"Back to the Valley: The 3rilogy"
It is always encouraging to find signs of growth and imagination in the Jawaiian scene, and Ekolu's third album contains examples of both. Mindless remakes have been the bane of the genre from the beginning, but there's something about the trio's take on "Everywhere," the 1987 Fleetwood Mac hit, that makes their version interesting and worthy of respect. "Antonia," sung in Spanish, is another imaginative idea. There is no reason why "kanakafarians" should only sing in English, and Ekolu does a beautiful job.
The trio and their guest studio musicians also do solid work on Jawaiian and reggae originals. "Back to the Valley" opens the album in strong style with a catchy groove, upbeat lyric imagery and a commercial boost courtesy of guest rappers Rod Da Fire and Spencejah. "What She Really Needs," a smooth and lilting ode to a special woman, is another track made with obvious island music-programmed radio appeal.
Other songs show the trio's interest in getting into serious Jamaican roots reggae music and using it as a vehicle for sharing Rastafarian philosophy and Christian scripture.
"Sessions on the Moon"
Brickwood Galuteria with Imai and Friends
Marcus Bender's commitment to making his Brew Moon Restaurant and Microbrewery a venue for live music is taken to a new level with this cut-and-paste collection of live recordings featuring Hawaiian 105 KINE disc jockey Brickwood Galuteria. Little effort seems to have been made, however, to present this as a cohesive representation of a single set by Galuteria and the talented Imai and Friends. The tracks were apparently culled from the work of three engineers and then assembled by two teams of studio mixers. Some cuts end abruptly, but stranger still is the impression that the show started without Galuteria being brought on stage with a formal introduction.
The musical foundation of the project is Imaikalani Young and his skill at creating tight vocal arrangements reminiscent of those popularized by the Invitations in the 1950s. Young and friends Gordon Alfapada (drums) and Greg Kaneaiakala (keyboards) give Galuteria excellent support. Anyone who knows Galuteria only as a radio and television personality will find that he is at his best playing guitar and adding his voice to the harmonies. The de facto quartet's harmonizing on "Nani Waimea," "Jungle Rain," "I Will Remember You" and "Puka Pants" make those songs highlights of the collection.
Unfortunately, Bender and Galuteria deserve a better album overall, even if only for sale as a souvenir at the club. A song about "Brew Moon" itself gets the album off to a sluggish start and sounds like an add-on to the live material. The musings of an unidentified woman that bookend the album are pretentious and annoying. And to top it off, the absence of information about the songs, even composers' credits, is inexcusable.
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 email@example.com