Flo and Eddie – continuing the theme of artists you have never heard of. It all started with a band called The Crossfires in the early 60’s. No hits and they broke up, but out of them came singers and songwriters; Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan who formed a band called The Turtles (see T) who had a string of big hits both in America and here in the late 60’s. Record company pressure for more and more hits meant the band broke up and never got paid for most of their music. Volman and Kaylan were the heart of The Turtles, who managed to combine comedy with sublime vocals and great tunes. Their next move would prove almost suicidal – they joined Frank Zappa in the second incarnation of The Mothers (see Z). A few tours and the film 200 Motels saw Flo and Eddie, as they called themselves, probably to stop their former record company suing them, now the centrepiece of Zappa’s act. They appeared on a few albums, and even now though Frank died a few years ago new live concerts keep appearing. But, as these things do, Frank moved on without them. They then released a handful of brilliant albums under the moniker Flo and Eddie. Are you asleep yet? No? Okay first one was The Phlourescent Leech and Eddie (1972). Well, what a great little album. Not surprising when they had been making quite a few records with The Turtles, but this was self-produced and sounds sparkling. Every song has something special – from the opening ‘Flo and Eddie Theme’, to the closer ’There you Sit lonely’ it is hard to pick a favourite but the almost lethargic ‘Burn the House Today’ has an edge, although the cod-Hawaian ‘Nicki Nicki Hoi’ is great too. They sing so exquisitely and the lyrics nearly all have a twist in the tail – a very accomplished debut. But then what happened…they sort of drifted into being backing singers for among others T. Rex and Alice Cooper. Before joining Cooper on a world tour they recordsd their second album, which featured more covers and only a few original songs. Flo and Eddie came out in 1974, and is a more conventional rock album than their debut. Saying that it is still a pretty wonderful album. They do a remarkable take on The Small Face (see S) ‘Afterglow’ and The Kinks ‘Days’ but they really excel on their very own ‘Another Pop-Star’s Life’ and my favourite; the autobiographical ‘Marmendy Mill’. At his point their career could really have gone anywhere…..but, they were still locked into a live comedy routine which they had drifted into with Frank and The Mothers. In 1975 they released Illegal, Immoroal and Fattening – mostly a live album from their infamous shows, which is pretty amusing as they parody many of the rock stars of the day. Best though are a couple of new songs ‘Let Me Make Love To You’ and a cover of an Albert Hammond song ‘Rebecca’ – it is almost worth the price of the album for this one track – it is a tour de force. They returned to a more conventional format with 1976’s Moving Targets. This is not really successful in my mind, the duo find themselves shouting more often than harmonising; the songs themselves seem to lack that originality of the previous albums; a couple of tracks are good – the title song and ‘Keep It Warm’ but apart from that the album falls flat. And I think they knew it. They didn’t make another album for 3 years and then it was almost a cop-out – Rock Steady With Flo and Eddie (1979) still puzzles me; is it a parody or do they really love this laid-back style of Reggae music, or did someone simply suggest it and they didn’t say no. Who knows? But it is a nothing sort of album, exactly the same backing and pace all through, the songs barely noticeable. Oh well. I do know they were still having great difficulty with legal issues going back to The Turtles days and were fighting to use the name. They seem to have drifted into session work and composing music for kiddies programmes. Later they did regain the use of The Turtles name and have toured as Flo and Eddies Turtles, but no new music has transpired. Howard Kaylan (see K) released one solo album and a few years later their Greatest Hits came out. Of course I have it two new tracks which are okay but not brilliant.. Then in 2009 came a new double album of live shows at New York’s Bottom Line. Poorly produced really and a confusing mix of silly comedy numbers and old hits. Of course, I bought it. New York Times – well, on re-listening it is not so bad….though you would have to be a real fan to love it. Good to re-listen just once in a while.
