Various: The Great New Zealand Songbook (Thom/Sony)

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Liam Finn: Better to Be
Various: The Great New Zealand Songbook (Thom/Sony)

This nattily packaged double disc with Dick Frizzell's clever twist on an iconic and familiar Kiwi image as the cover arrives in time for New Zealand Music Month -- but already has the feel of the perfect Christmas gift for those living abroad. Especially when it includes Frizzell postcards to send off-shore.

There are two versions: the ordinary double disc set, and the A4-sized book which really has to be seen, and held, to be believed. Beautiful, check it out here

Divided into "Last Century" and "This Century", it scoops up 40 New Zealand artists over 42 songs (Dave Dobbyn appearing with Herbs for Slice of Heaven and with Welcome Home -- as well as with DD Smash on Whaling -- and Bic Runga twice with Drive and Get Some Sleep).

Opening with Moana and The Tribe's scene setting Tihore Mai and closing with Margaret Urlich's version of Pokarekare Ana, this cuts a wide path through New Zealand music and inevitably alights on much that is familiar, especially in "Last Century": DD Smash's Whaling, The Mutton Bird's Dominion Road and the Exponent's Why Does Love Do This To Me? make for back-to-back obvious selections. There is also Dragon's April Sun in Cuba, the Swingers' Counting the Beat, Nature by the Fourmyula and other classic Kiwi material which has been much anthologized.

On this disc you might have wished for more from the new sound of New Zealand which emerged out of South Auckland and the hip-hop movement in the Eighties and Nineties, that would have offered more breadth and diversity (OMC's How Bizarre is the sole inclusion).

But for every comfortable choice (Better Be Home Soon) there is also Jenny Morris' Break in the Weather, Strawpeople's Taller Than God, Neil Finn's Sinner, the Chills' still heavenly Heavenly Pop Hit, Shihad's Home Again and The Feeler's Venus. And more.

The disc dedicated to "This Century" is the stronger for being less compiled and collected previously: Dobbyn's popular Welcome Home opens this on a sentimental note then it is in to songs by Evermore (It's Too Late), OpShop (No Ordinary Thing), the Phoenix Foundation (Damn the River), Black Seeds (Cool Me Down) . . .

Bathe in the River is here, some intelligent choices from other Finns (Tim's Out of This World and Liam's Better To Be) and it comes up to the moment with Ladyhawke (Delirium). And more. 

This is a lot of beautifully packaged Kiwi music -- from Split Enz's abrasively urgent Give It A Whirl through Tiki Taane and Savage to Goldenhorse's breezy Maybe Tomorrow is quite some distance -- and although it has some competition in the Kiwi compilation stakes you can guess that when someone loved but far away rips the package open in a cold flat in Berlin or London they'll probably say, "Awesome!"


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Kerry Knightly - Aug 31, 2010

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