"Kam Highway Catharsis"
The open highway has represented freedom to small-town Americans for several generations. The members of Upstanding Youth find their personal road to freedom in Kamehameha Highway. It's while traveling down that stretch of asphalt that problems are pondered, plans are made and inspiration for tight, original rock is found. The sextet's six-song EP is welcome proof that original ska-punk continues to thrive in Hawaii.
A four-piece horn section gives the group a solid foundation for their more mainstream material. When Marc, the single-monickered trumpeter, switches to guitar, UY acquires a harder punk rock sound. A memorable keyboard intro by studio guest Chad Schumacher on "Paint By Numbers," and an unlisted acoustic version of "Jimmy," shows that these guys have broader musical ambitions as well. Upstanding Youth should be worth watching out for in 2004.
"Outside the Circle"
Our own Star-Bulletin staffer seeks his muse as a multi-faceted singer/songwriter, with a taste for country, classic rock and the blues. His new album is a significant step beyond the best of his previous projects.
Those familiar with his prior releases will be pleasantly surprised by the instrumental arrangements. The judicious use of pedal steel, banjo and harmonica add some memorable sounds and textures to his songs. There are interesting lyrical images as well -- a sad woman with "patriotic eyes," for example.
As a vocalist, Coleman sometimes evokes memories of Ricky Nelson's earlier efforts, or the then-young Mick Jagger as a blues singer. Still, Coleman's voice makes for a nice fit on the acoustic cuts and his earnestness is loud and clear throughout the album.
"Island Pop Slow & Easy"
The record industry term "product," while not inherently pejorative, is sometimes used to describe projects that appear to have little to do with some working sense of quality. This collection, written or co-written by Chaz, supposedly introduces two new singers by the name of Chaz and Chrissy -- but no information is provided about them, let alone any reason to pay to hear them. Now that's low-budget product to the max!
Most of the other singers are familiar local names, but none stand out individually here. The first 11 cuts are languid jams, with female voices generally sweet and male voices enervated, and sets a consistent romantic mood for lovers who only want unobtrusive background music. That mood, however, is interrupted by the collection's lone rap number. "I Just Want Some Body!" is merely serviceable, neither slow nor easy, and therefore belongs on another piece of "product."
John Berger, who has covered the local entertainment scene since 1972, writes reviews of recordings produced by Hawaii artists. See the Star-Bulletin's Today section on Fridays for the latest reviews. Contact John Berger at firstname.lastname@example.org