Various Artists: Waiata 2 (Sony)

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Frankie Stevens: You're Such a Good Looking Woman
Various Artists: Waiata 2 (Sony)

Here's my guess: At a party if you played certain songs by Tom Jones, Tony Christie, John Rowles, Englebert Humperdinck, Frankie Stevens or any number of other MOR big ballad singers, most people couldn't tell the difference. Or even care very much.

Some of those artists covered the same songs (as did Elvis, whose ballads they also sometimes performed) so the lines just blurred between them.

This double disc collection of 48 songs -- subtitled Maori Showbands, Balladeers and Pop Stars -- follows the previous edition and includes any number of acts whose music was the soundtrack to any number of parties back in the Sixties and Seventies, and even sneaking into the Eighties. And ensured careers on television variety shows.

Big names abound: Inia Te Wiata, the Howard Morrison Quartet, Jay Epae, Johnny Cooper, Ricky May, Rowles, Stevens, Eddie Low, Frankie Price (Rowles' older brother), Deane Waretini and so on.

It's all pleasant and possibly familiar MOR, and many of the songs are covers of songs which had enjoyed international success.

So it is those which stand in their own right where genuine interest falls: The Quin Tiki's slightly kitschy Maori Medley, the Neketini Brass with Hoki Mai, the somewhat forgotten acts (Erana Clark, KIm Hart, the Constellations with Maoris on 45 featuring Dalvanius) and one of the last recordings by Gerry Merito (Po Atarau).

By the time the second disc broaches the Eighties and beyond, the showbands/balladeers (and even pop stars) label is sidelined for songs by Butler, Golden Harvest (Hollywood Dreams, their final single), Moana and the Moa Hunters (Black Pearl), Southside of Bombay (What's the Time Mr Wolf?), the new wave that was reggae and funk (Aotearoa, Dread Beat and Blood, Ardijah, Maree Sheehan, Emma Paki) and these will be in many collections aleady.

So an interesting gap-filling and party-soundtrack collection, but one which also proves that while Kiwi artists could successfully copy overseas artists and styles, it was often just successful copying. 

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