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The late Israel Kamakawio'ole, known to his many fans simply as Iz, was a consummate Hawaiian with a wonderful voice and accomplished ukulele technique. This posthumous release of some unplugged performances, enhanced arrangements, and previously unreleased songs is definitely for his legion of admirers. While best known for his native Hawaiian songs, Iz covered a lot of ground, and three of the most affecting tracks here are standards: his take on "Mona Lisa," starting alone, then with a full arrangement behind him; the nursery rhyme "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star"; and a most unusual version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" which shouldn't work in his style, but quite stubbornly does. His angelic pipes seem capable of working around any material and doing it justice (although it should be noted "Starting All Over Again" and "In This Life," with full-on synths behind him, definitely go for saccharine overkill). But he's perhaps at his best when he's at his simplest -- just him and his ukulele -- whether on the strummed "Panini Puakea" or the delicate and mysterious "La Elima," which relies on his gentle picking. On the classic Hawaiian song "Opae E," the guitar backing fleshes out his work without overpowering it, a gentle filigree around his voice. To those who love Iz's albums, whether his solo work or as part of the Makaha Sons of Ni'ihau, this stands -- certainly for the most part -- as a wonderful, thoughtful addition to his catalog, highlighting most the stunning purity of his voice.
|Label:||Big Boy Records|