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Gregg Porter's Music Reviews


May 2007


New Releases


PALI: “…Presents A Tribute” (Tropical Music)

Confession #1: I am a child of the Sixties and the Seventies. Some experiments have suggested that the music that resonates with us, the sounds that we prefer most, are the kinds that we heard during our high-school years. Having graduated in 1976, I’ve always enjoyed the warm, slightly-twangy, richly-harmonic and acoustic guitar-heavy groups like America and Seals & Crofts. Hawai`i 's contributions to that sound included acts such as Kalapana, Country Comfort, Cecilio & Kapono and the Beamer Brothers.

Confession #2: I did not grow up in Hawai`i, and thus was not exposed to the aforementioned local contributions (except for a little of C&K, since they had mainland distribution for their three Columbia albums.) Discovering that period’s Island music in more recent years was to me like coming across a long-buried treasure chest of comfortable and familiar-sounding songs. You couldn’t make this stuff tastier to my ears if you sprinkled li hing powder all over it.

Of course, many Island recording artists of today were also strongly influenced by these classic releases of the 1970s, and the contemporary band Pali (named after leader Pali Ka`aihue) has put together an album of new recordings of eleven hits from that era, each one respectfully draped in the sound of the original, and many featuring some of the seminal musicians of that era.

Represented on this collection are songs associated with Cecilio & Kapono (“You And Me,” “Railway Stations”), Kalapana (“Way That I Want It To Be,” “Dorothy Louise”), Country Comfort (“Sun Lite, Moon Lite,” “Mama”), the Peter Moon Band (“Ballad Of Keawaiki,” “Island Love”), Keola & Kapono Beamer (“Only Good Times”) and the oft-forgotten Summer (“Love Will Forget,” “Forest.”) It would be sweet enough just to hear modern interpretations of these tunes – but Pali takes the additional step of including vocal and instrumental contributions by several members of these groups – D.J. Pratt and Malani Bilyeu (from Kalapana), Henry Kapono Ka`aihue (of C&K, and also Pali’s cousin), Charlie Recaido (from Summer) and Randy Lorenzo (who was in both Country Comfort and the Peter Moon Band), along with a guest appearance by slack key superstar Cyril Pahinui.

(Oh, and speaking of Summer – it’s rumored that their three albums may someday see the light of day as domestic CD releases – we can only hope…these guys deserve to be remembered right alongside the others paid tribute to on Pali’s CD, and he was prescient to include them in this release.)

KENNETH MAKUAKĀNE: “Makuakāne” (Makuakāne Music Corp.)

It’s hard to know where to start when talking about Kenneth Makuakāne’s contributions to Hawaiian music over the past couple of decades: there’s his most-public role as a leader of the Pandanus Club on a majority of their albums; his compositional skills, leading to his songs having been recorded by the Cazimeros, Loyal Garner, Amy Hānaiali`i Gilliom, and Nā Leo, among others (remember “I Miss You, My Hawai`i"? – that’s one of his); his talents as a record producer, working on releases by Hapa, Raiatea Helm, Jeff Rasmussen, and others already mentioned above; and his appearances as a multi-instrumentalist on innumerable albums. He’s been presented with eleven Nā Hōku Hanohano Awards, inducted into the Kamehameha Schools Alumni Gallery Hall of Fame, and recognized in the national registry of Who’s Who.

So, what’s he done lately, I hear you ask? How about issuing a solo album, his first, if you can believe that? Makuakāne feels he has reached a point in his life (perhaps partly inspired by his father’s passing in March of 2006) that he needs to get some new songs out of his soul and into the studio, to share with the rest of us. This is a simple album in structure, straight-ahead and completely Hawaiian in so many ways, designed to showcase the 20 songs more than the composer/performer himself (who, with the exception of Greg Sardinha’s steel guitar parts on three tracks, also played all the instruments and did all the singing heard throughout.) The songs are predominantly sung in Hawaiian as well, and the majority of the material shares songwriting credit with a recognized expert in `ōlelo Hawai`i, Keola Donaghy (owner/operator of the popular www.nahenahe.net website, and an Assistant Professor of Hawaiian Studies at Ka Haka `Ula O Ke`elikōlani College of Hawaiian Language at the University of Hawai`i at Hilo.)

Kenneth Makuakāne was in Seattle at the end of May, to lead workshops and to perform at the Northwest Folklife Festival - - -


Speaking of workshops, Dusty Strings is host to another one for `ukulele on Sat., May 12, as Mike Bristow presents two sessions on beginning and “beyond beginning” levels of playing; information at www.dustystrings.com, 206/634-1662.

Arranger/conductor Matt Catingub, whose recent “Return To Romance" disc featured some of the best-known Island vocalists in settings of standards, is working with Amy Hānaiali`i Gilliom to redesign her Grammy-nominated “Generation Hawai`i" album with a new symphonic sound, aimed at sales to a wider audience throughout the Mainland. Cabaret-style tours may follow.

Congratulations to the Kamakahi `ohana, as respected `ukulele player David (son of guitarist and prolific composer Dennis) recently proposed to girlfriend Lisa Daitoku, with plans to wed early in 2008.

Aloha `oe, Donald Tai Loy Ho (1930-2007.)

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