02/22/12 Albums By Graham Taylor Music Review: Roman Rhodes and the Born Again Pagans Album: "The Emergent Sea" Grade: A- Website: http://www.romanrhodes.com For a band so plugged into the 60s, Roman Rhodes and the Born Again Pagans also feel utterly contemporary. This is mainly because Rhodes turns a blind eye to stylistic boundaries; on their latest album The Emergent Sea, they navigate through an assortment of varied inspirations including folk, psychedelic rock, world music, and jazz. However, the group somehow manages to stitch together their eclectic tastes in a seamless flow. It shouldn't work but somehow the band manages to pull it off. Odysseus is a ramshackle collision of folk and jazz; Atsushi Akazawa's incandescent violin softens the union's rough edges, offering a comforting hook. It nearly recalls 80s college-radio icons Camper Van Beethoven, another group who were able to successfully wed their global influences into a cohesive whole. (On that note, CBV were also from California like Rhodes.) Odysseus is one of the tracks on the record that, like the album title, refers to the ocean. Also among the best in that category is She Sells Seashells. Given the name, it makes one expect a homage to the Cult's She Sells Sanctuary, but that's not the case. Rather, She Sells Seashells recalls the 60s art-pop of the Zombies with its dreamy textures. Rhodes does more than just marry different musical genres; the Born Again Pagans are a multicultural unit, and the band unveils its geographical exchange especially well on Umi/The Sea. Rhodes switches back and forth between Japanese and English lyrics as soaring flute and sun-drenched acoustic riffs echo the embrace of cultures. The Emergent Sea is a unique beauty in an ocean of dull mediocrity; those who swim in its waters will find themselves awash in a true artist's limitless imagination.

Roman Rhodes and the Born Again Pagans serve visionary collage of folk and jazz on new album Only when folk music is spiced with exotic sounds from the rest of the world does it transcend its roots and become vital again. Such is the case with Roman Rhodes and the Born Again Pagans, a band that uses folk as the first stroke of a paintbrush to realize their collage of jazz, psychedelic, and world music. There's no point in classifying them; it's best to swim in the wild waves of their latest album The Emergent Sea and surf on the layers of visionary storytelling. Rhodes' mood-spinning, dreamy voice is not typical of either folk nor jazz. In fact, it recalls the compelling baritone of alternative rockers such as the late David McComb of the Triffids and James Grant of Love and Money, especially on "Poseidon." Those acts are relatively obscure so it might be a case of shared influences with those singers, namely that of the Doors, whose raging blues the group recalls on "Grandma's Telecaster (The Good Old Days)." If Doors front man Jim Morrison were still alive today, this is the kind of music he'd probably be releasing instead of some kind of corporate schlock. Brittle mandolin and swirling violins add stylish atmospherics to "Poseidon" which, like many of the tracks here have obvious references to the ocean. It's not really a concept album - it's hard to see an artist as jubilantly eclectic as Rhodes confining his creativity in such a way - but it is remarkably consistent in terms of craftsmanship. One of the most gripping songs on the record is "Umi/The Sea," wherein Rhodes combines English and Japanese lyrics with impressive authority. Spirited flute and crystalline acoustic guitars solidify the track's collision of East and West. On the surface, Rhodes' work may recall the similarly sun-tanned acoustic pop of Jack Johnson; however, Rhodes is more adventurous and unpredictable, making listeners true believers of these Born Again Pagans.
Roman Rhodes and the Born Again Pagans weave uplifting patchwork of '60s folk and jazz on new CD Flower power is in full bloom in the '60s folk jams of Roman Rhodes and the Born Again Pagans. On their latest album The Emergent Sea, the Pagans weave together a patchwork of hippie-era acoustic rockers, jazz, and psychedelic music. However, the group is no nostalgia cheese festival but nor are they ironic indie hipsters. They are simply the product of their eclectic influences, a multicultural unit that somehow is able to weld their worlds-apart roots together and sound like direct offspring of Haight-Ashbury. The songs on The Emergent Sea have a definite California vibe. There's no denying the summer sunshine that illuminates cuts like the title track and “Poseidon." There's an underlying theme of water that carries like waves throughout the record. Furthermore, a number of tunes sound like beach property. “Ocean Sunset" is as photogenic as it reads with Rhodes' dreamy voice narrating the story in a silky smooth fashion that recalls the Zombies. “She Sells Seashells" also floats effortlessly with the gentle caress of Rhodes' singing. To call these songs pretty would be an understatement; they are absolutely gorgeous. The soaring flute and bouncy backbeat of the title cut offers a sneak preview of the uplifting sentiments contained within. In a sense, the Pagans are the real Beach Boys because their songs truly capture the cleansing escapism provided by the surf. In a world enveloped by negativity and anger, the Pagans remind us of the beauty around us. The band is having fun, and when the stomping “Grandma's Telecaster (The Good Old Days)" comes on, there's no way to resist them.
It's no wonder that Roman Rhodes and the Born Again Pagans' fine CD is titled "The Emergent Sea." Of its 16 folk / jazz / pop-rock hybrid songs, 8 pieces refer to the ocean - directly or by inference, in their titles. More interesting, is that for this accomplished, multi-cultural band, the predominant sound the unique synthesis of such musical styles evokes is altogether that of California coastline vistas on warm summer nights. Built on light, breezy, and melodic contemporary folk-rock along the lines of Jack Johnson (but incorporating flourishes of late '60's / early '70's pop-rock and jazz styles as well), Roman and his Pagans deliver spirited and decidedly spiritual, tunes that celebrate life and nature with a keen inventiveness, both musically and lyrically. The opening (title) track, "The Emergent Sea," with its free-flight flute backing and tasteful guitar interpolations, sets the tone for the disc, while other highlights incorporate judicious horns as heard on "Odysseus," syncopated rhythms on "A Man Once Called Me," Youngbloods like guitar fills on "Long Talk Off a Short Beer," and even some good-old down-home reminiscing on "Grandma's Telecaster (The Good Old Days.)" "The Emergent Sea" offers an excellent showcase for the skills and influences of players with origins that stretch from Scotland to Japan and sundry points in between, but what ultimately makes Roman Rhodes and the Born Again Pagans' CD so effective is the cohesive, well balanced, and accessible music at its core. -Rice B & RadioIndy.com Reviewer team

