Sound: The band borrowed the name from Egyptian religion, where Ra is a God of sun. Like sun is the source of life for every creature on Earth, music plays the same part in life for the band members. The ethnic spirit in band's music comes from the time when singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist/producer Sahaj Ticotin had a pilgrimage to India14 years ago. In early 2002 Sahaj teamed up with guitarist Ben Carroll, bassist Sean Corcoran and drummer Skoota Warner in New York and the band made their first indie release. Since it was very successful, later that year Republic/Universal got interested and issued the same record by the name of From One, which helped to sell ten times more copies than before. After very intensive touring all through the East Coast, the band made some changes in the cast -? Corcoran was replaced by bassist PJ Farley and Andy Ryan is in charge of drums now. The band's sophomore album Duality was out May 2005 and most part of it was recorded, produced and mixed at Sahaj's Upstate NY house.
The second album came out to be more melodic, with a strong hard-rock force and a lot more mature. The band got some fresh air with the change of the bassist and all the material got more complicated in general with beefy riffs and smoking solos. But, being played by the skilled musicians, it sounds easier now and the addition of an acoustic guitar (which was missing on the first album) is a nice touch. The middle eastern vibe, appearing here and there through the album is designing -? like the ethnic drums in "Take Me Away." They sound very cool, but there is no pause after the song ends and you get distracted as once you just got into the rhythm, "I Lost Everything" starts with the drums, but of another kind.
I really enjoyed the cover of Police's classic "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" with the signature piano figure reproduced on guitar -? it's one of the most interesting covers I've ever heard. Since I'm really into alternative rock, I enjoyed the Ra's version of it even more, than the original song. It is so faithful and contains that pure joy that overwhelms me every time I listen to it. The key tracks in my opinion are "Tell Me" (I was blown away by the lead guitar part in the versus here once I paid attention to it), "I Lost Everything Today," "Superman," "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic." // 10
Lyrics: Sahaj has a unique gentle, but strong vocal, that range in style and as Sting obviously has made a great impression on the guy, the manner of singing is very close to his as well. But don't get me wrong -? that's the rare case somebody can be compared to rock icon in a good way. Nice to know now there's someone who actually learns how to sing! His harmony-laden vocals sound fantastic.
Lyrics are much deeper on this CD, than on the first one. The band is now much better in expressing themselves. You can listen to the beautiful melodies of the song, but sincere lyrics is what load songs with sense. Ra's soft lyrics sound amazing over the hard rock music. // 10
Overall Impression: It took the band three years to release this follow-up, bit it's worth it in every bit. Again, as behind everything the band does, there's a bit of philosophy here. The concept of dualism is evident everywhere on the record -- the CD booklet is done in two major colors, facing the two parts of the disk -? "Fear" (beginning with track 1, spoken word by Peter Strauss) and "Love" (beginning with track 8, spoken word by Rachel Ticotin). So, the album starts on a negative note and turns into salvation and redemption by the end of it. Not only the band has a philosophy behind their music, they also have their own unique style. The composition and production are very thought out and there are no weak tracks on the record. All of them have varying sounds and styles, but the band definitely has more potential and my only qualm is that they are too afraid to experiment for some reasons. I wish there were more creativity in the album as most of the songs are radio-cut format 3 or 4 minutes and that "two verses, three choruses plus a bridge" golden formula is certainly approved to work, but very trite and simple for the band of this level. Even though the band is very strong in songwriting and all songs are well crafted commercially, they are more on commercial side and I wish there were more of the band's own style and ambitions and less stamps.
There's one little problem with this CD -? the "Fallen Angels" song skips a couple of times right in the middle of a great guitar intro -? all of the copies do that -- and I know some music shops are even sending the CD back because of that. It's just a tiny thing, that doesn't have anything to do with the music or with the band, but it spoils the impression on the CD. Disappointing.
In conclusion I should say that Ra is one of the most underrated bands in the music industry. They certainly deserve more attention and I hope this album would help them get bigger. // 8