Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
The Blue Hawaiians - Live At The Lava Lounge 4/16/95dotdotdotdot
artworkRecorded 0n 4/16/95 at the Lava Lounge, this is both a clean recording and a spiffy showcase for this fine and unique band. The recording is understated, but not underwhelming. It speaks clearly of the band's prowess. The Blue Hawaiians play with deliberate meter and accuracy. Their sound is rich and easy to listen to. It's trad tiki bar surf enhanced with lap steel. There are a few vocals here, but we won't hold that against them. As the title indicates, this CD is a live session, and as such, has a bit more audience noise than I like to hear, though it's also not evident during most of the performances.
Picks: The Wipe Out, Pipeline / Endless Sleep, Surfin' Tragedy, Latin'ia, Apache, Red Top, Baja, Caravan, Theme For Young Lovers, Jet Black, Soul Surfer, Jack The Ripper, Slave Girl, The Jester, Dick Tracy

Track by Track Review

The Wipe Out dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Slow funky tiki beat, sinewy tones, tropical progressions, island whammy, and a smooth delivery all make for a great moody track. This is a sorta sad post-event remembrance things, not the terror of the moment, but rather a reflection of the event, and the sobering reality of a near miss, or fatal end for another. Moving and beautiful.

Pipeline / Endless Sleep dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Pipeline: A very different and dramatic opening, a slower and more slinky rendition, and a moodier more romantic vision of the tubes. Fluid glissandoes, whammy, and minor drama. A different treatment for sure. "Cocktails anyone." The treatment of the break is amazingly light and effective, pretty, and pristine, with a ton of feeling.

Endless Sleep: The lyrics are spoken, like a dramatic reading., over an unusual backtrack. Cool.

Surfin' Tragedy dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

A very cool cover of a song propagated in the sixties by the likes of Doug Hume (worst vocal ever), Bob Vaught & The Renegaids, Jim Waller & The Deltas, etc. This performance derives from a tongue planted firmly in cheek, a tiki bar interpretation of stellar proportions. The sound is perfect for the song, the intent is well executed, and the result is grand.

Latin'ia dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

This is among the few covers of this song (and there are many) that stands as a solid and viable rendition. Most pale compared to the original, or just don't carry the beauty and guitar wizardry necessary to pull it off. According to Tommy Nuñes (Sentinals), "Latiña" was based on Santo & Johnny's "Slave Girl" (also on this CD). Johnny Farina says Slave Girl was based on Malegueña. With few bands able to do a decent job on this, they not only retained the shimmering beauty of Tommy Nunes' great recording, but added a changing direction in the percussion. The result is a splendid version that lies somewhere between the Sentinals original and the Jim Waller & the Deltas cover. Stunning and slithery.

Apache dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Slower, more deliberate, and slightly more Polynesian than Indian, this version of Jerry Lordan's classic is really well done, and quite enjoyable.

Red Top dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

A bluesy big band number, suaved into compliance. Woody Herman's tune seems an almost natural for the fifties based instro style, though not for surf, yet these boys wedge it into the tiki hut.

Baja dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

There are damn few covers of this that don't cut it. This is on the list of good versions. It's pretty true to the Astronauts, but more pretty and smooth than energetic. There's a narrated bit about being in the parking lot, noticing too many guys out, and deciding to go... Baja. The story continues, stop after stop, until they get to Baja, where the surf is good and the waves are empty. A fine cover.

Caravan dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Tribal jungle exotica, chunky rhythmic energy, and a non-surf arrangement, like maybe Chet Atkins sitting in with Don Ho. Pretty darn cool.

Theme For Young Lovers dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Melodic and spiffy, loungie and fluid, and quite enjoyable. Semi country Duane Eddy-ish tune.

Jet Black dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Funky surfy drunken surfer the hodad number. It's rhythmic and thumpy, silly, and an obvious hit with the beer barrel crowd.

Soul Surfer dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

A cover of the Johnny Fortune hit, pretty true to the original, fluid and well executed.

Jack The Ripper dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Link Wray's famous number, opening with drums thundering, bass coming in, chunk being added, and then the lead over the top. The arrangement is unusual enough to keep it from being just another cover, and the tones are very friendly. It's smooth and soulful, and shimmering. The chop of the break is most unusual, stretched out, and intense. Quite inventive.

Slave Girl dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Santo & Johnny's great tune (based on Malegueña), with Polynesian chords opening like as if Don Ho were coming on stage next. Otherwise, it's a fine and precise cover of a great song. The humor in the arrangement is subtle and fine. The whole arrangement is like Santo & Johnny's, but much more Polynesian. Great lap steel work.

The Jester dotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Jim Messina & the Jesters' fine instro played with more speed than anything else here. It's less frantic than the original, more round and smooth, but packs adequate energy and flair. This performance shows just how well written this tune was, lending itself so effectively to reinterpretation. Spunky and smooth.

Dick Tracy dotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

Chunky Pipeline / spy ethic number, melodic, thumpy, and melodic. The guitar tone is pristine, and the delicacy offsets the power of the drums and the rhythm. Pretty cool track.