The Finn Brothers
Well, it all started a long time ago, in the mid Seventies when older brother Tim invited younger brother Neil to join his proto-punk band Split Enz (see S). Pretty soon Neil was writing and taking over some singing duties, their biggest hit being Neil’s ‘I Got You’. But Tim left the band in 1984 to pursue a solo career…see later
But in 1995 he recorded an album of freshly written songs with brother Neil; Finn was a pretty low-production affair, almost a demo – but I really loved it. It was like an acoustic Split Enz record with Tim and Neil swapping vocals and songwriting – they also played all the instruments on it. Best songs are ‘Bullets in my Hairdo’, ‘Where is my Soul’ and best of all ‘Angels Heap’. The album did very little in the way of sales. Tim carried on his solo career with mixed success and Neil formed Crowded House (see C) which was massive. Tim joined Neil for one album Woodface, but the two got together nine years later with Everyone is Here, credited to The Finn Brothers; which leads me to believe they maybe intended to make a go of it together. However, whether it was sibling rivalry or just that they both preferred working on their own – who knows. But after a successful tour, where I saw them at the Royal Albert Hall, so far they have resisted the attempt to record together again. The album is quite smoothly produced, but for me, somehow there is something lacking in most of the songs. The oomph which Crowded House had is missing, and the vocals though pleasant don’t quite hit the spot, except on one brilliant song ‘Edible Flowers’ which bears a passing resemblance to ‘Don’t Dream it’s Over’ by Crowded House. But as usual on a second re-listen, the darned thing is growing on me. Anyway…
I have followed them pretty closely and am still trying to re-buy early Tim songs which I once had on vinyl…but my first CD by Tim is his self-titled (but third) album Tim Finn. I did have Big Canoe on vinyl and have just re-orderd it on CD…and listening to it, it is great. Almost a continuation of Split Enz without the Enz, some good social concern songs ‘No thunder, No Fire, No Rain’ but best were ‘Carve You in Marble’ and ‘Hyacinth’. The album Tim Finn was also excellent, with another batch of interesting songs; ‘Parahaka’, and ‘Suicide on Downing Street’ stand out from a strong field. I feel that with this album though Tim was moving more into a classic rock vibe, rather than the quirky indie sound of Split Enz. Before and After (1993) was a bit of a non-starter for me, I never really got into it. One good song; ‘Persuasion’ and the rest I can barely recall even after just hearing it. Say It Is So (1999) is again a bit of a poor record. I keep hoping that he will surprise me, and he only continues to disappoint, All that exuberance of Split Enz, that inventiveness of Woodface and Finn is missing, all we have are either slow nothing songs or fast nothing songs, only the first track ‘Underwater Mountains’ shows any promise. I have sort-of given up on him since – only picking him up in charity shops and only one other record 2006’s Imaginary Kingdom. The songs are shorter and a bit snappier at least, so not such a bad record…best songs are ‘Dead Flowers’ and ‘Couldn’t Be Done’.
And that left Neil..who had phenomenal success with Crowded House (seeC) but after just 4 studio albums he called it a day and went solo with Try Whistling This 1998. Truly this is almost a CH album just without the band and a tad quieter. An excellent record with catchy tunes and rousing choruses – best in my book are ‘She will have Her Way’ and ‘Sinner’ but there isn’t a bad track on it. The follow-up One Nil (2002) was a different matter – a failure in my book; too much like he was trying desperately to sound different and ‘Modern’. I think he failed on both counts. In fact I don’t like the album at all. But the year before this in 2001 Neil did a few concerts with ‘friends’ and released an album culled from those called Seven Worlds Collide; mostly it is Neil singing some from his solo work and a handful from Crowded House and Split Enz, but Johnny Marr sings a couple of numbers and a girl singer Lisa Germano, there are even a couple by brither Tim. A really nice laid-back album, simple arrangements and good singing – great to hear simpler versions of well-known favourites..a relative success. Neil then resurrected Crowded house for a few tours and 2 new albums (see C) but in 2009 another album came out under the monicker 7 Worlds Collide called The Sun Came Out. Ostensibly a charity album, all proceeds to Oxfam it had more or less the same band but in a studio setting and with the addition of K. T. Tunstall (see T ) and Wilco (see W). This time it was all original songs, no old ones; not bad at all but I haven’t enjoyed this as much, probably because I didn’t know the songs beforehand. But it is pretty good really; at this stage of his career Neil was not looking for hits anymore, or even to be the lead singer or songwriter. This is really a collective effort. Not sure if I can really single out any songs but a nice album. My final (so far) album by the Finns brothers is Neil’s Out Of Silence (2018) and a very different sort of Neil Finn album, no fast songs, no guitars hardly but mostly quiet piano-led songs. And even the singing is different, somehow subdued and reaching higher but softer notes. I am not sure if I really like it, but it is okay. Best songs ‘Love Is Emotional’, ‘Independence Day’ and a lovely version of ‘Angels Heap’. And that is that, so far, for the remarkable Finn brothers; no doubt there will be more and I shall probably buy it too.