Israel, or "Iz," as he is known to his fans, was Hawaii's most popular singer until his death in 1997. His version of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" is still in demand. This album features his intimate vocals with a full orchestra.
Even a decade after his death at age 38 in 1997, Israel "Iz" Kamakawiwo'ole remains Hawaii's best-known and most beloved singer. His career began when he and his older brother, Skippy, formed a group in their hometown near Honolulu. The two performed together until the latter died in 1982. The band continued on for some years but it was Iz's haunting voice, with its searing yet limpid falsetto, that captured the popular imagination. Indeed, his 'ukulele-laced version of "Over the Rainbow" is widely thought to be the only interpretation that could possibly stand up to Judy Garland's original. Now that the definitive retrospective, Alone in IZ World
(2001), has been released, it is perhaps inevitable that new arrangements should be slipped in under Iz's inimitable, indelible vocal tracks. The good news is, however, that these particular lush orchestrations, while totally superfluous, are nonetheless respectful and in good taste, never overwhelming the singing (as if anything could!). There are no revelations, but, fortunately, no unpleasant shocks, either. Perhaps, had he lived, Iz might have decided to go this route anyway. As with Louis Armstrong's (the title of this album refers to Iz's own cover of "What A Wonderful World") and Buddy Holly's string-backed experiments, it's simply yet another way to celebrate the legacy of a departed genius. --Christina Roden