Frank Daulton October 2, 2009 This is your best CD yet! It has more musical breadth than ever. If I had to choose my favorite elements of your style, I'd say your Incredible voice and lyrics. Of course, this CD features a diverse collection of musicians and instruments that take the music in new directions. Future live performances will push the music into surprising arrangements, and the vibe of a live performance would further warm the ambiance. I'm amazed at how reliable your muse continues to be. There's no one who makes the kind of music you do.Here's my fast run through the tracks. 1. The Emergent Sea: A live- and big-sound, title-track launch of the CD. 2. Odysseus: The rhythm and lyrics forecast the eclecticism of the CD. 3. Poseidon: The sparse instrument arrangement works perfectly. The CD is reaching critical mass. 4. The Trees Once Grew High: Explosion! Every element falls together beautifully, and the lyrics really are heart wrenching. 5. The Horizon: The campy instrument flourishes work to brilliant effect. There are so many surprises in this CD it's impossible to get bored listening. 6. E I E I Oh: Enigmatic dynamite. 7. A Man Once Called Me: Whimsical and reflective. 8. Plastic Fire Hats: Brilliant falsetto with a great hook! 9. She Sells Sea Shells: Impressive display of vocal range with a superb melody and arrangement. 10. Saipan: I nominate this for a musical award for lyrics. 11. Long Talk Off A Short Beer: How deceptive your song titles are! They are the emotional tip of your lyrics' rhetorical depth. That's one of your music's essential charms. 12. Ocean Sunset: A charming song with lovely chemistry among the instruments. 13. Grandma's Telecaster: A Johnny Cash vibe; this is a crossover tune that the Austin crowd would appreciate. 14. Kirk's Caledonia: Understated brilliance. 15. Eclipse of the Earth: A thought-provoker that appproaches the border between beautiful and majestic. 16. Umi/The Sea: This song has a pleasant bonus track feel to it, a gift from the artist to the audience.

Roman Rhodes, as his name suggests is a wanderer: restless, curiously aligned in spirit to the original Provencal troubadors, who really did travel on Roman roads and kept alive the light from Eleusis. Today to be a true country musician is to have no country but the world. All ways lead home. You can map it out in his songs. He has made his musical pilgrimages, literally and figuratively, to Ireland, Africa, and South America. And, yes, he is Canadian too, following down some of the same roads as his famous fellow émigrés. His way, however, led to Japan, where he has found his own alternative to an American life. Born into a musical family--his mother taught piano, his grandfather was a pianist--songs are what he has made of this side of his inheritance, over two hundred to his name so far. Listen carefully: the lyrics are as far ranging as the rhythms. He travels in time as well as space. He is highly literate and draws easily upon his intellectual interests; a master's degree in Ancient History--his father's genes at work--underpins his art and stance as a "born again pagan." Don't let the irony fool you. He is deeply committed to a humanly reasonable but radical agenda. It won't hurt to state it here: worship the oneness in all its myriad energies and forms, protect the earth, decry ignorance, develop your inner daemon of potential, and appreciate the sensual world as the spiritual. On such principles, he has laid down well-made tracks meant to last a long time and, in good faith, to carry you away. Jonathan Brewer --Nara Poetry Author of Phantom City, Tonodan Press, Pasadena CA.

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YouTube -- https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCpjbcUCW9YZT-NDVz6T4d_Q Facebook -- https://www.facebook.com/BornAgainPagans?ref=profile CD Baby -- http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/romanrhodesandthebornaga