Wed, 20 February 2013
While we cannot cover the entire recorded history of Pua Almeida on the Waikiki Records label in a blog - with or without the constraints of time and word count - I needed to hear more than I offered up in my last post. I hope you agree. So here is still more of Pua Almeida from his most fruitful recording period of the early 1960s on Waikiki Records.
As noted in the last post, during this period Pua did not always record with his regular working group. But the group heard on this first selection is not merely “all-star,” but also “multi-generational.” From the Waikiki LP “My Son Pua,“ Pua plays the steel while his hanai father Johnny Almeida tinkles the mandolin and Bill Ali’iloa Lincoln sings the Prince Leleiohoku composition “Moani Ke ‘Ala.” Uncle Johnny then joins the vocal chorus before Pua takes over singing “The Girl In The Yellow Holoku.”
Credited to Pua Almeida and His Sunset Trio, the John Keawehawai’i composition “My Yellow Ginger Lei” could be found both on a Waikiki 45 r.p.m. and on the compilation LP “Do The Hula.” You hear the steel guitar of Billy Hew Len and the alternating piano and glockenspiel of Benny Saks, but we are left to wonder who is playing the ‘ukulele counterpart to Pua’s vocal. As mentioned previously, the “trio” in the group’s name is somewhat of a misnomer as there are at least six musicians here - steel guitar, rhythm guitar, ‘ukulele, bass, drums, and glockenspiel. Trio, indeed!
From the Waikiki compilation LP “Ku’uipo My Sweetheart,“ Pua Almeida and the Moana Serenaders give us “Lihue” featuring Billy Hew Len on steel and Pua and Kalakaua Aylett trading vocals. And from another Waikiki compilation entitled “Quiet Lagoon,” Pua and the Sunset Serenaders give us another rendition of “Sweet Someone” (a different version than we heard in a post a few days ago by Pua with Chick Floyd from the “Little Grass Shack” LP). This simple version features Billy Hew Len on a pedal steel guitar this time around. Both “Lihue” and “Sweet Someone” were released as 45 r.p.m. singles as well.
From my favorite Pua LP, “Surfrider,” Pua Almeida and His Polynesians offer a rollicking Latin-themed version of “Nani Ko’olau.” The steel guitar sits this one out, and instead we have the piano take the lead as with the group led by Pua’s friend and contemporary, Jesse Kalima.
And then a true curiosity. Some will contend that Pua made four LPs for the Waikiki label. But there were, in fact, only three. One was released twice with two different titles and two different covers! The album originally released as “Poolside Music Hawaiiana” was later re-released as “Dancing Under The Stars With Pua.” More curious still is that one song from the original LP was swapped out for a different tune on the reissue. The bizarre little tune has been forgotten by many, but here again at long last I give you Pua’s version of “Some Hawaiian Is Lying.” The swingin’ number features a great steel guitar solo by Joe Custino. One can only wonder why Waikiki Records chose to replace this song with another for the reissue. (Political correctness?)
And, finally, why not close the set with the song with which “Some Hawaiian Is Lying” had been replaced? From the Waikiki LP “Dancing Under The Stars With Pua” we hear the lovely medley of “Kai Hawanawana” and “Honolulu Tomboy” in fox trot tempo. In addition to Pua and the gang, we predominantly hear the fancy mandolin work once again of Pua’s hanai father, John Kameaaloha Almeida.
Next time: A tune by Pua that I would place a bet you have never heard before - only from the vaults of Ho’olohe Hou…