Wed, 10 September 2014
I could have “tagged” this article under either of the recently introduced Ho`olohe Hou theme categories prompted by my on-going investigation of the life and music of Alvin Kaleolani Isaacs. I introduced a segment entitled “OOPs” – my shorthand for “out of print” treasures – to discuss Alvin’s collaboration with Sam Kahalewai on the album entitled A Lei Of Songs From Sam. And I introduced a segment entitled “`Ohana” – Hawaiian for “family” – to talk about Alvin’s musical sons. This article is where these two topics joyously intersect – an out-of-print LP featuring not one, not two, but all three of the musical Isaacs sons along with their father.
When I introduced the ridiculously titled “OOPs” segment at Ho`olohe Hou, I explained that not everything that is out of print is worthy of being heard again. The double-entendre in “OOPs” is my not-so-humble opinion that it is a huge mistake that the recording in question is no longer available because of its historical or cultural significance. So here are the criteria for which Alvin Kaleolani Isaacs & Sons earns its “OOPs” status:
And because it was recorded in the modern era, it is in a sense like listening to a modern-day recreation of the Royal Hawaiian Serenaders – the super-group Alvin led nearly thirty years earlier when technology could not adequately capture the magic that Alvin, George Kainapau, Benny Kalama, and Tommy Castro were making. Thus Alvin Kaleolani Isaacs & Sons is a throwback to a time when Hawaiian music was much different than it was becoming when this LP was made in 1978.
The album featured Alvin’s sons Barney on steel guitar, Atta on slack key guitar (and, occasionally, rhythm guitar), and Norman on bass as well as their voices combined in harmony. Here they perform a series of Isaacs originals – opening with “I Want To Be Hawaiian,” a song to which I can relate with every fiber of my being, with lead vocals by Papa Alvin. Norman takes the lead vocal – in his full tenor in one key and in his falsetto during the key changes on the repeat of each verse – on the first and still only recording of Alvin Isaacs’ “Kau`iokalani” (not to be confused with another more popular Isaacs composition by the similar title “Kau`ionalani” which has been covered by everybody from Kapena to the Lim Family to Amy Hanaiali`i Gilliom). And they close out the set with Papa taking the lead vocal on his composition “Ho`owali La” (a favorite of Na Hoa’s Halehaku Seabury-Akaka and one which he performs with aplomb).
Ho`olohe Hou will revisit this album time and again until faithful listeners have heard it in its entirety. Until then, I hope you have savored this brief taste of an out-of-print classic featuring the combined talents of the Isaacs `ohana – father and sons.
Next time: Alvin Isaacs’ longtime musical partner revisits his friend’s compositions and the classic sound of the Royal Hawaiian Serenaders (of which they were both members)…