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OLR resurrection

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‘In This World’

Oriental Love Ring
(Oriental Love Ring)

Oriental Love Ring formed in the late 1980s as a project that brought together the talents of vocalist-guitarist Peter Bond of Hat Makes the Man and guitarist Beano Shots of the Squids. Hat had progressed from playing the Wave Waikiki to opening for national acts at Aloha Stadium; the Squids had preceded Hat as house band at the Wave and were Hawaii’s first home-grown new-wave band. OLR seemed ready for national success, but instead it disbanded, and friends and fans have been waiting 20 years for a reunion. They won’t be disappointed.

Bond, Shots and bassist Chad Ikezawa have resurrected OLR with "Loud" Larry" Lieberman of Electric Lunch Band fame replacing drummer Bryan Brundell (who now lives on the mainland). It’s a good fit all the way around.

Bond and Shots are the primary songwriters; the interplay between their guitars provides the old-time instrumental edge. Bond sings with all the old familiar angst, whether the subject is alienation, regret or love.

"Prayers to an Empty Sky" blends those proven components in perfect balance: Bond’s searing vocals, Shots’ guitar solos, Lieberman’s aggressive drumming — and Ikezawa’s bass unobtrusively percolating beneath them all.


» "Disconnected Girl"
» "Prayers to an Empty Sky"
» "Frank in a Box"

Timely lesson on slack-key master

‘The Legendary Atta Isaacs’

Atta Isaacs

The timing couldn’t be better for this perfect retrospective on the musical legacy of slack-key master Leland "Atta" Isaacs. The Hawai’i Academy of Recording Arts recognized him in June, more or less, when it included him in a lifetime achievement award to the Isaacs Ohana — Atta; his father, Alvin Kaleolani Isaacs Sr.; and Atta’s brothers, Norman and Alvin Jr. (known professionally as Barney). The 21 songs on this two-disc anthology, and the wealth of information provided in the 24-page liner notes booklet that comes with it, make it clear that HARA owes Atta an individual lifetime achievement award as well.

Michael Cord and producer George Winston share the credit for making these recordings available in a package of this quality. Cord has committed the resources of his record label to state-of-the-art reissues of out-of-print Hawaiian records. Winston has made an unprecedented commitment to documenting the work of living slack-key masters.

The tracks represent albums Atta recorded for several different labels. It seems these days that Atta is often mentioned in ways that suggest he was Gabby Pahinui’s sideman rather than peer. These recordings, and Jay Junker’s liner notes, document Isaacs’ status as a slack-key master who made important contributions to the evolution of the genre — and remind us that his musical relationship with Pahinui was symbiotic.

Winston assists Junker in documenting Isaacs’ tunings on each recording — essential information for researchers and students of slack key alike.

All things considered, "The Legendary Atta Isaacs" is an easy front-runner for Best Anthology at the 2011 Hoku Awards. It certainly seems unlikely we’ll see a better treatment of a major Hawaiian artist’s work this year.


» "Lei Ohaoha"
» "Kohala March"
» "Kolopa"

Hip-hop artist has chops to go large


Brysen G
(Go Entertainment)

For most of the past 50 years, almost all locally recorded pop music had a "not ready for national markets" local pop sound to it. It didn’t matter whether the act and the producer were trying to do a white thing or a "black thang" — it still came out sounding like a local record.

Those days are long gone. Several local pop groups have gone national out of Hawaii, and one of them, the Hi-Town DJs, made the Billboard Hot 100 way back in 1998, but it’s still nice to welcome a young artist who introduces himself with a proj-ect that sounds ready for ears outside the islands. This is one of them.

Singer/songwriter Brysen G (born Brysen Gasilo) shares credit with producer/arranger Imua Garza for the smooth mainstream contemporary R&B sound of his debut album. The prevailing mood is romantic. Most of these tracks would fit in nicely on any urban/R&B radio playlist.

Yes, a small army of singers are already doing this music, and G and Garza are following in the well-worn footsteps of countless R&B/urban crooners, but it’s a niche that never really goes out of style. Each generation of young women wants their own young male singers to dream of, and there’s no reason why Brysen G, a 2009 high school graduate, can’t be one of them.

Maybe it’s his style, maybe it’s Garza’s guidance, but G eschews profanity, "gangsta" narratives and explicit accounts of his sexual prowess. All three are time-honored core-elements of hip-hop, but G’s positioning as a young and sensitive romantic is strengthened by their absence.

G and Garza boost the energy level a few notches with "Stop Trippin’" and "Shawty You a Killa" as he steps out of his slow-jams seducer persona and approaches the interconnected subjects of love and sex with a bit more urgency.

A guitar solo adds impact to "I’m Through," another change-of-pace song in which G laments his involvement with girl who’s cheating on him.


» "High On Your Love"
» "Fit Me Right"
» "Label You My Girlfriend"

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