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Media Reviews
by Mark Maxwell Abushady • New York City


Caroline Myss’ Voices of the Sacred
Bellissima Opera
Sounds True

Caroline Myss, patron of the Bellissima Opera troupe, presents her favorite sacred song selections performed by the troupe which features the voices of Franco Martorana, Christine Steyer, Patrick Blackwell and Dominique Frigo, accompanied by Ed Zelnis. While the performances are somewhat uneven, more notably in pronunciation than in vocal quality, “Ave Maria” is absolutely exquisite. Other memorable performances include the spiritual “Deep River,” a couple of selections from Handel’s Messiah, and an ensemble performance of the lovely, yet all-too-infrequently performed “Ave Verum Corpus” by Mozart. These are pieces which, as intended, lift ones spirits, thoughts and heart.

Brian Kelly
Skylight Music

Afterplay is an exciting contemporary jazz album which engages the listener from the very first note. I was blown away by the immediacy, the insistence of the opening cut “River Rush;” a driving, smooth and satisfying offering which I only wished lasted three times longer! It is followed by another worthy cut “Smiling South.” Brian Kelly (piano, keyboards, percussion) is joined by Eric Crystal (alto sax), David Rokeach (drums), Ross Wilson (trumpet & trombone), Carol Alban (flute), Viviana Guzman (flute), James Robinson (guitar), and Tim Bolling (percussion). As the album played to the end, textures varied and moods shifted, but the quality never faltered from the high bar set in its first cut. Congratulations to Brian Kelly!

Relaxation Suite
Steven Halpern
Halpern Inner Peace Music

Spectrum Suite from 1975 was my introduction to Steven Halpern’s wonderful music, but I have not heard another of his offerings since, until this. Relaxation Suite is a wonderfully dreamy, calming, soothing album which features the beautiful cello playing of David Darling (formerly of Paul Winter Consort), along with Jorge Alfano (Shakuhachi flute), Bettine Ware (silver flute), Georgia Kelly (harp), and Schawkie Roth (alto flute), all surrounded by Mr. Halpern’s beautiful keyboard work. Like Spectrum Suite, this album too will undoubtedly find a permanent niche in many a home where healing and lightwork are valued and practiced. The opening cut “Mello Cello” is exceptional, yet so are a number of the other cuts, such as “Sand Dance,” on which Georgia Kelly’s harp virtually sings. An excellent offering.

Al Conti
Shadowside Music

Beautiful, mystical, sensual, warm, inviting – all that we would expect from the mythical “Sheherazade” who lends her name to this album. Given Rimsky-Korsakov’s legendary and beautiful treatment of the 1,001 Arabian Night tales, I wondered at giving another musical work the same name, but Al Conti pulls it off in the way he approaches his subject. Subtlety and grace are evident in every cut, as well as seductive rhythms with which the album begins. Over the course of the album, more of a “new age” influence takes over, reaching its peak in the final and most serene cut, “Heart Triumphant.” This is the soft and wistful side of the storyteller, and a wonderful album to dream to.


Astro 12 – The Collection
Aries: The ‘I Am’ Sign

Submitted for review was the first DVD in a series of 12, set to debut in March, on each of the astrological signs. Having studied the astrological arts for a period of time gave this reviewer some ability to discern the efficacy of this teaching DVD, and I did indeed find it impressive. While the relating of astrological principles can be, and often is, accomplished in idiosyncratic ways (beneficial when tailoring a reading to a client and his/her specific situations or teaching a student one-on-one), this can make for difficulties when producing a product to teach “the masses.” There are, however, certain universal traits and tendencies inherent in each of the signs. This DVD rather skillfully pinpointed many of these elements. With subtly suggestive images of people in everyday situations to accompany the spoken word, Aries: The ‘I Am’ Sign proceeded through ‘The Aries Child,’ ‘Man, ‘Woman,’ ‘Work,’ ‘Leisure,’ ‘Lover,’ and ‘Partner.’ Admirable was the acknowledgement that a woman with an Aries sign might be less comfortable with the masculine energy of this sign, given current social stigmas, than the Aries male. In the final segment, astrology and the sign “Aries” is examined in relation to other, related esoteric traditions, including the tarot, Kabbalah, Hebrew letters, Yoga chakras, alchemy, and magic. All in all, a well constructed presentation and one accessible to novice and current practitioner alike.

Pregnant in America: A Nation’s Miscarriage
A film by Steve Buonaugurio
Bella Media Productions/Intention Media

As more and more effects of corporate greed upon our lives are uncovered daily (as well as those of individuals in influential positions), here is yet another way in which human birthrights, are literally being compromised. The rise of the cesarean birth (from 7% in 1975 to 29% in 2006 – and still rising), and the instilling of fear and of the necessity of medical “management” of the birthing process are just two of the issues tackled in this film. Referred to as “McDonaldization,” the modern hospital, as described by author George Ritzer, is “… a business, and they’re increasingly owned by huge conglomerates which are applying these business principles to their operation.” “Today, in our country, babies birthdays are not being determined by nature; they’re being determined by doctors’ schedules and hospital schedules,” states Dr. Marsden Wagner, former director of Women’s and Children’s Health at the World Heath Organization, an organization that recommends a c-section rate no higher than 15%. Is it surprising that the U.S. ranks 28th on the list of infant mortality in the world? What is the advantage of our technology? Is it serving man, or greed?

Interviewing people on the streets in New York City, filmmaker Steve Buonaugurio finds the main concern around childbirth here is pain (and how to avoid it), rather than the joys and empowerment inherent in the process when it is naturally experienced. There are many highly degreed men and women from various, related disciplines interviewed here, and the film, and the issues it explores, revolves around the experiences of the filmmaker and his wife as they progress through her first pregnancy and consider options and experiences of people both in this country and others. Issues around drugs (both painkilling and labor inducing drugs), the effects of pressure on hospitals from the insurance industry, the lack of cultural valuations of women’s bravery and courage, and other psychological benefits of natural childbirth are examined, with eye-opening results. I was reminded of Michael Moore’s Sicko, but Mr. Buonaugurio, in having a more specific topic within the disaster which is this country’s health industry, as well as being personally involved with his topic, can delve deeply into his subject. His wife is a saint, allowing him to film her through some very tough times! I’m tempted to list quote after quote from the many excellent interviewees who flesh out this excellent film. Instead, I’ll recommend the film; highly. Indeed, this film should be seen by everyone in America. It’s an experience that will infuriate, but educate, and hopefully move us all closer to a caring for one another that we seem to have lost in our current culture.

Mark Maxwell Abushady is an actor, singer, designer and photographer based in New York City.