Tue, 9 December 2014
For his label’s first holiday release, Hula Records’ owner Donald “Flip” McDiarmid II assembled a cast of his label stars for something not unlike a TV variety program hosted by Andy Williams or Perry Como. The artists went into the studio to professionally record their holiday favorites, somebody wrote a script, then an engineer haphazardly laced together the dialogue recorded later with the songs recorded earlier to make it sound like a bunch of friends were casually sitting around the hearth for an impromptu holiday gathering and sing-along. But it was anything but, and without the festive visuals that usually accompany such holiday fare – the Baldwin grand piano, the roaring fire, the pretty girl singer in a red dress and a Santa cap with the white pompom flopped askew in a not-quite-accidentally-sexy way – the concept falls flat.
However, what McDiarmid did accomplish was giving the world the second of two holiday LPs which largely featured the cast of the Hawaii Calls radio program. It simply wasn’t entitled Hawaii Calls Christmas as there was already an official LP by that title,but most of the artists featured on Mele Kalikimaka – A Hawaiian Christmas Party were indeed Hawaii Calls program regulars. In other words, this is the Hawaii Calls holiday album that few know about.
The set opens with Jimmy Kaopuiki leading the men of Hawaii Calls in an Alex Anderson composition, “Holiday Hula.” Barney Isaacs plays the brief-but-joyful steel guitar solo. Composed by the same gentleman who gave us “Lovely Hula Hands,” “Haole Hula,” and countless other hapa-haole gems, the lyric to this song published in 1954 was rarely heard between this 1960s recording and the recording from only the last few years by Robi Kahakalau. There is also a lovely instrumental version by `ukulele player Kalei Gamiao.
Next brother and sister Boyce Kaihiihikapuokalani and Nina Keali`iwahamana – both stars of Hawaii Calls during this period – team up for our theme song here in New Jersey, “Spring Spends The Winter In Hawaii.” But then Hilo Hattie rubs it in a little worse with her reflections on Christmas weather in Hawai`i – among other nuances of the holiday that differ in the islands – with “Santa’s Hula” featuring the steel guitar of Joe Custino.
And, of course, the host for this faux fest is none other than Hawai`i’s favorite faux senator K.K. Kaumanua, the alter ego of comedian Kent Bowman.
Despite the stilted dialogue and forced holiday fun, because of the stellar cast of characters the album merits a spot on Ho`olohe Hou’s 25 Greatest Christmas Albums from Hawai`i. Because the album has been rereleased in the digital era, you can still enjoy the entire album on Spotify, Rhapsody, and other streaming music services or by purchasing the MP3 version from iTunes, Amazon.com, and practically anywhere MP3s are sold.
But there is more to the story. Nearly half of the album featured the voice of Hawaii Calls singing star Nina Keali`iwahamana. So is this also the Christmas album that Nina’s fans have always longed for?
Next time: #16 on Ho`olohe Hou’s list of the 25 Greatest Christmas Albums from Hawai`i… And more from Nina and the Christmas album her fans wish she had made…
Direct download: 17_Christmas_-_Various_Artists_-_Mele_Kalikimaka.mp3
Category:50s and 60s -- posted at: 5:12am EDT