Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Waterboys 5: Room To Roam

Following the surprise success of Fisherman’s Blues, Mike Scott bolstered the Waterboys with some other traditional Celtic folk players for live shows, and recorded the follow-up fairly quickly. On Room To Roam, the electronic piano dominates, as does the co-production by the legendary Barry Beckett, but it’s very much in the same vein as its predecessor. For the most part, the emphasis remains on the jigs and reels, with only two songs longer than three or so minutes.
The first handful of tracks tumbles by quickly. “In Search Of A Rose” is pretty but brief, rudely interrupted by “Song From The End Of The World”, which also ends with a burst of seagulls when you think another verse should be happening. “A Man Is In Love” gets a little more room to settle in, ending with an upbeat instrumental portion called “Kalliope House” that is occasionally indexed on its own depending on what version of the album you’re playing. “Bigger Picture” continues the strum before being nudged aside by the traditional “Natural Bridge Blues”. Just as we think it’s all folk dances, “Something That Is Gone” brings the mood way down, with the man who’s in love lamenting his loss, and mournful saxes and violins convey the sadness. A brief interlude about “The Star And The Sea” is misplaced, particularly before the grand rock sound of “A Life Of Sundays”. Plowing away at one chord for the most of it, it still provides a wonderful catharsis and is the album’s only epic, ending with a spoken quote and even a chorus of “Yellow Submarine”. If the first side of the album is designed to lead up to this, the journey has been worth it.
Psychedelia continues on “Islandman”, which melds a didgeridoo with Scott’s declaration of oneness with most regions of the UK, then “The Raggle Taggle Gypsy” goes back to traditional folk and “How Long Will I Love You?” slides over into near pop. A wonderful unlisted snippet with the words “she’s all that I need” fades in and out before Steve Wickham intones the almost as brief “Upon The Wind And Waves”. “Spring Comes To Spiddal” melds folk with Dixieland brass because they hadn’t gotten to that genre yet. A button accordion solo on “A Trip To Broadford” is quite soothing, while “Further Up, Further In” finally takes an idea to something of a conclusion over a Scottish dance. Just one ocean voyage wasn’t enough, as the dizzying backing to the title track approximates seasickness. Just to keep it all together, the upbeat jig of “The Kings Of Kerry” closes out the set.
Room To Roam crams a lot of music into a short space, and we wish some of those snippets were better developed so as to nudge aside the less effective tracks. The eventual Collector’s Edition added another album’s worth of tracks, some of them alternates. (A highlight is “Three Ships”, an extended jam on the “she’s all that I need” snippet, sadly without any lyrics.) Even with that bigger picture, Room To Roam isn’t as good as Fisherman’s Blues, nor was it anywhere near as successful. The band’s label most the most of it by quickly re-releasing “Whole Of The Moon” as a single to promote a hits collection. The Best Of The Waterboys ‘81-‘90 summed up the band’s history, adding rarities in the form of a live version of “Old England” and “Killing My Heart”, an inferior alternate version of “When Ye Go Away”.

The Waterboys Room To Roam (1990)—3
2008 Collector’s Edition: same as 1990, plus 17 extra tracks

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