Gregg Porter's Music Reviews
THE BROTHERS CAZIMERO:
It has been six years since the Cazimeros last released an album of all-new recordings (there have been re-issues, compilations, and solo works in that time), and this is one of their strongest albums ever. Filled with a mixture of new compositions, Hawaiian standards and classic songs, it serves to quiet any critics who feel that the prime days of the duo have passed.
Producer Jon de Mello notes that, after all this time, you could assume that recording a new album by the Brothers (their 36 th release, in fact) would be a “casual affair” – and yes, it is, “but no one should ever confuse casual with blasé.” I think the break in doing new albums, filling their time instead with touring and regular gigs (such as the May Day concerts, now 27 years running) renewed them, as there is as much strength in this set of 16 songs as there is in many of their past classic albums.
The album opens with a live rendition of “Pua Līlia,” from the 2004 May Day show – they say the experience of that performance was so perfect that it could not be recreated in the studio. Other tastes of the past come in songs like “He`eia,” “Maori Brown Eyes,” a return to one of their Sunday Manoa classics: “Hawaiian Lullabye,” and one of my favorites about the delicious foods of Hawai`i: “Nā `Ai `Ono.”
But it’s their skills as songwriters that are spotlighted throughout this disc. Robert authored most of the originals, although Roland provides uncredited “creativity” to many of the pieces – after all these years working together, the Brothers undoubtedly provide excellent sounding boards for each other, without any battles over who added what to each song. Several of the songs (including ones where they collaborate with other writers) sound so comfortable in the team’s voices and hands that you would swear they have been Hawaiian standards since “sma’ kid time.”
There has been a whisper of speculation as to what the album’s title means. I received some explanation in an e-mail from Roland (via his wife, Lauwa`e, and my radio partner, Manono), saying that it’s based on Robert’s song “Mai Ha`i Iā Ha`i” – a pair of secret lovers ask the moon, the only witness to their love, to tell no one. But it works as reverse psychology, as they turn around and discover everybody knows (some call it aloha, I call it love.)
Feel free, however, to tell others about this latest gift of aloha from a great pair that have been entertaining us for over thirty years.
Celebrating twenty years since their first album, Nā Leo presents us with their 15 th. This is also the album with which they hope to break through to more success throughout the rest of the US (which may be why you have to look hard to find the “Pilimehana” part of their name anywhere in the notes), so don’t be surprised to see them in Seattle for a concert before long.
It is their sweet harmonies that are a trademark of this trio, and this album does not disappoint in that area. In addition, they have continued their tradition of mixing originals with pop remakes and Hawaiian classics. The songwriting skills of the group have grown considerably over the years as the three have grown from young girls to adult women who have experienced life, love, marriage, family, and loss. Their experiential ballads speak with a voice that has universal appeal – I’m surprised that more of their compositions have not been covered by non-Island artists.
I’m pleased to see that their desire to reach audiences outside Hawai`i has not led them to avoid the type of material that has strong Island appeal, such as the classics “Sophisticated Hula,” Hawaiian Lullabye” (with guest Sean Na`auao on guitar), and “Ku`u Hoa.” They also work out a very tasty rendition of the Beatles’ “Blackbird,” as arranged and produced by Honolulu Pops leader Matt Catingub.
However, I have to admit that my disappointment with NLP is that, considering how strong they are in harmonizing, I find that they are regularly (as a musician friend diplomatically puts it) “lazy in their intonation.” Their singing style of coming up under the notes, and often not making it quite all the way there, diminishes the otherwise professional aspects of this group. A little more time spent on vocal precision could do them a world of good – and might help them reach the larger audience they desire.
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