Crowded House

Crowded HouseThe debut album from Neil Finn’s very own post-Split Enz trio was quite a surprise in the synthesizer/drum machine-dominated mid-1980s. Instead of veering to the opposite extreme – thundering hard rock – Crowded House embraced a unique sound of only a few instruments and Finn’s trademark vocals. The biggest hit Crowded House ever had, “Don’t Dream It’s Over”, comes from this album, as do its moderately successful follow-ups, “Something So Strong” and “World Where You Live”, a somewhat less well-known number. Other tracks to listen for are “Hole In The River”, a harsh song inspired by the suicide of Finn’s aunt (this could also be the basis of the later song “Catherine Wheels” from the band’s fourth album), “Mean To Me”, which Neil wrote after a particularly amusing incident with a rabid American fan who crossed the globe to see him, and “I Walk Away”, a cover of a song that originally appeared on the final rating: 3 out of 4Split Enz studio album only a year earlier. CDs of the Crowded House album also contain a bonus track, “Can’t Carry On”, which is obviously a remnant of those final Split Enz sessions, as it sounds almost nothing like Crowded House. A very good album, though Temple Of Low Men may be a better introduction to Crowded House.

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  1. Mean To Me (3:16)
  2. World Where You Live (3:04)
  3. Now We’re Getting Somewhere (4:06)
  4. Don’t Dream It’s Over (3:57)
  5. Love You ‘Til The Day I Die (3:32)
  6. Something So Strong (2:52)
  7. Hole In The River (4:00)
  8. Can’t Carry On (3:57)
  9. I Walk Away (3:07)
  10. Tombstone (3:30)
  11. That’s What I Call Love (3:39)

Released by: Capitol
Release date: 1986
Total running time: 39:00

Crowded House – Woodface

Crowded House - WoodfaceThere really aren’t enough words with which to praise this band’s third album. It was really the best of all possible worlds – Tim and Neil Finn, formerly the front men of Split Enz, united again and lavishing their quirky one-of-a-kind vocal harmonies on a number of marvelously concocted (and some decidedly strange) songs. There’s little about this album not to like. Specific cuts to listen to: “Weather With You”, “Whispers and Moans”, “She Goes On”, “As Sure As I Am”, and my favorites, “Fall At Your Feet” and the Tim-tries-to-be-Sinatra tune with the orchestral backing, “All I Ask”. Quite simply a solid and highly enjoyable rating: 4 out of 4collection, and one of my favorite albums of all time! Sadly, Tim and Neil had a falling-out during the tour for this album, and did not collaborate again until 1995, after Crowded House broke up. This is unfortunate, because the two Finn brothers harmonizing tend to out-Everly the Everly Brothers, and then some.

Order this CD

  1. Chocolate Cake (4:02)
  2. It’s Only Natural (3:32)
  3. Fall At Your Feet (3:19)
  4. Tall Trees (2:20)
  5. Weather With You (3:44)
  6. Whispers and Moans (3:40)
  7. Four Seasons In One Day (2:50)
  8. There Goes God (3:50)
  9. Fame Is (2:23)
  10. All I Ask (3:56)
  11. As Sure As I Am (2:54)
  12. Italian Plastic (3:40)
  13. She Goes On (3:15)
  14. How Will You Go / We’re Still Here (4:46)

Released by: Capitol
Release date: 1991
Total running time: 48:11

Crowded House – Temple Of Low Men

Crowded House - Temple Of Low MenFar surpassing their debut album, this collection went on to be something of an odd failure sales-wise in the States. Most probably remember it as being the album that spawned “Better Be Home Soon”, a bittersweet ballad very much in the style of “Don’t Dream It’s Over” (with a very similar video to match). In actuality – at least from my own perspective – this album was far better, with some wonderfully intricate guitar and vocal work courtesy of Neil Finn. The songs tend to lean in the direction of very sparse, haunting atmosphere that listeners of Together Alone may be a little more familiar with. Highly rating: 3 out of 4recommended: “Into Temptation”, a nearly-sinister ballad with a small string section, “Love This Life”, somewhat similar to the former, “Never Be The Same” and “In The Lowlands”.

  1. I Feel Possessed (3:48)
  2. Kill Eye (3:14)
  3. Into Temptation (4:34)
  4. Order this CD Mansion in the Slums (3:45)
  5. When You Come (4:46)
  6. Never Be The Same (4:29)
  7. Love This Life (3:36)
  8. Sister Madly (2:53)
  9. In The Lowlands (3:58)
  10. Better Be Home Soon (3:07)

Released by: Capitol
Release date: 1988
Total running time: 38:10

Culture Club – The Best of Culture Club

The Best of Culture ClubOh, the horror! Yes, I actually liked these guys (well, maybe I should replace “guys” with something a little less gender-specific) in their heyday. Sure, they had a bizarre appearance, but if you turn off the TV and put away the album cover, what difference does it make? Regardless of the performers’ appearances, I really liked “Time (Clock Of The Heart)”, “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya”, and a few of these other songs way back when. My feelings about Culture Club are best summed up with another of my dreaded anedotes here. Upon my comment that I actually liked some of Culture Club’s music, a former co-worker once said that he’d read an article once in which lead singer and seemingly-would-be chanteuse Boy George claimed that the whole point of Culture Club was “to make good love songs for gay men.” rating: 3 out of 4I have no idea if this quote is accurate or not. But the point of it is: if I have heard these songs for years, and never equated their lyrics with any particular sexual orientation, it’s a good love song, period, and who cares anyway? Anyway, I’ll step down from my soapbox now, and I’m sure if you were offended by this, I’ll certainly hear about it.

