Stranger than Fiction, Larger Than Life: the Finn Brothers song-by-song discussion thread

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Lance LaSalle, Jan 21, 2019.

  1. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle TEFL Lord Thread Starter

    Location:
    Vsetin
    Yes, and also Harper. I don't have Elroy's record yet, but I will.
     
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  2. D.B.

    D.B. Forum Resident

    Dr. Fidel is not bad indeed... Again, I just have to agree with Stefan and Lance's ruminations on the track, it is the writing, specifically the lyrics and concept, that cause me to admire the Manzanera-Finn team. The song itself is just okay in my book, and unmemorable, but having a considered writing concept behind it, with the lines singled out by Lance and Stefan particularly being of note, raises the overall ambition beyond the dated music and production.
    These topics can and ought to be explored within popular music, and these two did it. In a way, it reminds me of the latter Ry Cooder albums, which show that historical context like this can work well within the 3-minute song form, and potentially does not detract from the music's potency. But I don't think that Manzanera and Tim, due largely to the era they created this work in, were able to manifest creatively what they were aiming for in the way that Ry Cooder has been able to in much more recent times. So overall I'd only give this track a 2.5/5, with a good dose of respect included on top for their artistic ambition.
     
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  3. robcar

    robcar Forum Resident

    Location:
    Denver, CO
    Nice comparison to Cooder's late period work, of which I am a big fan (I also love his entire career). Tom Russell is another guy who has made a career out of writing songs about history (in his case, mostly American history, particularly that of California and the southwest). He has quite an extensive, high-quality catalog.
     
  4. robcar

    robcar Forum Resident

    Location:
    Denver, CO
    "Dr. Fidel" is a track I can admire more than enjoy. The lyrics are a real high point for Tim, at least when it comes to narrative and establishing an atmosphere and relating emotion. The propulsive energy of the track's rhythm isn't a choice I might have made for a song with this subject matter, but it seems to work fairly well. The emphasis is clearly on the singing and the words rather than the melody here. I do think the song is strong, but it's not the sort of thing I would find myself returning to frequently. It still has some of the issues that plague (for me) the other songs we've heard from this album - too much going on in the mix, the artificial sound, etc. This is definitely one of the stronger pieces on the album though, so I'll give it a 3.5/5.
     
  5. Michael Rofkar

    Michael Rofkar Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Santa Rosa, CA
    The drum machine on Dr Fidel really gets on my nerves, and Tim's vocal is not as good as on Verde. I like Phil's guitar solos - he shows why David Gilmour considered him good enough to be his second guitarist for years. 2.5/5
     
  6. jcr64

    jcr64 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Indiana
    I like "Dr. Fidel" more than I expected to. The lyric has surprising heft for what is, musically, a fairly standard-issue late '80s dance track. All in all, a solid work, maybe the best of those we've heard from this collection.

    I try to keep my scores to whole numbers: 5=all-time great, 4= song I like (more than a little), 3=song that is okay, 2=song that might have some decent elements but that irritates me in some way, 1=absolutely can't stand it. I realize that this scale doesn't allow for much nuance, but as someone who grades things for a living I'm not sure I could consistently maintain and apply a more refined scale. So on my scale, Dr. Fidel is a 3/5. But the lyric would be a 4.
     
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  7. Im glad you articulated your scale because it's exactly what mine is, now that I've seen it - I hadn't put it into words, but this is spot on.
     
  8. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle TEFL Lord Thread Starter

    Location:
    Vsetin
    My goodness, another meat inspector!

    My scale is similar to yours, only I use decimals:

    4.6-5 =Utter masterpiece
    3.6-4.5=I love it, but it falls short of the creamiest of the crop
    2.6-3.5=I like it but it's ordinary
    1.6-2.5=I don't like it, but there's something there
    1.0-1.5=Jesus Christ, this just sucks.
     
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  9. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle TEFL Lord Thread Starter

    Location:
    Vsetin
    Votes for "Dr. Fidel"

    1-1
    2-0
    3-3
    4-3
    5-1
    Average: 3.1875
     
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  10. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle TEFL Lord Thread Starter

    Location:
    Vsetin
    Today's song is "Venceremos", written by Tim Finn and Phil Manzanera and sung with great gusto and emotion by Gary Dyson.

    Besides co-writing, Tim Finn also plays the piano on this piece. (Why aren't Tim and Neil known more for their piano-playing skills? They both are pretty excellent pianists.)
     
