Record Reviews

By John Berger,
Special to the Star-Bulletin

Friday, October 25, 1996

Rene and Akemi Paulos’ album
does it again

The Best of Rene and Akemi Paulo By Rene and Akemi Paulo

T he resurgence of interest in "exotica" and "lounge music," defined first time around by Martin Denny's 1959 hit, "Quiet Village," makes this rerelease particularly timely. Rene and Akemi Paulo were not specifically into "exotica" but these songs were major local cocktail lounge favorites of the era and the couple's cosmopolitan repertoire certainly evoked lyric images of distant places.

Akemi's voice and Rene's brilliance as pianist and arranger made a winning combination. The couple's bilingual treatment of "Dahil Sayo (Because Of You)" captures Rene's appeal as an accomplished and engaging vocalist. Akemi's classic renditions of "Koko Ni Sachi Ari (Here Is Happiness)" and "Kimito Itsumade Mo (Forever More)" are other highlights that will be welcomed by the Paulos' long-time fans. Rene's arrangements of "Laura's Theme" and "Rains of Jagoshima" are two more. Other mementos of the era include "Chotto Matte Kudasai" and "Hawaii."

It's unfortunate that producer Michael Paulo, their son, didn't give this time capsule the packaging it deserves. He should have at least mentioned when this album was originally released; a little family history would be nice too. For instance, malihini would not know that Rene was a child prodigy, or that all the Paulo children (Vicki, Rene Jr., Kathy, Michael, Charlene and Gail) have also enjoyed success as recording artists in the years since this album was released.

More Than Music By Rod Martin and Friends

Singer/songwriter Martin appears alone on the cover of this 1995 demo tape, but this was very much a group project. Pierre "Petelo" Grill and Davo were among the five co-composers that wrote the songs; Alisa Randolph is the most prominent of the five additional vocalists. Grill did his usual yeoman job as the "orchestra" although several other musicians played on some tracks.

Martin and his co-composers explored a variety of musical styles, ranging from Seawind-style jazz-pop to sham-funk to gentle ballads. The demo tape format makes the frequent excess of faux strings and other synthetic substitutes understandable; several songs would be more impressive if re-recorded with a proper budget.

Delores Mark distinguishes herself as featured vocalist on two beautifully pensive ballads, "Someone Just Like You" and "Melody In Me" (the latter co-written by Martin, Grill and Davo. Dominique Morgan stars on "Whole Lotta Nothin'," a sassy jazz-rock lament reminiscent of Seawind or Lemuria and the most substantial of the uptempo arrangements; she is also the hot vocal sparkplug on "I Couldn't Love You More." Sandra Cheatum proves promising as the sexy vocalist showcased on "Find Yourself Loving Yourself Loving Me." Antonio Azevedo shares co-composer credit with Martin for this lovely piece of jazzy pop. And, Alisa Randolph delivers her most memorable recorded performance ever as the chanteuse spotlighted on "Stay." Randolph has yet to hit as a recording artist but this track shows that she can do wonders with good material!

Other songs explore the universal experiences of love, loss, and the joy of rediscovering a long-lost love. This cassette could help kick-start the careers of several promising singers, as well as promoting singer/songwriter Martin.

1000 Pounds of Melody (Vintage Hawaiian Legends Vol. 2) By The Kalima Brothers and Richard Kauhi Quartette

Mike Cord and Harry B. Soria Jr. inaugurate a new series celebrating the musical legacy of the territorial era with this beautiful 25-song collection of music by the Kalima Brothers and the Richard Kauhi Quartette. Kauhi is the common denominator; he played with the Kalimas in the early 1940s before working alone.

The Kalima Brothers sextet -Jesse Kalima, his brothers Albert and Honey, cousin Daniel "Junior Kalima" Kaho'opi'i, and Julian Gasper - was already a highly regarded act when Kauhi replaced Henry Mucha on piano. Jesse Kalima was a brilliant arranger and innovator, believed to be the first to amplify the 'ukulele. His omnivorous musical interests stretched from Caucasian-American marches ("Stars & Stripes Forever" and "Under The Double Eagle") to Hawaiian and early hapa-haole classics including "E Lili'u E" and "Only Ashes Remain." All four are among the gems included here.

Kauhi started playing semi-professionally before he reached his teens. Formally trained from the age of 8, he brought a more refined and sophisticated sound to the group. After recording for Bell Records with the Kalimas in 1946 he went on his own with the Jesse's blessing. Almost exactly a year later he returned to the Bell studios and introduced a new style of Hawaiian-jazz fusion that was inspired by mainland jazz acts but not imitative of them. The group was so tight that its first studio runthrough was a flawless keeper. No small feat at a time when everything was recorded "live" instead of track-by-track. That recording, "Lei Pakalana," opens the Richard Kauhi Quartette section of the album.

The incredible success of Kauhi's group established his place in the history of Hawaiian music as a talented vocalist and brilliant arranger in his own right.

As with HanaOla's previous "Vintage Hawaiian Treasures" series, Soria's extensive annotation provides malihini (and residents too young to remember) all they need to know to appreciate the significance of the Kalima Brothers, Richard Kauhi, and these beautiful recordings.

John Berger, who has covered the local entertainment scene since 1972, writes reviews of recordings produced by Hawaii artists. See the Star-Bulletin's Home Zone section on Fridays for the latest reviews.

See Record Reviews for some of John Berger's past reviews.

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