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Gregg Porter's Music Reviews

December 2005

Hawaiian Classics

Compilation albums always make great holiday gifts for Hawaiian music fans, and there are several new releases out in time for this year’s season of giving. One of the most exciting to see is called “Hawaiian Classics,” and features 16 tracks from the vaults of the late Bill Murata, producer and founder of the Tropical Music family of labels (Poki, Pumehana, Ginger, Discos Tropical, Hawai`i Aloha.) With two exceptions, this is the first time these tracks, all from 1974-1980, have been issued on CD. Murata was the first producer for the groundbreaking Hui `Ohana, and we hear members of the talented Ka`apana family in multiple settings: Mama Tina, solo; Ledward with the post-Hui `Ohana group that was destined to become I Kona; and twins Ledward and Nedward with mama Tina and sisters Rhoda and Lei Momi. We also hear seminal recordings from Sonny Chillingworth, the Mākaha Sons of Ni`ihau, Genoa Keawe, the Lim Family, and the Ho`opi`i Brothers, just to name a few. And to name the rest, we get Da Blahlas, Peter Ahia, Nālani Olds, the Kihei Brown Trio, Kaimana, Halona, Kealoha Kalama, and Cyrus Green with George “Granny Goose” Groves .

The O`ahu Visitor’s Bureau has teamed up with Mountain Apple to create Kanikapila O`ahu Style,” a strong collection of a dozen songs celebrating the beauty of The Gathering Place. The island is saluted by Darren Benitez in “Aloha O`ahu,” the Mākaha Sons of Ni`ihau encourage you to “Take a Walk in the Country,” Nā Leo sings a “North Shore Serenade,” “Kaimana Hila” gets its due from the Hawaiian Style Band, Amy & Willie K visit “Waikīkī,” and various other locales are represented by songs from Braddah IZ, Ho`okena, Dennis Pavao, Raiatea Helm, the Cazimeros, and Sean Na`auao. Many of the Islands have received their own celebratory collections – now, O`ahu joins the fold.

Though he has only released five albums to date, the triumphant career of Keali`i Reichel gets its first retrospective look, with the double-disc “Kamahiwa: Collection One.” The first disc is filled with hit songs, such as “Kawaipunahele,” “Hanohano Ka Lei Pīkake,” “Toad Song,” “Ka Nohona Pili Kai,” “Ipo Lei Momi,” and the only non-Hawaiian number, the wedding favorite “The Road That Never Ends.” Disc two showcases Reichel’s chanting prowess on eleven selections (including two that were recorded for the second volume of a various artists series, “Nā Kumu Hula.”) Packaging for the set is impressive, from the full set of lyrics and translations, to the detailed notes on Hawaiian culture and poetic composition, to the environmentally-friendly and artistically-magnificent packaging. Certainly a recommended starter set for those who don’t yet have any of Reichel’s albums, but it should also be popular with those who have been following him for the past decade; a cherished gift for all (“cherished” being the English translation of the album’s title.)

~~~ MUSIC TIDBITS ~~~

Fans of Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo`ole will be eagerly anticipating an authorized biography due to be published next spring by Bess Press, the folks responsible for “Pidgin To Da Max” and “The SPAM Cookbook.” Author Rick Carroll, who has written several “Spooky Tales” books for the same publisher, has been working closely with the singer’s widow, Marlene, on the manuscript, titled “IZ: The Voice of a Nation,” and the book will feature many rare and unpublished photographs. (Speaking of “Pidgin To Da Max,” it has just been reissued in a 25 th Anniversary edition.)

Amy Hānaiali`i Gilliom may need to get some assistance in juggling her busy schedule. In April of 2006, she anticipates the birth of two babies: her seventh album (produced by Michael Ruff), and a child with her fiance, John Austin – who proposed to her on the stage of the Hawai`i Theatre just a few weeks ago.

The recordings that are eligible to be considered for the 2006 Grammy Award for Best Hawaiian Album were announced recently; these are the releases that met the specific criteria regarding Hawaiian content and artists. From this list of 26, members of the Recording Academy will vote for their choices, and the top five candidates will become the official nominees (to be announced in mid-December.) Then, members will vote again to choose the winner. Rather than take up space here, I’ll just recommend you check the internet – several sites have posted the complete list, which includes popular acts such as `Ale`a, Hapa, Raiatea Helm, Ledward Ka`apana, Sean Na`auao, and the late Dennis Pavao.

Here’s the answer to a question I posed in last month’s CD reviews. In discussing the lack of detailed liner notes in Mountain Apple’s re-issue of “ Hawai`i : Land of Enchantment ,” I wondered out loud who the “Kamokila” responsible for the original notes might be. Mountain Apple President Leah Bernstein was kind enough to fill me in – it was Alice Kamokila Campbell, heir to the Campbell Estate, founder of Paradise Cove at Ko Olina on O`ahu, Territorial Senator, and performer on Jack de Mello’s “Legends of Hawai`i" albums issued in 1957 and 1964. Mahalo, Leah!

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