No, this is not music by the 19th century German classical music composer but
that of another Felix Mendelssohn who performed colourful South Pacific
island-orientated numbers redolent of swaying palms, golden sunsets and
straw-skirted Polynesian girls decked in flowers.
Felix Mendelssohn’s Hawaiian Serenaders were favourite broadcasters and
recording artists of the 1940s but almost forgotten today so this album will
bring back pleasant memories for the over 60s. The band’s idiosyncratic
orchestral sound was immediately recognisable by its swing, swooning, sensual
‘ethnic’ style with its characterful slides, and steel guitars.
A number of the 26 tracks on this CD have exotic (probably B film) connections:
Alfred Newman’s ‘The Moon of Manakoora’ was featured in the 1937 film, The
Hurricane; the upbeat ‘Chant of the Jungle’ as featured in Untamed (1929), is
heard with a vocal by George Barclay and the Hawaiian Sisters; a rumba-like
version of Cole Porter’s ‘In the Still of the Night’ used in M-G-M’s Rosalie
(1937); Fred Hollander’s smoochy ‘Moonlight and Shadows’ (sung here by Archie
Coates) from The Jungle Princess (1936); the slinky romantic ballad, ‘Sweet
Leilani’ from Waikiki Wedding (1937); and the breezy ‘Sing Me a Song of the
Islands’ from the 1942 film, Song of the Islands.
Other track favourites include a spirited Hawaiian rendering of ‘Tiger Rag’, the
dreamy, atmospheric ‘Song of the Islands’ and somewhat appropriately Eric Coates
‘By the Sleepy Lagoon’ although its inspiration was a view in Sussex rather than
a Pacific location. The melody of ‘The Japanese Sandman’ was a great favourite
in the 1940s and much requested at that time and this Felix Mendelssohn
recording was a hit but even more popular was the ‘Hawaiian War Chant’ with its
amusing grunting, ethnic lyrics.
Other tracks include George Gershwin’s ‘I Got Rhythm’ ‘Aloha Land’ style; and
yet another big hit ‘Yaaka Hula, Hickey Dula’ (A Hawaiian Love Song), plus the
famous Maori farewell song, ‘Now is the Hour’ and the once familiar ‘Aloha Oe’.
Colourful nostalgic treat for the over 60s.