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Star-Bulletin Features

Friday, November 19, 1999


Very Willie Christmas



Bullet "Willie Kalikimaka" Willie K (Mountain Apple Co. - MACD 2062)

"O Holy Night" and a duet with Willie Nelson are two of the obvious highlights on "Willie Kalikimaka," the first solo album in four years by Willie Kahaiali'i -- known to all as Willie K. The on-going public demand for "O Holy Night" was one of the reasons he recorded a Christmas album and reason enough for his fans to buy it. All too many local artists enlist guests as a ploy to help sell the album and end up being overshadowed in the process. The "two Willies" prove well matched and a fine combination vocally on a country blues arrangement of "Away In A Manger."


Bullet Amy Hanaiali'i & Willie K.
Bullet When: 8 p.m. tonight.
Bullet Where: Hawaii Theatre.
Bullet Tickets: $25.
Bullet Call: 528-0506

Other songs likewise display Willie K's range as a song stylist and contemporary musician. His take on "Mele Kalikimaka" opens as a simple back porch jam but becomes increasingly imaginative as it plays out. It is one of several songs that contains melodic references to other songs. Picking out those melodic embellishments makes this Christmas album particularly interesting.

The liner notes don't mention that several songs are originals. "Christmas Bells" evokes subtle memories of Elvis without directly cloning any individual Elvis song. "Reggae Christmas" and "Merry Christmas" are also noteworthy. All three are Willie originals, while "Unto Us Is Born A King" is by Amy (She also sang background vocals).

Bobby Ingano (steel guitar) and James Ganeko (drums) join Willie as the studio band. Michelle Romero (cello) and Kim Mackenzie (viola) add the textures of live strings. A few anonymous orchestral contributions complete this impressive collection.

Mpeg Audio Clips:
Bullet Christmas Bells
Bullet Reggae Christmas
Bullet Away In A Manger
(with Willie Nelson)
Bullet Merry Christmas
Quicktime | MPEG-3 info

Mountain Apple Records:


Duo revives classics


Bullet "Nostalgia" Amy Hanaiali'i and Willie K (Mountain Apple Co. - MACD 2061)

Amy and Willie reaffirm the vitality of Hawaiian as a living language and showcase their personal imagination and versatility as well with this memorable album.

Almost all the selections are well-known English-language songs that either date from the Territorial Era or perpetuate the hapa-haole tradition. The duo presents them in Hawaiian and in a range of alternative genres ranging from pop to the blues.

A beautiful blues treatment of "Beyond The Reef" is an obvious highlight here.

Willie's seemingly limitless versatility is no surprise but "Nostalgia" shows that Amy is pretty flexible as well. After distinguishing herself singing progressive mainstream pop and then traditional Hawaiian she proves equally appealing here.

Her hugely popular Hawaiian albums positioned her as a leading acolyte of Genoa Keawe. "Nostalgia" finds her defining a sound and style all her own. Soft, assured and consistently seductive, she successfully places these classics into a fresh and modern perspective. Willie's arrangements are fascinating throughout and take these tunes far beyond the level of a backyard jam.

Song lyrics -- in both Hawaiian and English -- are included in the liner notes booklet that completes the package.

From "Rock-A-Hula Baby" to "Sophisticated Hula" to "Sweet Leilani" and more, this is one of the landmark albums of the year in Hawaiian music.

Mpeg Audio Clips:
Bullet Rock-A-Hula Baby
Bullet Waikiki
Bullet Beyond The Reef
Quicktime | MPEG-3 info

Mountain Apple Records:

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