"The Next Best Thing" - Ray Wilson's new album reviewed by Jana Shepard.

I have been listening (wearing out, more like!) to Ray Wilson's latest CD "The Next Best Thing" since it was released, and have to say I love it more with each playing. This is a very worthy follow-up to Change which was released in 2003.

The album starts off with a track called These Are The Changes (which was released as the first single from the CD) using speeches from various political figures from the United States including Robert Kennedy, Richard Nixon; George W Bush and Ronald Reagan. Being an American, I find it very powerful but I realise that not everyone might feel the same way but I find Ray's use of the speeches to be an interesting commentary on the world situation.

Inside is a newer version of Stiltskin's #1 hit from 1994's Inside album. I love this new version, it really shows off his voice more so than the original. Ray has such a powerful voice; and these "hard rocker" songs really show that very well. How High really stands out as a favourite of mine as does Ever The Reason. The songs are very personal and one could say "dark".

The Actor is another favourite of mine, written to express his feelings over the Genesis situation. The album really shows off Ray's writing, although two of the tracks are co-written by Scott Spence (lead guitarist on three tracks) and Peter Lawlor (from Stiltskin). The album has many varied styles ranging from slow ballad types to rock and even a bit of "Prog" thrown in. He has used some unusual instruments on the album too, including a harpsichord on The Actor.

I would be remiss if I didnít mention Amanda Lyon on backing vocals. She has been out with Ray on tour and also appears on Change and it is really an asset to the CD. Her voice is strong but not overpowering. Nir Z shares drum duties on the CD as well. To paraphrase a bit here; I would like to say that I am not a music critic but I know what I like! Everyone hearing this CD will get a different impression out of it. Suffice to say it is Ray's strongest outing so far. He has really grown in his writing and musicianship.

Now, if we could only get him over here to do some shows in the US; I would be a happy camper.