Island Mele | Island Mele Virgin Mary shows versatility; Neos shortchanges anthology By John Berger Feb. 26, 2012 Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story! Read more Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser! You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription. Subscribe Now Read this story for free: Watch an ad or complete a survey Log In Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story. Activate Digital Account Print subscriber but without online access? Activate your Digital Account now. "Ecstacy" Virgin Mary (Romeo) There’s a delightful mix of alt-rock riffs, timeless lyrics and classic British Invasion pop in this debut album by Virgin Mary. Singer-guitarist Marc Holyoak is the songwriter and only male in the band; he’s a good writer and gets excellent support — instrumentally and vocally — from his band mates. They open with "Black Pearls," a beautifully crafted pop-rock ode to a girl who turns him on when she wears them. A similar guitar-band sound gives "Stay" plenty of commercial punch. Love songs never go out of style, and the lyrics of "Stay" speak for romantic rockers of all generations. The quintet also commands respect as an acoustic act. Take, for instance, "Favorite Songs": "I have 100,000 words in a frame," Holyoak sings softly, sounding simultaneously sweet and sorrowful as he addresses an absent love who may or may not return. There are some instrumental surprises as well. An ukulele percolates through one number, and a didgeridoo opens another. The emphasis on keyboards and electronic effects in "Archaeologist" shows Virgin Mary can go in other musical directions as well. "Black Pearls" "Heaven" Rob Yamanoha (Red Moon Entertainment) Big Island singer-songwriter Rob Yamanoha made his debut as a solo recording artist in 2007. This download-only single, released appropriately enough on Valentine’s Day, is a preview of what buyers of his second full-length album will hear when it is released next month. Yamanoha’s soft and soothing love song will appeal to romantics everywhere. Acoustic guitar and an unintrusive rhythm section provide the instrumental support as he croons every earnest lover’s promise: "You’ll find heaven with me." The instrumental bridge showcases his talent as a guitarist. Spoken-word dialogue echoing the lyrics adds a slight "urban music" ambience. "Heaven" is available on iTunes. "Heaven" "Hawaiian Style Love Songs" Various artists (Neos Productions) The difference between a collectible "physical" CD and a throw-away recycling project is packaging and presentation. If the producers of this 17-song anthology had included brief artist bios, vintage photos and a little background information, it would have been a collectible retrospective on an important era in local music. Neos Productions put out a lot of commercial new work by young local artists back in the mid- to late ’90s. Remember Justin Young, Kawika Regidor, the Ka‘ala Boys or Norm "Just the Norm" Thompson? They were all Neos artists, and they’re all here. Reality, a talented "girl group" that seemed capable of going national but didn’t, is represented by one of their biggest hits. Slightly more than half the selections are Jawaiian-lite. Almost all the others are light local pop. An original by Young, "The Valentine Song," reminds us that few young local artists of the ’90s could top him as a languid balladeer. Singer-songwriter Lance Kalahiki ("Puakenekene") also did memorable work while he was a Neos artist, and "Thinking of You" shows that Thompson, too, was a charismatic singer with plenty of potential. It is a shame that buyers will get no information about these artists beyond their names and the basic song credits. On the other hand, anyone who wants at least 13 of these songs can get them on this CD for less than the standard 99-cent download fee. "If it ain’t real love" Previous Story Documentary DVD on Paiva comes with ukulele lessons Next Story Baba B. back with 'Rainbow'; EMKE filled with 'Promises'