Amun Ra

Orchard Records, 2003

REVIEW BY: Andrea Callahan


Much of the music being made today can be easily categorized into jazz, blues, rock, hip-hop, or some other section for the music store. Amun Ra cannot be so easily classified. Their music must be evaluated solely on its own terms.

After listening to the album, I will add my voice to any rave reviews already written. So many musicians have such great instrumental music, but never allow you the time to just sit and listen to the instruments; instead, they clutter the eardrums with vocals that don't add much. Not so Amun Ra; of the lengthy song "Spiritual Expedition," half of the song has no vocals to speak of. Emily Shirley, the lead vocalist, contributes laughter to the rhythm section during this time, then sings lyrics towards the end.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The lyrics themselves are stunning. Read aloud, the lyrics make great poetry; with phrases like "what do we know for certain / that won't ever come undone? / this land is ours to mold / will we dare to bare our souls?" from "Time," Amun Ra shows that this is not your standard love, sex and drugs album.

Well, you may ask, what does Amun Ra sound like? Herein lays the biggest problem. I cannot compare Amun Ra to anything similar. There are definite shadows of foreign influences in the rhythms and in the exotic woodwinds. The music, without vocals, might be anything from excellent jazz to funk to hip-hop. The rhythms are complex, often changing midsong as vocals are introduced or removed; I wouldn't try to dance to any one song, unless I was in the mood to change how I was dancing every three or four minutes.

The individual members of the band mesh to make this wonderfully original sound. The regular band includes Nadjim Kebir on drums, Misha Rutman on guitars, Neil Larson on Rhodes and synthesizers, and Azukizawa Hirotsugu on bass. There's some excellent saxophone playing by guest Arthur Sharp during "Step Back," and Mister Rourke on turntables joins Amun Ra for four of the songs of the album. Emily Shirley has a wonderfully clear voice, and can put the full gamut of emotions into her lyrics.

The vocals of Amun Ra are mournful, angry, hopeful, and humorous by turn. The music behind the vocals is energetic, soothing, and soaring. Although it sounds jumbled when I describe it, I guarantee you the music does not sound scrambled in the least. I hope that anyone interested in a "new sound" will definitely give Amun Ra a try.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


© 2004 Andrea Callahan and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Orchard Records, and is used for informational purposes only.