Lovesongs in Paradise: By various artists (Jordantown Records)
THE best thing that can be said about karaoke is that it gives amateur singers an opportunity to perform in public. Many decide that becoming a recording artist is the next logical step. This 13-song anthology introduces eight island vocalists hoping for record sales and local airplay. As usual on the local karaoke scene, languid pop ballads predominate.
There are some promising performances even though most of the men sound like they're auditioning for celebrity sound-alike jobs imitating various well-known balladeers. The women avoid this distracting mannerism; they worked together ohana-style singing background vocals on each other's songs. Three male/female duets add diversity.
Most immediately interesting are two songs, originally hits for male vocalists but recorded here by women, "Love Won't Let Me Wait," performed by Dena, and "Harbour Lights," recorded by Carla~la. The Brenda Russell hit, "So Good, So Right," is also nicely covered by Sandee and arranger Marvic Esquibel.
Very few remakes are as good as the original hits. That makes an album of remakes problematic.
However, producers Jennifer and Michael J. Doran provide far more substantial instrumental support than that given participants in the "Hawaii Stars" karaoke album of 1995. The couple employed major studio talent, David Choy on sax and wind instruments and Robert Shinoda on guitar, to craft music tracks rather than rely on synthesizer pap. A small squad of arrangers, Esquibel, Shinoda, Henry Bergstrom and Arex Ikehara, adds further variety. There is some solid work here.
True, the album will be of most interest to the artists' families and friends, but it isn't a karaoke contest throw-away either. Biographical sketches of the artists, which also include Billy B. Haeve, Frankie Jones, Lia, Keao Low and J. Michaels, are all that are missing.
Pictures and Memories: By various artists (Pa'ani Records)
PRODUCER/composer/recording artist Freddy Von Paraz introduces a new group and previews a new album by Annette Alcos in this retrospective of his work. Priced several dollars below regular "list price" for local discs, it is an economical introduction to the some of the best local pop acts of the early 1990s.
Alcos' new song, "Will You Be Mine," proves once again her strength as an appealing and seductive vocalist; she's certainly due a hit.
"Aina," by New School Ohana, is a snapshot of a work-in-progress. (Some of the personnel have changed and the group is now recording as Ohana Camp.) The song is a poignant portrait of life in modern Hawaii that should already be getting airplay on island music radio stations statewide.
The brightest memories are the songs Von Paraz co-wrote, "Hugs and Kissses" and "Heartaches and Heartbreaks" for New Generation, "Hold on to Love" and "Special Place" for Leahi, and Alcos' recording of "I'll Be There (Turner's Song)," which Von Paraz and Young wrote as a requiem for their friend Turner Pa'ea. No one has sung it with greater feeling than Alcos.
TNG clones Brotherhood are recalled by their recording of another memorable Von Paraz composition, "Send A Message."
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.