Missed Music

Music you didn’t know you needed…until now.

Stirring Folk Rock from The Waterboys

Today we’re going to jump in the Wayback Machine and set the controls for 1988. Yes, the Soviet Union is just beginning perestroika and trying to get out of Afghanistan. The Jamaica national bobsled team steals headlines in the Winter Olympics in Calgary while Greg Louganis hits his head on the 3 meter board but goes on to win both diving events in Seoul. Ollie North is indicted, but it doesn’t stop Bush/Quayle from crushing Dukakis/Bentsen. The soundtrack of this year ranges from Billy Ocean and George Michael to Def Leppard and Poison.

This album will stand the test of time, Sherman.

This album will stand the test of time, Sherman.

This year also marks a departure for British chameleons The Waterboys. Their early work was described as “The Big Music,” a sound which encompassed other bands including Simple Minds, The Alarm, In Tua Nua, Big Country, the Hothouse Flowers, and World Party (which featured former Waterboys members). The band saw some line-up changes, moved to Ireland, and under the heavy influence of Irish folk music, releases Fisherman’s Blues in 1988.

Like many departure albums, reviews are mixed. Some think this is a disastrous new direction for the band, while others place it among their best work. With the wisdom provided by long hindsight, we now know that Fisherman’s Blues went on to be the Waterboys’ best selling album. Scoreboard.

I can put this album on and listen to it straight through and I recommend you do the same. If, however, you are interested in just the cream of this release. Check out these four songs, which live on my iPod.

  • Fisherman’s Blues – If you aren’t British and have heard this song, it was probably on the Good Will Hunting soundtrack (which is excellent, by the way). This is a very organic sounding song that features violins and mandolins backed by very straight ahead, johnny-beat percussion. The vocal performance is inspiring. Here’s the whole song.
  • Sweet Thing – My very favorite cover of any song by my very favorite musician. Sweet Thing was originally released on Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks. Van’s version was small and pretty. This is epic and emotional; these guys really feel this song. Again, the vocal performance is astounding and ends with an extraordinarily cool improvised tribute to the Beatles’ Blackbird. If you buy one track, get this one. Here they are performing it live. Be aware, though, I don’t like this performance nearly as much as the studio version.
  • And a Bang on the Ear – A history of lead singer Mike Scott’s romantic involvements. Each verse ends with him wishing he could give them a bang on the ear. I spent a few years thinking he was bitter and wanted to clock these women. Turns out “bang“ is slang for kiss and the expression is equivalent to “a peck on the cheek.” Heh. Give it a listen.
  • When Ye Go Away – A heart-breakingly beautiful song about a love that isn’t meant to be. The crying guitar is a second voice to accompany Mike Scott throughout the song. I love the violin work too. Hear the whole thing.

Side note: the song World Party was written by Karl Wallinger and was the inspiration for the name of his band, though it seems he didn‘t appear on this album. It‘s pretty good, but it isn’t one of my faves. You might like it.

I have picked up several other Waterboys discs, always chasing this one, but haven’t found another I like as well. Still, every album has good moments on it. Check out their website: http://www.mikescottwaterboys.com/.


April 8, 2009 - Posted by | Classic Rock, Folk, Indie, Popular, Rock

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