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Kenneth S. Fujii "shokenjii" RSS Feed (Fresno, CA)

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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "I show my biases and a generation gap ... ", November 29, 2006
This review is from: Wintersong (Audio CD)
I show my biases and a broad generation gap in saying that I listened to this recording three times before developing an appreciation for Sarah McLachlan - I had not heard her music before - although local radio stations play Sarah's tracks often, according to my more-up-to-date wife. I bought the CD through Amazon as a concession to something other than traditional carols, having always enjoyed Yoko and Johnny's "Happy Xmas (War is Over)," as well as "Christmastime is Here" by Vince Guaraldi and Lee Mendelson, in addition to the more traditional "In The Bleak Mid-Winter." In my opinion, the song selection - a seamless blend of contemporary songs with old standards and traditional carols -- is the strength of this very personal Christmas songbook.

Ms. McLachlan's Christmas messages of joy and sadness are timely, appropriate - reflecting the mixed views of our presently troubled nation. Joni Mitchell's "River," Gordon Lightfoot's "Song For A Winter Night," and the artist's own "Wintersong" are present-day complements to songs of an earlier generation -- "I'll Be Home For Christmas" (I still remember the tears in Mom's eyes every time Bing Crosby crooned the song during WW II) and Judy Garland's "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" (by Ralph Blane and Hugh Martin, from the film "Meet Me In St. Louis,") -- and the traditional carols, "O Little Town Of Bethlehem, The First Noel / Mary, Mary (and) Silent Night."

However, my personal favorite is "What Child Is This? (Greensleeves)" - respectively, William Chatterton Dix's 1865 lyrics coupled with a traditional English folk tune -- a haunting and unforgettable lullaby of new Mother with Child, refugees in a Middle East land, ravaged by war and occupied by a military superpower.

Time passing will tell us if this CD is equal to or better than Patty Loveless' "Blue Grass & White Snow, A Mountain Christmas," or Mariah Carey's "Merry Christmas" -- two Christmas albums of considerable merit I reviewed earlier. In the meantime, "Wintersong" deserves an honored place in everyone's music collection.

Bluegrass & White Snow: A Mountain Christmas
Bluegrass & White Snow: A Mountain Christmas
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars " ... Thoroughly Impressed ... ", November 22, 2006
By almost any musical standard applied to "Blue Grass & White Snow: A Mountain Christmas," the conclusion has to be -- this CD is exceptional. The production values, the sound engineering, the arrangements and harmonies, the song selection, the instrumentals, the quality background vocals, and of course, Patty Loveless - all are a once in a lifetime happening.

Please read the reviews by others - they are considerably more knowledgeable and better informed than any comments I can offer. I am an only a thoroughly impressed listener, hearing the CD for the first time last week.


Merry Christmas
Merry Christmas
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "This IS the Joy of Christmas", November 1, 2005
This review is from: Merry Christmas (Audio CD)
My mother (now approaching 90 years) has always said, "... the Christmas Season begins when Bing Crosby sings `White Christmas'" - seeing the holidays differently, our young friends, Jess and Jamaica, gave me a cassette of Mariah Carey's "Merry Christmas," some years back. I was grateful; but I anticipated exchanging it at Borders after Christmas - it was, after all, music of the "younger generation."

Because Jess told me of how much thought went into the gift purchase, I was persuaded to play the cassette - and, as they say, "... the rest is history." This gospel-rock album is Christmas Music Hall of Fame material - it's already the most popular Christmas recording in our house. This IS the Joy of Christmas!

Except for a respectful and reverent "Silent Night" (track 1), "Merry Christmas" is a rousing, upbeat, house rocking celebration - my favorite is Phil Spector's "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" - sorry, Motown, we like Mariah's version (with Lenny Pickett on sax) better than Darlene Love's in the 1960s album, "A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector," while respecting Darlene and Phil's legacy.

Although widely unrecognized when it happened, the first Christmas was the seminal event of Western Civilization - now a joyous time of year, commemorating the glorious music of angels above a humble stable, sheltering a brilliant new light. I have included a shortlist of Christmas music (in addition to "Merry Christmas"), listened to most often at our house - to enjoy and celebrate that event.

