For the interior, exterior and posterior

Friday, January 24, 1997

"In Dis Life" is already No. 6 on Billboard's
World Music chart.

Izzy’s latest disc
showcases his versatility

In Dis Life By Israel Kamakawiwo'ole (Big Boy/Mountain Apple Company)

ISRAEL Kamakawiwo'ole's fourth solo album, "In Dis Life" differs from his last two in that it doesn't begin or end with an emotional-laden narrative. Other than that it's another free-wheeling potpourri.

"Iz" serves up a mix of Hawaiian-language standards, two tunes that were recent hits for other local artists, several fresh new songs, and a punchy Jawaiian rehash of Mel & Tim's 1972 hit, "Starting All Over Again."

When it comes to the remakes, he is most impressive with his inspired revision of "Living in a Sovereign Land." He co-wrote it several years ago with "haole guys" Wade Cambern and Bryan Kessler for the duo's first Hawaiian Style Band project.

As an advocate of Hawaiian nationalism the song fits Iz perfectly; the "live" recording captures his appealing vitality as a performer as well.

A new Del Beazley composition, "Johnny Mahoe," warns local gangsta-wannabes about the dangers of drugs and violence. "Iz" ought to get their attention. Will they ever learn? Three other songs broaden the spectrum. "Yokozuna" is the latest song honoring Hawaii-born sumo wrestlers. (Beazley wrote and recorded "Akebono - Waimanalo Warrior" in 1995.)

A Malani Bilyeu-Gaylord Holomalia tune, "Lover of Mine," displays Kamakawiwo'ole's strength as a balladeer. "The Fly" adds a hint of schoolyard toilet humor from his "hanabata" days.

Kamakawiwo'ole also sings Hawaiian standards beautifully; his tranquil treatment of "Hi'ilawe" is particularly memorable. A live recording of "Na Ka Pueo/Keyhole Hula" celebrates his grassroots origins in style.

Unfortunately Iz and co-producer Holomalia chose not to include song lyrics or translations and leave most listeners here and worldwide in the dark about the songs' meaning. Kamakawiwo'ole explains in fragmentary liner notes, "Dis music is feelings dat goin' last fo'eva and dat all generationz to come can fall back on."

Maybe so, but few singers to come are likely to sing them with as much feeling as "Iz" duz, er, does. "In Dis Life" reaffirms his status as one of the major figures of his generation in Hawaiian music.

By John Berger, special to the Star-Bulletin

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