Album Review: Neil Finn & Paul Kelly - Goin' Your Way (2013 LP)

If you want an album to play in your car or at a summer BBQ, or just one that will fill you with nostalgia and give you goosebumps, here it is. Neil Finn and Paul Kelly - two of the most celebrated and talented songwriters I can think of - teamed up earlier this year to tour together. Goin' Your Way is a recording of one of those performances.

This album is 100% hits, and not in that lame compilation from the '90s way. Any Paul Kelly hit you can think of is here, as well as some Crowded House and Split Enz songs, and some of Neil Finn's solo work. It starts with 'Don't Stand Too Close to the Window', and even though live albums can sometimes lose the polish and clarity of a studio recording, it's not like that on this album. The quality of the recording is clear, and both singers' voices are perfect, accompanied only by an acoustic guitar. In fact, the only way you know it's a live recording is when you hear cheering at the end of the song.

They take turns singing solos in 'Four Seasons In One Day', but provide those beautiful harmonies for each other throughout and continue to do so on most songs. It's a little disappointing that the crowd either didn't sing along or that it was taken off the recording - everyone knows Crowded House songs are for singing out loud! The piano rings out over the vocals and provides a counter melody, which is done perfectly.

'Before Too Long' as at its energetic and familiar best, and again, the piano in this song is the real highlight. Kelly's voice is the same it's always been, conversational with a twang, not trying too hard.

The best thing about this performance is that they haven't added a whole lot of instruments, or unneeded layers to them. They've mostly been stripped down to only acoustic guitars, piano, and soft drum beats. It's a real test of a song; if it's still great when you've taken everything but the melody and lyrics away you know you've written a good one.

It would seem impossible to choose between the two about who performed better but when their songs are put next to each other in this way, Kelly's songs are the real standout. They weren't ever about his voice, they were about the stories they told and the characters he brought to life. The themes are as relevant as they were when they were written, even though 'To Her Door' mentions letter-writing which is a rare occurrence these days.
He improvises in 'How to Make Gravy', and a little in 'To Her Door' too - "Walking up the staircase, had a little headache, like he'd just been hit." 'Deeper Water' is heartfelt and moving, and features a big pause between the first verse and the chorus, before an electric guitar and keys kick in and help to give it a real injection of energy. Finn shares the vocals in this song and, helped by some back up singers, does a great job.

Finn falters a little in 'Message to My Girl' - but he can be forgiven for this based on the great performance he gives on 'Don't Dream It's Over'. The mix on this song is perfect, each instrument is used perfectly and Finn's vocals are the main feature. The only disappointment is that the lovely key change, the one that gives you shivers, that comes in after the solo just before the final verse isn't a feature in this version. It seems it was skipped, or perhaps the guitar player in question was unsure of what that chord was.

It's impossible to sing the praises of every song on this album without writing 1000 words. We all know their hits, we've all sung along to these songs for our whole lives. These songs are what memories are made of. If you missed out on this concert earlier in the year, like I did, here's your chance to feel like you were there. Listen to Goin' Your Way and sing along loudly to 'Better Be Home Soon' and 'Leaps and Bounds'. Have a bit of a cry in 'How to Make Gravy'. That's the only way you'll understand just how great this recording is.

Then, be in a constant state of wonder about how two people could have so much damn talent between them, to be able to write songs that will be remembered forever and that mean something every time you listen to them. These songs have been reworked, rereleased and covered over and over again since they were first written. They're a soundtrack to many people's lives, and so they should be. Their quality and appeal have managed to remain even after, in some cases, close to 40 years since they were first thought of.

This shows the songs are deserving of their acclaim and need to be celebrated. Goin' Your Way is the perfect way to do that.

Review Score: 9.1 out of 10

Goin' Your Way is available now through EMI.