In alphabetical order ... E. Power Biggs with the Columbia Chamber Orchestra: "Music for a Merry Christmas" ... Liona Boyd: "A Guitar for Christmas" ... The Cambridge Singers and Orchestra / John Rutter: "Christmas Star" ... Carpenters: "Christmas Portrait" ... Celestial Harmonies: "Celestial Christmas" ... Chicago: "Chicago XXV" ... Bing Crosby: "White Christmas" ... Arthur Delmoni: "Rejoice! A String Quartet Christmas" ... Percy Faith and His Orchestra: "Music of Christmas" ... Gaither Gospel Series: "Joy To The World" ... Wynona & Naomi Judd: "Christmas Time With The Judds" ... Maranatha Music: "Long Play Christmas" ... Na Leo Pilimehana: "Christmas Gift(s) 1 & 2" ... Eugene Ormandy (with the) Philadelphia Orchestra: "Joy To The World" ... Luciano Pavarotti: "O Holy Night" ... Jean-Pierre Rampal, Alexandre Lagoya, and Michel Legrand: "Pastorales De Noel" ... Robert Rheims: "Christmas Organ & Chimes, Vol. 2" ... Sheila Walsh: "Peace" ... George Winston: "December, Piano Solos: 20th Anniversary."

The Best of Emma
The Best of Emma
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Not Forgetting Details of Her ... Grace and Charm", October 28, 2005
This review is from: The Best of Emma (Audio CD)
After retirement from the steel business, Dave (with his wife, Virginia) spent each winter at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Honolulu, a pleasant escape from the chilly weather of central Ohio. I remember having breakfast with him at the Royal's Surf Room some years ago, where we were discussing local music changes during the 1980s. "It's not like it used to be" -- he said, as his eyes filled with tears -- "they're not like Emma" (although she was still active with special performances). He continued a monologue for some time about Emma - remembering few of her songs, but not forgetting details of her appearance, grace and charm. Emma made a favorable and lasting impression on generations of Mainland tourists who loyally attended her performances at the Halekulani or Royal Hawaiian, and bought her records, as Dave certainly did.

"The Best of Emma" is divided into three sections - much like her live performances. The first group of songs is her established favorites - mostly hapa haole - and the second group is traditional Hawaiian songs, sung mostly in the native language. She finishes with international songs from Japan, China, the Philippines, and Korea (music of the Islands' early settlers) - all sandwiched between her opener, Charles King's "The Hawaiian Wedding Song" (Ke Kali Nei Au) and the closer, Kui Lee's "I'll Remember You." I particularly enjoy "Kamehameha Waltz," "I'll Weave A Lei Of Stars For You," "Tutu," and "Chamarita," as well as the opener and closer - but, everything that Emma sings has become one of her classics.

The Gabby Pahinui Hawaiian Band, Vol. 1
The Gabby Pahinui Hawaiian Band, Vol. 1
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is not "Brown Gabby", October 24, 2005
This is not "Brown Gabby" (the 1972 sepia - brown tone album jacket entitled, "Gabby" -- which helped to reassert both his popularity and traditional Hawaiian music -- featuring Gabby's favorite song, "Hi'ilawe,"). But "The Gabby Pahinui Hawaiian Band, Vol. 1" ("Volume 1") is my favorite Hawaiian recording - largely because of the track, "Moonlight Lady" (you traditionalists can "barf," to quote Michelle Wie). This is akin to public admission of liking hapa haole music -- which I do, without embarrassment.

Guitar players from Japan and Mexico always carried home Volume 1 after Island visits; and together with renewed slack key interest, this album (released in 1975) influenced emerging Hawaiian guitar and ukulele pickers. Ry Cooder's presence was inspiring for this Big Island recording session; but the all-star group of Gabby and his sons, Bla and Cyril, together with Randy Lorenzo, "Joe Gang" Kapahu, Atta Isaacs, and Sonny Chillingworth were already bigger than life musicians. And when this unique assemblage also has camaraderie and mutual admiration, the result is a guitar classic respected throughout the world.

Pickers, pluckers, strummers, and sliders will particularly enjoy the guys jammin' on "Moani Ke `Ala," (track 4); and Gabby fans can cut loose warm, happy tears (again) listening to "Ipo Lei Manu," (track 11) - as he smiles down from heaven, still shaking his head at "Hawaiian Love," (track 8) with its accordion backup (but I like it, Pops).

Gabby's folk hero stature sparked a resurgence of Hawaiian (language) music (before and) after the US Bicentennial celebration of 1976, encouraging local, native-ethnic culture - and Hawaii's songwriters and musicians (including Eddie Kamae and "Sons of Hawai'i," past and present) to search old and new directions. I sometimes question, however, if non-kama'ainas (non-locals) can sing along easily in Hawaiian with Gabby or Auntie Genoa (figuratively) - as PBS audiences do with Andre Rieu, Daniel O'Donnell, and POP stars of the 60s and 70s, in the local tongue.

