By Wayne Harada
Hard to believe that it’s been five decades since Tom Moffatt has been on the music scene. His career spans radio, album production, concert presentation, TV, and, in more recent times, column-writing.
Thus, the arrival of “50 Years of Music in Hawaii / The Legacy 2” (Shaka Records) magnifies the deejay-show presenter’s impact and reflects his perspective as a music industry activist. This compilation includes a potpourri of songs he might have played on radio and some acts he embraced in concert outings or recording sessions.
Clearly, his show presentations have been his trademark — think “Show of Stars,” Elvis Presley, The Monkees, Menudo, The Beach Boys, Bette Midler, The Rolling Stones, and nearly everyone in the Beatles/British invasion — but that’s another story.
Moffatt — reverentially called Uncle Tom, thanks to his “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” foray on rock radio (remember KPOI? And the Poi Boys?) has been one of the handful of dedicated local producers who have given Island musicians vital support and a career boost either by playing their recordings — vinyl, cassettes, and CDs before the downloading iTunes and MP3 player era — and exposing them on Island radio.
Also, he infamously sang “Beyond the Reef,” in his early years. In this collection, he tackles “16 Tons,” which offers a chuckle of delight, but admittedly, his is not the best voice in this volume.
Still, the CD is a great one for Christmas gifting, particularly for those ex-pats who remember Moffatt and the his role in local pop music.
Highlights of the 19 songs comprising this CD:
• Best treat: Al Waterson’s “The Old Songs,” which thematically provides the thread for this sentimental journey. A reflective take on the Barry Manilow best-seller, it’s sweetly nostalgic and romantic, and Waterson’s pipes are in tip-top shape.
• End of an era favorite: “Lifetime Party,” by Cecilio and Kapono. Considering what has happened in life (personal problems for Cecilio, another reunion is unlikely, so savor this party fave.
• Enduring ditty: Pauline Wilson’s “Follow This Road,” a signature that gives jazz a good name and proves she was and remains the heart of Seawind.
• Voice of the future: Anelaikalani, whose old-style warbling bridges yesterday’s memories with tomorrow’s hope in an endearing traditional style.
• A feverish hit: The Society of Seven’s “99.8,” whichfeatured Albert “Little Albert” Maligmat as lead singer, raised the local group’s temperature on the charts. A composition by Frances Kirk and Ernie Freeman.
• A song for all seasons: Ehukai’s “Molokai Slide” takes the prize as the melody with lasting power, a classic if you will, embodying good fun and easy-going Island attitude.
A quibbling note: Though each act and entry receive a one- or two-line bio/explanation, a compilation like this, with its 50th year milestone, is worthy of a pull-out liner extra, perhaps with a then-and-now reflection/update to enhance fan appreciation.
For the record, here’s a rundown of the tracks, in the order they are featured:
• “Where Is the Love,” Sean Na’auao and Robi Kahakalau. This is a cover of the old Donald Hathaway-Roberta Flack hit, interpreted by two local soloists.
• “Follow Your Road,” Pauline Wilson. Her signature song.
• “Don’t Be So Cruel,” Go Jimmy Go. A solid chip of rock, from one of Hawaii’s most prolific and productive ensemble.
• “Juliette,” Kalapana. Early and underrated classic from Macky Feary and the folk-rock-pop group.
• “Lifetime Party,” Cecilio and Kapono. Still a party-hearty spirit by the duo that defined the era of the 1970s.
• “99.8 (Love Fever),” Society of Seven. The most enduring of the classic SOS combo which has endured a four-decades run at the Outrigger Waikiki’s Main Showroom. This is the group's lone bona fide chartbuster.
• “Rainbow,” Jake Shimabukuro. The ukulele virtuoso who has become, and still is, a world-class attraction and the face of the four-stringed instrument.
• “Heart and Soul,” Michael Paulo. An expressive and exceptional solo saxophonist, who delves in both the jazz and pop genres.
• “Mango Tree,” Keola Beamer. A legendary singer-composer-guitarist, from an equally legendary ohana of traditional Hawaiian music.
• “Hallelujah,” Jordan Segundo. Hawaii’s first “American Idol” contestant, who has found a place in the Island entertainment scene.
• “Tico Tico,” Taimane Gardner. A next-generation uke stylist, whose career got a jumpstart on the Don Ho show in Waikiki.
• “Let Me Take You to the Mountain,” The Krush. A now defunct, but a powerhouse in the 1980s, performing a tune here with a gospel undercurrent with appeal to fans young and old.
• “Only Good Times,” Malani Bilyeu. Another pillar of the Kalapana combo, whose solo venture demonstrated the depth of his creative power.
• “Waimanu,” Anelaikalani. A next-generation songbird specializing in traditional Hawaii sounds.
• “KHBC,” Gary Halaemau. A popular melody hitched to the call letters of a radio station, which signaled this performer’s bright sound.
• “Olinda Road,” Barry Flanagan. The founder of the Maui-based Hapa duo, who occasionally works as a soloist in Island sounds — not bad for a dude with New Jersey East Coast roots.
• “Molokai Slide,” Ehukai. A Song of the Year Na Hoku Hanohano Award winner in 1997, brimming with Island-style good fun and good times.
• “The Old Songs,” Al Waterson. Perhaps better known as an emcee, this is a singer with a voice of reckoning.
• “16 Tons,” Tom Moffatt. One of the few tracks the veteran deejay-show presenter has tackled (here, with apologies to “Tennessee” Ernie Ford). Happily, he gets by with the vocal — but is more successful off stage than on.
ON THE TUBE
Moffatt will be focus of two upcoming TV specials:
PBS: Moffatt will co-host, with PBS president and CEO Leslie Wilcox, the upcoming live pledge show, “Ed Sullivan’s Top Performers: 1966-1969,” at 7 p.m. Aug. 27. During the pledge break, Moffatt will auction two tickets to the upcoming Glen Campbell concert in Honolulu.
KGMB: “Tom Moffatt — the Show Must Go On,” a retrospective on the life and times of the deejay-showman, is in post-production. Airdate: sometime in late September or October. Michael W. Perry will narrate; Phil Arnone is director.