Authors: Chris Darrow/Max Buda

Publisher: Global Recording artists.


During the late 1960s, there were two unrelated bands called Kaleidoscope, one based in the U.K., one in California. The American band became known for their eclectic musicianship as the members were all multi-instrumentalists with a variety of backgrounds and influences. While they enjoyed critical appreciation and became noted session players for other artists, Kaleidoscope didn't garner much commercial success. As the decades went by, however, Kaleidoscope earned the reputation for being one of the early progenitors of what would become World Music.

After the breakup of Kaleidoscope, two of the members, Chris Darrow and Max Buda (a.k.a. Chester Crill, Max Budda, Fenrus Epp, Templeton Parcely) continued to issue sporadic albums as a duo. Their new Island Girl is, as Darrow explains, "the second record in a trilogy of our faux, movie sound tracks. The only imperative for these treatments is that the word `Girl' be incorporated into the title." It's been a while since volume one. It was called Harem Girl, came out in 1998, and was based on primarily Middle-Eastern musical themes.

All these years later, Island Girl finds Darrow and Buda trying "to provide a mellifluous island flavor of some undetermined, mythical time." That's a pretty good description of a two-man project where the pair co-write everything, play most of the instruments, with Darrow engineering and producing the full, organically flowing suites. The album is a logical extension of what Kaleidoscope was all about back in the day, and confirms their connections to the World Music, New Age scene.

The gentle sweep of the program opens with "Island Girl Theme" which is built on simple piano chords supporting harmonica melody lines and a variety of assorted percussion and sound effects. Then, "Ukulele Orchestra" is a quirky, countrified acoustic tune punctuated with occasional vocalized Buddhist "Oms" and nonsense phrases. Speaking of country, "One Step Away From Heaven" is the album's one full vocal track, with lyrics that is, featuring Connie Mardon singing the simple ballad. The disc's shortest cut, "Church," is a wordless Gospel flavored prayer, and the same melody is given a Native American setting in "Native Chant."

"Tiki and the Girl" is perhaps closest to what one might expect for an island theme, a slow, beautiful steel-guitar line. "Saps at Sea" is the most experimental of the early tracks with call-and-response percussion and organ lines. Darrow's son Steve played drums on "Wipe!", what a surf instrumental would sound like if played on a violin. Similar instrumentation is used for the set's closest nod to rock, "The Storm" where the rhythm reflects the earlier Native American pattern of "Native Chant." (Perhaps this one echoes what the pair did on their 1981 Eye of the Storm, their all-instrumental rock album?) All the themes of the record are brought together in the final number, appropriately called "Reprise" which includes keyboard work from Jerry Waller. (Throughout Island Girl, former Byrds bass player, John York, also contributed acoustic bass, ukulele, percussion and vocals).

Island Girl is polished, intricate, sophisticated music that can't fairly be pigeon-holed in any ethnic or genre-based category. It does feel "mythic," reflecting an ethereal world where the musical settings are unexpected combinations of sounds that paint an idyllic land in distant waters. It's a summer trip that will take you where you didn't know you could go.

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