Attack Of The Screamin' Rays

The Screamin' Rays

Metro 1 Records, 1999

REVIEW BY: Michael Ehret

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/18/1999

Regardless of what Metro 1 wants to believe, this disc is a side project for label leader and executive Crystal Lewis. But what a side project! Lewis is "it" right now, appearing with all kinds of performers in nearly every imaginable format.

Her own Gold has been all over Christian pop and adult contemporary radio for the last year and a half and she just released a live album Live@thewoodlands. She won a musical battle with R. Kelly, Bono, and Mary J. Blige on Kirk Franklin's ultra-cool "Lean On Me" and appeared with Metro One rapper K2S on his version of the Bee Gees' "How Deep Is Your Love." Now what?

Now, The Screamin' Rays and a surreal mixture of swing and rock-a-billy she's calling "swing-a-billy." Someone get the woman a cool drink - is she hot or what?

This disc is so retro it's new. From the style of the music to the visual 50's horror movie style cover which features a terrified couple clinging to each other as The Rays', in cartoon form, come cruising' in from outer space.

But Lewis, who goes by the name C-Ray on this project, is far from the only talent on this disc. There are also great appearances by Jonny Ray, Sting Ray, X-Ray, and T-Ray. Their website also lists a Gamma-Ray, but he's not credited on the disc. Who are these people? Beats me, but they are some hep-cat musicians, baby, yeah.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

At least one other member of The Rays is known. A couple of the songs are written by Chris Brigandi, a founding member of Wild Blue Yonder, which was the band where Lewis made her debut. The website identifies him as Sting Ray. This disc is mostly new songs and a couple down-home gospel-swing chestnuts. A righteous cut on the disc is Cab Calloway's "We the Cats (Shall Hep Ya)."

"Livin' and the time is right/Livin' and tonight, tonight/Livin', oh reet, oh right, come on oh man, come on/We the cats shall hep ya, so reap this righteous riff -- bop bop/Here's the beat to hep ya, so reap this righteous riff -bop bop"

Throughout T-Ray shares vocal duties with C-Ray, sounding much like a rougher Brian Setzer. Alongside Lewis' crystalline soprano, T-Ray adds an appealing alleycat feel to the project. Topically, the songs vary from overtly Christian content to fare fit for your average juke joint.

In the disc opener, "Someday," T-Ray sings about the ultimate choice each person must make:

"Someday -- you got to make a choice/I said someday -- a really big choice/Oh someday - what you going to do with your life/Peace comes from knowing that you're loved from above/And when you find the answer, you'll know what I'm talking of/Someday -- keep your mind open brother/And someday you will see/He came down and gave his life for you and me"

Fans of Lewis' diva songs don't despair! "Why Are You Cryin," written by Lewis' husband Brian Ray, would fit right into that mold. With Greg Leitz' steel guitar, Lewis is flirting with country on this song - and it winks right back at her.

"I feel the deepest part of my life is gone/I was healed, I was held and I'm holding on/When you've been forgiven of so much, you love so much/When you called my name right then I knew it had to be you/I've seen the Lord/He is alive"

Struttin' through "Mr. Happy-Go-Lucky" like a stray cat, T-Ray puts some attitude into his singing while C-Ray ably backs up with some echo backgrounds. Gene Eugene lays down some screamin' piano lines and the brass section of Doug Webb (tenor and baritone sax) and Sal Marquez (trumpet) make their presence known and, if the tunes are loud enough, felt.

In addition to vocals, T-Ray adds some harmonica throughout. Sting Ray brings guitars, tambourine, and vocals to the party. X-Ray slings even more guitar and Jonny Ray plays upright and electric bass.

Here's hoping The Rays are not a one-off act. This kind of talent deserves to go on and on -- and, hey, man, I don't know about you, but I need the hep! Take my advice and reap this righteous riff while you can.

Lewis succeeds at everything she puts her hand to these days. One can only wait and speculate about what she'll conquer next - polka?

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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© 1999 Michael Ehret and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Metro 1 Records, and is used for informational purposes only.