REVIEW: John Berger - Star Advertiser
Timely lesson on slack-key master
'The Legendary Atta Isaacs'
The timing couldn't be better for this perfect retrospective on the
musical legacy of slack-key master Leland "Atta" Isaacs. The Hawai'i
Academy of Recording Arts recognized him in June, more or less, when it
included him in a lifetime achievement award to the Isaacs Ohana ---
Atta; his father, Alvin Kaleolani Isaacs Sr.; and Atta's brothers,
Norman and Alvin Jr. (known professionally as Barney). The 21 songs on
this two-disc anthology, and the wealth of information provided in the
24-page liner notes booklet that comes with it, make it clear that HARA
owes Atta an individual lifetime achievement award as well.
Michael Cord and producer George Winston
share the credit for making these recordings available in a package of
this quality. Cord has committed the resources of his record label to
state-of-the-art reissues of out-of-print Hawaiian records. Winston has
made an unprecedented commitment to documenting the work of living
The tracks represent albums Atta recorded for
several different labels. It seems these days that Atta is often
mentioned in ways that suggest he was Gabby Pahinui's sideman rather
than peer. These recordings, and Jay Junker's liner notes, document
Isaacs' status as a slack-key master who made important contributions to
the evolution of the genre —
and remind us that his musical relationship
with Pahinui was symbiotic.
Winston assists Junker in documenting Isaacs'
tunings on each recording --- essential information for researchers and
students of slack key alike.