Album Review: Neil Finn and Paul Kelly - Goin' Your Way

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Australian singer-songwriters Neil Finn and Paul Kelly have known each other since the early 1980s, when Finn’s group Split Enz and Kelly’s band the Dots recorded for the same label. Later in that decade, Kelly’s group the Messengers toured with Finn’s Crowded House, and in 1992 Finn provided backing vocals on a Kelly track.

Given this long association and how well their voices and musical sensibilities fit together, you can’t help but wonder why it took them until early 2013 to formally collaborate on a project—an Australian tour that resulted in a live album that November. You also have to wonder why it has taken another two years for that record—which was a big hit Down Under—to show up in the States and why the DVD version of the concert still hasn’t.

At least we finally have that stellar album, a two-CD package called Goin’ Your Way, which preserves a magical 29-song performance at the Sydney Opera House. Backed by a fine group that includes two family members, Finn and Kelly both play acoustic guitar and sing; Kelly also plays harmonica while Finn contributes piano work. The last show of the tour, the concert features many of Finn’s best compositions, including Split Enz’s “One Step Ahead”; the Finn Brothers’ “Won’t Give In”; Crowded House’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over,” “Four Seasons in One Day,” “Into Temptation,” and “Better Be Home Soon”; and solo standouts like “Private Universe” and “She Will Have Her Way.” Kelly dips into his own large songbook for affecting material like “Winter Coat” and “To Her Door.”

If you’re familiar with Finn’s solo work or past groups, you don’t need me to tell you that his passionate, Beatles-influenced music tends to be terrific. Kelly, who is less well known in the U.S., shares Finn’s melodic strengths and balances his poetic, moody lyrics with ones that tend to be more optimistic and straightforward. 

Their performances here constitute true collaborations. Sometimes they sing each other’s songs; other times, they deliver alternate verses or offer harmonies worthy of the Everly Brothers. Occcasionally, such as on Finn’s “Better Be Home Soon” and Kelly’s “For the Ages,” the audience joins in as well.   

The concert closes with a pair of non-originals: Buddy Holly’s exuberant “Words of Love” and the sweet, melancholy “Moon River,” the Henry Mancini/Johnny Mercer classic. After hearing how well Finn and Kelly handle the rest of this versatile program, you won’t be surprised to discover that they nail both of these disparate tunes as well.

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Jeff Burger (byjeffburger.com), a longtime magazine editor, has written about music, politics, and popular culture for more than 75 periodicals. His books include Lennon on Lennon: Conversations with John Lennon as well as Springsteen on Springsteen: Interviews, Speeches and Encounters and Leonard Cohen…

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