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Album Review: Unity
Raphael Groten and Rebecca Kodis
Cover image of the album Unity by Raphael Groten and Rebecca Kodis
Raphael Groten and Rebecca Kodis
2024 / Raphael Groten
49 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Unity is the first collaborative album by Raphael Groten and Rebecca Kodis, and what an amazing recording it is! The sixth album of Raphael's that I've reviewed (including his children's album as G'Raph), I've always been more than impressed with Raphael's deep sincerity as well as his musicianship. Quoting the liner notes for the album: "We offer this music to assist in cultivating unity within each of us and the world." Raphael composed all ten of the tracks and sings along with playing guitar, flute, percussion, bass, kalimba, chimes and a bowl of water(!); Rebecca plays the violin and sings. Recorded mostly at Imaginary Road Studios, a few of the pieces also feature Will Ackerman (guitar), Eugene Friesen (cello) and/or Michael Manring (fretless bass). Tom Eaton co-produced (with Raphael and Rebecca) and also engineered, mixed and mastered the album.

Unity begins with "Feathers," a piece Raphael started writing the guitar melody for many years ago. The guitar was recorded at Imaginary Road, and then Raphael took it to his own studio and added crystal bowl, ocean drum, medicine drum and rattle, flutes, kalimba, wind chimes, a bowl of water and his own bird sounds (wings, songs and calls). Again quoting the liners: "My intention with this piece was to carry the listener into their inner worlds, where they could relax and open their heart to receive the music to come." Very still and meditative, it's a beautiful start! "Ease" begins as a very relaxed guitar solo before becoming a duet for guitar and violin. Its gentle, fluid tempo and the contrasting sounds of the plucked guitar strings and the bowed violin elicit inner feelings that suit the title perfectly. "Rainbow Tribe" refers to a prophecy of a time when all of the races of the world would come together and live in peace while learning to live in balance with the earth and in unity with all life. What a dream-come-true that would be! The song includes flutes, guitars and violin as well as Raphael and Rebecca chanting lyrics that have no translation or ties with any tradition - very inspiring and heartfelt! "Open Hands" becomes a quartet with Will Ackerman's guitar and Eugene Friesen's cello joining Raphael's guitar and Rebecca's violin. A quiet celebration of a mutual love for classical music, this is an easy track to get (very pleasantly) lost in. "Union" expresses the sweet feeling of a gentle country waltz or a traditional folk song that "sings" about love and life, joys and sadness. It has become one of the duo's favorite pieces to perform. "Old Home" was composed during Raphael's last night in the house he grew up in before it was sold. It became a soulful quartet for two guitars (Raphael and Will), violin (Rebecca) and cello (Eugene) and even quotes Erik Satie's "Gymnopédie No. 1." "Sleeping Lion" is a duet for guitar and fretless bass (Manring), and refers to the power and grace that rests just below the surface of many individuals. The closing track is the title track with its simple and deeply meaningful lyrics: "May all life be unified. May all life know peace with me." In the context of this beautiful song, unity refers to acceptance and love, not in beliefs and ways of life. Flutes, guitar, light hand percussion, violin and vocals express a dream many of us share.

In these troubled and turbulent times, Raphael Groten and Rebecca Kodis have created a soulful and deeply heartfelt musical call for unity within ourselves as well as within the world as a whole. Incredibly powerful in its sincerity and honesty as well as the beauty of the music, Unity should be required listening for everyone on the planet! It is available from Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes and streaming platforms including Spotify. A masterpiece!
July 1, 2024
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Contributing artists:
Will Ackerman
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