Liz Damon and the Orient Express Band were once the house band at the Hilton Hawaiian Village whose debut album, At the Garden Bar, Hilton Hawaiian Village, was originally issued on local label, Makaha, in 1970. Enter White Whale, the indie label that likely released surf music’s final first-wave recording (i.e., “Surfer Dan” by The Turtles).
As Billboard would write in its piece – “White Whale Gets Express Product” – for the December 12, 1970 edition:
White Whale Records has acquired the worldwide rights to the product of Liz Damon’s Orient Express on the Makaha label. Makaha Records is a Hawaii-based firm. White Whale is rushing into release a single titled ‘1900 Yesterday‘ and an album titled Liz Damon’s Orient Express.
Liz Damon’s Orient Express (1970)
Conducted & arranged by Joe Eich
“1900 Yesterday” – which hit #33 on Billboard‘s US Pop chart in 1971 – would also enjoy release in Spain, Australia, and New Zealand. “1900 Yesterday” also reached at least the #13 spot on Billboard‘s Easy Listening chart, as reported in the January 9, 1971 edition.
Eliot Tiegel posted this enthusiastic review of the group in their home turf for Billboard‘s January 16, 1971 issue:
Liz Damon’s Orient Express
Hilton Hawaiian Village, Honolulu
This is a 10-piece aggregation which is starting to roar down the musical track of pop music. The new White Whale group, through its affiliation with Makaha Records, has become a hot attraction hereabouts, with long lines of young people waiting to get into the Garden Bar, where the softly romantic harmonies, coupled with precise instrumental tracks, create a very pleasant listening and dancing environment.
Miss Damon, who has been working this room for one year, blends in vocally with her seven musicians and two girl singers, all dressed neatly and stylishly and presenting a clean cut image.
This is a pure pop band, filtering in the excitement of Latin music, with the two trumpets and one trombone playing the melody with the electric guitarist to create a good strong sound. Infectious organ bridges working in concert with the electric bassist, added a funky feeling to the untitled Santana song.
“Sweet Caroline,” “Something,” “Sweet Blindness,” and “We’ve Only Just Begun” helped communicate with the packed house. This band is ready for the Mainland and major rooms.
Produced by George Chun
Liz Damon and the Orient Express, tragically, would sign with White Whale at the end of its commercial run and thus serve history for being the label’s last 45 and LP.
Rear Cover Liner Notes
Ben Wood – Entertainment Editor
Honolulu Star Bulletin
Liz Damon and the Orient Express are on the right track.
This youthful, enthusiastic, vocal-instrumental group has long been a favorite of mine. As for Liz, I’ve followed her career ever since she was a teenager. She is one of the best pop singers the state of Hawaii has produced. Liz is the gal that holds the group together and keeps it operating as a smooth unit.
The Orient Express is a pleasure to see as well as hear. The three attractive, fashion-conscious girls in the front line are always on the move and are ably supported by six well-groomed musicians in the background.
Their material is always fresh, the sound full and harmony tight. The versatile group specializes in pop tunes but also excels in rock, [novelty?], and country and western numbers.
This is the first album by Liz Damon and the Orient Express. I hope it helps speed them to greater success.
Photo at bottom
“We dedicate this album to the strength and courage of Bryan M. Chun“
Interestingly enough, Betty Everett had already released “1900 Yesterday” the year before as the B-side to a single (“Maybe“) that bubbled under at #116 in September 1969.
Aside from anchor act, The Turtles, White Whale’s early releases would include influential UK band, John’s Children (“Smashed, Blocked“), New Orleans Public Library (“Trippin’ Down the Street”), Nino Tempo & April Stevens (“All Strung Out“), and guitarist, Jan Davis (“Lost in Space“).
Title track by Bacharach-David