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Tony C-Hawaiian Passion
Posted to Music at 09:42 AM on Mar 15, 2005

Produced by Jon de Mello for the Mountain Apple Company

Tony Conjugacion posesses one of the loveliest falsetto voices in all of Hawaiian music. Hawaiian Passion was first released in 1985 and remastered and rereleased in 2003 with six new songs. It stands up remarkably well.

One of my favorite songs is the Hui 'Ohana version of "Ka Pili Oha". I actually had no idea until I opened this CD that Tony actually wrote the song and performed it first. While I still like the cover version better, it was great to hear another take on the song.

Conversely, one of my least favorite hapa-haole hits, "Behave Hula Girl", is here, too, in all its lame-analogy glory. It's one of only two non-falsetto song on the album.

"Lehua Ma'ema'e", written by Conjugacion, has great traditional sound, although I wonder how it would have sounded sung in a slightly lower voice. It's a grest song but the falsetto somehow lends it a squeaky, cartoonish quality.

There are other traditional standards ("Pua 'Iliahi") and an oddball throwaway track, "When You're Down in Honolulu". Overall, Hawaiian Passion was a well-rounded album before the addition of the six new songs added onto the rerelease. The last six are all good songs, in and of themselves. All together, they lack a certain energy. A more uptempo number in the middle would have allowed the whole album to flow better.

Renowned Hawaii-based jazzman Gabe Baltazar guests on "Keahi", the other non-falsetto track. The arrangement is is pretty and unique.

With so many formulaic Jawaiian/bad pop cover acts cluttering Hawaiian music radio these days, it's always great to hear new artists like Maunaleo and Ho'okena stick to the basics and attempt the standards. Hawaiian Passion lingered in music limbo for years before its rerelease and came back at exactly the right time.


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