextrous, less in-your-face Orbit was probably a better choice anyway. He provides a dizzying array of soundscapes, incorporating everything from psychedelic rock guitar to dub-reggae echo and cold, cutting techno beats for what critics are calling Madonna's most committed performance in years. From the slow chill of the album's first single, "Frozen," to the disco-like title track, Ray of Light finds Madonna embracing the club beats that are her roots while still teetering on the edge of dance-club vogue. It also finds the singer, who has become a mother since her last studio album, in a long-untapped spiritual mode. When the inevitable comparisons are made to Madonna's previous standard-bearer, 1989's Like a Prayer, that may well be the reason.
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