When searching for Exotica records, one will inevitably stumble across a sublimely exotic piece of cover art, become excited, then realize, with crushing disappointment... it's a Hawaiian cash-in record. That blonde gal on the cover, standing by the volcano, humping a stone parrot? Just a ruse to trick you into buying another set of the same twelve fucking Hawaiian songs, usually played in precise, unimaginative arrangements. Nothing against Hawaiian music, understand, it's just that you already have those songs, most likely on a couple of records, probably a few more than you needed (Oh, this one's on red vinyl! With a hula instruction booklet! I will never listen to it but I must have it!).
Hawaiiana is a huge, huge part of the history of Exotica, and of course traditional Hawaiian music is a mighty genre in it's own right, but when one is digging for the strangest possible Exotic Sounds, it's a bitter bait-and-switch to realize that the beautiful Tiki Majesty you just picked up at the thrift store can not, will not, surprise you. You know all the damn songs, and none of the cultural mix-n-match that makes Exotica so thrilling and occasionally weird or hilarious or sublime will be present.
There are numerous exceptions of course. Arthur Lyman is quintessentially Hawaiian but also so much more. Some installments of Hawaii Calls are absolutely top-notch. S'Pacifica also comes to mind.
Johnny Pineapple and His Orchestra, too, separate from the pack. Most of the selections on this record aren't exactly deep cuts or obscurios, but fire and brimstone are they played well. I picked this record up years ago because the cover art was too adorable pass up (you and your eyes should spend some time with it, just lookin'), but it turned out to be utterly fantastic. A winningly gorgeous rendition of "My Tane" is the highlight here, but there's not a loser in sight. The instrumentation throughout is persistently pleasant and of surprisingly high caliber; not particularly eclectic or strange in any way, just somehow unique and felt, as though Mr. Pineapple actually loves these songs and has a personal idea of how they should be played.
I've been loving this one for years. If you get only one Hawaiiana record, make it this one; if you already have too many-- well, hell, there's gotta be room for one more if it's this good. Get it, friends.
HAWAIIAN HOLIDAY 320