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Island Mele: ‘Blue Planet II’ and ‘Summer’
REVIEWS BY JOHN BERGER / email@example.com
‘Blue Planet II’
The Wyland Blues Planet Band (Wyland)
Music has often been an important vehicle in inspiring social change. With “Blue Planet II” mono-monickered celebrity artist and environmental advocate Wyland harnesses the power of the blues to deliver an important message about protecting our ocean and fresh water resources.
All too many “educational” projects are more about “The Message” than the music — especially when written for young audiences — but “Blue Planet II” isn’t one of them. Yes, Wyland’s lyrics about pollution, acid rain (“No Future”), the population explosion (“The World is Crying”) and the BP Oil Spill of 2010 (“Oil Everywhere”) are intended to educate and inspire action but that’s only half the value here.
The talented musicians who came together in New Orleans to pool their talents as the Wyland Blues Planet Band are playing serious down-home “ya gotta hear this” blues that deserves national play in its own right. From the first bars of the first song there’s no question that these folks are for real. Two Hawaii residents are among them.
Amy Hanaiali‘i Gilliom is a delightful surprise as the featured vocalist on “Feeling Kind of Blue” and again on “Somebody Stole Our Planet’s Love.” Hawaii knows she’s versatile, but who knew she could be so convincing singing the blues? Right on, Amy!
Hawaii blues veteran Willie K takes the lead vocal on “Going Down to New Orleans,” backs Gilliom on “Feeling Kind of Blue,” and plays guitar on other selections. A pianist named Miss Honey rips it up on “Somebody Stole Our Planet’s Love” and “Your Day is Coming,” and Hawaii favorite Taj Mahal gives the project authentic old-school soul as the featured voice on “Oil Everywhere” and “Days Gone By.”
Two other musical traditions — African-American gospel and New Orleans brass bands — are brought together in “Nature’s Way.” A final instrumental track gives the core musicians a well-deserved chance to stretch out and jam.
Truth be told, there are also some songs here about love, sex and relationships. Even the most ardent environmentalist needs time off for rest and recreation.
“Blue Planet II” is available at www.wylandfoundation.org.
Ricky Hana (Shaka Brah)
Self-styled “island style trop rocker” Ricky Hana celebrates many people’s favorite time of year with this five-song CD collection of original compositions. All five have tropical themes.
“Honolulu Hula” is a contemporary hapa haole comedy song that sets traditional lyric themes to a contemporary acoustic rock arrangement. Hana plays almost all the instruments heard on all the songs on the CD but welcomes trumpeter Big Kahuna as a guest on “Honolulu Hula.” The trumpet adds a vibrant vintage edge to the arrangement.
“Another Pacifico Night” is a Jimmy Buffett-style tale that takes place somewhere in tropical Latin America. “Bottoms Up” describes an evening of fun in a hot tub that could be anywhere in the world. Hana’s low-key wit percolates through the lyrics of all three.
Two instrumentals — “Waikiki Beach Ukulele Blues” and “Surfin’ at Canoes” — completes the package.