Island Mele

By John Berger,
Special to the Star-Bulletin

Friday, November 13, 1998

Clever twists spark
Balaz’s humor

Electric Laulau: Joe Balaz (Hawai'i Dub Music)

IMAGINE Bu La'ia with a doctorate. That suggests where Joe Balaz is coming from, although Red Flea's innovative 1996 album, "Virtual Reality," is also a good reference point.

Balaz tackles a variety of topics of interest to various groups -- pidgin vs. formal English speakers, "guys in fancy poetry clubs" vs. outsiders, power struggles in academia, and current affectations of local nationalism. Several comic tales add clever twists to familiar ideas. One uses double entendres to describe a pit bull. Others are short stories rather than comic bits.

Balaz voices the characters. Aziz Chadly, Richard Hamasaki and H. Doug Matsuoka join him as musicians on several tracks.

Millennium: Vernon Sakata (Woofy Doofl)

GUITARIST Vernon Sakata contributed to the evolution of original rock in Hawaii as a member of Shnazz in the early 1980s. He has since played everything from jazz to Top 40 while backing local vocalists and other musicians. Sakata shows the same diversity with his solo debut album. Every song is original. No two sound the same.

Guitar -- electric here, acoustic there -- is the common denominator. Sakata's imagination is heard in his choice of styles and rhythms. A distinctive hook introduces him in a jazzy 60s-soul mode. Songs with Latino, rock, Flamenco, folk and ambient)pop stylings follow. More important than simple diversity is that fact that everything fits together. "Millennium" is one of the year's best instrumental albums by a local artist.

Live At Sounds of Hawaii Studios: Hui Ohana (Lehua)

PRODUCER Bill Murata went "live" with a studio audience on Hui Ohana's fourth album and got at least some of the energy that made the trio a hot club act in the '70s. The set included a Hui Ohana original, a Hollywood hapa-haole song, and a rocking take on "Honeysuckle Rose," as well as local standards.

This is the one of five Hui Ohana albums released on disc by Lehua. Updating the annotation with information on what Dennis Pavao and Ledward and Nedward Kaapana have done since 1974 would give buyers more for their money.

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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