It should be enough to say that members of Crowded House, Wilco, The Smiths and Radiohead have come together to record an album. Anyone still on the fence should be swayed by the fact that the proceeds go to a charitable organization that fights poverty around the world with real solutions. Of course, that’s not enough.
Neil Finn originally launched this project as a 2001 live album, credited to Neil Finn and Friends. The original project featured Eddie Vedder, Johnny Marr, Ed O’Brien, Tim Finn, Sebastian Steinberg, Phil Selway, Lisa Germano, and Betchadupa (featuring Neil’s son Liam Finn). Eight years later, poverty remains and Finn has again called on some friends to help.
The Sun Came Out was recorded in Finn’s Roundhead Studios and features most of the original participants along with several newbies, including Jeff Tweedy, Spencer Tweedy and three other members of Wilco, Scottish singer-songwriter KT Tunstall, and New Zealand songwriters Don McGlashan and Bic Runga. The result is what you might expect from some of the most notable pop songwriters in the world. Sure, it sometimes veers on MOR lite rock, but there are more than a few surprises. The biggest surprise for me is McGlashan.
Don McGlashan is a guy who could easily slip under your radar. Heaven knows he’s slipped under mine. But if “Girl Make Your Own Mind Up” doesn’t send you to Google to find out more then stop reading now. The 6th song on this collection actually stopped me in my tracks. It’s one of those songs. It made me go read the CD case. I listened to it three times before moving on to the rest of the album. It’s that good.
What’s also surprising is that among these many voices of pop music there is one voice who stands out…and he’s not even a part of this project. There’s a lot of Macca love on this album. From the alternate mix of Wilco’s “You Never Know” (also featured on Wilco, the Album) to “Bodhisattva Blues,” which could have easily been lifted from Ram, Paul McCartney looms large on this set. I guess that shouldn’t be a surprise given Finn’s longtime association with pristine pop music writing and harmonies, but it appears we’re coming into the Macca Enlightenment and now maybe the Cute One is getting his due.
With so many cooks in the kitchen you might expect a bit of audio hobo’s stew and while the two-disk set runs a bit long, it’s not simply a hodge podge of competing egos and disparate sounds. There’s an odd sort of cohesion to the album. It plays well. Maybe this is what you get when you bring your friends together to record in lovely locales.
I’d normally just encourage to “get” this album by what ever means they deemed appropriate, but in this case I am urging you to actually buy it. There are few issues on which we can all agree regardless of political bent. The crippling poverty that is stifling entire nations and starving actual human beings should be something that concerns us all. The least we can do is to do what Neil Finn has and put our money where our mouths are.