Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Old Hawaiian Christmas (SeaWest Records)

Last week, I reviewed a Christmas comp that was the last present I received last December. This CD was the very first present I received.

Back in November, my good friend Martin Johns sent me his annual Christmas comps (which I'll be reviewing some time down the road). Inside the box was a wrapped Christmas package that read "DO NOT OPEN 'TIL DEC. 25". I dutifully tucked it under the tree and there it remained until Christmas morning.

What went through my mind on Christmas morning as my kids tore through their gifts with this CD staring at me in the face? I remembered reviewing Martin's 2005 comp "No Rain, No Rainbow: A Contemporary Hawaiian Christmas" and mentioning this very CD when reviewing a version of "Jingle Bells" in Hawaiian:

WOW! "Jingle Bells" in Hawaiian! Featured on the 2001 comp "Old Hawaiian Christmas" which is OOP? I'm about to cry here...

I also remembered that a year earlier, I sampled a track from Martin's comp for my 2007 Christmas CD - the hilarious track of the SeaWest Artists trying to record "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" played on the ukulele that came from this very CD.

I wanted to give Martin a hug - this was totally unexpected, I was thrilled to no end, and it added another great Christmas memory to a long line of Christmas memories. Without a doubt, it was the best wrapped Christmas CD I had ever received:

As you could tell by the date on the picture, I had a hard time opening this one up - the wrapping was such a festive part of the CD. But how does one listen to the music? I finally opened the CD and the cats had a field day with the ribbons.

I wish there was more I could tell you about SeaWest Records - their website seems to be offline, their recording studios in Pahoa, Hawaii are still open by all accounts, and searching for other releases on their label has come up short. Can anyone add any details?

I did manage to find a mini-review of this album from the Honolulu Star-Bulletin along with other Hawaiian Christmas releases in 2001. But nothing else much. Sooooo...


1.) Leka & D Nui of Ka'u - Old Hawaiian Christmas
This reworking of Lee Greenwood's "Lone Star Christmas" isn't too Hawaiian nor too Christmas. Next...

2.) Kevin & Joe of Pa'ani Pila - Mele Kalikimaka
This is a fool-proof song; you can't really screw it up and Lord knows many have tried. These guys do a fine job with their version.

3.) Bryan Kessler - What Child Is This?
A simple acoustic guitar with added surf effects gives it just a touch of a Hawaiian feel. Okay.

4.) Bradshaw Ellis of Pu'uwai - Po Hemolele
A lone ukulele, Bradshaw's fine tenor, add some great backing vocals, and you have an amazing Hawaiian version of "O Holy Night".

5.) Bruddah Smitty - Please Come Home For Christmas
With a great song and above par singing voice, how can you go wrong? From note one, it sounds like the entire band is on a programmed synthesizer churning out the beat (despite a fine harmonica solo). A canned feel throughout...

6.) Ken Emerson & Jordyn Pung - (Walking In A) Winter Wonderland
Ken plays the lap steel guitar and Jordyn shows an amazing maturity for a then-8th grader on vocals! The end result is a great version of this winter song!

7.) D Nui & Leka of Ka'u - Pretty Paper
Now we're talking - the guitars give it the Christmas feel and the fine Willie Nelson lyrics are sung well!

8.) Bruddah Smitty - Christmas Big Island
WOW! Very good original song by Smitty - no band in a can here!

9.) Ken Emerson & Orchestra - O Holy Night
Ken's guitar talents are on full display with both acoustic & lap steel guitar - the orchestra is fully synthesized and detracts whenever Ken isn't playing.

10.) Alicia Bay Laurel - Festival Of Lights
Man, this is so tranquil and Christmas-ey, I can't stand it! Laurel especially composed this song for this album and it deserves to be heard! Absolutely wonderful.

11.) Na Leo 'o Leilani - Jingle Bell Rock
To quote the liner notes: Na Leo 'o Leilani are a group of friends who got together at the recording studio... just for fun. [Producer] Rick played the guitar, ukuleles, and bass (all at the same time)... what a guy. Why not join us and 'sing along' with Jingle Bell Rock! I pass judgement on this one.

12.) Kevin & Joe of Pa'Ani Pila - Po La'i'e / Silent Night
Sung in English, Hawaiian, and both toward the end. Very reverent and Hawaiian all at once.

13.) Lindsey Trinidad - Merry Christmas Darling
Lindsey was a 16 yr. old high school student at the time of recording. Many synthesizers in effect.

14.) Ka'u featuring D Nui - Kani Na Pele / Jingle Bells
Sung straight in Hawaiian - this is more fun than a one horse open sleigh ride!

15.) SeaWest Artists - We Wish You A Merry Christmas
It gets funnier every time I hear it. Aw nerts!

This Christmas CD is out of print so if you can find a used copy, grab it because the pluses outweigh the negatives on this comp. Some tracks were great, others good, a few bad. But even the bad tracks have their moments to those without a Hawaiian Christmas ear.

"Old Hawaiian Christmas" is the 17th Hawaiian Christmas CD in my collection - Christmas organ took over as the largest sub-genre in my collection a while back. If I were to add two or three more Hawaiian Christmas CDs, it's right back at the top of the list. I have found a new goal for 2009!

Martin, many many mahalos for this gift. I'm glad to have it but even more happier to have you as a friend.


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