Island Mele

By John Berger,
Special to the Star-Bulletin

Friday, June 19, 1998

Sanchez marks
decade of spicy salsa

Ten Years of Salsa: Rolando Sanchez & Salsa Hawaii (MGC)

A small army of musicians and female vocalists have passed through the ranks of Salsa Hawaii since Nicaraguan-born Rolando Sanchez founded the band in the mid-1980s. The 16-song "Ten Years of Salsa" retrospective is a cross-section of his recorded work over the years. It includes "She's the Lady," a song he recorded with a Bay area band before coming to Hawaii.

The annotation doesn't mention when each recording was made, but the performance credits help if you know the band's history. Memorable alumni include Ben E. El Jr. (sax), Norman Baltazar (trumpet), Vicente Ponciano (percussion), Richard Berndsen (keyboards), and vocalist Lin Brown who was known for both her sultry voice and minimal stage attire. English translations aren't provided, but Hispano dance fans will probably be more interested in the rhythms than the lyrics.

They'll applaud Sanchez for filling the disc with almost 74 minutes of danceable Latin rock, pop, merengue and mambo. No one has done more to promote Hispano music outside the local Latino community than Sanchez. This disc will further increase his visibility.

Uncle Tom's Top Twelve Oldies: various artists (EMI-Capitol Special Projects/Tom Moffatt Productions)

IT'S been 36 years since "Uncle Tom" Moffatt and the K-POI Poi Boys released a 12-song anthology of pop chart hits titled "K-Poi Oldies But Goodies." This disc revives the concept for Moffatt's ongoing reign at Oldies 107.9. Johnny Tillotson's local megahit "Dreamy Eyes" is the one song found on both albums.

Oldies chart mavens already know that the local charts of the Poi Boys era reflect Hawaii's status as an isolated soft pop market. Tillotson's song topped the K-POI All Time Top 300 but barely broke into the Top 40 nationally. "My Hawaii" was a local megahit off the Rascals' 1968 "Once Upon A Dream" album but Atlantic Records didn't consider it significant enough for release as a single. On the other hand, "Venus" was huge here and topped the national Hot 100 for five weeks as well. Suffice it to say that Moffatt's other picks were all hits here.

Moffatt didn't become Hawaii's foremost music promoter for more than 40 years by misjudging his audience. Hawaii teens of the 1950s and early '60s generally preferred soft pop ballads to rock 'n' roll or R&B. So it is on this disc. Robin Luke's 1958 Top 5 hit, "Suzie Darlin'" is the one song here that comes close to rock and is an excellent choice as a moderate change of pace among the hit ballads. (Luke was the first Hawaii resident to chart nationally during the rock era and did it with an original song.)

Moffatt's fans will love this disc.

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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