Israel Kamakawiwoole's Wonderful World

Wonderful World, Israel Kamakawiwoole, (Mountain Apple Co.)


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It’s hard to believe that someone listened to Israel Kamakawiwoole’s simple, classic medley of “Somewhere over the Rainbow” and “What a Wonderful World” and thought: You know what would make this song even better? If we chopped off the first half of it, overdubbed a schmaltzy orchestral arrangement onto what’s left, and then dropped a rambling, spoken word interlude into the mix.

This revisionist aesthetic has been extended to an entire album’s worth of Iz tracks, with orchestral arrangements embellishing both popular Iz favorites, such as “White Sandy Beach,” and rarities, such as a live recording of “E Kuu Morning Dew.” The results are akin to smearing cheese onto the delicate wings of a butterfly. Nothing that has been added reveals anything new about Kamakawiwoole’s timeless appeal.

The best tracks are the subtlest ones, which, while not improving Iz’s performances, at least don’t kill them. “Henehene Kou Aka,” for example, is given a perky “I Dream of Jeannie”-style treatment that’s relatively unobtrusive.

Mind you, I’m not intrinsically opposed to remix projects—what about a Rick-Rubin-style reimagining of Iz’s work that strips his recordings down to their essence? (The synth-y Jawaiian of “Hawaiian Sup’pa Man” pops to mind as a promising candidate for subtractive editing.)


Bottom line: Overcooked and unnecessary.

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Honolulu Magazine September 2018
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