Island Mele
John Berger



"Duke of Uke"

Bill Tapia

Ukulele virtuoso Bill Tapia goes from triumph to triumph with this collection of hapa-haole and pop standards. Tapia, 97, would be a treasured link to the music of the early 20th century in any event, but from the first bars of "All the Things You Are," there's no question that his command of the instrument stands on its own merits. Producer Mike Spengler wisely eschews any electronic add-ons and lets Tapia swing and sing with acoustic support from Byron Yasui (bass) and Benny Ching (guitar).

Spengler emphasizes Tapia's historical significance by including three songs recorded live in Honolulu in 1936. A final track captures Tapia in concert with fellow virtuoso Lyle Ritz in 2004.

Yasui's erudite annotation completes this landmark album.


Mpeg Audio Clips:
Bullet "All The Things You Are"
Bullet "Manuela Boy"
Bullet "Hilo March"
Quicktime | RealPlayer | MPEG-3 info





The creation of a Hawaiian music category ensures that at least one Hawaii artist will win a Grammy this year. Erving "Kona" Chang isn't in the running, but this impressive album reminds us that local artists can record Grammy-worthy music, even without the advantage of a special ethnic category.

Chang is a modern pop troubadour with a good ear for the details that make this album of original pop-rock interesting. The album tells a cohesive story of ennui, romantic missteps and the search for true love.

While acoustic and electric guitars are the foundation of the overall sound, the judicious use of bass, percussion and keyboards adds variety and emotion. Chang's voice is reminiscent of Randy Lorenzo, but with more of a pop edge. His wit and imagination as a lyricist make "Changed" an album that sophisticated adults can count on enjoying with repeated play.


Mpeg Audio Clips:
Bullet "Moving On"
Bullet "Goin' Nowhere"
Bullet "She's Gone"
Quicktime | RealPlayer | MPEG-3 info



"Island Love Jams"

Various artists
Quiet Storm

Couples in search of "love jams" for Valentine's Day may find what they're looking for somewhere in this hodge-podge of local pop, Polynesian soul, Jawaiian and light rock from the last decade. The selections must have been culled at random from wherever, because several of these songs are actually about the pain of bad relationships rather than loving ones. Oh, well!

The "jams" range in style from the smooth blend of Jawaiian and Polynesian soul that B.E.T. delivers with "Let's Hook It Up" to the exuberant island rock of "Sweet Island Woman" from Harold "H-Dawg" Kama Jr.

The breathy pop appeal of "Loving You" provides a glimpse of what Forté might have been able to do under better circumstances. Pati's formulaic Jawaiian rehash of Journey's "Faithfully" is doubly problematic for being credited to someone named "J. Friga," instead of original composer Jonathan Cain.


Mpeg Audio Clips:
Bullet "Faithfully"
Bullet "Crazy"
Bullet "Loving You"
Quicktime | RealPlayer | MPEG-3 info

See the Columnists section for some past reviews.

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 jberger@starbulletin.com.

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