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"Both Sides Now"
RJ Lannan And Bill Binkelman opine from "Both Sides Now"
Other reviews from "Both Sides Now":
  Wings II: Return To Freedom by 2002, reviewed by RJ Lannan / Bill Binkelman on 5/24/2010
  Renaissance of Grace by Aurora Juliana Ariel, reviewed by RJ Lannan / Bill Binkelman on 1/18/2009
  Forgiving Dreams by Damon Buxton, reviewed by RJ Lannan / Bill Binkelman on 1/18/2009
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Renaissance of Grace
By Aurora Juliana Ariel
Label: AEOS
Renaissance of Grace tracks
1. Renaissance of Grace  
2. Love's Sacred Fire  
3. Breathless Winds  
4. Love's Eternal Flame  
5. In My Heart Forever  
6. Journey of the Heart  
7. Under a Shiva Moon  
8. Tere Vase Da  
9. Peace on Earth  
Renaissance of Grace
If there is one thing I can claim firsthand knowledge of, it is the unique spirituality that the Hawaiian Islands fosters. Aurora Juliana Ariel, a resident of Maui, harnesses that power to expand her awareness, teach personal growth and write some interesting music. I mean interesting in the way that piques the curiosity. Using World and ethnic backgrounds and blending Hawaiian rhythms, she produces some thoughtful compositions. The music is light New Age and the vocals are warm and somewhat romantic on her latest album Renaissance of Grace.

Aurora is a Doctor of Psychology as well as a practicing Kahuna, a Hawaiian mystic trained in the arts of healing. I am quite surprised that this tribute is passed onto a haole (white person), but her bio says so. I can only assume that she is very good at her arts for it is certainly an honor to be a Kahuna. What is noteworthy on the album is that Aurora is joined by legendary guitarist Bruce BecVar on guitar, bass and as chief collaborator. Also joining her is Brian BecVar on orchestration, Peruvian Shaman Tito LaRosa on pan flutes and Rafael Padilla on percussion. The music is quite good.

The title cut Renaissance of Grace is a soft, dreamy ballad with an almost Spanish feel. The lyrics are "created language", words that come to the musician as she composes her music. The song is a celebration of two hearts that have found each other. It is more than fate or kismet, it is destiny fulfilled.

Love's Sacred Fire is prayer-like in its composition. It is a melancholy song at first listen, but quite beautiful and it became a favorite. La Rosa's pan flues are exquisite in the background, sounding somewhat like Christopher Franke's soundtrack for the Celestine Prophecy. Rather ironic I should say. Love’s Eternal Flame is another ballad with Aurora sweetly singing with BecVar in what I at first thought was Hawaiian, but it is more created language. Whether I understood the language or not became unimportant. The feeling of the song was obvious and quite honest. This music was really starting to win me over. Noteworthy is sweet violin by Rachel Handlin and Dom Lax on the tune Tere Vas Da. The final cut Peace on Earth isn't just a wish; it is a heartfelt hope from this accomplished healer and songstress.

The music on the album is consummate BecVar guitar tunes and wondrous sentiment by Aurora. The lyrics still strangely sounds like Hawaiian to me, but considering the environment, I am not surprised any longer. Overall, I liked the album with its positive message and positive energy. The tunes for the most part, were on the soft side and very relaxing. Many years ago I left a part of my heart in Hawaii and this music reminds me why it will always be there.

Rating: Good + - RJ Lannan

It’s hard for me to imagine a "poor" Bruce BecVar album. While this is technically his paramour's (Aurora Juliana Ariel) CD, his fingerprints are all over the place. As a result, it's an enjoyable release. Besides BecVar lending his appreciable talents (on guitar, bass, synths, and vocals), his brother Brian also guests on orchestrations (in fact, at times Renaissance of Grace reminded me of Brian's under-appreciated 1995 CD, Once in a Life). Other instruments featured include pan flute (Tito La Rosa), percussion (Rafael Padilla) violin (Rachel Handlin and Don Lax) and drums (Michael Buono). Ariel's vocals are the show here, though, and she proves up to the task. As she showed on Bruce's last solo work, River of Gold, she possesses a warm engaging voice. Not the strongest I've heard, but complemented as it is by seasoned pros and in the service of strong compositions (co-penned by her and Bruce BecVar), it's more than good enough to blend with the CD's soothing mixture of new age and world music.

The liner notes allude to the album's inspiration, which was borne out of some metaphysical experiences the singer had on her island home on Maui. It’s hard to decry the obvious sincerity and passion which this text alludes to, so I won't play the jaded cynic. Goodness knows, artists in this genre find inspiration in many places and circumstances and music of this type is unlikely to spring from a few glasses of pinot grigio or a game of no-limit Texas Hold' em.

Sadly, the liner notes do not include lyrics and an email went unanswered (as to the languages being sung in by Ariel and BecVar). I think she is singing in either Spanish or Portuguese and he is singing in Hawaiian. On the other hand, understanding the lyrics is probably not a big deal as the music here is the main draw. It's not that the singing is without merit (just the opposite), but understanding the words was not an impediment to my enjoyment of the disc.

Musical influences include Mediterranean and South/Central America with some subtle Hawaiian/tropical flavors mixed in as well. Most of the songs are laid-back and when rhythms appear, they are usually slow to mid-tempo. The vocal interplay between BecVar and Ariel on track Love's Eternal Flame is an album highlight. Despite the intended overt mystical/ metaphysical aspect of the album, the music is actually quite sensuous, which you'd expect since a Mediterranean flair presides over many tracks. The other accompanists, who are scattered throughout the CD's nine songs, all comport themselves admirably. Summing up, this is a well-done album and you certainly don't have to buy into the spiritual side of it to enjoy its sweet romantic pleasures.

Rating: Good - Bill Binkelman
Combined Rating: Good +   Good +
- reviewed by RJ Lannan / Bill Binkelman on 1/18/2009
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