Aura: Familial Music with Familiar Connections

There’s no question that Aura’s sole album needs to be heard once again. It’s an undeniably potent blend of jazz and funk highlighted by the Mendoza family’s signature sound: an unstoppable horn section with two sisters as lead vocalists.

Considering all that’s transpired since launching the Aloha Got Soul label, it’s clear that the releases so far have a strong connection to one another not just in sound but in the people related to the records.

Aura’s 1979 eponymous LP is no exception. The band, which consists of eight siblings from the Mendoza family of Waipahu, recorded their album during the same time as Mike Lundy’s The Rhythm Of Life — at the same studio (Broad Recording Studio), with the same producer (Gary Shimabukuro), the same drummer (Mike Kennedy), and the same engineer (Rick Smith) to boot! (In fact, Rick recently told me that, if memory serves him correctly, it was the Mendoza family that tipped Gary off to the talented individual who is Mike Lundy. Thank God they did!)

“Aura’s 1979 LP was recorded during the same time as Mike Lundy’s The Rhythm Of Life.

Some thirty years later, Japan’s DJ Muro released a mixtape of rare Hawaiian grooves entitled Hawaiian Breaks. The first two tracks on the mix are from Mike Lundy’s sole LP, recorded at Broad in 1979. And the next two tracks are from Aura, picked from their sole LP of the same time. (Muro’s mixtape also included the track “My Last Disco Song”, which also received the 7″ treatment on Aloha Got Soul earlier this year.)

Perhaps Muro was hinting at the connection between these two albums by mixing Lundy and Aura together. Or maybe the sonic quality and energy of the music was already so intrinsically related that one can’t help but to put these two albums side-by-side? The latter idea alone is enough reason for us to turn our focus to Aura following the successful re-release of The Rhythm Of Life.

Aura S/T Hawaii LP

Mike Lundy LP cover

Two albums similar in sonic quality and era (and artwork): Aura and Mike Lundy’s The Rhythm Of Life.

There’s no question that the group’s sole full-length album needs to be heard once again. (Aura released a handful of singles on 7″ and 12″ formats from 1979 through the early 1980s). Their self-titled debut is an undeniably potent blend of jazz and funk highlighted by the family band’s signature sound: an unstoppable horn section with two sisters as lead vocalists.

So here we are, April 2016, the announcement just went out that Aura is finally getting the reissue it deserves, starting with a 7″ single available now for pre-order and culminating with the full LP later this year.

AGS-7003 highlights two standout cuts from the Aura LP. “Magic Lover” showcases what Aura can bring to the dance floor with its incredibly tight brass, solid groove, and dirty bass line—elevated by the voices of Beverly and Christine Mendoza. But a funk group is only as good as their ballads, and “Let Go, It’s Over” is proof they’ve got just as much talent when the tempo slows down. Take a listen:

The back cover of the original Aura LP, featuring a photograph of the band used for AGS-7003 and also the Strut compilation.

The back cover of the original Aura LP, featuring a photograph of the band used for AGS-7003 and also the Strut compilation.

In keeping with the mystique of the LP’s cover art, I opted to design the jacket of AGS-7003 to feel as equally as mysterious as the original. The abstract monochrome image of a sky was taken from the photograph on the LP’s back cover—the same image that we decided to use with Strut Records for the Aloha Got Soul compilation.

There’s more on the way: an interview with Aura’s Vince Mendoza coming soon, and the full LP reissue drops later this year!

Pre-order AGS-7003 here.

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