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Gregg Porter's Music Reviews


August 2006


New Releases

The 50 Greatest Hawai`i Albums of All Time, Vol. 2 (Mountain Apple)

Continuing with the successful theme of Honolulu Magazine’s June 2004 discussion of the greatest recordings of Hawai`i, a long-awaited second volume represents additional material from the somewhat controversial list. Only eleven tracks this time out (there were 17 for the first volume), and with no detailed notes, there is probably an assumption that most buyers of this disc will already own the first one, and may even have the original magazine feature or the subsequent coffee-table book version of it.

Selections range from classics by Arthur Lyman, Alfred Apaka and Genoa Keawe (holding that lo-o-o-ong note in a live recording of “`Ālika”) to Hawaiian-renaissance tracks by Cecilio & Kapono, the Mākaha Sons of Ni`ihau, and Ka`au Crater Boys. Having the late George Helm’s version of “ Waikīkī ” on the disc adds to its value, along with unforgettable selections by Lena Machado, Moe Keale, Don Ho, and Eddie Kamae with the Sons of Hawai`i.

Will there eventually be volumes three and four, giving us a complete set of tracks from all fifty albums? Probably – but will they all sell as well as the first one did, placing it on the World Music Chart of Billboard Magazine?

Eddie Kamae & Friends (Hawai`i Sons)

At this point in Eddie Kamae’s career, he’s entitled to sit back and not bother with the world of work any longer – but he’s not showing signs of slowing down. His outstanding documentary films continue to garner international attention, and he keeps tapping in to his vault of six decades worth of musical treasures.

This latest collection is a baker’s dozen of wonderful performances from his past (“hand-picked” by Eddie and his wife, Myrna, according to the promotional materials.) Many great musicians no longer with us are among the friends featured here, including David “Feet” Rogers, Moe Keale, and Sonny Chillingworth. (Others, such as Dennis Kamakahi, are still making great music.)

These songs are the gentle, nahenahe kind, the kind that make you just want to kick back and drift away to your own personal paradise. This disc is not the place to get deeply into the history of the Sons of Hawai`i, however – just to touch lightly into the vast pool of Kamae’s musical archive.

Henry Kapono: "The Wild Hawaiian" (Eclectic)

A couple years ago, the first time I met Henry Kapono was at an outdoor gig in Woodinville. I was talking with him about his place in Hawaiian musical history, as a songwriter, a solo artist, and with Cecilio. At that time, he told me that he had some fresh ideas and new directions yet to come. I now suspect he was referring to the genesis of ideas that have come to fruition on his latest album.

This is Kapono’s rock album, his “wild” side. It’s not the smooth sunset-and-surf ‘70s sound of C+K; it’s not the tourist-friendly “Home in the Islands ” vibe. This is an original sound, with the power and edginess of kick-a** rock flavored with a little of his feel-good seasoning. And it is most assuredly a Hawaiian album. In addition to original compositions, he also respectfully rips through Aunty Edith Kanaka`ole’s “E Hō Mai,” Queen Lili`uokalani’s “Ke Aloha O Ka Haku (Queen’s Prayer),” and versions of “Hi`ilawe,” “He`eia,” and “Hilo Hanakahi.”

Traditionalists will not enjoy this album. People who want to revisit the old C+K stuff will have a hard time with it. It will resonate most with listeners who enjoy hearing what a superstar of Hawaiian music can do when following a new muse, one that cuts a fresh path to keep the music new and vibrant.

~~~ IN BRIEF ~~~

Jon Yamasato: "Best of 1996 – 2006" (808e Productions)

This is a nice summation of young Mr. Yamasato’s career to date, ranging through not only his solo recordings, but several as a member of Pure Heart (with Jake Shimabukuro and Lopaka Colon) and Nā `Ōiwi (with Dennis & David Kamakahi and Mike Ka`awa.) Two of the three brand-new tracks feature guest appearances from Justin Young, David Kamakahi, and Lopaka Colon, too (the last one being a solo version of “Hele On to Kaua`i.”)

Kohala: "Deeper Blue" (Palm)

Released to time with some touring in Japan and California, the latest lineup of this acoustic-guitar trio (with new addition Rupert Tripp, Jr.) gives us a gentle, jazz-inflected album of compositions by original band members Charles Michael Brotman and Charlie Recaido, along with covers of tunes by Mackie Feary and James Taylor. Brotman is the owner of Palm Records, and was the producer of (and a performer on) the slack key album that took home the first-ever Grammy Award for a Hawaiian Music Album, in 2005; Recaido was also a performer on that release.

Mānoa DNA: "Follow Me" (Roy Sakuma Productions)

A trio of genetically-matched musicians (father Lloyd Kawakami with sons Alex & Nick) make their debut with a tight disc of Island pop. Most of the tunes are composed by leader Alex, though combined with a couple Hawaiian numbers, and covers of Cecilio & Kapono and Crosby, Stills & Nash songs. Cecilio Rodrigues makes a guest appearance on harmonica; other notable additions come from pianist Kit Ebersbach and drummer Noel Okimoto; co-producer is the famed `ukulele instructor Roy Sakuma.


Jake Shimabukuro, who recently sold out Seattle ’s Triple Door for two nights (followed by a private gig at the facility), is releasing his new CD soon, and it is a different direction for the `ukulele wizard in that most of the tracks are solo performances, much as he has been doing in his recent live shows. “Gently Weeps” is already available in Japan .

Guitarist Makana has also issued his latest CD, “Different Game,” in Japan before it hits American record stores. His Japanese label wanted it to be a summertime album, whereas Makana handles his own releases stateside.

Oh, the revolving doors of Island radio: In January 2004, KINE-FM’s “Aloha Morning Show” team of Frank B. Shaner and Brickwood Galuteria was split up when Shaner was let go (he is now on KUMU-FM and KAOI-FM.) In mid-July, Galuteria left the station as well, and is rumored to be considering a run for political office. His replacement, “Billy V” Van Osdol, comes over from KCCN-FM.

Concerts coming to the area soon: Fiji (from Hawai`i ) and Katchafire (from New Zealand ) bring their reggae stylings to Island Summer Jam at the DoubleTree Hotel (near SeaTac) on Friday, August 11. Bruddah Lui & Friends will open, and a portion of the proceeds will go to Kikaha O Ke Kai Outrigger Canoe Club.

Kalama Days of Discovery will be held in the small Columbia River town again, to celebrate the links between kanaka maoli and the Native Americans of the region, August 19 th and 20 th, with a weekend of workshops and activities culminating in a concert on Saturday night. Performers include the young and the old of star `ukulele players, Bill Tapia (age 98) and Brittni Paiva (age 16), along with singer Mihana (daughter of Aunty Irmgard `Āluli), and the duo Hema Pa `a (Chris Kamaka & Baba Alimoot.) Tapia, Paiva & Mihana will also perform shows prior to the Kalama weekend, at Mt. Vernon’s Lincoln Theatre on Thursday, August 17, and at the Kirkland Performance Center on Friday the 18th.

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