Tribute albums: ‘Where bad musicians pay homage to their favourite music’, so said one cynic. Often, they are more travesty than tribute, leaving the listener to ponder: “What’s the point? Just listen to the originals instead!”
But They Will Have Their Way gives tribute albums a good name.
The original – She Will Have Her Way from 2005 – saw 16 female artists paying tribute to the songs of the Finn brothers. Credit to EMI executives John O’Donnell and Craig Hawker for the concept, and the execution was exquisite, with brilliant versions of songs by Split Enz, Crowded House, Tim Finn and the Finn Brothers from artists including Sarah Blasko, Holly Throsby, Little Birdy and more. She Will Have Her Way stands as the best Australian tribute album ever. Arguably, some versions even exceeded the originals – check out Missy Higgins’ magical reading of Split Enz’s Stuff and Nonsense and Renée Geyer’s electro-soul take on Into Temptation.
The sequel He Will Have His Way followed in 2010, featuring 16 male artists, including Jimmy Barnes covering the Enz gem Message To My Girl, Paul Kelly and Angus Stone doing Four Seasons In One Day, and Sydney’s finest songwriter Perry Keyes performing a perfect version of Poor Boy.
A combined version – the first They Will Have Their Way – arrived in 2011, adding two new tracks: Seeker Lover Keeper doing the Neil Finn solo song Sinner, and Lior and Emma Louise covering Crowded House’s It’s Only Natural.
Now, after 500,000 CD sales, the album finally gets its first vinyl release. Some tough calls had to be made to fit the collection onto double vinyl, with 12 songs culled. I have to admit I miss Sara Storer’s country take on the Finn Brothers gem Won’t Give In, Stellar’s ’80s pop version of Tim Finn’s peerless Persuasion, and a playful Glenn Richards tackling She Got Body, She Got Soul. But there’s an embarrassment of riches here. They Will Have Their Way is a winner on every front: an incredible catalogue, a wonderful mix of artists who don’t just mimic the originals, and a song selection that surprises, not just mining the hits.
And the packaging is superb, with pop-up gatefold sleeve, blue and red vinyl and extensive liner notes. “Hearing their music always reminds me of home,” writes Darren Hayes, who covers the Tim Finn solo classic Not Even Close.
“When a song is covered by another artist, it has finally grown up and left home,” Tim Finn believes. And they find happy homes here. But as Missy Higgins points out, the credit must go to the original writers. Their genius is all over this 24-song collection. “Tim and Neil Finn are storytellers, each in their own brilliant and fascinating way,” Missy says. “I find them endlessly inspiring.” Like dust from a distant sun will shower over everyone.
They Will Have Their Way is out on vinyl Friday August 7 via EMI/ Universal.
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