Journey Around the Sun: A Mayan Odyssey
2010 / Bill Wren and Frank Ralls
Review by Kathy Parsons
Journey Around the Sun: A Mayan Odyssey is the follow-up to Bill Wren and Frank Ralls' 2008 debut One Day in a Life. After the release of the first album, Wren became fascinated with the Mayan civilization and its 2012 prophecy. This is a concept album centered on a voyage of exploration and discovery - a soundtrack of sorts - with a broad range of world music influences. Much of the music has a big cinematic sweep and is very visual. Wren does not perform on any of the fourteen tracks, but Frank Ralls appears on piano, synth, percussion, drums, and orchestral programming. He is joined by an impressive group of supporting musicians on voice, wind instruments, strings, brass, and guitars. The sound quality is superb - crystal-clear yet very warm. It is no surprise that the album has already hit #1 on ZoneMusicReporter.com. The enhanced CD includes videos of live performances of “Beyond the Misty Veil” and “Vessel of the Seven Lords” (there are more videos online at www.journeyaroundthesun.com).
Journey Around the Sun: A Mayan Odyssey begins with the lovely “Winter Solstice 2012,” a short prelude that lays the groundwork for the musical adventure that follows. It melts into “Between Heaven and Earth,” the destination of our journey. This piece moves at a leisurely pace, propelled by guitar, voice, strings, and percussion. “Water and Flame” opens with a haunting cello solo and sounds of the ocean. Acoustic guitar picks up the solo which gradually evolves into an exotic duet with the cello. From there, we segue into the title track, an ambient guitar piece with atmospheric keyboard washes and light percussion. “Apocalypse Island” picks up the tempo with a strong beat and strings that suggest gliding on the water. Horns give the piece weight and drama in addition to strings and a joyful flute. In the middle, percussion takes an invigorating solo, stirring the soul before we continue our smooth sail across the water. “Mayan Prophecy” is both beautiful and almost heartbreakingly sad. Guitar, cello, and vocals lead the way on this one. “Mayan Moonlight” sparkles in the dark stillness. “The Voyage” is another short piece. It begins with thunder and then it’s as if the sky opens up and releases warm and glorious sunshine. “Vessel of the Seven Lords” conveys a sense of adventure and of moving forward. Big and colorful, it’s easy to let the imagination run wild with this one. “Road to Chichen Itza” continues in this grand style, this time suggesting triumph and success. I love it! “Beyond the Misty Veil” is a wonderful, lighthearted guitar piece that conveys simple joy and contentment. As it unfolds, flute, voice, piano, and strings are added. “Eternal Hope” is a gorgeous concluding piece for piano, cello, and atmospheric washes - a warm and optimistic end to our wonderful journey.
Journey Around the Sun: A Mayan Odyssey is an exciting second effort from Bill Wren and Frank Ralls. Be sure to check it out on Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Recommended!
September 21, 2011