As a Hawaiian at heart, I continue returning to Waikiki to enjoy today's Alfred Apakas and "Hawaii Calls" at the Royal Hawaiian, in the luaus of my mind. Considering lyrics to be musical tools to communicate thoughts and emotions, I wonder openly - with love and respect - if "Hi'ilawe" would be just as popular as "Moonlight Lady," sung in English.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Unique Lei of Hawaiian Fragrances", October 19, 2005
This review is from: MAKALAPUA'OE (Audio CD)
After more than 20 years, "Makalapua `Oe" remains a unique lei of Hawaiian fragrances. I first listened to the demo LP at Honolulu's Ala Moana Center in 1984, with a Hawaiian vocabulary (dis not pidgin, brah!) equal to any tourist going to his (or her) first luau - as the recording painted frescoes of celestial choruses of cherubim in Aloha shirts strumming ukuleles. My initial impression has returned to earth, but with an ongoing respect and appreciation of Hawaiian traditions.

All tracks of the CD are winners, with accompanying liner notes translating Hawaiian to English. Frank Kawaikapuokalani Hewett receives glorious choral support from Haunani Apoliona (who, as vocalist, director and arranger, is a superstar deserving of equal billing) and members of the hula school, Kuhai Halau O Kawaikapuokalani Pa `Olapa Kahiko, accompanied by very able instrumentalists. Musical arrangements of simple beauty -- embracing traditional Hawaiian styles, including choral response -- separate this work from others.

Kawaikapuokalani's songs cover a range of native Hawaiian subject matter; but my favorites are the sprightly, festive "Ku'u Lei Pua Kukui" and "Hawai'i Moku O Keawe" (tracks 4 and 7, about the islands of Molokai and Hawaii, respectively). And I continue to enjoy "Wai Hinano" (track 6) for its musical arrangement - not necessarily its erotic passages, maybe more appropriate for mature adults. My understanding -- not the liner notes -- of the Hawaiian verse describes the meeting of two lovers.

I sit here eager for your return, my love --

My heart is not patient,

As strong desire stirs emotions deep within me.

I hear your voice calling - it is difficult to wait.

You move closer, until we two become as one,

Rejoicing in ecstasy -

Warmed and wetted by Hinano rains,

To sustain our union forever.

Makalapua `Oe won a Na Hoku Award (Hawaiian Grammy) in 1984 for Best Traditional Hawaiian Album; and although I have not purchased CDs by Kawaikapuokalani since then, his work continues to be recognized and favored with awards.

Lennon Legend: The Very Best of John Lennon
Lennon Legend: The Very Best of John Lennon
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Right on, Yoko-chan", October 14, 2005
My favorite rock album has always been Bruce Springsteen's "The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle" (herein "E Street") - with its sounds and smells of hot summer nights in the inner city, and trips to the Asbury Park Boardwalk to cool off. E Street gets its strength and energy from the mix of our hometowns and old neighborhoods - and from a very talented band.

I remember the controversies of the late 60s and early 70s, centering on Yoko Ono's influence on the Beatles breakup, because of her developing relationship with John Lennon - she was always a woman of strong will with an ego and creative energies of her own. Beatles fans on both sides of the Atlantic wanted to set her afire at the stake for stealing Johnny's heart, for the couple's unconventional lifestyle, and for their newly dissonant music and performances. I heard only the controversies - seldom John and Yoko's music. In listening to it now, on the "Lennon Legend," it's difficult to hold back tears -- for an early, untimely death, and especially for the youthful idealism and music beating in his heart. The vision here is much broader than seen from an E Street perspective; and it is also more unashamedly personal and intimate.

There may have been controversies; but there were also happy family days - weekend outings to San Francisco, with a playful father flying a toy airplane for their beloved son. And if we fault Yoko for breaking up rock history's legendary band, then we must also credit her for the emotional and musical growth of her husband thereafter. The CD is a beautiful anthology - you won't like all tracks; but gut it out - because the good stuff is "world class," as most of you already know. The music's subject matter, special effects and percussion, controversial 25 - 30 years ago, are in harmony today; and Yoko's "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)," is now a holiday favorite. Right on, Yoko-chan - we are with you for the rest of the journey.

