This record was released in 1959, the same year that Hawaii became the official fiftieth state. And as you can see, Frank Hunter and Sam Makia got the memo, rushing into the studio to record a "celebratory" stereophonic long-play. Now that I think of it, I don't remember ever stumbling upon another Exotica LP that even mentions Hawaii becoming a part of the U.S., much less one with the message emblazoned across the front cover. In a way, this surprises me -- you'd think it would come up more often. However, it also makes a little sense if you think about it. Most well-crafted Exotica produced before 1959 (and much of it after) had a decidedly mysterious, primal or even eerie (albeit artificial) feel to it. Mentioning Hawaii's inclusion into the U.S. would strike way too "close to home" for the suburban escapists, who wanted nothing more than to dream of "far away places." This would be, at least, one explanation for why it wasn't celebrated more widely in the music industry of its day.
Regardless, this is not the most evocative release of the era -- not even close. Most of it is made up of lazy steel guitar, ukulele, and orchestration and, quite frankly, fails to excite the imagination like the more sought-after LPs do. Also, with arrangements of popular standards such as Sweet Leilani, The Hawaiian Wedding Song, Hawaiian War Chant, To You Sweetheart Aloha, and the like, it basically rehashes the material that hundreds of other '50s Polynesian/Exotic records have already explored. However, despite my (perhaps somewhat harsh) criticisms, the music presented here maintains a certain likeability throughout your time spent with it. There's not much of an issue with its production either -- the standard here is considerably higher than on most of the dime-a-dozen budget label LPs that were all too pervasive during the same epoch. It may be sleepy, dull, and unimaginative, but still, a good degree of charm and pretty decent stereophonic mixing make it a relatively satisfying spin.
Some of you would probably recognize Frank Hunter -- of White Goddess fame (a super obscure LP that Exotica completists yearn after). For those of you who don't, he's a big enough name to be credible. In fact, just the other day I ran across a SESAC 45 of Marian McPartland with Frank Hunter as the orchestra conductor. Needless to say, he has a resume. I cannot say the same for Sam Makia or the Makapuu Beach Boys, though -- neither name sounds familiar.
So, what's the verdict? This, my friends, is a "good" album. It is, in a nutshell, "passable." I suggest you just enjoy it as it is.