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Neil Finn

+ {7 Worlds Collide} + {Neil & Liam Finn}

Singer-songwriter and craftsman from the land of down under, Neil Mullane Finn (born 27 May 1958, Te Awamutu, New Zealand) has had an exemplary career that could compare with his multi-talented sibling – 6 years his senior – TIM FINN. Having watched his big bro find some “Mental Notes” in the mid-70s with the zany new wave precursors SPLIT ENZ, Neil became an essential ally (and/or foil) from “Disrythmia” onwards; becoming the last man standing – so to speak – when inheriting the said combo when his brother chose a demanding solo career in ‘84.
Subsequently forming The Mullanes with SPLIT ENZ refugee Paul Hester and Nick Seymour (and briefly Craig Hooper), the trio switched tact and moniker to CROWDED HOUSE. From ‘86 to ‘96, the neo-soft-rock group competed for the Australian inside-rail with INXS and AC/DC, garnering critical acclaim for albums: `Crowded House’ (1986), `Temple Of Low Men’ (1988), `Woodface’ (1991) – their one and only featuring 4th member TIM FINN – and `Together Alone’ (1993).
Following an eponymous FINN brothers album in ’95, NEIL FINN (O.B.E. a few years earlier) had now a little time on his hands after abandoning his long-time association with Australasian favourites, CROWDED HOUSE. Now finally a solo artist in his own right, the singer released his debut solo set, TRY WHISTLING THIS (1998) {*8}, a record that cracked the UK Top 5 but failed mysteriously in his proven stamping ground of America. A poignant opener, the bright and breezy `Last One Standing’, tried hard to emulate attendant hits such as `She Will Have Her Way’ and `Sinner’ (both recalling a solo LENNON, McCARTNEY or HARRISON).
While the album was all about realising experimental, if still unerringly melodic, ideas extraneous to the CROWDED HOUSE formula, ONE NIL (2001) {*7} – featuring chart entries `Wherever You Are’ and `Hole In The Ice’ – stuck to the singer-songwriting tools of his trade. No surprises then, it was a solid Tchad Blake-produced effort, with guest appearances by the likes of SHERYL CROW, LISA GERMANO and producer Mitchell Froom. The UK Top 20 record was re-worked under the title of ONE ALL {*5} the following spring.
Often overlooked in the melee of his solo CV was the unlikely soundtrack to the film, RAIN (2001) {*6} soundtrack; released featuring various artists only in his original homeland. The OST kicked off in fine fashion via `You Don’t Know’, a record not too far removed from his CROWDED HOUSE days. FINN took to film scores like a duck to water; The BEATLES-esque `Orange And Blue’, delivering both sad vox and movie dialogue in equal measures – a modern-day `#9’ but with melody. `Red Room’ twanged and twisted into a solemn but uplifting gear shift, while `The Affair’ found a BLUE NILE kind of melancholy. Of the five FINN tracks on the second half of the set, the all-to-brief vocal `Boat Joyride’ was the most accessible, while `Kids Floating’ suggested why the man had a penchant for fellow countrymen greasers HUMAN INSTINCT. His son, Liam Finn (co-leader of NZ alt-pop band Betchadupa), got to shine in front of his dad, courtesy of closing hum-a-long, Fab Four-like `Lucid Dream’.
Released only a matter of months on, 7 WORLDS COLLIDE (2001) {*7} was down to NEIL FINN & FRIENDS – “Live At The St. James”. Together with a cosmopolitan crew of EDDIE VEDDER (on no less than 4 cuts), Ed O’Brien, LISA GERMANO, Sebastian Steinberg (of SOUL COUGHING), Phil Selway (RADIOHEAD) and a raft of other affiliates, the highlights came thick ‘n’ fast by way of The SMITHS’ `There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’ (with JOHNNY MARR) and material from the special one’s back catalogue, including `Angels Heap’ (alongside Tim), `Weather With You’ and the sing-a-long encore `Don’t Dream It’s Over’.
A subsequent spar with brother Tim for a second UK Top 20 FINN BROTHERS effort, `Everyone Is Here’ (2004), lavished the man with further plaudits, while it was inevitable that CROWDED HOUSE would make a comeback at some staging point. 2007’s `Time On Earth’ and 2010’s `Intriguer’, proved beyond any doubt that Neil and Co could compete in today’s austere and fickle music world.
Nevertheless, it was with another cast of 7 WORLDS COLLIDE (as accredited this time around), that Neil was at his most sublime. With all proceeds going towards the Oxfam charity, 2009’s THE SUN CAME OUT {*7} double-CD featured all the usual suspects of several years back, although VEDDER’s berth was filled by BIC RUNGA, Don McGlashan (of The MUTTON BIRDS), KT TUNSTALL, Glenn Richards (of AUGIE MARCH) and the entire WILCO posse shipped from the US. A collision of all-round various artistry, the pick of the pack were arguably his own contributions a la `Too Blue’, `Little By Little’ (with wife Sharon), `Learn To Crawl’ (with Tim) and `All Comedians Suffer’. Further accolade was bestowed upon Neil for his beautiful Celtic-folk contribution (`Song Of The Lonely Mountain’) to the overwhelming 2012 soundtrack to The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’.
On the back of a home-soil double-CD/DVD package alongside fellow Antipodean hero PAUL KELLY, GOIN’ YOUR WAY (2013) {*8} – recorded at Sydney Opera House Concert Hall – FINN was back in fine fettle on “comeback” solo outing, DIZZY HEIGHTS (2014) {*7}. Enlisting help from his family (wife Sharon and sons Liam and Elroy), the Top 20 album was proof again that the 55 year-old was as adventurous as ever. Possessing all the subtlety of old, `Divebomber’, `Recluse’ and `Pony Ride’ were worth the admission price alone.
When one collates all the albums Neil and his brother Tim have released over the past 40 years, well, its just astonishing the quality and the quantity on show; forget OBE’s, the brothers FINN should be given the freedom of the world – they’ve sang about it numerous times.
Dumbing down from his deep and ambitious previous set, OUT OF SILENCE (2017) {*8}, returned NEIL FINN to a back-to-basics approach, recorded as it was live in the studio and streamed live on the internet. The singer-songwriter created here a lush and meditative album, tracks such as `Love Is Emotional’, `Chameleon Days’, `Widow’s Peak’ (penned with wife Sharon), `The Law Is Always On Your Side’ and `Terrorise Me’, flitting from stately and serene to light political protest.
In less than a year, the father and son merger of NEIL & LIAM FINN reached out to insomniacs everywhere on 2018’s LIGHTSLEEPER {*7}. Neil was of course was used to sharing the limelight, having integrated with his brother TIM FINN, PAUL KELLY, 7 Worlds Collide and various friends. This match made in heaven was, however, laid out in a cosy and comforting vibe; best examples, `Meet Me In The Air’, `We Know What It Means’, `Anger Plays A Part’ (the single) and the PRINCE-like homage, `Where’s My Room’.
© MC Strong 1994-2008/GRD-LCS // rev-up MCS Oct2015-Sep2018

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