Friday, March 20, 2015

Waterboys 2: A Pagan Place

If Mike Scott’s liner notes are to be believed, the second album credited to The Waterboys came out of sessions that spawned the debut, as well as later collaborations with new, prospective Waterboys. The most prominent addition heard on A Pagan Place is Roddy Lorimer on trumpet, who provides a touch of pageantry to Anthony Thistlethwaite’s blaring sax. (Another addition, Karl Wallinger on keyboards, is more blended into the mix.)
That trumpet plays a big role in “Church Not Made With Hands”, a nice rollicking opener with a quote from C.S. Lewis. Through no fault of its own, “All The Things She Gave Me” sounds today like Simple Minds, who were trying to make their way around the same time. “The Thrill Is Gone”, while pretty in places, comes off as little more than an exploration of Van Morrison’s “And The Healing Has Begun” (particularly on the extended version on the upgraded CD), and Mike does get a tad overemotional. “Rags” is a better demonstration of dynamics, hushed here, soaring there, with excellent drumwork all around.
“Somebody Might Wave Back” would be a good showcase for Karl Wallinger on piano, and a respite for his boss’s “galloping” style, except that Mike loads up the mix with guitars and other effects. “The Big Music” provides something of a statement of purpose, both literally and aurally. The original LP had the next song listed as “Red Army ★ Blues”, though that symbol has since fallen off (probably because of modern word processors). Whatever the reason or actual title, this eight-minute dirge sung from the point of view of a Russian soldier during World War II had already appeared on a 12-inch single. After a while it’s as rough a slog as a hike through Siberia, and maybe that was the intention. Finally, the title track, like the opener, uses few chords to do a lot, leaving us in a sense of wonder.
A Pagan Place shows the band still developing, and hindsight shows that it fits in the larger picture. If he could keep it going, and didn’t drown in his own emoting, even better music might follow. (The expanded CD doesn’t hint at that; despite extending a few tracks, somebody made the right decision to delete “Some Of My Best Friends Are Trains” from the original running order.)

The Waterboys A Pagan Place (1984)—3
2002 CD remaster: same as 1984, plus 6 extra tracks

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