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Friday, 7 June 2013

Forgotten Album Friday #24 - The Waterboys - A Pagan Place

If you are suffering from overload of prime time karaoke from The Voice and the like this is the place to restore your faith in quality music.

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In looking up the information on this album I came across the following great Rolling Stone Reviews from 1984:

The Waterboys’ chunk of British big-guitar rock has a very familiar ring. There are resonant echoes of the Bunnymen in singer Mike Scott’s tremulous wail and the martial slice of his massed acoustic guitars, along with hints of fellow Scotsmen Big Country’s Highland swirl and enough studio reverb to swallow U2. What distinguishes ‘A Pagan Place’ - the Waterboys’ first full-length U.S. release - is the unique, exhilarating force of its rock & roll heart. Like a punk bursting into Van Morrison’s mystic with six strings blazing, Scott (head Waterboy and the album’s producer) has made a kind of black-leather-jacket version of ‘Astral Weeks’. The raging guitars of “Rags” and eager gallop of “Church Not Made with Hands,” with its bursts of Gabriel like trumpet, explode the folkie purity of his melodies and frank introspection of his lyrics into epic blasts of what he aptly calls, in another song, “The Big Music”.

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Often, that sound is composed of a lot of little things that add up brilliantly. In ‘All the Things She Gave Me,’ Scott heightens the funeral-pyre image of a failed love affair with a pained, questioning vocal, brooding acoustic guitars and a rousing chorus glowing with an R&B flame. The title song, powered by guitars in locomotive drive and hopeful trumpet flourishes, sounds like an impatient prayer. Even the ambitious naiveté of ‘Red Army Blues,’ in which the rites of passage of a young Russian soldier in World War 2 are detoured by Stalinist cruelty, is effectively dramatised by the band, whose sad, gray march evokes a tired legion crossing the bleak Siberian steppes.

The gripping quality of Scott’s expansive big-music gestures is wondrous enough. That he pulls it off with a defiant acoustic purity - no synthesizers, by God! - is reason to cheer. Contrary to their name, the Waterboys already qualify for a spot on the new-rock A team. 

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