Five Overlooked Neil Finn Performances

New Zealand-born Neil Finn first came to fame in 1977 as the newest and youngest member of big brother Tim’s art-pop band, Split Enz. After moving to the front of the band (as showcased on the hit single “I Got You”), Neil went on to a higher profile and greater acclaim leading his own group, Crowded House, scoring worldwide hits and critical kudos. “Don’t Dream It’s Over” would be the first of many hit singles for the group.

In addition to Crowded house tours and albums, Finn maintains a solo career; he has occasionally teamed up with Tim as well. In recent years he joined with former Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell to augment the lineup of soft-pop megastars Fleetwood Mac. Neil Finn celebrated his 65th birthday on May 27. Here are five recordings that even the most dyed-in-the-wool Finn fans might not know about.

ENZSO – “Message to My Girl”
A project conceived and realized by Split Enz keyboardist Eddie Rayner, ENZSO re-imagined classic songs from his old band into an orchestral context. The project released two albums, featuring vocalists in and around the Enz orbit (Finn, brother Tim) and beyond (Dave Dobbyn of DD Smash, opera singer Dame Kiri Te Kanawa). A highlight of the first album – released in 1996 – is a majestic reworking of this classic late-period Split Enz ballad that originally appeared on the band’s 1984 Conflicting Emotions LP.

Hunters & Collectors – “The Way You Live”
Neil Finn is a very busy and in-demand musician, and that has been the case for decades. Long before he was tapped as touring member of Fleetwood Mac, Finn was called upon to lend his talents to the work of friends and associates. From 1981 until 1998, Australian Rock Band Hunters & Collectors was led by songwriter Mark Seymour, brother of Nick Seymour (Finn’s band mate in Crowded House). For the band’s sixth album, 1989’s Ghost Nation, Neil Finn provided his distinctive and memorable vocal harmonies on the soulful “The Way You Live.”

Missy Higgins – “Steer”
Award-winning Australian singer-songwriter Higgins released her debut album in 2004, returning three years later with the highly-regarded On a Clear Night. That album soared to the #1 spot on the charts in Australia. One of its three singles, “Where I Stood” found frequent use on American television programs, while “Steer” topped the Australian singles chart. Frequent Neil Finn collaborator Mitchell Froom produced the album, and Finn himself played guitar and sang backing vocals.

Neil Finn – “Song of the Lonely Mountain”
Much of the filming for the J.R.R. Tolkien film adaptations took place in New Zealand, so enlisting the talents of Neil Finn for the soundtrack was a good fit. The first installment in The Hobbit trilogy featured this song, a Neil Finn original. The recording as originally released on the film’s 2012 soundtrack CD ran just over four minutes; a two-disc special edition of the soundtrack featured this six-minute edit of the song.

Crowded House and Roger McGuinn – “Eight Miles High”
When The Byrds released “Eight Miles High” in 1966, few listeners who helped propel the single to the #14 chart spot realized that it was in part a musical homage to jazz saxophonist John Coltrane and Indian sitar master Ravi Shankar; many, too, suspected its lyrics were about drugs, not airplanes. Byrds Guitarist Roger McGuinn provided some astounding work on the recording, and was in fine form more than three decades later when he was backed by Neil Finn’s Crowded House onstage for a reading of the classic. A recording of that performance was featured on the Australia-only double CD Other Enz: Split & Beyond.