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The Sounding Board by R J Lannan
RJ Lannan is the reviewer for The Sounding Board.
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Journey Around The Sun: A Mayan Odyssey
By Bill Wren & Frank Ralls
Label: Ponder Dust
Released 8/2/2011
Journey Around The Sun: A Mayan Odyssey tracks
1. Winter Solstice 2012
2. Between Heaven and Earth
3. Water and Flame
4. Journey Around the Sun
5. Apocalypse Island
6. Mayan Prophecy
7. Mayan Moonlight
8. The Lost City of Maya
9. The Voyage
10. Vessel of the Seven Lords
11. Road To Chichen Itza
12. Beyond The Misty Veil
13. New Heaven, New Earth
14. Eternal Hope
Love at First Eschatological Breath
Trust me, 2012 will not mark the end of the world. It is thought by many that the year 2012 will be a time of new beginnings. Ever the optimist, I am of that ilk. I also think that guitarist Bill Wren and pianist Frank Ralls are in the same club. Within their new album Journey Around the Sun: A Mayan Odyssey they have musically journeyed into the unknown to create a lush, contemporary anthology of music that chronicles their every twist and turn, every climb and hike and every dream that completes the trip. Along the way they invited exciting and talented accompanists such as Sandy Williams on guitar, Philip Pan on violin, and vocalist Michelle Amato as well as light ensemble throughout. I was thrilled that I was along for the journey.

The beginning number called Winter Solstice 2012 was eye-opening with its shrill pennywhistle and flourish of piano. It was like the dawn of a new day or the beginning of all else. I believe it will be a time of transformation, not cataclysm. It segued briskly into Between Heaven and Earth a warm, intricate song that celebrates the spirit and chooses to bless the special place between the physical and the spiritual and the endless search for balance. This song had a David Darling feel to it that was quite appealing.

Fully two thousand years before the Greeks gave their constellation, planets and heavenly bodies names, the Mayans already had a system in place. Astronomy was their strong suit so when Bill and Frank gave me something called Mayan Moonlight, I felt that I was part of ancient history and enjoyed every moment. It starts out with haunting voices and the violin melody pierces the darkness with a silver light that is a both cool and comforting. The guitar is gentle like the warmth of a summer night.

Another song featuring haunting cello is Water and Flame. They are elements that oppose each other and yet, provide a balance in nature. Water, nourishment to soil and soul and flame, destroyer and sometimes purifier of all things organic. The balance in the tune is between guitar and keyboards, both with continuity, both with intricacy.

Lost City of Maya has quite an exotic feel to it. It is music for the tour. It seemed like we cut through the jungle for days. The torrential rains and the hordes of mosquitoes never dampened our fervor as we searched for the legendary city called El Mirador. We have found the "white roads" that lead to pyramids built 400 years before Christ walked in Nazareth. In the air, like a scent, is energy you can feel and history that you sense in your spirit.

Vessel of the Seven Lords became my overall favorite on the album. The tune is reminiscent of Jeff Johnson & Brian Dunning’s work and I liked it for that. The Creation Lord, Bolon Yokte K’u, a Mayan deity is depicted on the Vessel of the Seven Lords and represents the return of the Classic Period. Think of life in cycles as the Mayans do.

If you drive west on Mexico Highway 180 you will come to the Road to Chichen Itza. On Journey Around the Sun: A Mayan Odyssey it is surely the tune with the most vitality. The mystical city, located on the Yucatan peninsula, is the site of Mexican conquerors, Spanish land grabbers and invaders and the most beautiful display of pyramids in Central America. Bill and Frank offer a tune full of excitement and the fulfillment of discovery.

The album closes, but does not end with the song Eternal Hope. The gentle piano tune is one of promise if it is anything. 2012 will be the coming of a New Age and it is fitting that the music reflects the hope that is always within our hearts. The world needs hope now more then ever.

The one-page for the album was effusive with praise for the duo and their talented partnership, but it need not have been. Their music speaks volumes for itself. Bill Wren's melodic guitar and Frank Ralls optimistic piano, along the many fine artist they featured on the album, should be proud of this stunning achievement. You can listen to it for hours and make new discoveries with every listen. I know I did.
Rating: Excellent   Excellent
- reviewed by RJ Lannan on 9/25/2011
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