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The paragon of 1970s pop paradise, Kalapana’s 1975 recording debut left an indelible mark on Hawaii. With its instantly recognizable cover art featuring the faces of the group’s four members — Mackey Feary, Malani Bilyeu, David John Pratt, and Kirk Thompson — the eponymous album presented 11 masterfully crafted songs, each purposefully poised to become a hit.

Following a successful concert tour of the Hawaiian Islands, the band moved to California in October 1975 to work on their first album, Kalapana. They already had an idea for what a great record should sound like. “We grew up listening to the Beatles, and every song on a Beatles record was a hit,” reflects keyboardist Thompson. “That was the standard, so we operated at that level.” And in the 1960s and 70s, the standard was incredibly high: groups like the Beatles, Tower of Power, Eric Clapton, Santana, Earth Wind & Fire, James Taylor, Stevie Wonder, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, and Elton John filled the radio airwaves and record store bins. “In our heads, that’s who the competition was. We had to be just as good.” 

With nearly a dozen original compositions plus one cover song ready (Hall & Oates’ “When The Morning Comes”), the band laid tracks for guitar, bass, vocals, and keyboards. Their producer, LA-based Barry Alan Fasman, did the rest: arranging, conducting, hiring a bassist and drummer, adding strings and flutes and effects. His guidance and expertise helped the group create a musical masterpiece, both artistically and commercially. “The songs were all singles because the mindset was to be commercial and make them all good,” guitarist Pratt said. Released by the end of 1975, the album sold 125,000 copies in its first 16 months.

Kalapana’s success was not all positive, however. For decades, the band’s manager withheld royalties due to the band. It wasn’t until 2017 that Kalapana got its rights back, when Los Angeles-based music lawyer Evan Cohen served their former manager, Ed Guy, with a lawsuit on behalf of the band. Cohen succeeded, and the band’s newly formed partnership, Kalapana Music, finally owned its recordings and publishing rights.

As a band, Kalapana’s story is one of synergy, stardom, and naivety. Yet their legacy extends far beyond that, for they created a sound as unique as Hawai‘i itself. By blending soul, jazz, funk, pop, and rock into a singular expression inspired by modern Island life, their debut album helped shape stories and lives of Hawai‘i’s people in the 1970s and for generations to come. 

Our greatest hope is this official vinyl reissue, AGS-070, will continue to perpetuate Kalapana's musical legacy for Hawaii and the world to enjoy.

Licensed from Kalapana Music.