The Best Of The Waterboys '81-'90

The Waterboys

Ensign/Chrysalis Records, 1991

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


The Waterboys were a band who resided in almost perpetual musical limbo. The project of musical visionary Mike Scott, the other members were a revolving door of rock and Celtic musicians, never quite deciding whether they were a reel-n-roll band or a Celtic-folk band. At various times, Karl Wallinger, who later formed World Party, was a member, as was Steve Wickham of In Tua Nua and Sharon Shannon, who later became a successful Celtic solo artist. In their ten year career, they put out six CDs; the first three were rock, the next two were more folk, and the last, 1993's my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Dream Harder, contained no original members save Mike Scott. (Unlike most Waterboys fans, I don't -ignore- this CD; I kinda like it, but it's not on tap today).

'81-'90 covers the first five CDs, and is a comprehensive overview of the Waterboys during their period of greatest activity and experimentation. The Waterboys' sound was infectuous, their music at alternatives poppy and richly textured, a fascinating intermingling of traditional instrumentation and rock and roll. In many ways, they were the groundbreakers for the modern sound known as reel and roll, the Celtic/rock fusion now espoused by bands as varied as The Corrs, Tempest, and Great Big Sea. They were also one of the few rock bands in the eighties to have an openly pagan theme to some of their music, with one of their albums being called A Pagan Place.

The CD's tracks are laid out in chronological order (and as a side note, this earns bonus points from me. I like hearing exactly how a band's sound evolves through time). Kicking off with the bounce and flair of "A Girl Called Johnny", it covers their 'first' sound, that of a progressive rock band with Celtic influences, with highlights being "All The Things She Gave Me', "Don't Bang The Drum", and the powerful anthem "The Whole Of The Moon". As a fan, I missed "The Pan Within" from This Is The Sea, but was appeased by the nice touch of the substitution of a live version of "Old England" from the same CD. The second half of '81-'90 covers the more Celtic-folk side of the Waterboys' career, and while I'm not as fond of that sound, "Killing My Heart" and "And A Bang On The Ear" are worth a close listen.

The Waterboys were never quite as good as they could be. There are a lot of arguments as to why; the revolving door of musicians, Mike Scott's insistence on iron control, or perhaps even an inability to find a real identity as a band. But as part of the foundation of the Celtic revival of the '90s, their influence is hard to deny, and is worth looking into.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1999 Duke Egbert and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Ensign/Chrysalis Records, and is used for informational purposes only.