By now it’s no secret that Genesis is pretty much my favourite band of all time, and even though the band has called it quits, it is a distinct joy for me every time one of its former members puts out a record of their own. Ray Wilson is no exception.
For those of you just catching up with me now, Ray Wilson is the terribly underrated vocalist who rose up in the 90s with the band Stiltskin and was brought in to replace Phil Collins as the lead vocalist for Genesis in 1997. While the line-up was short-lived, it held long enough to write, record, release, and tour the band’s final studio album Calling All Stations. A decade and a half after his time in Genesis came to an end, Ray Wilson has several albums (solo and also with Stiltskin) under his belt and he still continues to put out music of consistently wonderful quality. Last year, I did a review of one of such efforts, the fantastic live homage to Genesis, Genesis Classic, Live In Poznań. As happy as I was that Ray had decided to breathe some new life into the Genesis back-catalogue, I was happy this year to find that Ray was back with a brand new solo album.
First off, know that Ray Wilson has never made me regret pressing play. I know exactly what to expect every time and I’ve never been disappointed. Ever. I put on this new record, Chasing Rainbows, expecting to hear the same quality I always hear when the artist’s name is stamped on a disc, and I’ve got to tell you I was actually quite surprised.
The first tune, “Take It Slow,” is a tremendous opening track, showcasing up front everything that is awesome about this record. It starts off interestingly with a gloomy arpeggio that leads quickly into Ray’s trademark raspy baritone. Familiar enough, but what stood out for me, even at this the earliest point in the record, was the quality of production. The vocals are crystal clear and each instrument is isolated yet deftly included in the greater picture. The tune gave me a kick in the pants somewhere between the 46 and 47 second mark when the amazing chorus strikes.
Friends, this is the magic of Ray Wilson’s voice. I’ve heard people criticise it for it’s lack of dynamic and I won’t stand for that. Seriously, I may fight someone over this some day! The man has a rich, round baritone. A voice like this naturally doesn’t have the high-end required to punch through a song a lot of the time, but what is great about it is the command and feeling that is displayed when it is naturally forced. “Take It Slow”’s chorus is a perfect example. Ray’s voice lets out a wide, explosive boom that soars and contrasts perfectly the more natural warmth of his regular singing voice in a way that makes everything that much more epic. Strings help to further the experience without knocking you over the head and the saxophone work is simply astounding. With its refreshingly simplistic melodies and chorus and ace musicianship, “Take It Slow” has officially replaced “Jigsaw” as my favourite Wilson tune. It’s just an epically sweet song.
Other standouts for me include the incredible “Shouting In My Sleep,” the gorgeous love song “She’s a Queen,” and “The Life of Someone,” which is typical Wilson awesomeness.
All said, Chasing Rainbows plays out with a natural ease that demonstrates clearly all the artist has learned during the highs and lows of his career, and also with a little more punch than I’ve ever heard in a Ray Wilson record. Beautiful production, spectacular instrumentation, and the artist’s own warmth, soul, and honesty help to make Chasing Rainbows unique. It covers so much new ground yet conceals this in a signature package that is blessedly familiar to fans of the man’s music.