JON Osorio and Randy Borden were one of the major local duos of the 1970s. By the end of the decade they were up there with the Brothers Cazimero, Keola & Kapono Beamer, and Olomana. They'd debuted as recording artists as J&R Inc. under the guidance of Jack de Mello in 1975. By 1977 they'd affiliated themselves with John F. Leonard as Jon & Randy. It was an inspired alliance.
Jon & Randy return,
with Steve this time
E Ho'i Mai: Jon Osorio, Randy Bordon, Steve Brown (Wing and a Prayer Productions)
Leonard was one of Hawaii's Big 3 concert promoters and the publisher of Sunbums (the local equivalent of Rolling Stone). Jon & Randy became the opening act for almost all his concerts -- from Leo Kottke to the Jacksons to Tower of Power.
"Hawaiian Eyes," title song of their second album, won the Hoku Award for Song of the Year in 1981. They broke up the following year.
That was it for Jon & Randy for 15 years; Borden recorded a little-noticed solo album on the mainland in 1993. He knew he was terminally ill when he, Jon and Steve Brown got together to record this album last year (Cecilio Rodriguez -- producer of the "Hawaiian Eyes" album -- reprised that role here).
Almost all 14 songs are originals written or co-written by members of the trio. Some recall the sound of "Hawaiian Eyes." Others are striking departures from it.
Among the latter is Osorio's "Crazy in the Streets." Rodriguez joins Osorio and Brown on guitars on an arrangement that rocks harder than anything Jon & Randy ever did back when. The lyric images of hustlers and derelicts are unpleasant. The arrangement catchy. The song memorable.
Jon & Randy supported the crusade to redeem Kahoolawe back when Hawaii's political leaders still endorsed its destruction. "Hawaiian Soul," one of the first songs honoring George Helm, appeared on the "Hawaiian Eyes" album -- many felt at the time that it should have received the Song of the Year award.
"Ea Kaho'olawe" brings the story to the present. "Ka Hulina Au" also addresses issues of Hawaiian nationalism, although only those close to composers Osorio and Kanalu Young will comprehend the kaona.
Osorio recalls an obsolete foreign cause with "Las Madres." The song commemorates victims of a South American dictatorship overthrown years ago.
Among the others: "Pule no ke Ea " is beautiful. "Set the Record Straight" is a forgettable bit of Jawaiian. "Only the Wind" is basic soft rock. Osorio's "Love Inside" nicely captures the old-time Jon & Randy sound.
"When We Were Young" is poignant even without factoring in Borden's condition when they recorded it. Osorio and Broden wrote "From A Dancer" for Keola Kamahele and dedicated it to Israel Kamakawiwo'ole. It could easily be Borden's musical epitaph as well (50 percent of the album proceeds will benefit the Angel Network Charities' transitional housing program for families in crisis on Oahu).
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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.