Island Mele

By John Berger,
Special to the Star-Bulletin

Friday, June 5, 1998

Alvarez’s many
talents shine in ‘Box’

Dreams In A Box: Nelda Alvarez (Drake)

NELDA Alvarez is a versatile performer who can hold a crowd as a soloist, deliver a high-energy cabaret show, sing rock, or do musical theater. She once unknowingly auditioned for a role that had been promised to someone else and so impressed the director that he rewrote a smaller role to make room for her. Alvarez' solo number was a show-stopper.

This album shows her soft and introspective side. Five songs are candid originals. The others are personal favorites that she succeeds in personalizing. That's rare in local circles. Most local pop artists do simple copycat work when redoing national hits. Alvarez's expressive voice and skill as an arranger puts her on a higher level.

She opens strongly with the autobiographical title song. Time was when she dreamed of escargot, caviar, a leather couch, and wearing only "cool shades and a pair of stilettos." These days her new child means more to her than all those material things. Other writers have told that story but she shares her version of it in catchy and engaging style.

"Resist Temptation" and "Now I Dance" are also notable originals. "My Funny Valentine," "E Pili Mai" and "Time In A Bottle" are other delights. Alvarez doesn't radically rework them but offers fresh perspectives nonetheless.

Alvarez's acoustic guitar is the primary instrument. Guest artists embellish her melodies without distorting the acoustic ambience. Diverse tempos add further to this beautiful musical portrait. So do Alvarez's notes about her originals.

The Best of the Ka'au Crater Boys: Ka'au Crater Boys (Roy Sakuma Productions)

TROY Fernandez and Ernie Cruz Jr. cap their career as the Ka'au Crater Boys in perfect form with this 15-song anthology. Fernandez's virtuosity on ukulele inspired a generation of acolytes. He and Cruz will be remembered as one of the great duos in contemporary local music. This album is a perfect introduction to their music.

"Tropical Hawaiian Day," "Surf," "Carly Rose," "On Fire!" and the Boys' Hoku award-winning recording of Craig Kamahele's "Opihi Man" are all here. "Makaha" made good Fernandez's promise to write a song about the surf masters of the Waianae coast; the shorter local Top 40 version is heard here. Sundry remakes display the Boys' eclectic tastes as bar band veterans.

Producer Roy Sakuma adds to the Boys' discography with previously unreleased recordings of "Guava Jelly," "Wahine 'Ilikea" and "Elvira." Song lyrics, artists' notes and other information complete this perfect greatest hits album.

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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