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‘The Songs of C&K’ – Good Time with Henry Kapono and Friends

‘The Songs of C&K’ – Good Time with Henry Kapono and Friends

It’s not easy becoming a household name in the islands, but Henry Kapono sure made it look that way. With a Grammy-nomination and countless Na Hoku Awards courtesy of the passion and diligence poured across 15 albums, it’s any wonder as to what Kapono can’t accomplish. These days the legendary artist has set his sights on something beyond him – the next generation of Hawaiian music stars. Kapono recently established the Henry Kapono Foundation, an organization dedicated to supporting Hawaiian music and its community of artists. Partnering with First Hawaiian Bank, Kapono brought together the scene’s current hitmakers for The Songs of C&K, a collaboration and celebration of Cecilio & Kapono’s beloved hits sung by today’s leading voices. The Songs of C&K might be a cover album, but with such a talented body of musicians, this collection will light the way forward for aspiring talent the same way Kapono did for all of the artists featured.

Kalani Pe’a is granted the honor of kicking off the album, covering Stevie Wonder’s “All In Love Is Fair,” one of Cecilio & Kapono’s most famous covers. Kalani is essentially doing a cover of a cover, but from there it only gets simpler. Kalani’s tenor evokes an old school vibe of a chart-topping ‘70s ballad, replete with vibratos and soul to spare.

Mike Love gets to bring his country sensibilities to “Lifetime Party,” injecting speed and a shuffling snare without losing the cowboy bliss of C & K’s original. Theirs might’ve been the nighttime sway, but Mike Love’s will appeal to anyone in the mood for some country line dancing.

Kimie Miner’s sunshine vocal reverie is unmistakable in “Highway in the Sun.” Forgoing Kapono’s elegant guitar picking in favor of a more subdued string arrangement (because, let’s face it, no one can pick better than Henry Kapono), the track is freed up to introduce a familiar reggae rhythm of upbeat keys and ascending horns. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think this was an original single off of Kimie’s latest album.

“Railway Stations” reverts back to a swinging country vibe, the album’s reins handed over to Blayne Asing. Yet, Blayne does one better with a jazz-like keyboard solo erupting in the middle of this cowboy stomp and clap tune. This cross-pollination of genres is what Kapono was renowned for. Four songs in, this collaboration doesn’t just sing, it sizzles.

Cecilio & Kapono’s “Sunflower” was originally stripped down and acoustic like that of John Lennon or Simon & Garfunkel. Through Alx Kawakami, the track gets a snare upgrade and a harmonica melody amidst Alx’s cascading breakdown. Keep those hands on your chest. Alx’s delicately smooth vocals might make your heart bloom.

For all of the artists featured on The Songs of C&K, Henry Kapono was a guiding inspiration. They all grew up revering Kapono’s deftness at the guitar and enchanted by his falsettos. If you can believe it, Kapono had no formal music training – which is perhaps why his story is so endlessly inspiring. Kapono’s rise signaled that all you needed to “make it” was a deep-seated passion and determination.

Order The Songs of C&K online or purchase at any First Hawaiian Bank Branch location.

Kapono’s early curiosity in music took the backseat as he rode on back-to-back athletic scholarships from Punahou going onto UH. Then, a debilitating injury derailed hopes of one day breaking into the big leagues. But, for an artistically-starved Kapono, it was a blessing in disguise.

Kapono spent his first few years as a musician floating by on small gigs at coffee shops, restaurants, any venue that would have him – a familiar formative story for artists like Kimie Miner and Anuhea (who isn’t on the album, although her and Kapono often headline events together across the islands). Kapono’s career took off in a big way when he met Cecilio Rodriguez in the ‘70s, the two forming Hawaii’s first-ever group to be signed by Columbia Records. They became an instant phenomenon, releasing 3 albums that blended their traditional Hawaiian slack-key sensibilities with then contemporary folk rock. It was a fusion of style and genre that has enraptured the very generation of artists assembled for The Songs of C&K. Kapono dares them to do something even braver than covering his and Cecilio’s songs – light the way forward for the next generation.

“You and Me” gets a smoky, yet quietly powerful rendition through Starr Kalahiki’s alluring voice. Deep bellows of love to whisper-quiet pleas to stay, Starr elevates Kapono’s Crosby, Stills & Nash-inflected original and makes it akin to something right out of her own jazz repertoire.

Surfer-turned-musician Landon McNamara gets the honor of covering “Goodtimes Together,” easily Cecilio & Kapono’s most famous track and granted a modern reggae makeover. McNamara knows he can’t top a popular Hawaii singalong, instead incorporating C & K’s vocals in his cover and creating a catchy call and response melody. Delighting in a classic while at the same time being featured on it, McNamara gets to have his cake and eat it too.

Josh Tatofi – labeled the Polynesian Luther Vandross – uses his soulful vibrato to travel back in time for “About You.” Tatofi is perfectly at home not just in this range, but in this veritable love ballad-era in which the song was written. That is perhaps the most astonishing part about The Songs of C&K, its pure transporting quality.

Cecilio & Kapono’s “Home (And I’m Staying)” was known for its subtle guitar arrangement. Tavana reimagines it as a rocking blues anthem, adding a dash of vocal spunk to this home-is-where-the-heart-is poem.

Paula Fuga slows things down with “Song For Someone.” Despite the original being a duo, Paula assumes vocal duties all by herself, exuding an R&B gravitas like that of Alicia Keys. Paula’s moonlight serenade will surely have you reaching for that special someone.

The Songs of C&K ends with the ensemble singing along in “Friends.” A beautiful unison of artists with unique voices, altogether chanting Kapono’s classic ode to friendship and the many ways it colors our world. It’s a colorful world indeed. Feel free to add your own voice to this inviting singalong that has been around for generations, and, with this new rendition, is guaranteed to last for generations more.

It’s impossible not to feel rapturous or celebratory while listening to The Songs of C&K. It is, after all, a celebration. For Kapono the pioneer but even more so for this collection of artists keeping the good vibes going, every one of them household names in their own right. Them putting their unique stamp on Cecilio & Kapono’s songs is itself an ode to Kapono’s own fusion of genre and contemporary style in moving the needle forward. These artists have done just that while paying tribute to the man they owe it all to. Backed by First Hawaiian Bank, Kapono was able to fully realize The Songs of C&K – a project that literally bridged generations together, uniting them to peer beyond themselves and towards the horizon. The Henry Kapono Foundation was created to support the next generation of Hawaiian music stars and welcoming them with the spirit of aloha. The future is in good hands, and, glancing at the cover of The Songs of C&K, it is certainly in good company.

Order The Songs of C&K online or purchase at any First Hawaiian Bank Branch location.

 

Photo of Adrian Manuel - a freelance writer from Maui, Hawaii

Adrian Manuel is a freelance writer. He’s published articles on Thought Catalog, written a flash piece for A Quiet Courage, and submitted feature essays for The Good Men Project and Mamalode. He also runs an entertainment news blog where he reports on film, television, and music. He lives in Maui.

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