The Green are the new Third World. Like Tony Wright’s series of batik-influenced paintings that graced the ’70s’ band’s covers, Kamea Hadar’s chimeric illustrations set the stage for the seamless blend of funk, blues, rock, R&B and reggae purveyed by the 50th State’s forefront reggae band.
The original quartet swelling by two, The Green return with their third long-player, Hawai‘i ’13. In the two years since Ways & Means, their Easy Star Records debut, the group’s compositions have broadened, drawing on the sounds and spirits of their archipelago. The recordings, supervised by one dedicated producer (Danny Kalb), show the production team’s aplomb in making a cohesive piece from the disparate composers’ styles and the different flavors of music that infuse the arrangements and performances, yielding an exquisite musical statement.
This is island music made by island people and, in kindredship with the genre’s homeland, there’s a toughness that undergirds these recordings. Like Gregory Isaacs’ Night Nurse album, even the tenderest rhythm has an aggressive pulse to it.
The album is bookended by two traditional Hawaiian chants—“He Mele No Ku‘u Hawai‘i” and “Hawai‘i Aloha”—which are important statements creatively and spiritually. This traditional music not only grounds the performers, who have been touring and recordings off-island extensively since Ways & Means, but enriches their musical statements, and beckons listeners to follow the band on a journey.
The album’s first reggae tracks, “Even Before” and “Good One,” step along with the easy skank of latter day Island Records roots vendors like Bob Marley & The Wailers, Steel Pulse and the aforementioned Third World. The yearn of “Take Me On,” the album’s first single, recalls Gregory Isaacs’ work at Sly & Robbie’s fledgling Taxi Productions, while “Striking Up Our Love”’s funky, bluesy bounce positions the song to be this generation’s “Lively Up Yourself.” The tough, distorted opening of “Good Vibe Killah” pulses with strains of Sublime’s “Doin’ Time” before shifting to a smooth swaying groove. Elsewhere, “Chocolate & Roses”’s breezy spindrift is a charming ’70s ballad, propelled by a lilting Bacharachian piano and Caleb Keolanui’s crystalline vocals.
And it’s the vocal work that stands out across the album. With four vocalists, Hawai‘i ’13 boasts superb harmonies and instances where lead vocalists change within a song, executed with the natural seamlessness of Morgan Heritage and The Temptations. This is an impeccably performed and recorded album, showing The Green’s development as students of this music, leaving us eager to hear where they take us next in ’14, ’15, ’16 and beyond.