After being discovered at a karaoke competition in the mid-'90s, Keali'i Reichel rose quickly to the highest pinnacles of Hawaiian superstardom. His first album, Kawaipunahele, is already a Hawaiian classic. Locals from Honolulu to Kaunakakai own a copy of the album, radio stations play the songs incessantly, and any tourist who sets foot in a music store is likely to walk out with the CD. Reichel goes for the tried and true formula: mellow songs; tropical island stylings; and sweet, piping Hawaiian vocal tones. A lot of these songs are reminiscent of former Top 40 hits from the mainland, but only a few of them are actually covers. A couple of notable cover tunes are "In My Life," a Beatles tune that has a Hawaiian verse added, and "If We Hold on Together," which is performed as a duet with Lorna Lim. Most of the songs concern the same things: romance, friendship, and the beauty of the Hawaiian Islands. It's nearly impossible to find this album offensive or intrusive. The lyrics are strictly PG-rated, the music is pretty, and the tone remains even-keeled throughout, and that's why Kawaipunahele has become one of the "must-have" albums for visitors to Hawaii.
AllMusic Review by L. Katz