Record Reviews

By John Berger,
Special to the Star-Bulletin

Friday, October 18, 1996

Kalapana shines again

Captain Santa Island Music By Kapalana

KALAPANA often seems to get more respect in Japan than here. This whimsically titled album, recorded in Japan, is the sixth for the current quintet - Malani Bilyeu, Mackey Feary, Gaylord Holomalia, D.J. Pratt and Kenji Sano. It finds them once again in fine form.

Bilyeu and Feary shine as always as the primary vocalists and composers. Most of the songs draw on the Japanese perception of Hawaii as a romantic ocean paradise. Feary's "I Need Your Love" and "Be There Now" are beautiful showcase numbers for him; the a capella close to the later is a successful experiment.

"Midnight Sailing" and "Hero Of Mine" are equally appealing spotlight numbers for Bilyeu. The album includes a couple of songs he wrote to order for Japanese commercial projects. They too are substantial even though the "Santa's Island" concept may seem a bit odd lyrically for Americans.

"Strolling On The Seashore" is memorable and beautiful. The emphasis on group harmonies makes it distinctive. Bilyeu and Holomalia share credit as composers.

A single instrumental gives guitarist D.J. Pratt the spotlight.

Sessions Vol. 1 By various artists

LI'L Riki" Sugimoto launches a projected series of local surf music anthologies with a 13-song album and "mini SURF magazine." The good news is that there is plenty of music about surfing being recorded here. The bad news is that local surfers are evidently one of the last bastions of "Jawaiian" cultural plagiarism. Jamaican accents are affected by roughly half the artists. The other creative nadir is found in Leahi's localized rip-off of War's "Summer" - the girls just don't get it.

There are many creative highlights elsewhere. Angel's "Dudes On The Beach" is catchy, contemporary, memorable, and so well put together it far exceeds the usual creative limits of locally recorded mainstream pop.

Monika offers a sweet and fresh take on "I'll Remember You." S.P.U.N.N. ("I Surf!!") and Sudden Rush ("Sudden Session") establish their credentials as creative exponents of local progressive rock and rap. Jeff Rasmussen establishes a new personal best with a memorable arrangement of "Thunder Mountain," and Kapena offers a great example of creative cross-culturalism with a local-reggae ode to "Tumbleland."

"Wiping Out," a comedy number, finds I-94 executive Alan "da Kruzah" Oda back with the Local Boyz with Lanai and Augie T.

Virtual Fleality By Red Flea

POET/MUSICIAN Red Flea teamed with H. Doug Matsumoto to create the year's most unusual local album. Free-form verse accompanied by free-form music was popularized by the "beatniks" of the '50s. Red Flea's enigmatic poems offer intellects many challenging hours attempting to interpret them. The interplay between spoken word and cross-cultural musical nuances contributed by Matsumoto takes the listener in other directions as well. The result is a relaxing but high-intensity mental workout.

It isn't all oblique. Social issues are addressed more directly. "Red Flea hore hore bushi " compares the socio-economics of the plantation system with the service positions offered by the contemporary visitor industry. "Le Mer De La Merde" attacks French colonial imperialism and nuclear testing in the South Pacific.

A booklet , provided for reading along, includes a biography of the artist as cryptic as his work.

John Berger, who has covered the local entertainment scene since 1972, writes reviews of recordings produced by Hawaii artists. See the Star-Bulletin's Home Zone section on Fridays for the latest reviews.

See Record Reviews for some of John Berger's past reviews.

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