CD Reviews: Darlene Ahuna, Hiromi Kanda, Tommy Walker & PacRim Friends, Keola Beamer and Raiatea Helm
By Wayne Harada
Special to The Advertiser
Daniel Ho Creations
Following an extended time away from music, singer-guitarist Darlene Ahuna has returned with a beauty — including love tunes and place songs, new ditties and classics — that herald her breezy homecoming.
Overview: The title number is a poignant contribution from Amy Kuuleialoha Stillman and Daniel Ho (the latter is the CD's producer), the reboot of "Hiilawe" lovely and personal, "Nani Kauai" and "Hilo One" revealing postcards of Island-hopping, "Pauoa Liko Ka Lehua" a stroll down her personal memory lane. In short: a keeper. And a nominee in this year's Na Hoku Hanohano Awards.
|Sample song: "Aloha Pumehana" by Darlene Ahuna|
"Hiromi in Love"
Hiromi Kanda is a Japan native, with jazz in her heart, born two generations too late. This chanteuse admits "that old feeling is still in my heart" and backed by Honolulu Symphony musicians (plus other local notables) conducted by Matt Catingub, she sounds like a hottie from the big-band era, despite her accented delivery.
Overview: The question looms: to whom is she directing her passion? No denying, she has the looks, the phrasing, the soul and the style of a classic jazz storyteller, sashaying through evergreens ("How Deep Is the Ocean," "Someone to Watch Over Me," "My Funny Valentine," "All the Way") plus some originals ("Always Here for You," "Blue Love") Is she out of sync? Ahead of her time? A novelty? The jury is still out.
|Sample song: "When I Fall In Love" by Hiromi Kanda|
TOMMY WALKER & PACRIM FRIENDS
Religious Pacific Rim
This multi-lingual Japan-Hawaii version of Tommy Walker and PacRim Friends sharing Christian music is overpowering and over the top, with pop tempos penetrating the tributes to the Lord. It's contagious, celebratory, moving.
Overview: Produced by native son Koa Siu, this is joy-and-jubilation fare from prolific messiah Walker, whose praise-worthy message is shared in three tongues. But you don't need to understand Japanese or English (one cut, "I'm Forgiven," even includes Hawaiian) to see the light, and you have to be a real cynic not to feel the elation. Titles shape the tale: "He Came," "Find Me Faithful," "I'm So Glad," "Now Is the Time." In Walker's hands, theology rocks!
|Sample song: "Now Is the Time" by Tommy Walker and PacRim Friends|
KEOLA BEAMER AND RAIATEA HELM
"Keola Beamer &Raiatea"
Keola Beamer and Raiatea Helm represent two generations of Islands artists: the recent past (him) and the present (her). This collaboration is a solid bridge of unexpected surprises, percolating with remarkable imagination and appealing insights.
Overview: "Ina," a Hawaiian treatment of John Lennon's vision of a better place, typifies and punctuates the Beamer-Helm union, re-imagining "Imagine" two years ago after their first meeting, recording it here for the first time. Beamer, a slack-key guitarist-singer, reinvents fare from his family's scrapbook, including "Kimo Hula" and "Ke Ali'i Hulu Mamo," signatures by great-grandmother Helen Desha Beamer, and handily enables Helm to develop new vocal strengths that spurred his creative juices. Beamer jump-starts "You Somebody," from his stage collaboration with Lee Cataluna, with a Helm solo assuring that they are both "somebodies."
|Sample song: "Ina" by Keola Beamer and Raiatea|