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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, February 22, 2004

Na Leo Pilimehana revives an oldie for 20th anniversary

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

Na Leo Pilimehana's debut two decades back stirs memories, but also reinforces the trio's appeal and growth over the years. The re-issue of a previously out-of-print recording is happy news.

A new trio, Kani Makou, makes an impressive debut with a collection of contemporary Island sounds.

And Mark Coleman, a journalist by trade who happens to sing, still struggles to get radio support.

"LOCAL BOYS" by Na Leo Pilimehana; NLP Music.

Genre: Adult contemporary.

Distinguishing notes: Long out of print, this collection re-released for their 20th anniversary by Na Leo — Lehua Kalima (now Heine), Angela Fernandez (now Morales) and Nalani Jenkins (now Choy) — is welcome fun. Kind of like a high school reunion, with memories sharp as a tack and melodies as crisp now as they were then. The trio, from the Kamehameha Schools, first stirred attention by winning the Brown Bags to Stardom contest in 1984, affording them the opportunity to record "Local Boys," which initially raised a small tempest over its jiving lyrics stating a preference for non-blonds. That tune has become a standard in the women's repertoire over the past two decades — so its re-introduction is dandy for those who missed the boat the first time around. Other material, rich in harmony and blessed with stellar musicianship, doesn't sound dated at all, since the trio has kept the momentum going over the past two decades. "Rum 'n' Coca Cola," "Waikiki," "Kumukalidadidi" and "Chalangalang Blues" retain the bounce and fun. Two bonus tracks, "Stray Cat Strut" and "I Just Called To Say I Love You," open and close the journey; the former originally was a song-contest entry by the group, the latter was the No. 1 hit of their launch year, 1984.

The outlook: This CD will re-inforce the growth that has made the threesome a winsome fave.

Our take: Charming listening, from start to finish, and irresistibly romantic in the Na Leo tradition.

"EASY STYLIN'" by Kani Makou; Score Records.

Genre: Island contemporary; Jawaiian.

Distinguishing notes: Kani Makou is the trio of Shaun Reyes, Chad Kim and Shane Mahiai, who all sing and play instruments ('ukulele, bass, guitar). This collection of contemporary Island tunes, marked by the lingering Jawaiian-reggae rhythms, is tailor-made for radio programmers who favor the genre. The sound is fresh, even if the concept isn't, with such original tunes as "Cruizin' " (one of two Glenn Medeiros compositions here), "Rock N Groove," "Beach Party" and "Local Girl." Jon Yamasato adds his ballad presence on "Angel Tonight" and Three Plus' Karl Zinsman shows up on "I Wanna Be Her Man" (the other Medeiros cut). And a track worth zooming in on is Peter Moon's "Guava Jam" from way back when.

The outlook: Producer Dave Tucciarone's vision and flair for what's hot and hip add appeal to the overall flavor of the CD.

Our take: Kani Makou is easy to embrace, easy to enjoy; should emerge as one of the town's top acts.

"OUTSIDE THE CIRCLE" by Mark Coleman; Kekela Sounds.

Genre: Adult contemporary, with country and rock/blues elements.

Distinguishing notes: Mark Coleman is a journalist by trade, and a singer, composer and performer whenever time allows. Thus, this CD is undoubtedly a labor of love and an expression of his artistic side. The good news is that in this, his third album, he continues to perform his original songs; if there's any bad news, it might be that the overall selections are not totally commercial in terms of radio support. The opening track, "Hey There, Brother," is Coleman's most appealing effort, with a carefree, easy-to-take attitude about enjoying the pleasures of life and aging, kind of an "Ain't No Big Thing" update in tone and in temperament. A bit of the blues ("Sad About You"), a dollop of rock ("Furnace") and a boot-shuffling country tune ("Red Light") provide welcome variety. Heck, "Please Don't Hate Me" is a right-on country-rocker with a resourceful '60s feel ... one you could easily get to love. And the title tune is folkie reflection.

The outlook: Solid, dependable musical accompaniment enhances the vocal experience. And a gamut of instruments — harmonica, pedal steel, banjo, horns and more — add to the joy.

Our take: Don't quit the day job, Mark, but keep on chugging.

Reach Wayne Harada at wharada@honoluluadvertiser.com, 525-8067, or fax 525-8055.