Return by vocalist/songwriter Sophia soars, carried on the sensual symphonic keyboard of Raphael. The title cut features a hypnotic drum heartbeat and strings and harp that sounds like angels could be bellydancing on a cloud. The same rhythm works right into "Prayer for the Warriors," a Sanskrit prayer which translates roughly "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Jai Uttal accompanies on dotar and vocals, while Jonathan Goldman contributes Mongolian overtone chanting. The song builds to an explosive climax. The heartbeat rhythm follows to "Shekhinah Shakti," an incantation to the four elements. Alex Murzyn on soprano sax adds a haunting wolf song lovingly piercing the textures of Sophia's harmonized chanting. "Body of the Goddess/I Am" begins with crashing surf and deep breathing; the heartbeat returns to join Bhagavan Das, whose deep voice chanting "I am that I am" will shake your speakers. Sophia's voice and the soprano sax weave in and out of his ongoing chant. "Laxshmi" (the goddess of love and beauty) is a sensual, perfumed, and airy creation that will take you to the portals of Shangri-La. Terri Sternberg's gypsy violin helps set the mood. The final piece, "Anya," is a tribute to artist Annie Sprinkle. The chorus, "Anya...ashay," ameans "let it be." The remaining lyrics, are the names of the gods and goddesses of love. Apparently, "Love is the answer." Here, Daniel Paul and Jeffrey Gordon play tablas and Indian drums, Steve Gorn plays bansuri flute, and Jim Hurley plays violin. Many musicians guest on Return, but Raphael's extraordinary symphonic arrangements pull it all together to honor Sophia's voice like a jewel in the lotus.
AllMusic Review by Carol Wright