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  11. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle TEFL Lord Thread Starter

    Location:
    Vsetin
    I've been a relatively enthusiastic rider of the Finn-related Southern Cross train up to here. But here Manzanera and I must bid each other adieu as I'm jumping off this train.

    This just isn't my thing at all. While it functions as an emotional and would-be poignant cap to the album and is written with admirable craft, I just don't like this kind of music. Gary Dyson's vocal tries too hard, but he just doesn't sound good singing Tim's melodies --Tim would have sounded better. Many on this thread have mentioned the busy arrangements on the album: strangely, they haven't bothered me up to now, or maybe I've heard the songs enough that they are sorted out in my head.

    But honestly, I feel that this song would really benefit from a less-is-more approach. Maybe...maybe...it could have come close to achieving a "Bon Voyage"-style quality, had Tim sung it accompanied by piano and maybe some subtle percussion and bass, an acoustic guitar.....But as it is it's a gigantic slab of melted cheese. It embarrasses me to say that when Gary Dyson sings "We are...a fortunate people, when we live united and free" I have to resist the urge to burst out laughing, which probably was my reaction when I first heard it 20 years ago. In fact, I probably didn't even listen to the end back now. How my patience has grown.

    Not only that, but I feel that the lyrics in the songs we've gone over don't quite cohere in the way that this song could bring them all together in the way it so plainly wants too.

    I will give it a 1.6. With a Tim vocal I might have stretched it to above a 2 and with a different producer, maybe even a near-3.
     
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2019
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  12. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle TEFL Lord Thread Starter

    Location:
    Vsetin
    While we are not going to rate the album as a whole, (as we have not discussed all of its songs), I must say that I've enjoyed going through it. Making an 9 song, 42-minute playlist of the Manzanera/Finn songs+"Guantanamera" and the upcoming "Fifth Wheel" makes a listenable, if not great, album, in my view, though it is forever stained by Gary Dyson's vocals on three tracks.

    I enjoy it more than Big Canoe: though the heights are fewer, other than the last song there's nothing quite as grating as "Water Into Wine" or "Don't Bury My Heart" to me and the sound, though still dated, is less garish and flashing, the arrangements less cluttered than Big Canoe.

    The "album/playlist" I listen to will always be flawed by the fact that Tim left the project to finish Tim Finn, prompting Manzanera to hire Gary Dyson; and possibly some of the songs might have been developed further by Finn, had he stuck around.

    I think there's a great album in potential here; as it is I like most of it a lot, and I think there's a few songs here that I think are good-to-great and a couple I just adore. Unfortunately, it is not a great album, though and the cringe-worthiness of the final song....

    In the end, I see it as an interesting detour, a "missing link" between Big Canoe and Tim Finn and interesting in that it contains the most overtly political of any Finn work to date and reveals Tim's love of salsa and bossanova, which he had never really explored on record before...and rarely will again. And it has a handful of really cool songs (for me.)
     
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2019
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  13. robcar

    robcar Forum Resident

    Location:
    Denver, CO
    Oh my. “Venceremos” sounds like something one would hear performed at a high school musical. This is really bad, from the awful over-emotive lead vocal to the wretched guitar solo to the mawkish piano. Ick.

    And those lyrics! “The future is you and me”? Tim really must have dashed this one off in about 5 minutes (assuming that he wrote them at all).

    Me no like.

    1.9/5
     
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  14. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle TEFL Lord Thread Starter

    Location:
    Vsetin
    They should have given this song the "We Are the World" treatment and had a different Spanish/Portuguese pop star singing a line each, with Phil Manzanera out in front of the choir, legs outspread in impossibly wide guitar-hero stance, wailing on his low-slung guitar.
     
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  15. StefanWq

    StefanWq Forum Resident

    Location:
    Vallentuna, Sweden
    "Venceremos" sounds like it's attempting to be the national anthem of the album but ends up with a "We Are The World" bombastic feel, clumsily done. Gary Dyson's bland voice doesn't help (sorry, Gary Dyson's mother if you are reading this). I think that beneath all the bombast though, there could be a decent song lurking if it had been done in a more humble way, perhaps just acoustic guitar, piano and Tim or Ana Maria Velez singing it.
    As I don't speak Spanish I've wondered what the words in the chorus means. Now, thanks to wonders of Google Translate I have learned that they translate as "And we will win / We recognise freedom / And we will overcome with humility".

