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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, November 17, 2002

Ilona, Aloha and Hula present lyrical island offerings, new and old

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

Two wahine who sing up a storm and a masterful collection of island classics from a label that still keeps pumping out quality stuff — there's good listening this week:

• • •

"Keep It Comin' " by Ilona (Hobo House on the Hill)

  • Genre: Island rhythms, hip-hop, soul.
  • Distinguishing notes: She's dropped the Irvine surname as she rides the crest of hip-hop, rap, ragga and rhythm 'n' blues. But Ilona retains that attitude, that voice, that power, and in this realm of the Hobo House hit factory, she is a warrior defining her own glow, delineating a beacon of her own. Production values are high, the songs have a seductive power, the performances are right there in the spirit of the times. Ilona has the goods, vocally and visually, to cross into the Mainland mainstream. She sounds very assured and confident in this bag of tricks, making wizardry out of such rap-tappers as "Bad," "It Ain't Right" and "Slow Jams."
  • The outlook: Guest artists, including Chief Ragga, Stacks and Joevan Brown, bring depth and nuances of maturity and manner — sure-fire pluses for the intended crowd. A natural for island rhythm playlists.
  • Our take: Ilona's journey reflects positive growth; for those who like her in a more soulful turn, "I Wouldn't Say I Love You," "I Always Will," "Keep It Comin' " and "Love" (her own composition) reflect a sweetness and tenderness from her earlier self.
"I Wouldn't Say I Love You" by Ilona. Audio sample available in mp3 and RealAudio formats.

• • •

"Take Me Home" by Aloha (Rukkus Entertainment)

  • Genre: Contemporary island sounds.
  • Distinguishing notes: Aloha (her unused last name is Plunkett) made her vocal debut on a KCCN-FM "Pride of the Islands IV" CD, so this solo venture puts her in her prime. The mix of cheerful rockaballads and love songs suits her well; some are covers, like "Yes, I'm Ready" and "La Isla Bonita," but a cluster of originals helps define who she is and where she wants to go. A handful of guest voices (Pati, TK, ANA) shows she's well rooted in the musical community.
  • The outlook: Aloha's originals have an easy-to-adopt flair, including a catchy title tune and "Baby Come Back." One of the best bets: "Morning," with a quiet disposition and tenderness.
  • Our take: With a name like Aloha, how can she miss?
"Morning" by Aloha. Audio sample available in mp3 and RealAudio formats.

• • •

"Don McDiarmid Jr. Presents Hula Records' Hits" by various artists (Hula Records)

  • Genre: Anthology of contemporary Hawaiian, traditional Hawaiian.
  • Distinguishing notes: Eighteen tracks, by as many artists, are a tribute to both the performers included here (all have evolved into powerhouse recording acts) and the man who had the vision to record them early on. The lead track, "Kawika," is a Peter Moon/Sunday Manoa entry, which, of course, features the voices of the Brothers Cazimero; it remains a repertory classic for the Caz today. Up and down the discs, memories abound: Genoa Keawe in her indelible "Alika," Ohta-san strumming out "Sushi," Myra English toasting one and all with "Drinking Champagne," Charles K.L. Davis interpreting "Paoakalani," Bill Kaiwa connecting with his signature "Boy From Laupahoehoe," Kawai Cockett illuminating "Beautiful Kaua'i," Gabby Pahinui with the Sons of Hawai'i commandeering "Panini Puakea," Loyal Garner mystifying "E Ku'u Morning Dew," Kui Lee saying goodbye via "When It's Time To Go."
  • The outlook: A flashback journey, documented in enlightening liner notes, typifies the day-in, day-out high-calibre, top-notch work from the folks at Hula Records.
  • Our take: A Christmas gift that will keep on giving for years; an anthology from which future generations of performers can learn.
"Kawika" by Peter Moon & the Cazimero brothers. Audio sample available in mp3 and RealAudio formats.