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Neil Finn
Try Whistling This
(Work)

New Zealand singer/guitarist Neil Finn has probably forgotten more aching, beautiful melodies and winning musical hooks than most artists will ever write. Through his career as the angry young sparkplug of Split Enz, the gifted, conflicted leader of Crowded House, and the perpetual rival/bandmate of elder sibling Tim in those bands and the Finn Brothers, Neil Finn has become one of the best pop songwriters of the last two decades.

After the bittersweet end of Crowded House in late 1996, Finn took the break from music he had promised himself for years and indulged in a painting holiday with bassist Robert Moore to clear the palate and engage in a different kind of creative exercise. But new songs started bursting through from the first night of vacation; two years and thirteen tracks later he has released his first solo offering, Try Whistling This.

The album was recorded at Finn's New Zealand home and completed in Philip Glass's New York studio. Finn wrote and produced the record with a multitude of collaborators, including Moore, Marius DeVries (Bjsrk, Madonna), and Midnight Oil guitarist Jim Moginie. Guest musicians include bassist Sebastian Steinberg of Soul Coughing, former Crowded House producer Mitchell Froom, and Attractions drummer Pete Thomas.

Try Whistling This is a picture of an artist compelled to regain a sense of wide-eyed joy in his work, with recurring talk of hunger, searching, and truth, and a strong current of creative wanderlust. Finn seems to revel in moving forward and cutting the pop trappings to the bone, but in doing so he has also obliterated the humor and cathartic passion that made much of his previous work so essential. Some of the more abstract lyrics and phrasing dull the record's emotional content, and Finn's customary fire and wit have given way to a calmer, more even tone throughout. Nevertheless, the varied textures and ideas do much to open up the boundaries of his music, often in striking ways. The detached, urban feel and crafty sound- collage work in "Sinner" and "Twisty Bass," both remixed by Radiohead producer Nigel Goodrich, are a testament to Finn's impulses toward change, as is the cagey "Loose Tongue," written with Moginie. And cuts such as "King Tide" and "Faster Than Light" do have the warm, winsome flavor of Crowded House, though they lack the same energy and intensity.

"Addicted," the album's closing song, best bridges the past and present, as an odd, sprightly piano accompaniment follows Finn through a lazy day of caterpillars and mailmen and too much television. The song also seems to capture Finn's current thinking on his career, as he sings "I know when I've had enough," and acknowledges that as far as he's come, home is still the cure for an addiction to fame or success. Try Whistling This misses Finn's own mark of pop perfection, but succeeds in challenging the listener to accept or reject him as an evolving artist instead of a sing-along commodity.

-- Robin Myrick

Corey Glover
Hymns
(LaFace)

For all the poor fools who never claim their fifteen minutes of fame, someone like Brooklyn-born Corey Glover lurks -- ready, willing, and able to collect those spare quarter-hours as if they might equal a meaningful career. And if there is someone who deserves the satisfaction of significant and widely noted professional achievement, it must be Glover. Multitalented, comfortable in many elements, he bookended his membership in the acclaimed, Grammy-winning rock group Living Colour with an appearance in the 1986 Oscar-winning Vietnam war flick Platoon and a regular gig as a VH1 veejay. Though his spot in the Oliver Stone epic was brief, Glover's lengthy stint at VH1 showed him to be as charismatic as he was camera-friendly.

Hymns, Glover's solo debut (Living Colour disbanded in 1994), offers proof that the 34-year-old musician is also an outstanding vocalist and a skillful songwriter. Undeniably, Glover was overshadowed in the past by the specter of Vernon Reid, the guitar visionary who masterminded Living Colour. But no more. On Hymns the singer steps into the light with a collage of musical moods that range from full-metal-jacket rock to Superfly-style soul, with a confessional ballad or two inserted as gingerly into the production as passionate kisses into a G-rated matinee.

The album commences with anything but a G-rated cut, however. After a spoken-word intro, Glover and his new band (guitarist Michael Ciro and bassist Booker King, accompanied by various sidemen, including complete string and brass sections) explode on the deeply sexual "Do You First, Then Do Myself." All of the singer's former hard-rock razzle-dazzle arrives intact: Throaty growls and wailing screams drive home the meaning of lines such as "Daddy loves your sweet perfume/Not the kind you bought in France/ Daddy loves to smell your sex/Makes him want to scream and dance."

But to his credit, Glover rises above the earthy delights of the opening track; he soars above expectations with the beautiful "April Rain" and "One," the Seventies R&B-inspired track "Little Girl," and the funky, back-to-back numbers "Things Are Getting in the Way" and "Sidewalk Angel." Hymns may or may not make Glover a household name, but the album -- inarguably a great work of art -- should at least afford him tremendous personal gratification.

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