Island Mele

By John Berger

Friday, May 14, 1999

Conspiracy shines
with ‘Reflective’

Bullet Reflective But Unrepentent
Bullet By: Big Island Conspiracy
Bullet Label: Deep Ka'a Ka'a

MUSIC can be an effective political tool. Big Island Conspiracy uses it brilliantly in this cross-cultural musical manifesto addressing Hawaiian culture and nationalism.

Rarely has a local recording act combined a greater number of diverse types of music with such imagination and aesthetic skill. Beautiful traditionalist renditions of Hawaiian standards like "Old Plantation" are juxtaposed with originals that knit together elements of African-American gospel, hard rock, country, Gabby Pahinui, Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, Leo Anderson Akana, Hawaiian chant, and the agitprop folk rock of David Peel & The Lower East Side.

"In Fla Grante Delicto" and "Samuela Texas" are effective political statements. So are "Relativity at the Juncture," "Willy Bright" and "Kanaka Roach." The lyrics are clever and insightful. The interweaving of different styles of music is a huge step beyond generic by-the-numbers reggae beat arrangements.

Although it's the nationalistic originals that make this album most notable, these self-described residents of "kanakaville" also do justice to the Hawaiian-language standards. They obviously revere their musical heritage and the pre-Christian culture of Hawaii. Some of the standards may get local airplay even if the nationalist songs prove too strong and too unconventional for Hawaii's "island music" radio stations.

Jimi Hendrix' "The Wind Cries Mary" is imaginatively reworked as "Mary (The Wind Cries)" and properly identified as such.

Song lyrics and English translations of the group's Hawaiian songs are included of course. Excellent artwork completes the package. This will certainly stand as one of the most original and memorable Hawaiian albums of 1999.


Bullet Midnight Passion
Bullet By: Michael Paulo
Bullet Label: Noteworthy

HAWAII expatriate Michael Paulo's fifth album proves him equally accomplished as a composer, arranger and modern jazz reedman. If Kenny G is the current mass market standard by which saxmen are rated for commercial appeal, then Paulo is overdue for Top 10 success.

Paulo moves smoothly from romantic jazz to harder stuff and back. "Millennium Swing," written around a classic Johann Strauss riff, is a radio-friendly theme that opens and closes the album. Vocalist Freddie Washington adds other romantic facets to the collection. Paulo does great work throughout.

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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