Sometimes my focus gets lost so deeply in the instrumentation of a song that I forget to listen to the vocalist! With Vic Malo’s LP, this happens to me quite often. Guitars, orchestration/strings, keyboards, horns—everything complements everything, no musical opportunity was lost in the songwriting and arrangements (with the help of Don Ralke).
Of course, Vic Malo’s robust voice deserves attention. It’s seductive. That fact alone speaks for itself. But still, the music is sophisticated yet soulful, on par with (if not above) Vic’s vocal abilities. Better yet, the lyrics match the songs’ moods perfectly. It’s like the words were born out of the notes and tones! All music and lyrics were written by Vic Malo (except “High School Girl” by Josiah Mataele
…his son?, Vic’s younger brother), so it’s a given that the words would fit so well with each tune. Impressive!
There’s more to listen to than I can write about in this post (and still keep your attention), so let’s start with “Reach for the Sun”.
Hear that guitarist churn and bend his instrument in the left channel? I almost missed it the first few listens, but he’s there, and every note sounds both premeditated and free. Wait—is that a second guitarist in the right channel? It’s got that signature wah-wah crunch heard in the chorus of “Ode to Waiahole & Waikane Valley“, but it’s so slight! And the keyboard? Playful and perfect.
On the surface, “Catch the Wind” sounds like a simple vocal tune (“easy listening”). Yet following the Isaac Hayes-like intro, each instrument sounds like it’s out to chase the wind—blaring like an unexpected gust, or drifting past like a gentle breeze. Some sounds are barely there, like the keys, which pop in from time to time but remain almost silent from start to finish. Other sounds are constant, like the two guitars strumming along the entire way through. After a dozen listens, I’m convinced Vic Malo has captured the essence of the wind here.
I enjoy the Isaac Hayes-like intros. “High School Girl” is no exception. And there’s that flanged/wah-wah guitar again! My only wish is that Malo broke into monologue with this song:
You know something? In her eyes, I’m her guy. She loves me so…
Yet I know wherever she goes, she’ll be a woman with a mind of her own…
And when all is wrong, she will make me strong til all my doubts are gone…
She is love. She is love. She is love…
I’ll leave the last three songs of the mix for you to enjoy.
All in all, the production is great, though I wonder what it would sound like if more emphasis was placed on guitars instead of strings. Nonetheless, this is an album worth every groove… Put your headphones on and get lost in the music. Be seduced by his voice. Because just like digging for records, this music requires patience and a keen ear to find the obscure nuances. The gems.
Tracks in mix
“Reach for the Sun”
“Catch the Wind”
“High School Girl”
“‘Unu ‘Unu Mai / Pehe” (sung in Tongan, not Hawaiian)
“Move On Up”
Producer :: Vic Malo
Arranger/Conductor :: Don Ralke
Engineer :: Stan Ross
Photography :: Roger Parsons
Design :: Woody Woodward
Paul Humphrey :: drums
Mike Lang :: piano, Fender rhodes
Dick Hyde :: trombone
Plas Johnson :: tenor sax
Jackie Kelso :: alto sax
Chuck Findley :: trumpet
Jerry Cole :: guitar
Ray Pohlman :: bass