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  1. Do You Really Want To Hurt Me? (4:25)
  2. White Boy (4:41)
  3. Church of the Poison Mind (3:33)
  4. Changing Everyday (3:19)
  5. The War Song (3:58)
  6. I’m Afraid of Me (3:18)
  7. It’s a Miracle (3:25)
  8. The Dream (2:30)
  9. Time (Clock of the Heart) (3:44)
  10. The Dive (3:48)
  11. Victims (4:54)
  12. I’ll Tumble 4 Ya (2:35)
  13. Miss Me Blind (4:32)
  14. Mistake No. 3 (4:35)
  15. The Medal Song (4:15)
  16. Karma Chameleon (4:03)

Released by: Virgin
Release date: 1989
Total running time: 61:35

Chicago – Chicago’s Greatest Hits

Chicago's Greatest HitsThis is another one of those cases where anything I might have to say about an album is superfluous, because surely by now you either like Chicago or you don’t. My favorite thing about this Chicago album? It’s “old” Chicago, before the advent of a lot of synths and sequencers that later reduced the once-great band to merely being Peter Cetera’s soft-rock backing band. I know there are quite a few folks who loved the later Chicago years, and sure they turned out good material then. But you’ll hear something on this album, something that those of us who fell in love with Chicago before the 80s dearly miss about the band’s later years – do you hear all that brass? That, my friends, was Chicago. That is what made them great. Quite a few Rating: 4 out of 4late 60s ensembles included a little brass, but few made that part of the band so integral as Chicago did. For you youngsters and children of the 80s out there, I strongly advise you to pick this up, and listen to the real Chicago. “Does anybody really know what time it is?” they asked so many years ago…and my answer is, “Far too long since anyone made music like this.”

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  1. 25 or 6 to 4 (4:50)
  2. Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is? (3:19)
  3. Colour My World (2:59)
  4. Just You ‘n’ Me (3:42)
  5. Saturday in the Park (3:53)
  6. Feelin’ Stronger Every Day (4:13)
  7. Make Me Smile (2:59)
  8. Wishing You Were Here (4:34)
  9. Call On Me (4:01)
  10. (I’ve Been) Searchin’ So Long (4:27)
  11. Beginnings (7:51)

Released by: Columbia
Release date: 1975
Total running time: 46:48

Crowded House – Together Alone

Crowded House - Together AloneI’ve been singing the praises of this one since November 1993 – don’t miss this one! This one resembles the group’s debut album more than either of the previous two. The rocky sound of the first album can be heard very clearly, and track 4 “Black & White Boy” is the hardest rocking Crowded House tune to date, beating out even “Love You ‘Til The Day I Die” or even any live covers of Split Enz’s History Never Repeats. Neil Finn hasn’t lost his flair for ballads, though – some of the very best are on here: “Nails In My Feet” continues CH’s knack of having just a handful of instruments playing, yet still sounding absolutely majestic, and “Catherine Wheels” – a song which would seem to concern itself rating: 4 out of 4with spousal abuse – is haunting as well. The title track is also very interesting, with native percussion and a huge mixed choir singing in Maori. Neil’s brother Tim, who left soon after Woodface‘s release, is barely seen or heard from on this album, replaced by longtime CH road musician Mark Hart.

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  1. Kare Kare (3:35)
  2. In My Command (3:43)
  3. Nails In My Feet (3:39)
  4. Black and White Boy (4:01)
  5. Fingers of Love (4:26)
  6. Pineapple Head (3:28)
  7. Locked Out (3:18)
  8. Private Universe (5:38)
  9. Walking On The Spot (2:55)
  10. Distant Sun (3:50)
  11. Catherine Wheels (5:12)
  12. Skin Feeling (3:56)
  13. Together Alone (3:57)

Released by: Capitol
Release date: 1993
Total running time: 51:38

Julee Cruise – The Voice Of Love

Julee Cruise - The Voice Of LoveYou can’t miss this one, it’s got one of those very weird and nearly-disgusting David Lynch photos on the cover. Julee, for those of you who don’t know, remember or care, did the vocals on most of the Twin Peaks music, and her first album was wonderful. This one leaves a bit to be desired, but shows some promise for the next album. The sound is largely the same as that of her previous album, with music by Angelo Badalamenti and largely pointless lyrics by David Lynch. The best song on the album, curiously, is “In My Other World”, written by Julee herself, which is something I hope she can continue. Badalamenti’s backing is most appropriate for her vocals, but in this case her songwriting makes the piece stand out; the lyrics, though vague, are much more coherent than any of Twin Peaks director/writer Lynch’s aimless wanderings. “Until The End Of The World,” an atypically percussion-heavy song which seems to have no connection to the film of the same name (though Julee is featured on that movie’s soundtrack album), is also a standout. For the most part, the rest of the album suffers rating: 2 out of 4badly because it seems simply to be the entire soundtrack of Twin Peaks – Fire Walk With Me with vocals overdubbed. A disappointment after the first album, and hopefully, should Julee do yet another album, the David Lynch influence can be shaken off some more.

Order this CD

  1. This Is Our Night (4:07)
  2. The Space For Love (3:24)
  3. Movin’ In On You (4:04)
  4. Friends For Life (4:44)
  5. Up In Flames (4:40)
  6. Kool Kat Walk (6:23)
  7. Until the End of the World (5:33)
  8. She Would Die For Love (6:07)
  9. In My Other World (4:47)
  10. Questions in a World of Blue (4:48)
  11. The Voice of Love (3:14)

Released by: Warner Bros.
Release date: 1993
Total running time: 51:51