The Best of the Waterboys: 1981-1990

by: The Waterboys

What separates The Waterboys' music from other bands of the same Celtic, folk-rock sound is the intricacies that lead singer Mike Scott puts into his work. His lyrics are forever tangled up in metaphors and philosophy, brightened by accompanying mandolins, saxophones, and even trumpets. Rich in its boatyard appeal and seaside caricature, The Best of the Waterboys harbors their most renowned pieces from 1981 straight through to 1990, bringing to light their dockside effervescence with songs like "Fisherman's Blues" and "Strange Boat." Superb at conveying atmosphere with their instruments, the Waterboys added depth and uniqueness to a decade that was being saturated with arena rock, synth pop, and heavy metal. The sweetness of tunes like "A Girl Called Johnny" and "Spirit" are blanketed with the comfort of Anthony Thistlethwaite's sax and upright bass strumming, and "A Bang on the Ear" loses itself in its cozy Englishness. The prettiest of all the songs is by far "The Whole of the Moon" from This Is the Sea, which has Scott singing his most passionate assortment of romantic lyrics to the relaxed pace of Karl Wallinger's synthesizer. The beauty of their music unfolds throughout their vivid collaboration of voice and instrument, heightened in tracks such as "A Man Is in Love" and "All the Things She Gave Me." Here, the small village idioms wrap themselves around the music to produce a certain innocence that forever binds itself to Scott's persona. It is this collaboration of esoteric lyricism and jovial harmonies that cast wonderment throughout each separate piece. This compilation is an excellent discovery point for anyone interested in the gorgeous complexity of the Waterboys' music. [This album was reissued in 2003 as Essential]. ~ Mike DeGagne

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