Island Mele: Rose uses ‘Extended Play’ to show his facets
Singer-songwriter Tim Rose introduces himself with five original compositions. The title harks back to an earlier era when record labels sometimes released 7-inch, 45-rpm records with two songs on each side instead of one. “Extended play” releases were generally known as “EPs” for short. Rose makes good use of the concept by including songs that represent different sections of his repertoire.
He starts off in an acoustic pop mode with “Alone I Drift,” an introspective love-gone-wrong song that has a hint of Paul Simon’s “Slip Sliding Away” in its melody but owes nothing to Simon for its lyric images. Broken hearts are an inescapable part of human experience, and that gives the song solid commercial potential.
Rose next explores Jamaican rhythms. He invokes Jah in “Coffee in the Pot,” a musical call to “dance till Jah know” — and why not?If coffee is considered “ital,” it is an acceptable beverage for Rastafari, and some dance to achieve closeness with Jah. Jamaican influences are also ascendent in “Glad You’re Here,” a secular song about a brown-eyed woman who wears tight jeans and makes Rose’s knees weak. An incessant lyric hook — “Girl, you drive me out of my my my, out of my my mind” — underscores the strength that sexual attraction or romantic infatuation can have.
Rose shows his knack for carefree pop with “Tunnel of Trees,” singing of going through life with “no idea what’s happening” but not worrying about it. Rose sings with such joyful abandon that is seems fine to “not know everything.”
With his final tune, “Fire Eyes,” Rose blends ideas from the previous selections. There’s a reggae-style intro, effective use of acoustic guitars and unobtrusive percussion, a laid-back vocal, stream-of-consciousness lyrics and a story of toxic romance. It seems that a relationship with the woman is akin to “like cancerous overexposure” to solar radiation or radioactive waste. He loves her but is “headed for cooler climes.” Love-gone-wrong songs never go out of style!
I.A.’s new CD captures isle life
I.A. The Kama’aina Classic
It has become standard procedure that when a local hip-hop artist graduates from mix tapes and download-only projects to professionally packaged full-scale “physical” CDs, his peers all lend their talents as guests. The recently released CD by I.A. The Kama’aina Classic is a great example. Guests include Or1ginal, Creed Chameleon, Mic3, Krystilez, Osna, Mox, Mush Mouf, Slapp Symphony, Dru Singer and Kutmaster Spaz, plus Tim “Papa T” Troxell adding a Jawaiian feel on one selection and Slick Vic making a cameo appearance as a nightclub emcee on another.
Or1ginal takes the lead-off spot, introducing I.A. as a young man seeking to “hold on to the mana of the ‘aina” while taking “Hawaii hip-hop beyond paradise.”
I.A. and producer Osna make their strongest commitment to themes of mana and the ‘aina with “Ohana,” an autobiographical look at the bedrock of island life. Several other selections also describe how local life is lived hip-hop style “in the HI every day.”
Rather than spin improbable, overwrought tales of “pimpin'” or the “gangsta” life, I.A. and his collaborators cover real-life around here — things like cruising the H-3 in the afternoon and throwing “a shaka to them dudes you know.” On the surface, “Beyond Paradise” is an open introduction to local culture — and that kukui nut lei I.A. is wearing is a nice touch, too. There are also some clever word games that only the culturally alert will catch.
Of course, there are softer romantic cuts, too. “Down 2 Ride” is a “help wanted” call for a woman who is “down to ride … something like Bonnie to the Clyde.” He devotes several other tracks to the same general topic — the vocal effects on one song suggest that I.A. is in love with a robot, but, well, if so, welcome to the future!
The intensity builds as I.A. and Osna continue to bring guests into the project. Creed Chameleon weighs in on stress and drama. Mic3 joins I.A. in challenging outsiders to “Jump Off” in two languages. And it’s I.A., Mic3, Osna, Krystilez, Mox, Mush Mouf and Keak Da Sneak going tag-teaming on the climactic “bonus track” cut, “Loco Moco 808 Remix.” It’s one of three versions of the basic “Loco Moco” song on the album. All three describe the popular, albeit unhealthy, local dish as “all gravy.” You figure it out!
Old is new again on Lee release
‘Hallelujah’ / ‘Thunder Road’
Eric Lee has had a productive career as a member of Na Kama with Brian Mersbergh and Danny Naipo, and also as a solo artist. His work with Na Kama includes two Hoku Award-winning albums — “Kamakolu” won in the adjudicated Best Hawaiian Performance category in 2007, and “E Ola Ke Ali’i:The Na Kama Christmas Collection, Volume 1″ won Best Christmas Album in 2009.
He’s gone solo in recent years primarily to record and release work that doesn’t fit the trio’s traditionalist Hawaiian repertoire. Some of his solo recordings have been available primarily as downloads, but his latest project is also available in this professionally packaged hard-copy two-song CD.
“Hallelujah” is Lee’s remake of Leonard Cohen’s enigmatic 1984 classic. The song has been remade countless times since then — versions by John Cale, Jeff Buckley, Rufus Wainwright, Allison Crowe and k.d. lang being among the best known. Connoisseurs will note that Lee includes the oblique biblical references to David and Bathsheba and Samson and Delilah that are sometimes ommitted. Lee’s decision to include them gives his version a solid Judeo-Christian basis.
Lee writes in his liner notes that the CD is “dedicated to the fans and friends” who have supported his music over the years, so presumably this is a song that his supporters enjoy hearing him do. Lee presents it as a piece for voice and acoustic guitar with a second artist, Peter Milo, harmonizing. Lee doesn’t attempt Cohen’s world-weary delivery, but succeeds in creating a sense of fatalism leavened with hope.
“Thunder Road” is an original instrumental with no similarities to Bruce Springsteen’s song of the same name or Robert Mitchum’s 1958 Hot 100 hit, “The Ballad of Thunder Road,” from the iconic film. With Dean Taba slamming on bass, Noel Okimoto on drums and Lee doubling on guitars and keyboards, there’s nary a trace of country in the song, but it shows that hard rock is also part of Lee’s overall repertoire.
—John Berger / email@example.com