Tim Finn – Steel City

Tim Finn - Steel CityThis hard-to-track-down title (at least as far as listeners in the U.S. are concerned) is the studio recording of an Aussie stage musical of the same name. And like the Alan Parsons Project’s studio recording from Freudiana, this version of the music from Steel City – which is often described as a Tap Dogs-style dance-heavy slice of theater – probably differs wildly from what the same material sounds like on stage.

The music for Steel City was composed by Tim Finn, whose solo career is often unjustly overlooked by constant reminders that he was once the lead man of Split Enz and a one-time member of Crowded House. Though Finn’s involvement in the music was the beginning of my interest in Steel City, it was not the only reason I was interested in hearing it. For I have a mind-bending secret, a deep and abiding love for a medium you probably wouldn’t expect me to care for at all.

I like tap dancing. Not that it’s something I do on the bathroom linoleum while no one’s looking – I’m carrying around probably 80 pounds more than I should for that kind of activity – but I love the sound of it, and the whole old-fashioned millieu that it invokes. And I’m no purist – I can handle the new-style tap (i.e. Stomp! Out Loud, Tap Dogs, etc.) just fine…I love it, in fact. I’m not a big fan of the whole Riverdance thing, but that’s because it was quite simply overexposed far too quickly. But I digress. In case I’ve lost you, and it’s entirely probable that I have, the point here is that I really dig tap dancing.

Some hardcore Finn fans may be disappointed that Tim has only a handful of vocal contributions to the album, but I was actually expecting that. Steel City is not a Tim Finn solo project, but rather a musical to which he contributed. If anything, I’m a little more disappointed with the lack of actual tap dancing on the soundtrack. The CD seems to feature the backing tracks…and no actual dancing. I expected Tim himself to make only fleeting vocal contributions, but for a show whose whole point is tap dancing, I felt more than just a little betrayed by the almost complete lack of the sound of taps on a smooth solid surface.

Tim’s handful of songs are quite nice – “Steel City” and “Where I Live” ranking as my favorites. Other vocal tracks include “Glide”, “Rock & Roll Girl”, and – surprisingly – a somewhat unplugged, acoustic version of “Roadtrip”, a song which resurfaced on his new album Say It Is So in a vastly modernized form (though this version is at least as good). Some of the better instrumental tracks are “Overture”, “Absail”, “Truss Dance”, and “Finale”.

3 out of 4Overall, Steel City is a curiosity for die-hard Finnatics, but for those of you who, like myself, like to hear the feet hit the floor, it comes up a bit short on the tap dancing side. A great pity – I rather relished the thought of one of my favorite voices alongside a really good dance troupe.

Order this CD

  1. Steel City (3:16)
  2. Overture (2:20)
  3. Truss Dance (5:43)
  4. Spirit Level (2:54)
  5. Old Car (3:40)
  6. Drop Out (4:57)
  7. Walking (3:57)
  8. Smoke Duet (3:14)
  9. Rock & Roll Girl (3:05)
  10. Absail (3:23)
  11. Forklifts (3:26)
  12. Where I Live (3:50)
  13. New Car (4:53)
  14. Road Trip (2:53)
  15. Finale (5:46)
  16. Glide (3:18)

Released by: Columbia Records Australia
Release date: 1998
Total running time: 60:42