Maxi Priest gets to his roots at Field of Dreams in Waikapu
The king of lovers rock style of reggae, Maxi Priest, returns to Hawaii after a long absence to headline the 2014 Summer Reggae Festival at Maui Tropical Plantation on Friday evening. The festival will also feature Big Mountain, Mitchell Brunings and Ekolu.
The British reggae legend Priest amassed an international following with his smooth, soul-flavored romantic ballads like “Close to You.” Employing Jamaican rhythms as a foundation, he applies his rich voice to an appealing blend of R&B and pop creating a refined style of contemporary reggae which he has characterized as “bright, fresh, positive and uplifting.”
Born in Lewisham, England, southeast of London, Priest first became involved with music through his profession as a carpenter, building sound systems for various bands and singers. He changed his original surname, Elliot, to Priest after discovering Rastafarianism. He took the name from the Priest Levi, a figurehead of the 12 tribes of Israel. Hitting the British charts in 1985, the versatile artist gained international attention a couple of years later with his cover of Cat Steven’s “Wild World.”
He is one of only two British reggae acts (along with UB40) to have an American No. 1 with “Close to You.” His duet with Roberta Flack in 1991, “Set the Night to Music” was a Top 10 hit.
Over the years, he’s also worked with such reggae stars as Sly and Robbie, Shaggy, Beres Hammond, Shabba Ranks, and mostly recently with UB40 and the catchy single, “Dance Till The Morning Light” from their popular 2008 album, “TwentyFourSeven.”
Priest’s just-released latest album, “Easy to Love,” his first new studio release in seven years, is mostly in the lovers rock vein that made him famous. It includes a duet with Beres Hammond and a cover of John Mayer’s “Gravity.” Reggae greats Sly Dunbar, Robbie Shakespeare, and Earl ‘Chinna’ Smith back him on the CD. Since his 1985 debut, “You’re Safe,” he’s sold more than 15 million albums worldwide.
Clash Music praised: “When it comes to roots reggae, with plenty of soul and just enough sweetness to make it ‘pop’ all ’round the world, one singer stands head and shoulders above the rest: Maxi Priest.”
This week’s Mixed Bag
Some of this year’s Na Hoku Hanohano Awards winners will perform at Maui Arts & Cultural Center’s Yokouchi Pavilion on Saturday. This special Na Hoku Hou show features Hulu Lindsey, Kamaka Kukona, Jeff Peterson, Sean Na’auao and Yoza with Willie K and band.
Winner of the Female Vocalist of the Year award, Carmen “Hulu” Lindsey won for her album, “A He Leo Wale No E.” Backed by a stellar trio of steel guitarist Jeff Au Hoy, pianist Aaron Sala and guitarist Kamakoa Lindsey-Asing, the album features a lovely collection of hula standards and Hawaiian favorites like “Pua Be Still,” “Lei Kiele” and “My Sweet Gardenia Lei.”
“I’ve been singing for 55 years and I sat in this audience many times just honoring all the beautiful singers that Hawaii has, and I so love our Hawaii music,” Lindsey told The Maui News after her win.
Kumu hula Kamaka Kukona won Male Vocalist of the Year (tied with Mark Yamanaka) and Most Promising Artist for his debut album “Hanu ‘A’ala.” He became the sixth person in Hoku history to win both awards in the same year, and it was the first time in 30 years that the ceremony had two male vocalist winners.
Singing gorgeous lead vocals and all the harmony parts, Kukona plays pahu and ipu on his winning album. Its song selections range from the stirring chant, “Hole Waimea,” and the classic “Honomuni,” to the original song, “Eo Hana,” and a cover of George Strait’s country hit, “You Look So Good in Love.”
Inspired by time spent on the road, Jeff Peterson’s “Slack Key Travels” has won him another Slack Key Album of the Year Award. One of our leading exponents of Hawaiian slack key guitar, this serene, mostly original collection is shaped by his love for our islands.
“I was thinking of starting with the tradition of slack key and traveling out, exploring different sounds,” Jeff notes. “The feeling is very nahenahe, very soothing and relaxing. A lot of the songs are in new tunings that I’ve never written in before.”
Winner of the R&B Album of the Year for her self-titled debut album, Yoza is an exciting, emerging talent with a powerful, soulful voice. Fusing R&B, hip hop and Latin influences, she recalls artists such as Lauryn Hill and India.Arie. Accomplished on guitar, ukulele and saxophone, she will be accompanied by Willie K (and his band), who played with her at the Hoku Awards ceremony on Oahu.
Lastly, popular contemporary Hawaiian musician Sean Na’auao won for Best Engineered Album of the Year for “Na’auao.”
