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The Waterboys



With their cross-pollination of literate, soulful rock and roll and folk traditions of the British Isles, the Waterboys have tread a multitude of musical paths since singer/songwriter Mike Scott formed the group in London in the early-80's. From the grandiose "Big Music" of their early classic, This Is the Sea, on through the rich Celtic-inspired folk-rock of their 1988 highlight, Fisherman's Blues, the mercurial Scotsman has made dramatic sea changes a regular occurence, swapping lineups and chasing stylistic whims on an almost album-to-album basis. Across nearly four decades of work, Scott's sonic and spiritual explorations have been shared by literally dozens of bandmembers, though only fiddler Steve Wickham -- and to some extent early mainstay Antony Thistlethwaite -- has maintained his post as a Waterboy for a significant portion of the band's existence. In his dual role as restless seeker and wiley rock and roll romantic, Scott has consistently steered the band toward interesting projects like 2003's Universal Hall, recorded at a remote Scottish commune, and 2011's An Appointment With Mr. Yeats, which featured eclectic, almost baroque-rock adaptations of W.B. Yeats' poetry, each new album adding another layer to the Waterboys' distinctive patina. A native of Edinburgh, Scott first became involved in music as the creator of the fanzine Jungleland and later played in a series of local punk outfits. After college, where he studied English and philosophy, Scott and his band, Another Pretty Face, moved to London; following the group's breakup in 1981, he formed the Waterboys, so named after a line in the Lou Reed song "The Kids" but wholly appropriate given Scott's recurring lyrical fascination with sea imagery. A newspaper advertisement calling for musicians led to a response from multi-instrumentalist Anthon Thistlethwaite; along with drummer Kevin Wilkinson, the Waterboys issued their self-titled debut in 1983. A particularly cinematic mix of post-punk and new wave with a healthy dose of romanticism, Scott's approach during this period would later be described to as "The Big Music," after a single of the same name which appeared on their next album, A Pagan Place. Released in 1984 and aided by keyboardist Karl Wallinger and trumpeter Roddy Lorimer, A Pagan Place expanded the group's rich, dramatic sound while further exploring Scott's interest in spirituality. With 1985's This Is the Sea, the Waterboys reached an early peak; a majestic, ambitious record, it earned the group a significant hit with the single "The Whole of the Moon." However, after the album's release, Wallinger departed to form World Party, leaving Scott to strike out in a new direction altogether, thus ending the band's "Big Music" phase. Relocating to Dublin, Scott, Thistlethwaite, and fiddler Steve Wickham began incorporating traditional Irish music, country, and soul into the Waterboys' sound. This new folk and Celtic-inspired approach culminated in 1988's excellent Fisherman's Blues, marking a dramatic sonic reinvention that polarized some of their earlier fans, but has ultimately come to be considered one of the band's finest releases. Taking this new approach even further, Scott added several new folk and traditional players like accordionist Sharon Shannon and flautist Colin Blakey to the mix for 1990's vibrant British Isles journey, Room to Roam. Similar to their "Big Music" period, the folky Waterboys lineup of the late-80's has been referred to as the "Raggle Taggle Band" era, named for their rendition of the traditional song "The Raggle Taggle Gypsy" which appears on Room to Roam. Changing tacks once again, Scott moved to New York without Thistlethwaite, Wickham, or any other of his mainstay bandmembers; the release of 1993's Dream Harder, cut with American session musicians, marked a return to an electric hard rock sound. In spite of a fairly poor critical response, it yielded a pair of singles that reached the U.K. Top 30 and fared better chartwise than its predecessor. Not long after its release, Scott abandoned the Waterboys name and, moving back to Scotland, began a lengthy stay at the Findhorn spiritual commune where he recorded 1995's acoustic folk LP, Bring 'Em All In, under his own name. A second, more rock-driven solo album, Still Burning, appeared in 1997. By early 1999, Scott was at work on another album with a host of different musicians; among them were Thistlethwaite and original Waterboys drummer Kevin Wilkinson, although tragically, the latter took his own life in July of that year. In 2000, Scott released Rock in the Weary Land under the Waterboys name, referring to its edgy experimental sound as "Sonic Rock." The following year saw the release of Too Close To Heaven (titled Fisherman's Blues, Park 2 in the U.S.), which collated a group of outtakes, demos, and alternate versions