    I have to say that even though I'm not that keen on this song as it is, it does work as the closing song on an album which I've interpreted to be set in Cuba during the time just before and just after the revolution. In the previous song, the revolution took place, the brutal and oppressive Batista regime is gone and a new leader has arrived. In that sense, "Venceremos" works on two levels - one interpretation is that the lyrics express the hopes of the average Cuban at the time, feeling optimistic about the future now that the old tyrant is no longer around and there may be an end to guerilla war and killing and hoping that Castro will bring democracy and justice; the second interpretation is that the lyrics express the hopes of exiled Cubans today who have been disillusioned by the Castro regime, thinking the old tyrant was just replaced by another tyrant, but that one day the new tyrant too will be gone and at some point in the future they will be able to return to their native country to see it blossom. This album was finished in late 1989 when political changes swept through Eastern Europe and I imagine those events might have given many other people (such as Cubans living in exile) hope that their country would change too.

    I give this song 2,2/5.
     
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  16. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle TEFL Lord Thread Starter

    Location:
    Vsetin
    This is pretty insightful; I suppose it is possible that Manzanera might have been trying to make some connection in that Year of Revolution. And in that context the song does achieve a bit more of a conceptual resonance -- even though Gary Dyson still sucks.
     
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  17. StefanWq

    StefanWq Forum Resident

    Location:
    Vallentuna, Sweden
    Regarding Southern Cross as an album, I am quite fond of the mini album I've put together for my own listening. The track listing on this is: A Million Reasons Why - Fifth Wheel - Astrud - Southern Cross - Guantanamera - The Rich and the Poor - Dance (Break This Trance) - Verde - Dr Fidel - Venceremos. I'm not particularly keen on Gary Dyson's voice, but I do think that "A Million Reasons Why" and "Venceremos" do their jobs as opening and final tracks respectively. The title track is an instrumental with no Tim involvement, it's just Phil Manzanera and Basco De Oliveira on "Assorted Brazilian percussion", but it's a beautiful piece of music and enhances the mood and the flow of this mini album.

    I always think of this album as either a movie set in Cuba during the time of the revolution (a movie that I'd go to see because I had learned that Tim did the music for it) or as music performed in a restaurant or club in Havana while my wife and I happened to be there on a holiday. And in many ways, I kind of think of this as a "holiday" album, knowing that Tim went on holidays to South America and Cuba because of his love for the music, but that his real, everyday life is the work he does on his solo albums or on Woodface or Finn Brothers albums. And if my wife and I had been to Cuba, it would have been an exotic and different place to us and we would probably reminisce about it from time to time or look at the photos we took from time to time. And my mini album version of Southern Cross is not something I listen to every day, but it's nice to hear it from time to time as it's quite different from Tim's other works.
     
  18. Turk Thrust

    Turk Thrust Forum Resident

    Location:
    U.K.
    I guess 2.5/5 for this. I can't summon up much enthusiasm for it, but it is professionally and competently done.

    I won't be too sad to say goodbye to this album though. :)
     
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  19. This song is nothing short of amazing - it spoke to me on levels I can't even articulate. The layers, the nuance, the passion in the vocals... everything about it lands exactly how it's supposed to and it tells and amazing story of hope and optimism in the face of terrible odds and terrible deeds. The cinematic quality of the production creates a rich visual panorama of soaring landscapes filled with smiling children, discovering the majesty of their newly discovered freedom. This song, and by extension, this album, are truly a cultural touchstone for our generation.

    Haha, kidding - it's made entirely of cheese.
    1/5 (I added a point because it's shorter than others)
     
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  20. HitAndRun

    HitAndRun Forum Resident

    This is a reasonable song, but the production is typical late-80s 'product'. I think the song would sound better with voice and acoustic guitar, but this production is uninspiring. I could imagine people at a concert waving their lighters along with this, but that's not what I listen to Phil Manzanera for. K-Scope is much more an example of what I listen to Manzanera for.

    This album does sound like PM was aiming for a hit, and this song/production could have been a hit for a mainstream artist. Maybe he was unlucky to miss where Mike and the Mechanics hit. But, I think what he has done since then is more interesting even if not all of it is my cup of tea.

    2.7/5
     
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  21. jcr64

    jcr64 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Indiana
    More "product," as HitAndRun says. This is clearly an effort at an '80s-style anthem--some have invoked "We Are the World," but I think, given the absence of a cascade of mega-stars, the better analog is "Hands Across America"--and, like "Hands Across America" it largely falls flat. It manages the impressive task of seeming both bland and overwrought.

