Russell Baillie writes about movies for the Herald

Tim Finn - Anthology: North, South East West ...

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Rating: * * * *

Verdict: Finn's pickings not thin pickings.

With a directional title like that you would expect this double CD best-of to be, er, all encompassing.

And despite some lateral minded selections, some re-recordings taking the place of original tracks, and a few mysterious absences, it is all that.

It divides itself neatly four ways. There are seven original Split Enz songs, and an eighth Stuff and Nonsense redone as a duet with Missy Higgins.

The latter portion of each disc covers his early and more recent solo years, all the way back to reggae-fied early hit Fraction Too Much Friction. And there are three songs from his Crowded House stint on the breakthrough Woodface album - but all re-recorded. It's Only Natural is rendered as another duet, this time with Bic Runga. It must be said their voices don't carry the song as well as the sibling harmonies of 20 years ago.

But it's a solo-at-the-piano How Will You Go that is the most effective of the revised songs. And there are another three songs from the two Finn brothers' albums.

Arguably, Finn could have compiled one disc of sturdy hits and another that could have neatly picked the eyes out of his recent solo outings which haven't exactly suffered from over-exposure.

But this album also seems informed by the recent Australian musical play Poor Boy, which was inspired by Finn's back catalogue - its writer Matt Cameron pens this collection's exuberant liner notes.

"There is a generosity of spirit to Tim Finn. An eclecticism of expression. All points of the compass bravely explored. Instinct his guide. Truth his calling. Music his reason for being. This double-album feast harbours it all ..." hyperventilates the playwright.

Yes, but anyone who has followed Finn's songwriting might wonder at a few Split Enz tracks that didn't make the cut - Charlie and Time for a Change are as much defining ballads of the Enz era as the falsetto gymnastics of I Hope I Never which is here and still threatening the glassware.

Also not included is Shark Attack, his best-rock-vocal-after-I-See-Red, which kicks this collection off nicely. His autobiographical Haul Away isn't there either, but lilting new song Nothing Unusual references both My Mistake (which is up earlier) and the Auckland beginnings of the Enz at Malmsbury Villa in the early 70s.

Of the solo tracks, some of the 80s excursions haven't dated all that well, which may be the reason for the absence of Parihaka. The past ten years hold up better, especially with the wise decision to include just one track, the daft Underwater Mountain, from the lacklustre Say Is It So album. That's followed by a solid trio from both the great and under-appreciated Feeding the Gods and last year's gently captivating The Conversation.

So as an "anthology", it doesn't quite stick to the history book. But across its 34 tracks North, South, East West ... sure remains a fascinating map charting just how far this Finn has sailed.

Russell Baillie


- NZ Herald

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Russell Baillie writes about movies for the Herald

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