of songs from the Fisherman's Blues era. With Wickham again a full-time member, it heralded another sea change for the band who again headed in a more folk-oriented direction on 2003's Universal Hall, named after and recorded at the theatre at Findhorn Foundation to which Scott retained a deep connection. Following a 2005 live outing, Karma To Burn, the Waterboys returned with 2007's more spirited Book of Lightning, which was recorded mostly live in the studio. After a couple of years of touring and time off, Scott assembled and released a compilation of unreleased songs from the Waterboys' This Is the Sea sessions entitled In a Special Place. He also published a memoir entitled Kiss the Wind: A Waterboy's Adventures in Music. Around this time, he, Wickham, and bassist Scott Arciero also assembled a new version of the Waterboys who began performing together in late 2010 and early 2011. In March they entered a studio to record a new project built around the work of one of Scott's lifelong heroes. Released in the fall of 2011, An Appointment with Mr. Yeats was a collection of new songs whose lyrics were taken from the poems of William Butler Yeats. In January of 2015, the Waterboys returned to entirely original music with Modern Blues. Recorded in Nashville, produced by Scott, and mixed by Bob Clearmountain, it reached #14 on the U.K. Albums chart, marking the group's highest appearance since 1993. Scott's next Waterboys project was an ambitious and eclectic double album, 2017's Out of All This Blue, which added elements of country, R&B, and hip-hop to the group's mix. Scott and company continued to blur genres in 2019 with Where the Action Is, which took its title from the chorus of Robert Parker's '60s Northern Soul classic "Let's Go Baby." ~ Timothy Monger & Jason Ankeny
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Top Tracks

  1.   Track
  2.   The Whole of the Moon
  3.   Fisherman's Blues
  4.   And a Bang on the Ear
  5.   This Is the Sea
  6.   November Tale
  7.   We Will Not Be Lovers
  8.   World Party
  9.   I Can See Elvis
  10.   A Girl Called Johnny
  11.   Strange Boat
  12.   This Land Is Your Land
  13.   Sleek White Schooner
  14.   Nashville, Tennessee
  15.   Sweet Dancer
  16.   [Untitled Track]
  17.   I Am Not Here
  18.   Let the Earth Bear Witness
  19.   Medicine Jack
  20.   Will You Ever Be My Friend?
  21.   Beverly Penn
  22.   Towers Open Fire
  23.   What Do You Want Me to Do?
  24.   Piper at the Gates of Dawn
  25.   Man, What a Woman
  26.   New York I Love You
  27.   If I Was Your Boyfriend
  28.   The Scotsman's Delight
  29.   The Hosting of the Shee
  30.   Winter in the Blood
  31.   If I Can't Have You
  32.   High Far Soon
  33.   Universal Hall
  34.   Every Breath Is Yours
  35.   Silent Fellowship
  36.   December
  37.   Meet Me at the Station
  38.   Rare, Precious and Gone
  39.   Dunford's Fancy
  40.   When Ye Go Away
  41.   Preparing to Fly
  42.   The Big Music
  43.   Rags
  44.   Church Not Made With Hands
  45.   A Man Is in Love
  46.   Old England
  47.   Medicine Bow
  48.   The Pan Within
  49.   Rattle My Bones and Shiver My Soul
  50.   The Stolen Child
  51.   Girl of the North Country
  52.   Sponsored Pedal Pusher's Blues
  53.   Custer's Blues
  54.   A Reel and a Stomp in the Kitchen
  55.   Let Me Feel Holy Again
  56.   Love Is Letting Go
  57.   Don't Bang the Drum
  58.   The Faery's Last Song
  59.   When Will We Be Married
  60.   Pictish National Anthem (Comati)
  61.   You Don't Have to Be in the Army to Fight the War
  62.   Why Look at the Moon
  63.   Higher in Time
  64.   Heading Down the Highway
  65.   The Grief of Pan
  66.   If Jimi Was Here
  67.   The Raggle Taggle Gypsy
  68.   Then She Made the Lasses-O
  69.   And There's Love
  70.   Take Me There I Will Follow You
  71.   Ladbroke Grove Symphony
  72.   In My Time On Earth
  73.   Out of All This Blue
  74.   London Mick
  75.   Where the Action Is
  76.   So in Love with You
  77.   Return to Roppongi Hills
  78.   Epiphany on Mott Street
  79.   The Elegant Companion
  80.   Didn't We Walk on Water
  81.   Kinky's History Lesson
  82.   Monument
  83.   Hiphopstrumental 4 (Scatman)
  84.   The Girl in the Window Chair
  85.   Love Walks In
  86.   Santa Fe
  87.   Mister Charisma
  88.   Do We Choose Who We Love
  89.   Payo Payo Chin
  90.   Long Strange Golden Road
  91.   Buckets of Rain
  92.   The Last Jam
  93.   Bo Diddley Was a Caveman
  94.   Live Aid and After
  95.   Mr Customs Man
  96.   Incident at Puck Fair
  97.   On My Way to Tara
  98.   Strange Boat [3rd Version]/The Good Ship Sirius
  99.   BP's Bathtub Boogie
  100.   Headphone Mix Song
  101.   Trunk Call
  102.   Working on a Building
  103.   Higher in Time Symphony
  104.   Shall We Gather by the River
  105.   Industrial Mr Brown
  106.   (He Hasn't Been the Same Since) Jimmy Shand
  107.   I Will Meet You in Heaven Again