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Half of the band is American, yet they originated in Australia, and the lead singer is a New Zealander. Veteran pop band Crowded House can truly be considered as one of the most international music groups ever to grace the airwaves. And even though they are currently halfway through a world tour to promote their latest album, they still find time to be part of a new collaborative CD to raise money for Oxfam.

“The Cake Sale” (CD /MP3) is a new record featuring a loose and expansive collective of musicians and writers, including Crowded House founding member Nick Seymore, who have combined to create a 9 song CD of previously unreleased recordings. Profits from the album, which also features Nina Persson from The Cardigans, Damien Rice, and Snow Patrol, will go to Oxfam’s Make Trade Fair campaign, as well as to their overseas program work. It was released in Britain in September, where it has already raised almost $300,000, and was made available in the US on October 16.

Crowded House formed in 1984, as a result of the demise of an earlier band called Split Enz. Ex-Enz singer/songwriter Neil Finn, and drummer Paul Hester, joined bass player Nick Seymore to form the new band, then travelled to Los Angeles. There they were signed to Capital Records. Over the next 12 years, the band released four albums, and garnered a loyal fan base with a strong repertoire of hits on both sides of the Atlantic, including “Don’t Dream It’s Over”, “Weather With You”, and “Four Seasons In One Day”.

In 1996, the band called it a day, and played a final Farewell To The World concert to 120,000 people in front of the Sydney Opera House. Proceeds from what many regard as one of the most emotional gigs ever all went to the Sydney Children’s Hospital.

The following years saw the members of the group pursue new musical directions. Finn released two solo albums, and also travelled to Africa with Oxfam, a trip that resulted in him becoming an Oxfam Ambassador. In 2005, he was part of Oxfam’s Big Noise program, an international petition of more than 10 million signatures which called on decision makers to change unfair global trade rules so that people in developing countries have the chance to work their way out of poverty. He has since been part of a number of concerts to raise money for Oxfam, and also took time time entice his fellow New Zealanders to be a part of Oxjam in October 2007.

“You can do something,” said 49 year old Finn. “You can use your voice and tell the world that we won’t stand for people living in poverty any more. It’s not just about charity, it’s about justice. So stand up. Get singing, get playing. Make as much noise as you can and support Oxjam.”

Finn, who was awarded an OBE in 1993 for services to New Zealand music, also supports other charities in his native country, often contributing to celebrity auctions. One of the most popular of these is the annual auction held for the Raukatauri Music Therapy Trust, New Zealand’s only dedicated music therapy centre catering for special needs children. In 2005, the hand-written lyrics to his most popular songs raised $15,000 for the charity.

In February 2007, Neil Finn played a charity show for Scope, England’s largest organization for people living with cerebral palsy. The concert was held at Stowe School in Wales, and also featured Aussie rocker, Jimmy Barnes. The event was followed by a celebrity auction featuring items donated by Robbie Williams, Kylie Minogue, Elton John, and Australian cricketer, Shane Warne.

2007 also saw the reforming of Crowded House as a band, with the release of their new album, “Time On Earth”. The album, dedicated to the memory of drummer Paul Hester, went straight to the top of the charts in Britain, Australia, and New Zealand, and was in the top twenty in many parts of Europe. One of the first gigs the band played together to promote the album was Hyde Park Calling, a benefit concert festival held in London on June 23 and 24. Organized in conjunction with Hard Rock Cafe, it was the first concert in the second annual Ambassadors of Rock Tour, a global concert series featuring top artists and bands, benefitting charities worldwide. The London concert, which also featured Peter Gabriel, Chris Cornell, and Aerosmith, raised funds for the Nordoff Robbins Foundation, a charitable organization that provides music therapy to autistic children, and Global Angels, a charity that acts as an umbrella fundraising mechanism for children’s projects throughout the world.

A few weeks later, Crowded House played at the Live Earth concert in Sydney, closing the show in memorable fashion, despite a power failure that meant most of their set was played in the dark.

“It feels right to us that the band should re-emerge at this time,” said Finn before the Live Earth concert. “We aim to make this show as vital and spirited as what has come before.”

More information about “The Cake Sale” album, which Hot Press describes as being “the album other charity records aspire to be”, can be found at www.thecakesale.com, and the official Crowded House website can be viewed at www.crowdedhouse.com.

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