Thursday, November 29, 2012
Arthur Lyman's "Merry Christmas (Mele Kalikimaka)," from 1959, is a solid choice. Some tracks aren't quite as Exotica-infused as you'd expect, but others seem a perfect hybrid of Hawaii and the holidays. But you can never go too far wrong with Lyman at the helm. His take on "Winter Wonderland," may, in fact, be the best example of Christmas Exotica ever created. This album has also been re-released on CD as "With A Christmas Vibe," (with a fetching wahine on the cover,) but some find the re-editing on that version a little off-putting. I'd suggest sticking with versions of the album featuring the green (shown above) or silver "Christmas present" covers, which are essentially the original album without significant tinkering.
Christmas In Hawaii by country music legend turned Hawaiian steel guitar revivalist Jerry Bird. (Some of you may already know Byrd from his take on the theme to "Adventures in Paradise.") This is fine instrumental background music, featuring holiday standards tasetefully rendered in ukulele, steel guitar, etc., along with a smattering of songs specifically written to evoke Christmas in the islands. I'm told this is a 2003 release, but it's pretty timeless.
Two specific tracks essential for your Tiki Christmas mix can be found on Christmas Cocktails, Part 2, which is part of the now-classic Ultra-Lounge series of compilations from Capitol Records. (Yes, the series was revived recently in the form of new digital downloads, but the new incarnation doesn't measure up.) Notably, Christmas Cocktails, Part 2 features "Christmas Island" by Bob Atcher and the Dinning Sisters (kitschy, but fun), and "Exotic Night," which was Martin Denny's take on the traditional "Greensleeves"/"What Child Is This?" -- complete with his usual orchestration style and semi-exotic instrumentation, but happily without his usual bird calls. It's not one of Denny's best, but it's probably mandatory for any self-respecting list of tiki-fied Christmas songs.
We Four Kings," by the Blue Hawaiians (from their album Christmas on the Big Island) is a successful mashup of the carol "We Three Kings" with the Pyramids' instrumental surf-rock classic, "Penetration." In a similar retro surf rock vein is King of Hawaii's take on "Greensleeves" (from the album Mele Kalikimaka). Normally I'm not a big fan of mixing surf rock with tracks from the likes of Arthur Lyman and Martin Denny -- But I think these are two exceptions that work pretty well. But maybe that's just the eggnog talking.
And finally, what would a pseudo-Hawaiian-style Christmas be without Bing Crosby's classic version of "Mele Kalikimaka," from his Merry Christmas (now renamed White Christmas) album? Der Bingle has been making people dream about spending the holidays in paradise since 1945!
By the way, I'll probably be at the International Tiki Marketplace event at Don the Beachcombers' in Huntington Beach, California this Sunday, Dec. 2nd. It will run from 11am to 4pm, and there will be live entertainment and over 30 vendors of all things tiki. If you see me, stop me and say hello.
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
"We are saddened to bring such news, but this morning Arthur Snyder passed away in his sleep at 79 years old. He was a United States Marine, a USC Law Graduate, a politician, a restauranteur, but most importantly, a dedicated husband, father, and grandfather. He will leave a legacy for ages to come but what he left in everyone's hearts will last a lifetime. Burial information will be posted soon. We will be holding a celebration of his life this Saturday at Don the Beachcomber in the Longboard Room from 3pm - 8pm. For more information please email firstname.lastname@example.org. We ask that during this time of grieving you do not try to contact the family or staff at Don the Beachcomber. More information will be posted shortly."Sad and shocking news, indeed. Art was a significant and charming personality in the recent chapters of the tiki revival. He and his wife, Delia, have done amazing things in a very short time with the former Sam's Seafood, somehow restoring and preserving one of the last palaces of tiki (Sam's) while simultaneously creating a whole new one (Don's) at the same location.
|Art with Holden Westland of Tiki Farm last June at Don's.|
A few months ago, Art took me on a personal tour of Don's, including the legendary basement, which features a mysterious tunnel leading toward the lagoons behind the property. Art said the basement was haunted, and asked that I be respectful and not too noisy. He also asked that I NOT take photographs, which was a far more difficult assignment. In any case, it was an interesting look at what was undoubtedly a smuggling tunnel back when brothers Sam and George Arvenitis owned the place. (No connection to Prohibition, however, since nothing was built on the property until the 1940s.) Anyway, Art was interested that I was a historian and that I'd already done a bunch of research on Sam's. I, in turn, was very grateful for the tour and information he shared with me.
|Art with members of the O.C. Historical Society's board, planning a luau over mai tais.|
Art's funeral will be held Wed., Nov. 14, 9am, at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, 6300 Forest Lawn Dr., Los Angeles. (Drive to Old North Church once inside the cemetery.) Reception following interment at the Hall of Liberty. In lieu of flowers, his family asks that you consider making a donation in Art's name to: Solheim Lutheran Home in Los Angeles.
Mahalo for being a great host, Art, and for all you've done to keep tiki alive and well. A lot of people are very grateful.