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Finn and Frank

Tim Finn – Imaginary Kingdom

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Tim Finn has never really gotten the respect that his younger brother Neil has. Even though Tim was a founding member of Split Enz, it was Neil’s band Crowded House that really put the Finn name on the map. Most critics and fans have always considered Neil’s solo work superior to Tim’s. That was then and this is now. Tim’s new solo release, Imaginary Kingdom changes all that. Put aside any preconceived bias against Tim and listen to this one with fresh ears because he’s delivered a masterpiece and his personal best. Easily as good as any of Neil’s solo efforts and right up there with Crowded House. The opening track “Couldn’t Be Done,” is a brilliant power-pop gem…quirky and hooky…the stuff I wish both of the Finns would do more of. The rest of the album is full of amazing songwriting featuring sweeping themes and beautiful melodies. I don’t know what inspired Tim, but these are some of the best songs of his career. The album also features Tim’s track from the Narnia movie, “Winter Light.” Unfortunately it hasn't been released yet in the U.S. and is only available as an import right now.

 

Frank Zappa – Trance-Fusion

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This is one of 3 albums Frank had finished for release before his death. Why it sat in the vault since then is anybody’s guess. But at least the Zappa Family Trust got this one right. Mastered by sound guru Bob Ludwig, this album sounds great. It’s another album of Franks jazz-rock-fusion guitar solos…most of which were recorded live on the 1988 tour. This continues the theme from Frank’s previous releases Shut Up and Play Your Guitar and Guitar with one exception…this one is much better. It’s a single disc release instead of 2 or 3, but it’s more cohesive and flows perfectly. This is Frank at his best and the sound quality and packaging is top notch.

Comments

Dave

Here's Tim Finn talking about the inspiration for the new album:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KlJT5OCLuOI

Dave Danglis

Does the argument, “Who’s better, Tim or Neil Finn?” come down to personal taste? Neil camps out in a darker neighborhood than Tim. Neil’s albums are typically serious, brooding affairs, while Tim’s music reveals a sunnier, more hopeful disposition. Neil will accompany you on the way down, but Tim will help you find the way out. They both have their place, and when the two come together (as in the Brothers’ 2004 release, Everyone is Here, or the 1991 Crowded House release, Woodface, arguably CH’s best) the results are beautiful pop songs displaying a full range of meaning and emotion.

I lean toward Neil, finding him a more reliable songwriter and, these days at least, the stronger singer. Neil typically finds a way to turn the melody in unexpected directions, making a song more durable as a result. From a statistical point of view, if I rated Neil’s albums 90/10 in terms of satisfaction, Tim’s would rate about 70/30. Tim’s approach seems to be much looser – he’s happy to toss off songs quickly, then move on. (is he hinting at this in “So Precious” on Imaginary Kingdom? Could he be talking to Neil?)

That being said, one could easily throw together an awesome Tim Finn “best-of” collection. He’s hit several home runs over the years – you can count on a few with each new release – and Imaginary Kingdom continues that trend. Track 1 (“Couldn’t Be Done”) is the obvious single, after which things settle down into a solid, reliable sequence of tunes which slowly reveal their delights. But the final three-song stretch is what has grabbed my ear this time out, from the tear-inducing “Winter Light,” through the rousing “So Precious,” to the inspiring finale, “Unsinkable,” which was wisely kept short in length, leaving the listener craving for more. (And that craving is so important!) These songs should make my year-end favorites list.

Tim is a master of optimism. Even when he is hurting, his songs have the sound of forgiveness and acceptance. And the sound is genuine. “Almost thou persuadest me that he is a Christian,” though I’m not aware that he has ever made such a confession. Last I heard, he’s what’s called a “lapsed Catholic” – lapsed a good distance at that. Yet considering his lyrics on Imaginary Kingdom, and some of the company he’s keeping, one could hope that this man’s good heart will find its home.

Has Tim topped brother Neil’s capabilities with Imaginary Kingdom? Time will tell, and what I think time will say is that he hasn’t. But I’d guess that Tim himself would shrug off the question and say, “why not just enjoy us both?” They’re both tremendously gifted and generous in their music, and woefully underappreciated in these parts.

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