Laughter in the Rain: Best of
Laughter in the Rain: Best of
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 1970s MOR Pop Poster Boy, October 7, 2005
Karen and Richard Carpenter's music ("Greatest Hits," the CD and its LP predecessors) was deservedly among the most purchased and listened to MOR Pop recordings of the 1970s. But for me, no American LP album is more representative of the time period than "Sedaka's Back" -- in a sense, the 1970s MOR Pop Poster Boy. It is one of those historical asterisks that Neil Sedaka (during his 70s comeback), was once a highly popular opening act for the Carpenter's Lake Tahoe appearances (often pushing back Karen and Richard's start times due to ovations).

The Carpenters' ballads have sometimes been unfairly scorned as suburban, white, conservative middle class culture (which isn't all bad, is it?); whereas, Sedaka's music is painted as gritty, ethnic, urban inner city, and politically sensitive. If these comparisons have some validity, it may be because the mom and pop music of the 1940s probably peaked with the Carpenters in the 70s; and Sedaka's edgier ballads were a transition to the pop - rock, musical mélange -- the social and cultural diversification -- thereafter. Of course, the Beatles invasion, from across "the pond," was no small influence on US musical culture.

"Sedaka's Back" (Rocket Records MCA 4963 - 1974) is maturation and broadening for Sedaka - influenced by his relationship with Carole King and other contemporaries, and subsequent contact with Elton John (a positive musical force for many) - overcoming inner city isolation reflected in his songs of the 1950s - 60s. But this is still typically Sedaka, as we shall always remember him -- sentimental, innocent, and with his heart fully exposed on his shirtsleeve. The music is upbeat (even the sad songs) and memorable - "Love Will Keep Us Together" is a favorite for my wife and me, for obvious reasons. "Sedaka's Back," with his biggest all-time hit, "Laughter in the Rain" has too much energy to be time capsule material, though it can evoke reminiscences and nodding smiles.

The CD, "Sedaka's Back" is available under separate listing with four additional tracks, while this CD, "Laughter In The Rain, The Best Of Neil Sedaka, 1974 - 1980," omits three tracks from the original LP, "Sad Eyes," (done well by Maria Muldaur), "The Way I Am," and "A Little Lovin'." The original LP is best - "Sedaka's Back" (CD) is an acceptable substitute.

And I Love You So/It's Impossible
And I Love You So/It's Impossible
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "The Italian (American) Don Ho", September 25, 2005
In 1974, Ellen and I took our two mothers with us to Hawaii for ten days; and like so many tourists before us and after, we attended the Don Ho show -- only a short walk from the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. Somewhere between "Pearly Shells" and "Aloha'Oe," the show's star joked about being the "Hawaiian Perry Como," before introducing, "And I Love You So." After a normal, nightly finale of attractive hula girls -- and stampede of hundreds of hysterical grandmothers (resembling out of control teenage girls) trying to reach Don Ho for a kiss -- I was able to speak with him about "And I Love You So." He graciously offered details on the song written by Don McLean, adding that Perry Como had a particularly good recording of the number. "You mean the Italian (American) Don Ho," I asked? He laughed and gave me a "high five."

While many songs of the original LP version of "And I Love You So" (the first 10 tracks of the CD) have been made famous by others, including blockbuster hits, "Killing Me Softly with (His) Song," by Roberta Flack, and "Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree," by Tony Orlando & Dawn, none execute the lyrics with more sensitivity than Perry Como. The casual and simple manner in which he relates the story of "Killing Me Softly ..." (lyrics by Charles Fox) is haunting and wistful. This is one of the best MOR Pop albums of the 1970s (please see my comments on Andy Williams' "Solitaire"); and although not widely accepted by his loyal, aging fans, it is one of Perry's all-time best too!

Alone Again / Solitaire
Alone Again / Solitaire
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Andy & Perry, September 15, 2005
This review is from: Alone Again / Solitaire (Audio CD)
Andy Williams' original LP (and modified CD), Solitaire, has much in common with Perry Como's original LP (and also modified CD), And I Love You So, inasmuch as the high quality of these two respective albums is not dependent on the songs that either established or typify the two MOR, popular music superstars. Instead, the recordings reflect maturity and self assurance - the very contemporary song selections, and arrangements thereof, depend less on youthful vocal range and volume, and more on mature confidence and style - together with skilled production values (by Steve Perry and Chet Atkins, respectively) and superb sound engineering.

I personally would not select these recordings for their inclusion of popular, individual songs - more instead, for the whole album reflecting their best artistry. The 1970s and early 1980s was a period of some exceptional pop, rock, and transitional music trends (a baroque flourish atop a short pop renaissance) - many of my all time favorite LPs (and CDs) belong to this music period. This is Andy's best stuff - not his most popular, but simply his best!

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