A founding member of the Mana’o Company, as a solo artist Na’auao has won a number of Hokus including Island Contemporary Album of the Year for his popular “Fish and Poi” and Reggae Album of the Year for “Progression.”
Blessed with a beautiful falsetto voice, in recent years he has returned to his cultural roots, with his latest CD featuring a sweet collection of Hawaiian and hapa-haole songs. “I’m so fortunate to be blessed to be able to perform Hawaiian music,” says Na’auao.
* Na Hoku Hou will feature Hawaiian music award winners Hulu Lindsey, Kamaka Kukona, Jeff Peterson, Yoza and Sean Na’auao at the MACC’s Yokouchi Pavilion at 6 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $35, $45, and $75 (plus fees). Call 242-7469.
Popular singer/songwriter Lisa Loeb plays a Moonlight show on Friday at the MACC. In 1994, Loeb became the first unsigned artist to top the American charts with her single, “Stay (I Missed You),” from the soundtrack to the hit movie, “Reality Bites.” The song spent three weeks at No.1 after the film’s release and eventually sold over 750,000 copies worldwide. “Stay” earned Loeb a Grammy nod for Best Pop Performance.
“I was really lucky, I got to make music the way I wanted and somehow it got through the system,” says Loeb. “In retrospect, it was really miraculous.”
Born in Dallas, Loeb studied piano as a child, but later switched to guitar. “I started writing music and then at 14, I started writing lyrics,” she recalls. “I always loved music and was in a band in high school and was a DJ at parties.”
Loeb’s debut album, “Tails,” sold gold and earned another Grammy nomination, as did her follow-up, “Firecracker,” which included the Top 20 single, “I Do.” On her latest, “No Fairy Tale,” she creatively shifts pace with a crunchier, harder-hitting sound. It includes collaborations on two tracks with Canadian twins Tegan and Sara.
“It’s full of punky, poppy, rock energy,” she says. “Philosophically, it’s about life with its ups and downs being richer than a perceived fairy tale life.”
“Eighteen years after ‘Stay,’ ‘No Fairy Tale’ finds Loeb throwing caution to the wind and letting her pop instincts hold sway for almost an entire album,” praised AllMusic. “It’s hands down the most fun (of her career).”
* The Lisa Loeb by Moonlight show will start at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the MACC’s Yokouchi Pavilion. Maui’s Gail Swanson will open. Tickets are $30 and $45. Call 242-7469.
Celebrating the anniversary of their first concert on Maui, Ebb & Flow Arts presents New York City-based pianist Adam Tendler in a free solo piano recital at the Makawao Union Church at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
“If it’s anything like his previous performances, it promises to be a sensational display of consummate pianism,” says Ebb & Flow’s director Robert Pollock. “Tendler’s recital features one of the most challenging of 20th-century masterpieces, ‘Fantasy,’ by American icon, Aaron Copland. This 30-minute epic contains some of Copland’s most far-reaching music. Also, Adam will perform Copland’s touching music for the film based on Thornton Wilder’s play, ‘Our Town.’ ”
The program will include two Hawaii premieres, Tendler’s rendition of Robert Palmer’s “Piano Sonata #2,” and selections from “Twenty-One Little Preludes” by Edward T. Cone. While on Maui, Tendler will record? “Twenty-One Little Preludes” for an upcoming E&FA digital release, “Solo and Chamber Music by Edward T. Cone.”
Time Out New York hailed the pianist as a, “modern-music evangelist,” who, “has managed to get behind and underneath the notes. . . living inside the music and making poetic sense of it all.”Admission is free. A pre-concert discussion will be held at 6:30 p.m. Friday.
Filipina star Charice rose to fame as a teenager through YouTube videos (viewed more than 13 million times), singing songs made famous by artists like Celine Dion and Beyonce. She will perform in the Castle Theater at 7 p.m. Sunday.
Releasing her first international studio album in 2010, she was hailed by Oprah Winfrey as, “The most talented girl in the world.” She sang Dion’s hit “My Heart Will Go On,” on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” after which Oprah surprised her with an appearance by the famous singer via satellite. She later sang a duet with Dion at New York City’s Madison Square Garden. Charice became the first Asian solo singer in history to land in the Top 10 of the Billboard 200 albums chart. Her latest album, “Chapter 10,” includes song covers by Bryan Adams, Gloria Estefan and Diana Ross.
* Charice will perform at 7 p.m. Sunday in Castle Theater. Tickets are $39, $66, $88 and $102 for VIP tickets. which includes a meet ‘n greet (plus fees). Call 242-7469.