Island Mele

By John Berger,
Special to the Star-Bulletin

Friday, November 14, 1997

Maui singer’s debut album
shows promise

Love is All: Damon (Triple Rose Records)

MAUI resident Damon Williams achieved state-wide fame winning the Oceanic Road To Fame and I-94's Brown Bags To Stardom. He debuted as a local recording artist on two Matt Young anthology albums, but went with a Maui based production team for his first full-length album. It's a commercial and promising step forward for him.

Williams' team is Dave Inamine, Mike Kennedy, Fred Krauss and Keali'i Reichel, and his mother, Donna Williams-Crane. They're presenting him as a singer of romantic "slow jams" in the style of Boyz II Men. However, they're avoiding blatant remakes of songs in that genre; Williams has grown beyond his "Brownbags" repertoire.

With Krauss and Reichel in his corner, and celebrity studio musicians behind him, Williams has musical arrangements that most local pop music acts only dream of. Even the synthesized tracks are substantial. And, Williams sings beautifully. "No Ordinary Love" and "What Makes The Night So Long (Acapella)" are as polished and commercially appealing as any of the "slow jams" by national acts now getting play on I-94.

There are also three problematic remakes. Reichel and Uluwehi Guerrero join him on a lengthy Beatles medley that would fit better on the next album by either Reichel or Guerrero. Brother Noland gives Williams his endorsement by singing background vocals on a Jawaiian rehash of "Coconut Girl." An urban treatment of Olivia Newton-John's 1974 hit, "I Honestly Love You," is the most appropriate choice of the three. The others should be culled before Williams' people shop him to national record labels.

Williams is a strong enough package, vocally and visually, that he doesn't need other artists' old hits as crutches on which to build his career.

Hawaii Hempfest '96: Various artists (Anancy Music)

LEGALIZE marijuana cultivation in Hawaii and the state will receive millions in excise taxes and other revenues, organized crime will lose a significant source of income, and the groups who played the 4th Annual Haile Selassie Anniversary Celebration/Hawai'i Hempfest 1996 will be very happy. This anthology of rock, reggae, rap and frenetic ska commemorates the 1996 rally supporting legalization.

Most of the bands are Hawaii residents. None are local pseudo-Jamaican posers. Dread Ashanti articulates Rastafarian doctrines on marijuana use and political awareness with "Burning Spliff" and "Love Is Never". The Heartical Crew (T.H.C.), Chilum, Red Session, Roots Revolt and Frogchild contribute with equal verve.

The event was over a year gone but the album is one of this year's best local reggae releases.

See Record Reviews for some of John Berger's past reviews.
See Aloha Worldwide for locals living away.

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.

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