On 18th June, two titans of British and New Zealand music will release the first in a series of EPs. Renowned Kiwi singer-songwriter Tim Finn (Split Enz, Crowded House) and legendary guitarist and producer Phil Manzanera (Roxy Music) have global lockdown to thank for bringing them back into musical contact again, 45 years after they first worked together.
During the last nine months Tim and Phil, each working in their home studios some 12,000 thousand miles apart, have jointly written over 20 new songs, finding the time and space of a pandemic-restricted life leading to an incredible period of artistic creativity. There was no end goal in sight, just the sheer pleasure of two old friends making music together. This artistic freedom has produced songs that live in the moment. They are a moving and inspiring testament to a great singer-songwriter and composer-guitarist coming together in cyber-space and seeing where the music takes them.
The starting point for Project Finn/Manzanera was when Tim emailed Phil, out of the blue, in April 2020, wondering if he had any tracks with a South American groove. Tim had travelled to Cuba in the ’80s, seen Los Van Van live in Havana, and had been perhaps responding to these memories when he reached out to Phil that Lockdown night in Auckland. Phil, with his Latin heritage and long history of working with Spanish-speaking artists, duly delivered and virtually overnight, Tim responded with fantastic words and singing. Phil then sent more music, and back came more classic Tim Finn lyrics and singing, but by this point, the songs were freely moving across genres.
Phil said: “It’s a joy and honour working with Tim, one of the finest singer, songwriters of his generation. I couldn’t believe how prolific he is, how he makes song writing seem so natural and instinctive, I’d send the music, and then within days, these beautifully sung songs would pop up…it was like Christmas every day! And we’re still writing.”
Tim said: “ The tracks that Phil was sending were instantly evocative and in a time of global pandemic represented a way of connecting emotionally with the countries first affected. Spain, Italy, France and the UK were all places I had travelled in, lived in and played concerts in. But now they were suffering and closed off. I started singing in Spanish and themes came freely. Sometimes I would write lyrics in English, translate them to Spanish, making changes for scan or rhyme which took me in new and unexpected directions. Phil’s music is always highly atmospheric and suggestive. He has a way of playing that is just the right side of elegant. My wife and children had also been playing Roxy Music in the car so Phil was present and vivid for me when I started writing these songs with him. A delightful and meaningful exchange between two old friends on opposite sides of the world.”
Finding themselves with 20 incredibly diverse and multi-genre songs, they hit upon the idea of releasing a series of EPs. The first of these, Caught By The Heart, features four songs, beginning with ‘Mambo, Salsa, Guaguanco’. A lively Salsa-flavoured track featuring some freeform sax from Brazilian musician João Mello, bass from Cuban Frank Portuondo and piano tumbao from Matteo Saggese.
The song is a joyous celebration of South American music, as well as South American and European cultural icons. Following this, the title track, the standout ‘Caught By The Heart’, is an exquisite love song with an understated, yearning Tim Finn vocal, with bass from Yaron Stavi and strings by Corinna Hentchel based in Stuttgart.
Listen to 'Caught by the Heart' - BELOW:
Sang entirely in Spanish, the gorgeous ‘Bajo Luz Distinta’ is a delicate Latin groove mid-tempo, strummed song featuring elegant, sparse electric guitar playing by Phil as well as the Cuban acoustic Tres by Frank Portuondo . The final track ‘Vamos Despacio’ features haunting backing vocals from Elliot Finn (who guests on all tracks) and a mournful flugelhorn reminiscent of Miles Davis from the winner of Jazz FM’s 2020 ‘Act of The Year’, Yazz Ahmed.
Future EPs will include genres such as Rock, Latin Cumbia, African reggae, Prog and Orchestral music, all together in the same project, further highlighting the unique qualities of this global collaboration. Across the 20 songs, there are 20 musicians representing 12 countries, across four continents. These musicians span seven decades, from teenagers to people in their 70s.
The Caught By The Heart EP was produced by Phil Manzanera and Tim Finn and recorded by all the musicians in the UK, Germany and New Zealand and mastered at Abbey Road.
Tim Finn and Phil Manzanera met each other in Sydney in 1975, when Tim’s band, Split Enz, supported Phil’s band, Roxy Music, on the English band’s first Australian tour. This led to Phil producing the Split Enz album ‘Second Thoughts’ when they came to the UK the following year. Over the subsequent years, their paths would cross periodically, with Tim singing and writing songs for Phil’s ‘Kscope’ and ‘Southern Cross’ albums, and Phil doing a guest spot with Tim in the UK. Tim and Phil last saw each other in Auckland in 2006 for The Roxy Music Reunion’ tour.