She Will Have Her WayIt’s very simple, the premise of this tribute to the music of New Zealand’s premiere pop music exports, Tim and Neil Finn (Split Enz, Crowded House, and respective solo careers and collaborations as the Finn Brothers). The basic idea is this: female or predominantly female acts from Australia and New Zealand reinterpret songs from various stages of the Finns’ careers in their own style. What emerges from that idea is an array of wildly different styles, voices and degrees of fidelity to the source material.

If you’re not from that part of the world, you may not know who virtually all of the performers are (I can relate – prior to this CD, I must confess that I had only heard of Boh Runga and Natalie Imbruglia). But like a lot of “various artists” projects heavy with smaller acts, you’ll probably walk away from the endeavour wanting to sample more of their work. Clare Bowditch’s rendition of “Fall At Your Feet” gets things rolling, and as much as I was faintly disappointed by the fact that the song that gave this album its name wasn’t actually covered, “Fall At Your Feet” serves as a good eye-opener when the unchanged lyric “I’m really close tonight, and I feel myself moving inside her” is sung by a female vocalist. This is an excellent cover too, stripping the song down to basics somewhat and yet retaining so much of its yearning feel.

A few of the covers are almost baffling, but at the same time I admire the reinvention of every single one of them. Renee Geyer transforms “Into Temptation” into a pop song with hip-hop influences, and “Persuasion” and “One Step Ahead” make a successful leap into bubblegum pop territory. Some of the covers don’t stray far from the source material at all – “Won’t Give In”, from the Finn Brothers’ 2004 album, becomes just a little bit country-fried, while the group Little Birdy turns the dense synth textures of “Six Months In A Leaky Boat” into dense guitar textures. “I Hope I Never”, while a bit stripped down from the synth-orchestral arrangement of the 1980 Split Enz version, retains its soaring, wistful vocals thanks to Lisa Miller. “Better Be Home Soon”, which was always written as a ballad reflecting the thoughts of a woman whose significant other is away from home far too often, finally gets to be sung by a woman here.

I’ll admit that I wasn’t crazy about Holly Throsby’s “Not The Girl You Think You Are” remake, but that’s just down to it being not my favorite style of singing; your mileage may vary. “Don’t Dream It’s Over” is a nice cover, but almost strips the song down too much, only to restore it to its full glory by recasting the famous organ solo as a choral piece.

For the most part, the lyrics are left unchanged; a few adjustments are made for gender here and there. I was a little dismayed that “like a Christian fearing vengeance from above” was completely excised from “Distant Sun”; Brooke Fraser’s cover of the song is very nice, but there’s a little voice in my head that says these artists are supposed to be reinterpreting the songs here, not rewriting them. I found this single omission more jarring than any of the more daring stylistic alterations, because it changed what was being said and not how it was being said. (Neil Finn’s recurring “lapsed Catholic” theme is an intriguing thread running through a great many of his songs, and part of the character of his work.) But then maybe I’m being a bit too defensive of the source material there.

There are other ways to drastically change the character of a song, though. Sophie Koh’s reading of the early Enz tune “Charlie” takes the song’s already dark narrative – involving someone waking up from a hangover and realizing that they killed their friend during an argument the night before – and puts a whole different spin on it by making the song fast and fun, leaving the story intact but generating a “crazy chick” vibe that makes it unnerving in a whole new way – as if the person doing the singing isn’t remorseful of what has happened, but is instead blissfully unaware. “Charlie” is almost punk rock in this incarnation, and it may well be the best thing on the CD. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for some of Sophie Koh’s originals. I was surprised by how much I liked Natalie Imbruglia’s take on the Crowded House number “Pineapple Head”, too.

rating: 4 out of 4So, the question is…will you enjoy She Will Have Her Way? I give it a strong recommendation – in particular, even though I didn’t get it (mainly because I’ve already got all of the original albums on which these songs appeared), the 2-CD version which allows you to compare the covers with the original recordings. You might find some of the differences jaw-dropping. In any case, these were great songs to begin with – lyrically and musically outstanding works – and they survive even the wildest changes and still emerge as great songs. Whether you’re a Finn fan daring to try out some different takes on your favorites, or someone just now sampling both these artists and the music of Tim and Neil Finn for the first time, this is a solid collection that’ll keep you coming back for more.

Order this CD

  1. Fall At Your Feet – Claire Bowditch (3:50)
  2. Stuff And Nonsense – Missy Higgins (3:31)
  3. I’ll Never Know – Goldenhorse (3:04)
  4. Into Temptation – Renee Geyer (4:56)
  5. Six Months In A Leaky Boat – Little Birdy (3:53)
  6. Better Be Home Soon – Kasey Chambers (3:19)
  7. Distant Sun – Brooke Fraser (3:56)
  8. Not The Girl You Think You Are – Holly Throsby (3:37)
  9. I Hope I Never – Lisa Miller (4:09)
  10. Don’t Dream It’s Over – Sarah Blasko (4:42)
  11. One Step Ahead – Amiel (3:01)
  12. Four Seasons In One Day – New Buffalo (4:00)
  13. Won’t Give In – Sara Storer (4:18)
  14. Pineapple Head – Natalie Imbruglia (3:23)
  15. Persuasion – Stellar* (3:41)
  16. Charlie – Sophie Koh (3:47)

Released by: EMI
Release date: 2005
Total running time: 61:07