Kalapana / Kalapana II / Aloha Got Soul – By Cal Gibson

Super review by Cal Gibson, of The Secret Soul Society and Scruffy Soul Recordings.

Roger Bong’s Honolulu-based Aloha Got Soul label is one of those imprints that it`s easy to admire: small, motivated by love and passion for lost gems from Hawaii’s past musical endeavours, they’ve recently opened a bricks and mortar store to go alongside their on-line activities. This is one cottage industry that is clearly in rude health.

Last year’s release of the debut Kalapana album turned out to be a record that I kept coming back to, drawn in by the laid back pot-pourri of soulful influences, stirred softly into something fresh and vibrant: reverberations from 1975 sounding out again, bold and bright and beautiful after all these years.

The follow up from 1976 saw the band (Mackey Feary, vocalist Malani Bilyeu, D.J. Pratt and Kirk Thompson) recording in California and producing themselves: the results being twelve more sophisticated slices of feel-good, soft-focus grooves – a cool meeting point for jazz, funk, soul and pop. A melting-pot of flavours that’ll be enticing to Steely Dan fans, for sure.

Love Em is a favourite, an easy glide sat atop Pretty Purdie-esque beats, a paean to loving your children that sounds perfect on day like today (it`s father’s day here in the UK…). Classic songwriting feels, moving into Lennon / McCartney territory. A real peach.

Black Sand lets the players stretch out, guitars fired up, echoes of classic Jeff Beck perhaps, before Kirk Thomson’s keys take over – warm and cascading, Hawaiian beaches caught on wax. Perfect for ushering in the summertime, you can hear the fun the musicians are having, letting loose and feeling free. Wonderful.

Freedom is another uptempo dancefloor outing: again some great lead vocal licks are surrounded by a stack of perfectly-pitched backing vocals, a firing sax break laying the cherry on top of a finely-chiselled groove. High energy, tons of soul: a band really on top of their game. Great stuff.

They can drop the tempo just as easily. Lost Again lopes along with a heavy heart, a tale of existential woe rendered in tender tones: 10cc meets Supertramp vibes given an island twist. Slow-paced but chock full of emotion – more excellently-sculpted songcraft without a doubt.

Its another brilliant offering from a label that’s found its own sweet spot, rediscovering the youthful ventures of Hawaiian musicians, and bringing them back for a worldwide audience – what’s not to love? Timeless beauty and super-sharp musicianship – that’s a formula that’s always going to work. Aloha Got Soul are ticking all the right boxes.

Kalapana`s Kalapana II will be released on June 26th, care of Aloha Got Soul.

You can hear some fine soulful musical selections from Cal Gibson, on the first Tuesday of every month, between 4 – 6PM UK time, on his Holy Rollers Radio Show, for Universal Rhythms. If you can’t catch it live, you`ll can find it archived here.

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