Funky Beach Soul
Aloha Got Soul, a compilation of Hawaiian soul, funk and disco from 1979 to 1985 is perhaps best described as a treasure, a trove of sonic wonders. The album, which was released by Strut Records, reflects years of research and exploration presented by enthusiast Robert Bong on his blog and label, also named Aloha Got Soul. Only listening superficially, Aloha Got Soul offers up a plethora of intricate, shimmering tracks that feature tight congas, pitch-perfect harmonies and warbling lead guitars. Furthermore, Bong expertly reveals the vast diversity of instrumentations and approaches that grew out of the Hawaiian music scene. The intense, funky organ cut that opens Roy & Roe’s “Just Don’t Come Back” is beautifully contrasted against the winding, dreamy groove that Lemuria spin out in their instrumental “Get That Happy Feeling.”
Despite the fact that Aloha Got Soul focuses on a relatively brief period, no two tracks on the album are alike. Hal Bradbury builds a quick, mosaic back-and-forth with his backing singers on the brooding “Call Me.” Two songs later, Nova’s “I Feel Like Getting Down” explodes in a boisterous, rowdy amalgam of joyous vocals, subdued brass and a persistent crowd that claps and chatters along in the background.
For the curious listener, Bong’s Aloha Got Soul blog adds an additional layer to the already absorbing music. Through interviews with musicians who, often, long ago left the limelight, Bong explores fascinating, previously unheard stories. Consider Aloha Got Soul’s opening track — “Countryside Beauty” by Tender Leaf. Murray Compoc Spencer, the group’s lead singer, revealed in an interview with Bong, that he and founding member Darryl Valdez met “while working as drivers of the city bus (aka The Bus).” Other interesting, personal stories fill Aloha Got Soul, and evidence the passion that fuels both Bong’s research and the beautiful music that he collects.