Neil Finn

TrackAlbum
She Will Have Her WayTry Whistling This
King TideTry Whistling This
AstroTry Whistling This
Driving Me MadOne All
Hole In The IceOne All
Human KindnessOne All
Turn And RunOne All
Dizzy HeightsDizzy Heights
Better Than TVDizzy Heights
Second NatureOut Of Silence

Neil Finn photo 1

 

 

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Neil Finn playlist

 

Contributor: Nicola Tyzack

When I was deciding on which artist to write about next for Toppermost, I thought about what would be a good subject and came up with a list of possibilities. As much as I could probably put something together on a few bands I like, someone had said to me recently about writing on what I know, and what I know well, which struck a chord with me.

It made one artist in particular on the list stand out more than any of the others, so I decided to work my way through his albums and constructively consider my top ten tracks. It has been the most enjoyable piece of homework I’ve done so far, but I have to say that as always it was pretty difficult to pick just ten songs as the artist in question is my absolute, all-time hero.

Neil Finn (OBE) for those who don’t know is a singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and all-round great bloke from New Zealand. He was a member of Split Enz in the late 70s/80s with his brother Tim, he’s the founder and lead singer of Crowded House, a successful solo artist, has formed and played in many other projects and is currently part of the latest version of Fleetwood Mac. He is a very busy man!

I wrote my top ten on Crowded House a while ago so writing about Neil fits rather perfectly as the next edition of my love affair with the music. I’ve gone through Neil’s solo albums in order and come up with a list of songs that by no means capture everything about him as there is simply too much to include. I’ve just gone for the tracks I love and hope will inspire people to have a bit of a listen and realise what a genius this man is.

I’d just like to add here that I do not consider myself to be anything of an expert on Neil or Crowded House. I read a lot online in the forums and groups and there are clearly plenty of people who know a hell of a lot more than I do about the music. I just set my stall out very early on when I was a teenager to be an eternal Crowdie and I make no apologies for it. Anyway.

Crowded House had had a lot of success over the years, but decided to part ways in 1996. It was a very sad time for me and although it spawned a brilliant Greatest Hits album, it left a big hole in my musical life. The natural progression was for Neil to release a solo album and Try Whistling This was delivered to us in 1998. It isn’t Crowded House, it’s more experimental in places (possibly a hark back to Split Enz according to some), but it’s definitely Neil. There is no mistaking his voice or his songwriting and this album was well received by the critics. I remember buying it from Woolworths (flashback!) as soon as it was released and spending time digesting it completely.

I loved it and was glad that he had made the decision to move in the direction of a solo artist as he clearly had so much more music to share with us all. I’ve chosen three tracks from this debut album as part of my top ten starting with She Will Have Her Way which was released as a single and has a very nice video that goes alongside it.

My other two picks are album tracks which I just really like. Firstly, there is King Tide which starts off quiet and slow and then builds up into a mass of guitars just like a giant wave crashing over you. I was most definitely drawn to the guitar on this, but the lyrics are spot on and it’s always a track that I would add to playlists wherever possible. I have to say though that if you are listening to it with headphones in, the beginning is very subtle and then suddenly it hits you in the face quite unexpectedly! It’s raw, it’s loud and I love it.

Next up is Astro which again is simply just a track that I fell in love with. It’s quite gentle with some moving lyrics and I believe I have read somewhere that it’s about witnessing your own funeral. Not an easy subject to write about, but here it is done with elegance and good grace. My particular favourite lyric is “All your best one liners, borrowed from a film” as it gives a real sense of familiarity with the writer.

2001 saw the release of Neil’s second album One Nil. While reviewers stated that Try Whistling This was a conscious effort on his part to distance himself from Crowded House, they felt that this follow up was more of a return to solid ground with a more straightforward sound. I’m not sure how I feel about that to be honest as whatever he does he’s always going to sound like Neil. His voice is the voice of Crowded House and I guess you will associate them together. I suppose what they are meaning is that this isn’t an experimental adventure, it’s simply great songwriting with some nice collaborations and gentle sounds.

Of course, I loved it, but I have a confession to make. The album was re-released in the US a year or so later with the title One All and a slightly different track listing.

Some of the tracks were also replaced with others not on the original release and a couple of them were remixed and had different guest musicians. Perhaps this was to sound more contemporary for the US market, I don’t really know. But my confession is that I prefer this version of the album rather than the original. Sorry!

I like the additional tracks and also the way the album flows through. Music is always a matter of taste and I can fully appreciate both albums for what they are, but I just like this version better. So, the tracks I have chosen are from the One All album release rather than the One Nil version. Three of the tracks appear on both albums and only one that I have picked is on the alternative version.

I think the fact that I have decided to include four tracks from this album should tell you how much I love it and that I think it does Neil a lot of justice as a top-class musician with this release. It was met with good reviews and I think it bridges the gap between Crowded House ending and reforming again in 2006.

Driving Me Mad is my first pick and this was released as a single when the US album came out. It wasn’t a single on the original album though. It’s a very beautiful song with some wonderful lyrics and I do like the harmonies throughout. I can see why it was a single as to me it is a standout song on the album.

Next up is Hole In The Ice which was a single from the original album. It’s a bit loud, has a great guitar sound plus some shouty lyrics and I absolutely love it. I don’t really have much idea what it’s actually about, but I do like singing along with Neil.

The track I have chosen which is only on the US album release is called Human Kindness. I like the lyrics and the way the track progresses through. Neil’s voice can really be heard on this track and as he sings the words “for human kind” it gives me goosebumps it’s that good.

