Warren Barker
Hawaiian Eye






Another Warren Barker record, another gem – business as usual. But the case of the original soundtrack to the long-lasting, 4-season run of the detective series Hawaiian Eye that aired from 1959 till 1963 is quite a bit different, and yet again, I am smiling all the time. I'll mention the most curious phenomenon first: although the series hasn't seen the light of the day in digital form on DVD or BluRay, the original vinyl version of the soundtrack was indeed re-issued on CD in 2006 to much applause by me. In fact, I clapped like crazy and simulated the noise of a hundred people. Anyway, the aesthetic value of the release is quite high, for the stars of the series, Robert Conrad, Connie Stevens and even Poncie Ponce are singing on a few of the 13 songs, and they do it in great style.


Since this series is virtually lost to multiple generations and is likely to be mixed up with the recently re-booted Hawaii Five-0 by a younger audience, the target group is slim to nonexistent. Egad, that has never stopped me from enjoying obscure and clichéd releases, both of between the record oscillates constantly. This is a proper and definite Exotica record whose moods and styles range from Crime Jazz, as depicted in the main theme and its encore, over hot-blooded percussion-driven ditties with a Latin touch to quieter, soothing full moon dreamscapes. Even though this is a soundtrack album, there are no bitter aftertastes or stale flavors included. Producer Alvino Rey, famous steel guitarist for Juan García Esquivel, knows a thing or two about Exotica, and even though the album consists of classics like Deep Night and Rumba Rhapsody, all renditions are skillfully reinterpreted, a fact that is uncommon in today's soundtrack albums that feature first and foremost shedloads of licensed tracks by big name artists. Before my big sigh grows too large, I dive right into the excitingly kitschy black and white world of Hawaiian Eye.

Unsurprisingly, the theme song of Hawaiian Eye kicks off the album. Written by Jerry Livingston and Mack David and conducted by Warren Barker, this iconic song is as pumping and bombastic as it is lush and playful. Staccato bongo drums mark its beginning, and the permanent rise of tremoling streams evoke a colorful, somewhat smoothened tension and the accompaniments of crystalline wind chimes and vivid tambourines drive the crime-related theme further. Soon, the all-male choir blares the series' title. From this point onwards, brass blasts and warm strings take over and create an adventurous, if overly lush atmosphere. The choir sings Esquivel-like aah-aah chants all the while quick marimba sections complete the interplay with the aforementioned instruments. A powerful theme song that inherits the spirit of the TV series where even the criminals are good-natured people most of the time and the only danger seems to be the hidden color switch in an ancient temple that would turn the characters' viewpoint around. Thumbs up!


Light the torches for the next song: Deep Night is a gorgeously tropical song that is a prime example of Warren Barker's instrumentation and a reminiscence to his Moon Flowers song that was produced with the same collection of instruments and is featured on another Exotica benchmark called A Musical Touch Of Far Away Places. A paradisiacal flute, various crystalline mallet instruments, gently played bongos and a bar piano are the main ingredients of this version. The focus lies clearly on the sparkling atmosphere that is created by the glistening xylophones and chimes, and the added maracas as well as the prominent inclusion of the piano cannot destroy the rather fragile and enchanted setting. If you prefer another exotic but more clarion and banging take of the song, listen to the Kokee Band's version of their album Exotica 1970. I for one prefer the moon light-inducing atmosphere of Barker's version, but as usual, there's no right or wrong in terms of interpretations.


The following Let's Do It puts Connie Steven's into the gray-scaled limelight. This slow song is rather jazzy in its presentation of piano triplets and accurately played vibraphones without any sustain. The percussion is yet again inconspicuous and reduced, and the background piano as well as the incisive trumpet solo are rather clarion counterparts to Steven's mellow voice. Considering the lyrics, she is able to convince any man to fall in love with her. The cliché factor might go through the roof, but the fact that a talented actress gives her name and voice away for a flawlessly produced song should be embraced in the end. Definitely a catchy and, yes, enchanting love song.


