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CROWDED HOUSE - FAREWELL TO THE WORLD Ė EMI
Record Rating: *****

CROWDED HOUSE - FAREWELL TO THE WORLD One of the definitive pop bands of the 80s ~ Crowded House emerged from the ashes of New Zealandís new-wave wonder Split Enz. With clever, sparkling guitar driven tunes reminiscent of The Hollies and The Beatles, the self-titled 1986 debut album was a multimillion-selling collection that spawned one of the biggest hits of the decade ~ Don't Dream It's Over. After the release of their critically acclaimed fourth album, Together Alone, their popularity waned in the US, but it soared to new heights in the rest of the world.

The final release, 1996ís Recurring Dream, a career-spanning greatest hits CD, went straight to #1 on the UK charts. A few months later at the height of their success, the band disbanded with a farewell concert at the Sydney Opera House attended by well over a 100,000 strong crowd. To commemorate the ten-year anniversary of the event, Farewell To The World was recently released by the bandís management. Apart from being multi-talented musicians, the group was one of the best live performers in pop. Their songs usually stayed true to the original form; bandleader Neil Finn put plenty of fire into his vocals, and best of all, every one of the bandís in-concert qualities transferred well into album form. A wonderful example of this ~ this sharp double disc chronicle underscores the group's brilliant pop architecture.

All of the bandís staples are well represented, and makes it easy to trace Finnís development from pure-pop purveyor (Something So Strong) to tear rendering storyteller (Weather With You). Fans will revel in hearing some of the earliest recordings done live ~ for included among the 24 tracks are forgotten gems which resonated high on the charts ~ like rollicking yeah-yeah guitar soaked When You Come and the majestic ballad Fall At Your Feet. (For the record, pop newcomer James Blunt recorded and released Fall At Your Feet as a B-side to hit single You're Beautiful). Romantic pop ditties such as Better Be Home Soon and Locked Out and especially their best song Donít Dream Itís Over are also heartfelt and unhindered here.

The upshot: Farewell To The World features some of the best pop music of the 80s and early 90s; and as a career summary, would have been a dignified and charming way for Crowded House to bow out. Drummer Paul Hester's death in 2005 seemed to have closed the chapter on their music, but at the time of this review, word just filtered in that Finn has reformed the band in 2007 for a new album and a world tour. For now though, this is possibly the most enjoyable record the band has released in over a decade. So spread the word.

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