New Zealand Trading Company


Band members                              Related acts

  line up 1 (1969)

- Lynn Alvarez -- vocals

- Thomas Kini (RIP 2004) --  guitar, bass

- Eddie Nuka -- bass

- Neville Turner - drums, percussion

- Kawana Waitere (RIP 1997) -- vocals, keyboards

 

  line up 2 (1969-70)

NEW - Joerge Casas -- guitar (replaced Joerge Casas)

NEW - Alberto Carrion -- vocals, keyboards (replaced Lynn Alvarez)

- Thomas Kini (RIP 2004) -- bass, guitar

NEW - Maurice Moore -- keyboards 

NEW- Gonchi Sifre -- drums, percussion (replaced Neville Turner)

- Kawana Waitere (RIP 1997) -- vocals, keyboards

 

  line up 3 (1970)

- Joerge Casas -- guitar

- Alberto Carrion -- vocals, keyboards 

- Maurice Moore -- keyboards 

- Gonchi Sifre -- drums, percussion 

- Kawana Waitere (RIP 1997) -- vocals, keyboards

 

 

  

 

- Abram Shoo (Joerge Casas, Alberto Carrion, Gonchie Sifre)

- Commonwealth (Maurice Moore and Kawana Waitere)

- Kawana Waitere

- Maori Hi-Quins

 

 

 


 

Genre: psych

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  New Zealand Trading Company

Company: Memphis

Catalog: MS 1001

Year: 1970

Country/State: New Zealand, UK, Puerto Rico

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5127

Price: $60.00

 

Here's a complete unknown that's well worth picking up given that it's quite good and still affordable.  

 

In spite of the name I'd be willing to bet they weren't from New Zealand (by the way there really is an international trading company that goes by the same name).  Whoever these guys were (the front and back album covers show a six piece outfit), their sole 1970 album was re-mixed and issued by a small Memphis-based company.  Also worth mentioning, their anonymous lead singer had a mild accent that sounded Dutch to my ears. 

 

Well, turns out I was largely wrong with those comments.  This band really did have their roots in New Zealand, evolving out of the New Zealand show band The Maori Hi-Quins.   Having toured internationally for over a decade, by 1969 The Maori Hi-Quins were history with singer Lynn Alvarez, guitarist Thomas Kini, bassist Eddie Nuka, drummer Neville Turner, and keyboardist Kawana Waitereards forming the Chicago-based New Zealand Trading Company.   Signed by Chess Records Cadet subsidiary, the band made their debut with an instantly obscure single (I've never even seen a copy of the 45):

 

- 1969's 'Could Be' b/w 'You' (Cadet catalog number 5637)

 

The band did well on the nightclub and casino circuit, but underwent a major personnel shake up.  Alvarez, Nuka, and Turner quit and were replaced by English keyboardist Maurice Moore, guitarist Jorge Casas, drummer Gonchi Sifre, and singer/guitarist Alberto Carrion.  The latter three had previously been members of the Puerto Rican touring band Abram Shoo.  

 

band promo photo: front left to right: Kawana Waitere - Alberto Carrion - Thomas Kini

back left to right: Jorge Casas - Gonchi Sifre - Maurice Moore

 

Signed by the Natalie and Seymour Rosenberg's Memphis Records, 1970's  "New Zealand Trading Company" was a pretty fine release.  Produced by Natalie Rosenberg in the company's Memphis studio, the album featured largely original material; the lone exception being a cover of The Beatles 'Hey Jude'.   Musically the set was quite varied showcasing their show band history, but also showcasing an engaging set of commercial pop with light-psych influences.  Those sunshine pop/light psych efforts were among the album's highlights.  That was kind of a surprise for me since a couple of brief reviews I'd seen painted this as being blued-eyed soul (perhaps due to the fact it was released on the Memphis label).  At least to my ears a far better comparison would be a tripper version of The Association.  Like that band, material such as 'Nine To Five' and 'Could Be' featured strong melodies and nice group harmonies, though coupled with more experimental arrangements.  The only real disappointment here was the closing ballad 'Total Stranger'.  The 'Hey Jude' arrangement wasn't really bad, slapping a weird pseudo-jazzy vibe on the song and ending it with a quick nod to 'Norwegian Wood').  That said it was simply a song you didn't need to hear again (from anyone).  Highlights included the fuzz-propelled opener 'Oh What a Day', 'Jam and Anti-Freeze' and the 'Eleanor Rigby' inspired 'Winnifred Jelicoe'.  Certainly not the most original LP you'll stumble across, but tons of fun ...  By the way, while I have no idea what the words are about, the funky 'Rua Moko' may be in Tarawan.

