Thursday, May 27, 2010

Kapono Beamer "Slack Key Dreams of the Ponomoe"

While Kapono Beamer has often been overshadowed by his more famous older brother Keola, he is an equally talented guitar player and musician. After the break up of the group The Beamer Brothers, Kapono released a series of award winning and fairly successful instrumental albums. Unlike Keola, however, Kapono remained largely out of the spotlight and appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, with a new album every three to five years.

"Slack Key Dreams of the Ponomoe" released in 2005 is Kapono's last album to date and was nominated for that years Hawaiian Music Grammy. Kapono plays nearly every instrument on the album, aside from drums (Noel Okimoto) and Bass (Dean Taba). The album expands on Kapono's instrumental prowess that he displayed on earlier albums like "Paradise Found" and "Pana Aloha" and he again creates excellent atmospheric sound-scapes. He also for the first time in a decade writes new lyric songs that harken back to his 1970s heyday. Kapono has never had a very strong or distinctive voice but he crafts songs that play up his vocal strengths. This is Kapono's most accessible album to date and also his most creative, it is soothing and innovative. This is the recommended album from his catalog and will surely please fans of modern slack key music. Here's hoping that Kapono will come out with a new album soon that expands on this ones excellence.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Keola Beamer "Wooden Boat"

So I had previously wrote a long review of Keola Beamer's album Wooden Boat when I first started this blog last year. I am writing again because I have started to write an entry for all of the albums in my collection. Never the less I am going to try and keep this one short since there was a much longer post earlier.

Anyway, this is Beamer's first album for, Pianist George Winston's, Dancing Cat Records and is certainly Beamer's finest solo recording. As he always does he interchanges instrumental music with songs (lyrics) and weaves new compositions with traditional ones. The album uses the idea of Hawaiian navigation and sailing as a metaphor for traveling through time and generations. This is Beamer's most pop oriented and accessible album. It is an excellent showcase for Beamer's Slack Key Guitar stylings and his ability as a song-smith. Listing individual songs would be pointless as all the tracks are wonderful. It is often overlooked but Wooden Boat is one of Hawaiian Music's finest albums.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Keola and Kapono Beamer "Honolulu City Lights"

Considered by many to be the Greatest Hawaiian Music Album ever made. Honolulu Magazine listed it as number one on their "50 Greatest Hawaii Albums of all Time." While I don't put the album as number one I do think it is one of the top ten best Hawaiian albums.

Released in 1978 "Honolulu City Lights" was an immediate success and catapulted the Beamer Brothers from famous to superstars. The album, and three songs in particular, have become linked to Hawaii's cultural mindset. The title track is still played to this day at numerous occasions and has a timeless quality. The idea of leaving a place but not really wanting to go is a universal theme that is captured in this excellent song. "Only Good Times" is another nostalgic look at better days that became a staple of High School Graduations in Hawaii. "Kaliponi Slack Key" has become the Channel 2 news theme which is played every night over the end credits accompanying images of island residents doing the shaka. The Beamers effortlessly mixe traditional Hawaii songs and motifs like "Kamakani Ka Ili Aloha" with blissful pop "Love you all the Time" throughout the record, mixing traditional Hawaii instruments and Hawaiian Slack Key music stylings with a string orchestra and grand piano. All the elements blend perfectly to make a thoroughly enjoyable listening experience. Produced by 60s crooner Teddy Randazzo and Disc Jockey Tom Moffatt who add a professional and sleek feel to the proceedings. It is certainly one of the best Hawaiian albums and definitely the best the Keola and Kapono's career together, this is also one of the few albums that are still available from the pair, a must for any fan of Hawaiian Music and particularly those who enjoy 1970s style Hawaiian music.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Beach Boys Pet Sounds

I got this album about ten years ago when my mom called into a radio contest and won it. One of those "If you're the ninth caller you get a prize" radio contests. She won this, Santana's Supernatural and Aida Original Cast Recording. She then gave all three CDs to me and this is the only one of the three that I still have today. Considered by many to be one of the greatest albums ever made, it is on numerous lists of best albums. Sir Paul McCartney has often sighted Pet Sounds as one of his favorite albums and has called it an education in music.

This is truly the beginning of a new era in The Beach Boys career. They gained fame by popularizing, inventing?, Surf Rock which largely concentrated on songs about surfing, the beach, cool cars, and living under the California sun. This type of music was very popular and very fun to listen to but it often was considered very simplistic, don't get me wrong I love songs like "Surfin' USA" and "Help Me Rhonda" but they are very simple in idea and that is what makes them fun. With Pet Sounds The Beach Boys completely abandon all of the Surf ideas that made them popular, but retain their spectacular harmonies. The album is full of introspection and questions about life and the times we are living in. Brian Wilson is in complete control here and many of the songs seem to come from his individual point of view. This is truly The Beach Boys finest album because many of their other albums, particularly those before 1966, are simply song collections, twelve catchy songs packaged onto one disc. Here the thirteen tracks make a whole sound. There are the hit singles "Wouldn't it Be Nice," "Sloop John B," and "God Only Knows" but they fit into a bigger picture that is known as Pet Sounds. They have made more fun albums and much bigger sellers (if you just wants hits the compilation Sounds of Summer is your best bet) but The Beach Boys never made a more innovative or complete album than Pet Sounds.