en: The Sun Came Out [info]
In April 2001, New Zealand songwriter Neil Finn convened various stars together under the project name 7 Worlds Collide (after a line from Crowded House's song Distant Sun) in aid of Medicins Sans Frontieres. In December 2008 many of the same folk gathered in Auckland for a two-week group hug-cum-charity bash, this time to create original studio work in aid of Oxfam. The result is this sprawling, but always amiable, collection of campfire sing-alongs and fruitful jamming.
The Sun Came Out's predecessor was a live album of Finn Brothers classics, but Neil's older sibling Tim is absent this time. But while devotees of Split Enz and Crowded House may be disappointed, there are still treats aplenty as contributors include most of Wilco (sans Nels Cline), as well as old friends like Radiohead's Ed O'Brien and Phil Selway, Lisa Germano, Johnny Marr and Finn's two sons, Liam and Elroy.
There's obviously something in the air Down Under that stirs the melodic muse. This certainly explains why Jeff Tweedy and co's last offering - partly recorded during these sessions - sounded so breezy. The presence of local talents Don McGlashan and Bic Runga is vital, too - the former's old band, the underrated Mutton Birds, dealt in a similar vein of melodic adult pop.
It's as a double album that weaknesses are revealed (it is also available on just the one disc, mind), as a little self-indulgence creeps in at the edges; but as its title implies, it contains mainly inoffensively cheery songs, sometimes from the most surprising of places. Selway delivers some ghostly folk wonderment on The Witching Hour, and fans of Wilco will love not only Jeff Tweedy's solo What Could Have Been but also getting to hear bassist John Stirratt when left to his own devices alongside multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone.
Lynchpin Finn is wonderful throughout, and Marr lends his chiming, six-stringed uplift to songs that could otherwise fall short of greatness. Ultimately there's enough here for a great single album - the judicious editing comes down to you.