The inclusion of the following Steele On The Prowl offers a much-needed dosis of a military march, fulfilling the wishes of proud veterans by providing a cheeky but quite pompous melody that is first played by brass players, then on marimbas, and finally on strings that add a romantic note to the collection. I find this song rather annoying as it destroys the tropical setting. It's all the more intrusive right after Miss Steven's performance. Fortunately, Soft Green Seas rectifies that mistake with its splendidly mysterious atmosphere. Muffled marimbas, wind chimes and two-note brass fragments create a dreamy but suspenseful setting that is solved by a tremendously soothing coupling of a vibraphone with a piano. Both play a care-free, totally relaxing melody. The song later morphs into a more jazzy mood that is curiously exotic due to the incessant use of Japanese claves and the short interlude of a Polynesian flute melody. A clear winner – superb to the maximum.


Noro Morales' Rumba Rhapsody enters the ring afterwards, and it is a quickly-paced good mood piece with bar piano backings, rushing percussion, and a brightly illuminating flute melody that is in constant interplay with a bass flute and vibraphone couple that inject an Oriental flavor, all the while the flute melody is Faux-Polynesian in style. The dusky 4-note chords on the piano add majesty and grandeur to the setting.

Cabbie Kim brings back the spy theme approach with the typically lofty polyphony of the brass ensemble, darker trombones and sneaky vibraphone notes. The setting isn't overly exotic, but the occasional input of the string players soften the touch of infamy quite a bit. What Is This Thing Called Love? starts with especially placid bongos intersections and punchy maracas. The slight cacophony of the interplay between the bright trumpet and the darker bass flute is continued throughout the song, all the while the bongos are surprisingly present most of the time. Glinting mallet instruments, piano chords and flute sections are inheriting the soft hints of honky-tonk tones heard previously, making this song quite cheeky, a mood that is definitely not considered by reading the title.


You're Getting To Be A Habit With Me is the befitting brethren of Connie Steven's performance. Robert Conrad is performing an equally charming love song. The background melody is very vibrant and the sustain of the reverberating vibraphones is given enough room to shine next to Conrad's illuminating aura. The following piano interlude works equally well, and even though it's embarrassing to like this song as a guy, this setting is really mellow and glamorous. The instrumental Cricket's Corner takes up the thread of Conrad's performance with quick string bursts, a meandering bass flute and heavenly flute couplets. The schmaltz factor is sky-high and prevents me from really liking the song, but if you like the songs with festive atmospheres, this one might work for you.


The spotlight moves around one last time, finding Poncie Ponce who performs When My Dream Boat Comes Home. To my surprise and joy, the song starts with a ukulele melody, quiescent percussion and whisper-quiet vibraphone sprinkles that grow larger in the interlude sections when Ponce pauses. His high voice and the more playful setting are in stark contrast to Conrad's and Steven's dreamy love ballads. Lopaka's Boat features a surprisingly dark tuba melody along coruscating chimes, glockenspiels and glosing Hollywood strings. This is also the slowest song of the album. The final encore of Hawaiian Eye is a condensed version of the intro melody that doesn't feature anyhing new apart from the rising strings that underline the closing nature of the song, an episode of the series and this album.

I pray it all the times: Exotica albums need to be re-issued, either on CD or in purely digital form. Heck, I'm not even begging for a remastering, as this procedure can oftentimes destroy distinctive qualities of certain releases, Tak Shindo's Mganga! being a famous example where the dynamic range was reduced during the remastering process. But on the Hawaiian Eye soundtrack, everything turned out charmingly well. Even if you don't know anything about the series, the names Warren Barker, Alvino Rey and possibly Robert Conrad should ring several bells and speak for the quality of this release – even Conrad sings surprisingly well, which is no given for a talented actor.


The predominant moods of the soundtrack shift between cozily tropical moonlight serenades and more pompous crime Jazz tunes. If you don't know the album yet, it will definitely be up your alley if you don't mind the overly romantic and kitschy undertones in a few of the songs. The variety of instruments is top notch as are the melodies and the vibrating setting. Fans and connoisseurs of the series will probably remember many a scene or fragment of the series which the music revives. Everyone else is invited to check the music out nonetheless, especially fans of A Musical Touch Of Far Away Places which is very similar in the settings it evokes. A top notch Exotica album. Now release the DVD's, you guys at Warner Bros.


Exotica Review 049: Warren Barker – Hawaiian Eye OST (1960). Originally published on Mar. 24, 2012 at AmbientExotica.com.