    2/5
     
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  22. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle TEFL Lord Thread Starter

    Location:
    Vsetin
    Our votes for "Venceremos":

    1-0
    2-4
    3-2
    4-0
    5-0
    Average: 1.9857
     
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  23. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle TEFL Lord Thread Starter

    Location:
    Vsetin
    Today's song is "Fifth Wheel", written by Phil Manzanera and Tim Finn. Lead vocals by Tim Finn.

    It doesn't seem to stream, or at least I can't find it, so voting will be limited by those who have the song.

    "Fifth Wheel", while obviously an outtake from Southern Cross and featuring lead vocals by Tim Finn, was released on The Collection, a two-CD compilation album from Phil Manzanera, in 1995.
     
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  24. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle TEFL Lord Thread Starter

    Location:
    Vsetin
    The lyric doesn't seem to be on the Internet

    Look out your window
    You were looking at the world
    Looking out your window
    And the dance was wearing thin
    You still don't know where to begin

    You won't leave it alone
    Worry night and day
    You don't trust the future
    Cause you don't trust me today
    What I want from you
    Is my own point of view
    politics begins at home
    and every room is a danger zone

    And your making me feel
    (makin'g me feel) Like a fifth wheel
    YOu drive a hard deal
    And you're making me feel
    Like a fifth wheel
    Feel like a fifth wheel!

    When you look at me
    I got ego on my conscience
    What I want from life
    Is a matter for concern
    Ever-selfishly I burn

    Still you won't leave it alone
    Worry night and day
    You don't trust the future
    Cause you don't trust me today
    What I want from you
    My own point of view
    Politics begins at home
    And every room is a danger zone

    You know, you're making me feel
    Like a fifth wheel
    Making me feel like a fifth wheel
    You know, You drive a hard deal
    you'ree making me feel
    Like a fifth wheel

    Feel like a fifth wheel
    Runnin on the wrong track
    Tryin to get my own back
    Tryin to get the world to twist and turn
    Feelin like a fifth wheel
    Makin me feel
    Like a Fifth wheel
    Feel like a fifth wheel

    (Funky break)

    female Spoken word:
    I don't want to be your mother
    I don't want to be your teacher
    But when will you ever learn that all you ever think about is yourself?

    Tim sings:
    You won't leave me alone
    worrying night and day
    You don't trust the future cause you don't trust me today
    runnin up in the blue
    that's a point of view
    caught up in the spiral of this useless success

    You know you making me feel...

    You drive a hard deal
    making me feel like a fifth wheel

    Feel like a fifth wheel
    Runnin on the wrong track
    Tryin to get my own back
    Tryin to get the world twist and turn
    Feelin like a fifth wheel
    Makin me feel
    Like a Fifth wheel
    Feel like a fifth wheel

    etc....
     
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  25. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle TEFL Lord Thread Starter

    Location:
    Vsetin
    It's tempting to look at this song in the context of Tim's relationship with Greta Scaatchi, who was probably achieving a bit more success in her career at this point. "Caught up in the spiral of this useless success." "When you look at me, I got ego on my conscience."

    These are the most interesting lines in this song, for me. Mainly because I think that Tim's ambivalent attitude towards success and the ego is a subtly re-occurring theme in his work, especially as he began to turn towards Buddhism and Eastern philosophy and maybe even more so after he tasted a bit of mass success with Woodface.

    I suppose this song also ties in with the "Verde" song -- it has similar themes of tension in a relationship due to the husband's lack of material success.

    Lyrically, though, I would say overall I would say this is a slighter effort, and more "B-sidey", if you will (and please do), than the "Verde" song.

    Musically, though, I really like it: it's one of those insanely catchy songs. The song, released in 1995 seems mixed and equalized in a way (and may have tracks that have been re-recorded for the release) that seems slightly less dated than the 1990 Southern Cross tracks: there's an organic funky, James Brown-goes-salsa feel to it.

    Listening to it with the slightly updated sound, I kind of wish Tim had included it on Before and After, because the sound here seems to fit in more with the Langer/Winstanley produced songs from that era, especially "You've Changed" or "Hit the Ground Running". And it's a heck of a lot better than "Can't Do Both."

    (I guess I have some of the same issues with Before and After that I have with Woodface: it sounds like three different projects crammed together to me. But more of that when we get to the album, I guess.)

    Anyway, I'm going to give this song a 3.9. I think it's pretty cool slice of funk/R&B.
     
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