Friday, June 15, 2007

Hawaiian Christmas (TWO REVIEWS)

As far as I can remember, I've always had an affinity for Hawaiian music. Somewhere among my archives is a picture of me in a fourth grade school play where I play an obnoxious tourist flying to Hawaii.

If that ever surfaces (think Jimmy Hoffa), I'll be sure to post it...

Some time in high school, I began actively searching out Christmas music. I cannot recall what was the very first Hawaiian Christmas music album in my collection but I was hooked, lined, and sinkered onto that genre.

I tried to find as much Hawaiian holiday hulas as I could find. When the smoke cleared, it emerged as the largest sub-genre of my collection (until Christmas organ overtook it last year).

These sat on my upgrade list for quite awhile until two wonderful people named PDMan (from the FaLaLaLaLa community) and Ernie (of Ernie (Not Bert)) came through in a big way last year.

The first album (pictured above) by the Paradise Islanders was offered by PDMan at back last December and not only did it have complete artwork but it was in glorious STEREO!

I wish I could give you the background of the group but there's very little out there. According to the Goldmine Christmas Record Price Guide, "Christmas In Hawaii" was released, both in mono and stereo, in 1961 on Decca Records.

The album is strictly instrumental, contains lots of pedal steel guitar, vibraphone, and ukuleles - giving it the classical Hawaiian sound with a Christmas flavor.

Standout tracks include "Jingle Bell Rock", "Mele Kalikimaka" (might be the perfect instrumental version of this one), and two exceptional medleys ("The First Noel", "O Holy Night", and "Joy To The World" in the first medley, "Adeste Fideles", "Deck The Halls", and "Silent Night" in the second) that are perfect in conception and execution!

"Christmas In Hawaii" is perfect for the luau, the office boombox during Christmas time, a cold VFW dinner with relatives on a cold, December night, or any time you want to feel Hawaiian or Christmas-y.

The next album was offered by Ernie way back in 2005 (the first time I downloaded it). For some strange reason, I was missing the back cover on this one (an errant mouse click I believe). Ernie thankfully shared it again last year and presto! There was the sought after back cover and some much needed background info on the group! To quote:

"THE SURFERS are all native Hawaiians. 21-year old Clayton Naluai is leader of the group, singing tenor and baritone. Alan Kalani, age 20, sings high tenor. The 18-year old baritone voice heard is that of Pat Sylva and 19-year old Bernie Ching sings bass.

"The arrangements, which are all their own, give their voices the unusual quality of sounding like the brass section of an orchestra. When singing as a group their voices blend perfectly, with no one voice standing out in front of the others.

"With THE SURFERS are Harold Chang, who plays bongos and shakes mararas and sleigh bells for Santa Claus; James Kaopinki, who keeps the bass rhythm; and Jules Ah See, who comes in on chimes and plays a really clever Hawaiian steel guitar. Jules, at times, makes the electric steel guitar sound like an organ which with a bowed string bass is quite effective.

"If you like Christmas, you will find this album an unusual Christmas treat."

The understatement to end all understatements. The voices and harmonies are reminiscent of a barbershop quartet. Add in the Hawaiian element, then sprinkle Christmas all over it, and this is quite the San Honolulu treat!

Standout tracks? "Here Comes Santa In A Red Canoe" is the first song on the album and a Hawaiian Christmas song that should be right up there with "Mele Kalikimaka" - quaint, funny, and extremely catchy. You'll be humming this one for hours after you hear it.

Others include "Deck The Halls", "Hawaiian Santa" (another song that should be up there with "Mele Kalikimaka"), "Adeste Fideles" (in Hawaiian!), "Come Dance And Sing" (to the tune of "Carol Of The Bells"), "Jingle Bells", "Winter Wonderland" (with intro intact! WOW!), and a touching "Silent Night" (sung in Hawaiian).

This above the rest album was released in 1959 on HiFi Records. If these lads were in their early 20s then, that means most should be in their late 60s now - I would love to hear from any of the Surfers about their careers, other albums they recorded (Ernie reported he found at least one other from them), and what they've been up to since.

PDMan and Ernie, mahalo! Nice scores, gents!

UP NEXT: The first of 125+ Christmas albums I downloaded last Christmas!



Puckwheat said...

Am I the only one that thinks that Santa looks like Avery Schrieber on this cover? OK, showing my age again! Glad to see the link is still good for this, too!

Ernie said...

I don't know why, but I have loved "Here Comes Santa In A Red Canoe" since I brought this record home. Did I mention I picked this up for a dime? Oh, yea...

CaptainOT said...

Puckwheat - When I saw Santa, I thought the exact same thing - it's Avery Schreiber!

You know what I mean, huh? Yeah.
Huh? Yeah.
Huh? Yeah.
Huh? The same thing!

Ernie - Gotta love those dime specials... and this one's a beaut! Mahalo for offering this!