Island Mele

By John Berger

Friday, September 3, 1999


Na Leo demonstrates its style


Bullet I Miss You, My Hawaii: Na Leo (NLP Records NLPCD 3009)

SKILL as song stylists is as crucial as original material in making a group memorable. Na Leo -- they've dropped "Pilimehana," remember? -- show that skill here. The trio and co-producer Kenneth Makuakane do quite well in offering fresh perspectives on songs strongly identified with other artists.

"Hawaiian Eyes," a pop-y Hoku-winning hit for Jon & Randy in 1981,is beautifully done in more polished form. Malani Bilyeu's oblique tribute to George Helm, "Molokai Sweet Home," is smoothly reworked to showcase Na Leo's harmonies. They even do well with Annette Funicello's 1960 hapa-haole hit, "Pineapple Princess," by treating the song with respect instead of camping it up as local artists often do when redoing light-pop oldies.

"Hanau 'O Kekauluohi" and "E Hihiwai" add cultural facets. Both are noteworthy.

Makuakane has been the foundation of Na Leo's production team ever since their hit come-back album for "Mr. Little Riki" Sugimoto in 1993. Makuakane wrote the title song here. Lehua Kalima and Daniel Ho share credit for "Simple As A Sunrise." It too is noteworthy.

This album was released in Japan several months ago, but an eleventh song, "You Don't Remember," has been added for the local market.

Mpeg Audio Clips:
Bullet I Miss You, My Hawaii
Bullet Hawaiian Eyes
Bullet Pineapple Princess
Bullet Moloka'i Sweet Home
Quicktime | MPEG-3 info

Contact: Na Leo; NLP Records & Publishing, P.O. Box 1013, Waianae, HI 96792
The Mountain Apple Company, P.O. Box 22373, Honolulu, HI 96823; Phone 800-882-7088



Bullet Ke Ao Wena: Kanilau (Nani Lawai Records 0444)

LOSE the synthesizers! That's the obvious call on the fourth album by Kanilau. The quartet traces its roots back to a California-Hawaiian group known as the Chang's and is the 1995 winner of the prestigious Ka Himeni Ana competition in which contestants perform without microphones or amplifiers. Hawaiian percussion and nose flute are natural additives. The adept use of piano and steel guitar, even environmental sound effects, can also work in places. Generic faux string effects add nothing good.

The clean arrangement of "Waiomina" is a hint of what could have been. "Oma'oma'o Poni Moi" and "Beautiful Kahana" are also appealing ,although synth strings taint the latter.

"Lu'ulu'a I Na Ua Niu O Hanalei" is presented in separate mele and chant versions. It is impressive both ways, although the mele would be even better without faux strings. Providing at least a synopsis of the meaning would also make it accessible to the vast majority who do not speak fluent Hawaiian.

Kanilau moves outside Hawaiiana with a commendable update of the Little River Band's 1980 hit, "Cool Change." It is another asset to the repertoire.

Mpeg Audio Clips:
Bullet Lu'ulu'u I Na Ua Nui O Hanalei
Bullet Cool Change
Bullet Beautiful Kahana
Bullet Waiomina
Bullet Lu'ulu'u I Na Ua Nui O Hanalei
Quicktime | MPEG-3 info

Kanilau:; Fax 808-697-0125
Olinda Road Distributors: Phone 808-837-7703; Fax 808-837-7703; E-mail

See Record Reviews for some past reviews.
See Aloha Worldwide for locals living away.

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

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