"God, the Devil and the World"
Contemporary Christian music comes in many styles these days. Battle Royale delivers their personal testament with an instantly engaging blend of driving ska rhythms and punk rock attitude. The eight-piece band has a tight, aggressive sound and the music offers both solid entertainment, as well as a clear spiritual message.
The title track reminds us that Christians go about their daily lives with the knowledge that God knows and sees all things. "I Lay Down" describes the experience of searching for more than social acceptance. Two other songs express the feeling of peace that comes with accepting Christ in their hearts.
"Opposite of Cool" lightens the mood with a satirical commentary on muscle-bound bullies and teenage girls who are "just somewhat out of touch." The religious message is subtle on this one, but it's catchy and commercial-sounding nonetheless.
"Island of Peace"
Doug & Sandy McMaster
Ki ho'alu, or slack key, is inherently relaxing, but this album by a husband and wife duo from Kauai is particularly nahenahe, soft and sweet. The album is a perfect antidote for any stressful situation - like being stuck in rush hour traffic, in particular.
Most of the songs are originals. The couple arrived on Kauai in 1999 and, since then, have been inspired in particular by sea turtles, geckos, monk seals and a waitress carrying a tray of calamari. Four Hawaiian standards and "Amazing Grace" give ki ho'alu fans bench marks with which to compare the McMasters' playing with that of other slack key artists.
Even though the liner notes don't list any technical information, the couple does convey the feeling that slack key music expresses the mystical essence of Hawaii in musical form. The music here substantiates that feeling.
Herb Ohta Jr.
Roy Sakuma Productions
For traditionalists who prefer unpretentious proficiency over theatrics, the young Herb Ohta Jr. is an undisputed ukulele master. Growing up in the shadow of his famous father Ohta-san, Ohta has long since proven himself a virtuoso in his own right.
Ohta shares his father's interest in exploring non-Hawaiian genres of music. Although romantic island themes are found in "Honolulu City Lights" and "He Aloha No O Honolulu," he establishes a Far East connection with the inclusion of several songs by Japanese composers. He also offers a fresh perspective with his take on the pop hit "Love Will Keep Us Alive."
Ohta is such an accomplished musician that studio players and synth tracks often intrude on his work rather than enhance it. While "Look Into My Heart," an original that features him as a vocalist, breaks into the album's instrumental format, it would fit better on another album.
John Berger, who has covered the local entertainment scene since 1972, writes reviews of recordings produced by Hawaii artists. See the Star-Bulletin's Today section on Fridays for the latest reviews. Contact John Berger at email@example.com