Turn And Run is the final track I have picked from this album, and my god this is an epic track. I sing along with this at full pelt and it’s just a masterpiece of songwriting and musicianship. Again, it has great harmonies and the lyrics are simply perfect. A total wow moment.

 

I literally could have included most of the songs from One All as it’s just wonderful, but I stopped myself at four as I wanted to make sure I could include some from Neil’s later solo albums.

Crowded House reformed in 2006 and released Time On Earth in 2007 and Neil also had some other projects such as Pajama Club with his wife Sharon in 2011. He was keeping busy as always. But I sensed that he had other ideas bubbling away which were more suited to solo work so we were treated to Dizzy Heights in 2014 as his third solo outing.

Now, I do like this album, but it is one that has taken me a while to enjoy. I think when I first listened to it I wasn’t completely sure as it has such a different sound. But this is the thing about Neil; he is someone who constantly changes and moves forward and isn’t afraid to try something new. I’ve picked two tracks from this album, the title track Dizzy Heights and Better Than TV.

Neil’s fourth solo effort Out Of Silence was a very interesting concept in terms of its creation. The album was basically made by live streaming the songs over Facebook over a few weeks as rehearsals and then it was recorded on the last session. I remember watching some of the sessions and this collaboration made you really feel that you were part of the process in putting this album together. It was a unique insight into how Neil works and the fans loved it.

The album itself is more of a return to just great songwriting and is fairly simple in its approach with a less is more feel. Lots of piano and intricate string arrangements and the finished product is something that was met with great appreciation and wonder. I’ve chosen the track Second Nature which was released as a single as part of the rehearsal process (if you can call it that) as it’s a great example of what this album is about.

The album scored high on release and I think it probably made a lot more people aware of Neil and just how good he is as a musician, which in turn made me very happy.

As always with a top ten article you are simply trying to give an insight into an artist you like, and make them more accessible to people who may not be as familiar with their work. I don’t know if this piece has achieved that, but I certainly hope if nothing else that you will go off and listen to some of these tracks and see what you think.

Anyone who knows me will be well aware that Neil has been a constant companion to me for the last 30 years and that I just like talking about him and his music. He can do no wrong in my eyes and his progression throughout his career astounds me and I cannot wait to see what he will do next. I think his voice just gets better as he gets older and his want and need to always be making something new is a credit to his longevity. If you are a fan of Crowded House, you really should listen to the recent radio recordings he did about each Crowdies album, which include live tracks and lots of back story about the creation of those albums with some of the other band members. They are joyous listening.

I was lucky enough to be chosen to write my story of why I love Neil so much for the book “We Got You!” which was released for his birthday in 2017. It’s a collection of stories from fans all around the world and it shows just how much his music means to so many people.

If all you know about Neil Finn is that he is in Crowded House and that their music is very MOR, or whatever, then I think you should take a listen to his solo work and see if it changes your mind. It can’t hurt, and as Neil himself says on the track Dizzy Heights – if you don’t like the groove, then call the cops.

 

 

Neil Finn photo 2

Signed photo of Neil from the Out Of Silence sessions

 

 

Neil Finn official website

Neil & Liam Finn website

Fangradio – Neil Finn’s live audio broadcast

Neil Finn youtube channel

Crowded House website

Kia Kaha – Split Enz fansite & archive

Toppermost #555 – Crowded House

Neil Finn biography (AllMusic)

After writing for other sites for a while, Nicola decided to give it a go on her own and now runs Sounds Familiar sharing articles, interviews and reviews on the music she loves. You can follow Nicola on twitter @call_me_cynical and @soundsfamiliarb

Apart from Crowded House, Nicola’s earlier posts for this site include The Bluetones, Phil Collins, Turin Brakes

TopperPost #957

4 Comments

  1. David Lewis
    May 23, 2021

    Though he is a proud New Zealander, Australia suggests he’s one of us from time to time and with such a catalogue you can’t blame us! The songwriter of whom no less than Paul McCartney said that if he was starting out, he’d be studying Neil Finn intently. A lovely and well chosen list.

  2. Johny Nocash
    May 23, 2021

    Really enjoyed that Nicola. I’ll have to delve a bit deeper into the solo stuff – I have the first two, and of course the first Finn album. A great songwriter!
    (And great to learn you got to write a piece for the book, too!)

  3. Glenn Smith
    Jun 16, 2021

    I saw him in 98 touring Try Whistling This at the Thebarton in Adelaide, and yep one of the best gigs ever. He has the lyricist Robert Moore on bass and I think Moginie was playing as well. I’m a One Nil fan, but I get what you’ve included, Driving Me Mad and Last to Know are superb. But Try Whistling This, oy vey, what a record! I’m going to stake out a claim and argue it is his best work period, and I include Enz and Crowded in that assessment. It is simply stunning, dark and hurt with that underlying McCartney whimsy ever present. He literally skips his way through the upbeat tunes like She Will, but when its dark, man he plumbs the depths. The intro to Twisty Bass, the way the chords creep along the melody, “hang man’s in the noose”, Truth, Loose Tongue, young Neil had some serious stuff going down, and aren’t we glad for it.
    Beautifully written and well supported by the likes of Moginie, Try is a record for the ages. I’d have never thought of Neil for a Toppermost appraisal, thanks Nicola well done.

  4. Ilkka Jauramo
    Jun 18, 2021

    Thanks Nicola for this Toppermost on Neil Finn. Living in Scandinavian countries this is yet another example of an artist whom I never would have discovered without this site . . . even if I am just another ‘Finn’.

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