THE WATERBOYS Fishermans Blues (Simply Vinyl)
Fishermans Blues (as Simply Vinyls reissue but not the original CD rather ungrammatically titles The Waterboys fourth record) is an album Ive encountered but never really appreciated before, and its only now that Im starting to realise what Ive been missing.
The magnificent opening title track is glorious full-throttle Celtic folk-rock, belting along like the hurtling, fevered train of Mike Scotts imagination, but its Steve Wickhams gutsy, gusty fiddling that really drives this engine. And wheres it headed? How about the crossroads where The Pogues punkish fury and Van Morrisons mystical speaking-in-tongues meet? Theres a tart note of bitterness a la It Aint Me Babe to We Will Not Be Lovers, which at least prevents the album sliding too far towards some kind of Gaelic picture postcard. Strange Boat appears on an ocean of calm in this context, ahead of World Party, one of the albums more rockist moments. I dont want to give the impression that it sounds like U2 or sumpn, but its certainly the closest the album tiptoes in that direction, a legacy of Scotts previously-voiced pursuit of the big music, perhaps. Even so, youd be hard pressed to find a sound as magisterial as Roddy Lorimers trumpeting on this track on a U2 album.
Whos ever covered anything off Astral Weeks? Heck, even Van doesnt these days: in the 15 or so of his concerts Ive attended the only occasion hes delved into that particular sacred songbook was during a 2002 Bournemouth gig, when he pulled out a slow, stately and utterly mesmerising Sweet Thing, better than the version essayed here by The Waterboys, but not by as great a margin as youd imagine. Maybe Mr Scotts rendition is a little too heavy to truly take folky flight, but full marks for effort and ambition nevertheless, especially for summoning the spirit of 68 by melding it seamlessly with The Beatles Blackbird (somewhat more successful than David Grays reverse parking of Into The Mystic into Say Hello, Wave Goodbye, a stunt he surely picked up the idea for here).
Fishermans Blues saves the best until (almost) last, the simply staggering W B Yeats co-write The Stolen Child. A cartoon on the inner carries the caption the power of the music gives everybody wings, and this gossamer-light delight is where the dream becomes reality. The mood is shattered, but only slightly, by a raucous but affectionate after-hours ramblette through This Land Is Your Land.
Simply Vinyls reissue, although lovingly presented (even if apostrophes were in short supply at their office that day), is a bit brightly lit but distant sonically. Cut at a rather low level, it doesnt really do much dynamically, and all that jangling can get a bit wearing. It scarcely saps the albums greatness, though: for all the disparate sources and elephantine gestation period recording alone spanned 30 months theres a stylistic continuity here that ensures these songs really do work better together.