Gregg Porter's Music Reviews
Your Holiday Shopping List
If you are shopping for the Hawaiian-music fan on your holiday list, here’s a year-end recap of recent CD releases, guaranteed to satisfy (just be sure they don’t already have ‘em.)
First, here are my favorites from discs reviewed in this paper earlier this year (in alphabetical order):
`Ale`a: “Kaulupono” (Poki)
For their third outing, this group has shown a tremendous amount of growth and maturity. No longer a hot new band of youngsters, they are clearly establishing themselves as a group that will be respected for years to come. Guest vocals from Nina Keali`iwahamana and Keali`i Reichel.
The Brothers Cazimero: “Some Call It Aloha … Don’t Tell” (Mountain Apple)
It’s been a long time since we had a new studio disc from the Caz, but they haven’t lost any of their chops. These guys are still at the top of their game, which is why they are still at the top of the industry. If you like how they make a song their own, this is a must for you.
Nā Leo Pilimehana: “Find Harmony” (Mountain Apple)
This pop trio, known for their vocal blending, continues with their successful formula of sweet ballads of life and love, classic songs of the Islands, and a few covers. Twenty years worth of recording – they know what works for them and their fans, and this album carries on that tradition.
Nā Palapalai: “Ke `Ala Beauty” (Koops2)
Their harmonic blend is outstanding – you can’t easily tell which voice belongs to which singer, the songs (new and old) are all winners, and their musicianship is impeccable. “Da Ferns” is one of the strongest groups in Hawaiian music today, and should be for a long time to come – and this is only album number two.
Jake Shimabukuro: “Walking Down Rainhill” (Hitchhike/Sony Japan)
Taking the humble (but lovable) `ukulele to heights previously unknown, this guy’s playing is much more than a gimmick. He has truly made it an instrument worthy of respect, and each of his three albums expands the uke world just a bit more. It comes with a DVD, too.
Various artists: “Territorial Airwaves” (HanaOla/Cord Int’l.)
Highlights from all eras of Hawaiian recordings in this collection, a sampler of the material heard on Harry B. Soria’s weekly radio show. Of all the historical compilations issued recently, this one has the most researched liner notes, a valuable element in enjoying this strong mix of selections.
Other albums I’d recommend from 2004 (also in alphabetical order):
Darlene Ahuna: “Bridge Between Generations” (HanaOla/Cord Int’l.)
A mix of old and new (but not too new), interpreted by the lovely-voiced Ahuna.
Hui `Ohana: MagicIslands” (Poki)
Selections from three classic albums by this seminal group, never before released on CD.
George Kahumoku, Jr. & Daniel Ho: “Classic Hawaiian Hulas” (Daniel Ho Creations)
Three volumes of straight-ahead, clean and tasteful renditions of hits from the hula repertoire.
Kimo Alala Keaulana & Lei Hulu: “Hula Lives!” (Mele Nani)
The sleeper album of the year, this one is worth checking out, if only for the little-known “Earl Finch Hula.” A solid performance.
KahauanuLake Trio: “He Aloha No `O Honolulu” (Hula)
An influential album, long deserving of reissue on CD.
Dennis Pavao: “Keiki Kupuna” (Mountain Apple)
The final album from a beloved artist, completed by his producer and family after his unexpected passing.
Owana Salazar: “Hula Jazz” (Moonbow)
The title describes it perfectly; Salazar’s jazzy stylings fitting nicely with Island standards.
Bill Tapia: “Tropical Swing” (MoonRoom)
He’s in his late 90s, he plays `ukulele and sings with a sense of fun, he never made an album under his own name in a multi-decade career until now, he visited Seattle not long ago – what’s not to like?
Various artists: “50 Greatest Hawaiian Albums Of All Time” (Mountain Apple)
Tied in to Honolulu magazine’s recent article of the same name (but there’s only 17 tracks, so cross your fingers for future volumes.) A good set for beginner and long-time fan alike.
Various artists: “A Place Called Hawai`i #3” (HanaOla/Cord Int’l.)
Another nice mix of tunes, as selected by internet-radio host Aloha Joe.
Various artists: “The Panini Collection” (Panini)
Highlights from the thirteen albums issued over the years on the Panini label, including Gabby Pahinui, Peter Moon, and Sunday Mānoa.
Music DVD’s recently released:
The Brothers Cazimero: “Hawai`i – A Musical Postcard” (Mountain Apple)
Video footage of the Islands is set to the music of the famed Brothers (originally released in 1990.)
Eddie Kamae & the Sons of Hawai`i: “The History of…” (Mountain Apple)
The latest documentary in the Hawaiian Legacy Foundation Series, Brother Eddie Kamae directed this historical feature on the influential band that began over 40 years ago.
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