Island Mele: ‘He Inoa’ worth the wait
REVIEW BY JOHN BERGER / firstname.lastname@example.org
Hollywood icon Orson Welles became famous late in life for proclaiming on behalf of the Paul Masson Vineyards that “We will sell no wine before its time.”
That same principle can be said to apply to Maunalua. The trio — the two founding members, “Uncle Bobby” Moderow Jr., and Kahi Kaonohi, plus Richard Gideon — is celebrating the release of it’s first album since 2007. Eight years, give or take a few months, is a long time in the music business, but “He Inoa” lives up to the expectations set by Maunalua’s three previous albums in all respects.
“He Inoa” is the group’s first album with Gideon as the third member of the group. He fits in perfectly. The opening notes of the first song, “Maunalua He Inoa,” are all it takes to quell any concerns about that.
A medley of “Hilo One” and “Hula O Makee” is the first of several fine showcase numbers for Moderow’s falsetto. It’s as high and as ever, ditto the trio’s harmonies. Kaonohi’s electric bass gives Maunalua its instrumental foundation; he too is in top form vocally.
“‘Ohai Kealoha” is third instant favorite. The trio does a beautiful job with it, vocally and instrumentally. Studio guest Casey Olsen’s steel guitar accents the old-time ambiance.
Falsetto vocalizing makes the trio’s arrangement of “”Ku‘u Pua Mae‘ole” yet another impressive song. “He Punahele No ‘Oe” shows that the guys can harmonize beautifully in their lower register voices too.
And, although Maunalua is rightly known for its arrangements of Hawaiian standards, the trio also introduces a new hapa-haole song written by Moderow. “Spirit of Hawai‘i” expresses his love of the islands in terms that everyone can relate to.
Maunalua’s first three albums were all Hoku Award-winners. Not to jinx it, but “He Inoa” is certainly one of the front runners for Na Hoku Hanohano Award honors in 2016.