Mon, 1 December 2014
1959 was a very good year for Hawaiian music. Perhaps instigated by the prospect of statehood and the possibility of wider mainland exposure for local Hawai`i artists, that year gave us some particularly good albums – so many, in fact, that the year warrants its own feature series here at Ho`olohe Hou before the Baby New Year whisks away the 55th anniversary of the year 1959.
Let’s start with this one…
There were few musical aggregations in the history of Hawai’i - or anywhere, for that matter - in which all the participants were as strong vocally as they were with their instruments. But The Surfers were. While some of their arrangements may seem dated so many years after, the musicianship is undeniably timeless. And the vocal harmonies were as intricate as any offered by the finest jazz vocal groups before or since - reminiscent of their mainland contemporaries such as the Four Freshmen or the Hi-Los. As rare as this combination is - in Hawai’i, only The Aliis or The Invitations came close in that era – now add brothers Clay and Al Naluai’s rapport with an audience and fearlessness for doing anything to make an audience come alive in the tradition of the Smothers Brothers.
Already several records into their contract with Los Angeles-based Hi-Fi Records (which was also the record label home of Arthur Lyman and his group), The Surfers’ musicianship and good humor shined through on their first and only Christmas LP, Christmas from Hawaii. But they were not alone in the endeavor. You may also recall reading here that the members of the group featured on the Hawaii Calls radio program were each sought after musicians in their own right – especially for studio work. Here The Surfers are joined by Hawaii Calls’ ubiquitous bassist Jimmy Kaopuiki and the show’s legendary steel guitarist Jules Ah See who makes his guitar sound like everything from church bells to a pipe organ for this session. Finally, the boys were joined by percussionist Harold Chang (of the Arthur Lyman group, and later drum teacher at Harry’s Music in Kaimuki) who shakes all manner of maracas and sleigh bells to create just the right atmosphere.
The Surfers Christmas in Hawaii ranks #25 on my list of the 25 Greatest Christmas Albums from Hawai`i, but it ranks even higher on the list of great albums produced by musicians from Hawai`i in 1959. I hope you enjoy this throwback to a simpler time – in Hawai`i or anywhere – more than 50 years ago.
Next time: #24 on Ho`olohe Hou’s list of the 25 Greatest Christmas Albums from Hawai`i…
Direct download: 25_Christmas_-_The_Surfers_-_Christmas_from_Hawaii.mp3
Category:50s and 60s -- posted at: 8:06am EDT