Hero Of Heroes
3rd Ear Music
- Hero Of Heroes
- Orang Otang
- I'll Remember You
- South Carolina
- So Much Younger
- Tell Me
- Got To Be Strong
- Freedom/ Motherless Child
- Postively No Bob Dylan
- Brian Finch: vocals, guitar
- Alan Judd: guitars, keyboards, computer programming
- Alan Bowen: bass, percussion
- John Gcaba: nDloko
- Mary-Ellen Blackman: vocals
- Dan Chiorboli: percussion
Its been a long, long, (and possibly lonely) time since Brian Finch's first solo album 'Bringing Back The Good Times' in 1974. Since then Brian has appeared on many albums, most notably with Kenny (aka Ken E) Henson as Finch & Henson, a musical duo who were so much more than just SA's answer to Loggins & Messina.
'Hero For Heroes' is the first new album of 2002 that I've heard and is already a candidate for album of the year. Brian's rich, deep voice wraps itself around your soul as he sings songs about living, leaving & loving.
The title track opens the album with a soaring folk-rock song about heroes; "hero of heroes ride high, hero of heroes never die".
'Orang Otang', a new reworking of the Ramsay Mackay-penned classic recorded by Hawk, Margaret Singana, Harambee and others, features the nDloko of John Gcaba. Mary-Ellen Blackman's harmony vocals also add a wonderful dimension to this song.
'I'll Remember You' finds Brian Finch in a JJ Cale mood and his guitar-picking is stunning as he sings 'I'll remember you till the day that I die". Alan Judd's organ floats and flows in the background.
Brian encourages us to dance in the bouncy afropop sounds of 'Dance' and he tells us about his love for his daughter in the beautiful (but not soppy) 'Tansy' and then he's off to see his brother (Graham) in 'South Carolina'. 'So Much Younger' has a Dire Straits sort-of-feel while 'Tell Me' is a pleasant little country pop rock song (and the country in this case seems to be Mexico).
'Got To Be Strong' is an aching love song not at all political nor religious, but it reminds me strongly of Roger Lucey and Don Francisco. Stunning piano work from Alan Judd and Brian's vocals are really imploring as he sings "we've got to be strong".
'Freedom/ Motherless Child' is the song which Richie Havens performed at the original 'Woodstock' in 1969 (remember that tapping sandal in the beginning of the movie?). Dan Chiorboli hits a variety of percussive thingies on this track as Brian's voice and guitar drive it along. Powerful.
Brian's tongue is planted firmly in his cheek in the live-in-the-studio 'Positively No Bob Dylan'. "I'll play anything from Creedence and Led Zeppelin, but please don't ask me to play any Bob Dylan". A groupie ("not as freaky as the rest") eventually convinces him to break down and sing a Bob song.
'Hero of Heroes' is an album about moving... it moves from "his open sea & sky SAfrican roots to his American influenced country rock boots"... and it moves the feet, the heart, the mind and the soul. Fly on Brian, fly on...
-- Brian Currin, January 2002
HERO OF HEROES
by Owen Coetzer, February 2002
Finch slams in like a hurricane. He sweeps past the Victorian coat rack in the narrow entrance setting rain cloaks and jackets swinging like pendulums and my dogs off like barking alarms in High-C and D-flat.
I haven't seen him in five or six years - but it's like we said goodbye yesterday.
He hasn't changed much - tall and rangy like a cowboy with long hair and moustache and high, tooled leather boots. He would have been a natch as an extra in High Noon. He's a trifle less angular now, from sitting on high stools with a guitar across his knees. That's how he's spent most of his life. When he's not cracking a wave. Or at Jay-Bay.
There's no regret. I doubt if there ever has been. He used to handle an Ovation, and still does. It's the same one, he says, he's been flailing for 33 years. Brian Finch is the consummate country-rock musician, and always has been. Now he has just emerged like a happy Hell's Angel from his birthplace, Durban, brandishing a freshly mastered CD - his first solo album for more than twenty-something years. And he's like a kid with a long board.
"CD player!" he shouts. "Where's your CD player?"
He's lucky I still have it. The last two were removed by break-and-entry investors. Finchy wants to know if I need to close the front door while he redlines the volume, but I tell him the neighbours have been matured on Nine Inch Nails and Jane's Addiction Live. And an hour or two of Siegfried.
Finch isn't Wagner - but he's sure a legend in his time. And he smirks as the dogs retreat downstairs and the sound shakes loose some plaster from my 1879 house. No-one comes running. The cops keep away. A car alarm goes off somewhere.
"It's a masterful new album" I mouth at Finch, above his trademark chugging guitar, shifting like a locomotive through the speakers. The tracks run on but finally we wind down the sound - surprised actually that we're still in one piece. Its not heavy stuff but Finch's music is all consuming. Always has been. And there's not so much a whiff of a lead axe.
Right now, with intricate technology at his disposal, via Alan Judd's Leopard Moon Studios in Westville, Finchy sounds even better. Judd is co-producer with acoustic guitar legend Dave Marks and Finch himself.
It's the kind of technology that was never available when Finch was thrown into the musical deep end at age 18 by Mel (Green), Mel (Miller) and Julian (Laxton) in Durban.
"Sing, man" they told him. And he did. He played his first regular gig on the sedate Al Fresco hotel's veranda, in among the huge, weeping, palm trees, on the Esplanade. Finch has hung-ten on many waves since then. He's also played in London, done Stockholm, had his album Playgrounds in Paradise (with Kenny Henson), used as the sound track to a major surfing movie. He's done folk festivals, inside concerts, open-air gigs. Name it, he's done it. Now he lives in Cape Town, with regular slots at the Oak Lodge in Gardens, and uses his hands "to build things". It's his "other" job.
But it's the music that matters most. Finchy has never changed - the steamroller, galloping syncopated chords, the flat country drawl - the agonising, beautiful self-penned songs. They've set him apart since 1966 - and created 10 albums for him.
He's called this one Hero of Heroes and it speaks of the open road, bikers, angels and freedom. It's vintage Finch - with a tribute to his daughter called Tansy, and a song about his brother who lives at Folley Beach in South Carolina, among others.
But he lets loose with Ramsay McKay's seminal Orang Outang, adding extra words to this relatively unknown anthem of Africa. Music from a home-made Zulu violin (nDloko) introduces the track. Finch says: "I was in Dave Marks' lounge when this fellow walked past in Currie Road, playing this music. I shot up, ran out and grabbed him - he was playing just what I wanted for the track. His name is John Gcaba - and we put him the studio and onto the CD."
Another classic is Finch's arrangement of the traditional Freedom/Motherless Child (which Ritchie Havens made famous at Woodstock). A symphonic synthesiser, nudging itself through the bridge, adds a superb, ethereal, shivering touch.
But Finch's final track is beautiful. He's called it Positively No Bob Dylan, and is an ironic catchy throwaway. Finch does not play Bob Dylan - and the lyrics tell why. He says: "I wrote it after seeing Bob Dylan in concert at the Wembley Arena in London last year - that was a gas."
So is the album. "We put it all together in six weeks," says Finch, modestly. "It was a superb time."
And from the master of country rock, a superb album.