Wednesday, September 21, 2016

She Will Have Her Way

If I write about Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, the Stones and Elvis Costello, I can be sure to see plenty of activity in the comments sections, taking one side or the another, depending on what's being written. But I have also noticed after all these years, that certain artists almost always fail to invoke any response, one way or the other. An indifference maybe. Is the music simply not good or bad enough? Is there nothing controversial to debate? Maybe there is a collective smile happening that I just can't see.

I thought about this because of something a friend said to me last week.

"Where has Neil Finn been all my life?"

She said this because she had been listening to a compilation of Split Enz/Crowded House and solo material I made for her...EIGHT YEARS AGO!

I was thrilled that she finally came around. Neil Finn has been a favorite of mine since I first heard the brilliant pop candy that is "I Got You." The Crowded House records are the perfect combination of sweet and bitter, with songs that can appeal to both fans of the perfect single, as well as those who need a little more adventure. I guess I can say that about Split Enz, as well. And Neil's solo work finds a songwriter who has grown up, someone no longer afraid of what should and should not be. Pop songs with daring arrangements, as well as the occasional daring melody with a daring arrangement. He is not afraid to take chances.

I've written about Neil with Crowded House and without. I've raved about his solo work. The Finn Brothers release of 2004, "Everyone His Here," recorded with his brother, Split Emz founder Tim Finn, is one of my favorite records of all time. His last solo release, "Dizzy Heights" was a favorite of the year, and yet, few have said much about any of it.

This is not a complaint. It is a curiousity, brought on by my friend's query, "Where has Neil Finn been all my life?"

Needless to say, I am on a Finn kick. I have made the first single off his first solo album, "Try Whistling This" the Song Of The Day and the highlight of this post. Maybe today will be the day everyone listens and decides, "Man, this guy stinks!" Or maybe you all will be asking, "Where has Neil Finn been all my life?"


Split Enz- Corroboree
Crowded House-Together Alone
Neil Finn- Try Whistling This
Finn Brothers- Everyone Is Here
7 Worlds Collide
Neil Finn-Dizzy Heights
Neil Finn & Paul Kelly-Going My Way


Anonymous said...

Never been a big Crowded House fan, maybe the productions a bit too slick, I don't know, there's something there that keeps me away. I've always been more of a Squeeze fan though they have been guilty of the same production issues (better songs though IMHO). I've always been a fan of Neil's solo stuff, especially Try Whistling This. Hell, even the wife likes it! Randy

Sal Nunziato said...

I can't disagree about the production on the CH records, especially the first two. It was the 80s. But I recommended "Together Alone" for that reason, plus I think most had forgotten at the point and may have missed it.

buzzbabyjesus said...

"Try Whistling This" really got me. "Dizzy Heights" has been in my phone and on the playlist since it came out.

I bought Split Enz first Phil Manzanera produced album as an import, and it is still a favorite. Neil replaced crazy Phil Judd, and they got more mainstream, and I liked them less.

I admit never really hearing Crowded House, although I have one of their cd's. I found the production off-putting so I only played it once. I'll have to give it another chance.

A lot of cool quirky music came out of New Zealand.

Jon Springer said...

I've become big latter-day fan of Neil and Crowded House thanks in part to being reminded of them here. The problem with Crowded House getting the attention it deserved over the years ...

* Their first hit "Don't Dream.." was so gigantic, such an all-time classic, that it set expectations that were hard to surpass among the listening public.

* This was compounded by the second album, Temple of Low Men, being probably their worst, relatively speaking.

* Bringing Tim Finn back in as a member for Woodface then blurred their identity -- were they a distinct entity from Split Enz as conceived or not? That's a gorgeous album but more of a Finn Brothers outing than a CH record. I was only a casual listener then and would have been challenged to even distinguish which Finn was supposed to be the leader then. Tim Finn then left as soon as he arrived.

* They were a trio, but often performed as a foursome (with the Split Enz keyboardist and/or Froom or Mark Hart) or quintet (with Tim and those guys) but also would do the acoustic-trio busking thing. I don't think anyone could have told you how many people were in the band.

* They were plowed under by the alternative/grunge movement like everyone else in the 90s.

* They made a curious decision to push the snotty, un-CH-like "Chocolate Cake" as a lead single off Woodface when there were a half-dozen more representative and better choices to be hits IMO.

* Drummer Paul Hester quit then killed himself. He was an important figure in the band's identity and a very good singer with Neil.

* I dunno if I'd describe the production of the early albums as too slick, more like "too fussy." It did not have a lot of the typical showy 80s characteristics but it was kind of sterile and made them sound probably too gentle to be considered serious rockers.

Anonymous said...

I'll admit that the Finns' particular type of pop craft has not bowled me over, other than the hits. I think of them as similar to Ron Sexsmith - someone who is definitely talented and admirable, who I'll listen to if it's right in front of me, has the occasional knockout song, but I couldn't tell you how many albums he's released in the last five years.

Sal Nunziato said...

@Jon Springer
I couldn't have said it better myself. And I didn't!

ken49 said...

Neil is one my very favorite singers so I enjoy most of what he puts out. One problem I have and it is not isolated to him but his songs are too long for me. I think it diminishes the impact of a song when it is stretched out. He has gotten more guilty of this in recent years and for me his albums have lacked making a strong impact. They're good (most of the songs fall into the category for me) but not memorable.

Ken J Xenozar said...

Yes @jonSpringer nails it.

I have not cared from 90% of the rebooted CH albums (Time on Earth, Intriguer). But most of Neil's solo work has been top notch.

As I perform his songs on guitar, I have observed a few things. The music is fantastic, but his lyrics are always a little obtuse - not direct. Almost every line makes you say "what does he mean??" Neil has said as much. Not sure if that is a complaint, but I wonder why Neil prefers to write that way.

But as I perform and share some of the more obscure CH and Finn songs, I almost always get someone asking with big eyes, "Who wrote that?!" IMHO, Neil Finn will be a songwriter that folks will still be referencing 50 years from now.

Anonymous said...


I have liked Neil Finn since I got the first Crowded House record. I have a good bunch of his solo works but my collecting tailed off the last decade or so. I haven't heard the "Dizzy" album at all.

I think the "tailing off" of interest can happen with a lot of artists past their glory days. You don't (or can't) keep up and then miss out on what they are still doing -- usually solid and underrated stuff.

For me this has happened with other artists of late: Freedy Johnston, Steve Forbert, Ron Sexsmith (mentioned earlier), but also people like Bruce Cockburn, John Hiatt, and Paul Weller, to name a few.

Thankfully, there's time to rediscover what I've always liked about them.

Michael D.

Anonymous said...

I have been a huge fan of all that is Neil Finn since I was five years old,one of the very best of the very best

Anonymous said...

Can't remember the first day i know i was 12 the song was don't dream it's over.

wardo said...

Love, love, love this song, and the title track. Rest of the album always left me cold.

dogbreath said...

It was after picking up an Italian bootleg of a Crowded House concert that I found myself delving into the Finns' music, both solo & band stuff. I finally saw what friends of mine had been blathering on about for years. Some clever arrangements, a sense of humour and, yes, some tunes you can whistle along with.