 

"New Zealand Trading Company" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Oh What a Day   (Alberto Carrion) - 2:45

'Oh What a Day' was one of the album's most commercial tunes offering up a strange mixture of sunshine pop and light psych touches.  Focus meets The Free Design ?    With Carrion handling the lead vocals, this was also a nice example of his strange accent - he may have been Puerto Rican, but the accent sure sounded Dutch to my ears.  Goofy and endearing ...    rating: **** stars

2.) Jam and Anti-Freeze   (Thomas Kini - Barry Kennedy) - 4:11

'Jam and Anti-Freeze' was a nifty effort with the band getting out and out trippy.  The tune also had a gorgeous Kini fuzz guitar solo  Turned out songwriter Barry Kennedy was a close friend of keyboardist Moore.  rating: **** stars

3.) Nine To Five   (Barry Kennedy - Maurice Moore - Thomas Kini) - 2:17

Should appeal to Free Design fans ...  rating: *** stars

4.) Hey Jude   (John Lennon - Paul McCartney) - 8:18

One of the weirdest Beatles covers I've ever owned - imagine Stan Getz and Astrud Gilberto crossed with a touch of The Free Design, some cabaret moves, and a bunch of supper club musicians and you'll get a feel for this drawn out adaptation.  The basic strong structure and melody were still there (particularly when the song kicked into the famous refrain), but over the first five minutes Kawana Waitere's vocals certainly stretched the song's boundaries.   I'll be damned if I can explain why, but this was of those songs that somehow grows on you after a couple of spins.    rating: *** stars

 

(side 2)
1.) Winnifred Jelicoe   (Barry Kennedy - Maurice Moore) - 3:47

Probably the most blatant remake of 'Eleanor Rigby' you'll ever hear.  They were lucky to not have been sued for plagerism on this one.   rating: *** stars

2.) Rua Moko   (Thomas Kini) - 2:45

Surprisingly funky jazz-rock tune sung in Maori and apparently inspired by the god of volcanoes.  Nice showcase for the band's smooth vocal harmonies.    rating: *** stars

3.) Could Be   (Thomas Kini - Maurice Moore) - 3:49

Released as their debut single on Chess' Cadet Concepts label,, I've always loved the percussion heavy opening which was followed by an Association-meets-Up-With-People group harmony pop tune.   Luckily a pair of nice Thomas Kini lead guitar solos (particular the closing solo), saved the tune from Las Vegas supper club status.  rating: *** stars

4.) The Prisoner   (Thomas Kini - Barry Kennedy) - 3:10

Another mellow, Association-meets-Free Design number that was way too MOR-ish for their own good.  rating: ** stars

5.) Total Stranger   (Alberto Carrion) - 4:28

Bland ballad that was totally forgettable and easily the worst tune on the album.  rating: ** stars

 

And once again the internet provides a subject matter expert to correct my earlier assumptions !

 

I noted on your great site your guess New Zealand Trading Company had no New Zealand connections.   The band was indeed from New Zealand, a late incarnation of the Maori Hi Quins, which were one of the plethora of Maori show bands which emerged in the late 1950s and early 1960s. These bands, with a predominantly Maori membership, mixed show tunes, rock and roil, soul, and comedy. They initially found work in Australian clubs, then further afield, including Hawaii and the continental US. You will still come across old Maori show band musicians in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and other towns where there is plenty of hotel work to keep musos going.  According to my notes prepared for a discography of Maori music (currently on hold due to a hard disc meltdown!), they included Thomas Kini, Eddie Nuku, Kawana Waitere (all Maori) Neville Turner (came over from the Maori Troubadours) and Lynn Alvarez (maybe someone they picked up in the US). 


Guitarist turned bassist Kini stayed on in the US, recording with Brazilian Manfredo Fest, Minnie Ripperton, Donny Hathaway, Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock and George Benson.  He died in Chicago in 2004.  
For anyone interested, I found a short tribute to the late Thomas Kini: http://www.bobbylewis.com/the_musicians/thomas-kini/


By the way the language you hear is Maori, which like Tarawan is one of the 300+ Austronesian languages. Ruomoko is the god of volcanoes. I'm still trying for an unsealed copy at a reasonable price so I can hear it:-) 


Adam Gifford

February 2009

 

Amazingly, a guy by the name of Chris Bourke has a small website devoted to New Zealand bands.  The site includes quite a bit of information on The New Zealand Trading Company: http://www.audioculture.co.nz/people/new-zealand-trading-company  

 

 

 

 

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