I've always had a fascination with poets Rabbie Burns, WH Auden and Yeats, I've heard Burns set to music and it left me a little cold, i wasn't overly impressed. So when Mike Scott announced his long talked of, but never realised (or released) labour of love in regard to Yeats i thought hmmmm, but if anyone could pull this off it would be yer man.
Listening to the album for the first time (after already witnessing it live) I initially had doubts, the live experience will always have a magic, spirit and power that recordings just cannot match, but upon first listen we are off at a gallop with 'The hosting of the shee' which fades in like the foggiest of mornings and then is off with bristling attitude, As an opener it's perfect, Fantastic in atmosphere with a blistering guitar solo that bursts in just as you're expecting a fade out on the 4 minute mark.
'Song of the wandering aengus' hits you as something strangely familiar, Scotts annunciation of every syllable is in full,glorious effect here, Shades of The Beatles and Van Morrison sneak through, plus something else which i cannot place but it's a beautiful sound none the less, Male and female lead blending perfectly.
'New for the delphic oracle' has me thinking and picturing a ballet for some reason, seems to made perfectly for such an occasion, well the intro anyway, No I'm not picturing messrs Wickham and Scott in tights!...then we kick in to the glorious main part of the song, It's a fair jaunt along an uplifting road as we merrily skip along,I'm back in the belly of the ballet, Pan by my side, fantastic stuff, really setting up wild imagery in the mind of the listener.
'A full moon in march' is the nursery rhyme you never heard at school, it's like the brothers grimm have been set loose, but it's Yeats setting out the twisted story of 'Jack and Jill', It's very grandoise, very pompous and to the point, with an almost 60's feel in places,enjoyable to say the least.
Onto 'Sweet dancer' the single release, It's the most mainstream track of the album thus far, A very upbeat song that conjures up visions of summers spent in the park, It's got a beauty about it, a very understated beauty at that.
'White Birds'has you thinking of a wedding dance, It wouldn't be out of place, romanticism is vividly portrayed within the lyrics as we briskly waltz along, It's a driving, bustling beat with Mr Scott imploring his beloved all the way, an absolutely beautiful song and lyric.
'The lake Isle of Innisfree' sets off in a brooding manner, Scott reciting to us in a similar brooding manner, It has a swagger about it, dare I say?....a sexiness?, The ghost of Glam is alive and well in the undertow of the beat here.
'Mad as the mist and snow' a change of pace again, we're shuffling along, the ghost of Yeats is alive and well and he's doing a wee Jig around the room until the pace picks up and takes us off onto another plane!, this is how music should be, full of emotion, feeling real, emotive and not having the arse auto-tuned right out of it!, Swirling, breathtaking and brilliant, I love this. You just let the music engulf you and swamp your senses, not wanting it to fade out and end!
'Before the world was made' sets you a picture of looking in a mirror as you realise you've grown old, it's like a conversation between a man and a woman, Katie Kim really does have a lovely voice, it soothes and reverberates around the song and like before... just as you don't want it to end....it ends
'September 1913' one of the really well known poems of Yeats's poems is presented in the form of imploring anthem to an Ireland dead and gone. The real strength of these songs is you know it's Yeats, but it's got the Waterboys all over it and Mike Scott has breathed a light into the life of these words that takes them in a direction not experience before, that's an amazing achievement because Yeats is a well read, well known poet, and you can listen to this in a dual mode....the poetry at it's core and then the music and words together, it's hard to explain but you can approach this from different angles to listen to, as a connoisseur of Yeats or as a Waterboys fan... or both! 'September 1913' is handled by Steve Wickham in particular with a memorable fire and 'fiestyness!' and once again Katie Kim breathes her siren song into this in a perfect understated manner.
'An Irish airman forsees his death' a title that's never going to fill you with thoughts of 'Ooh a happy song!' we're marching to the tune of death and it's a solemn journey we are on, hammond organ in tow, snare drum beating out a forlorn rhythm as we follow the story of the title, The musicianship on this album is, as always, first class, there's beauty in this solitude, but as has been the case previously.. you're always left wanting more!
'Politics' has echoes to 'Wishing well' by Free in the melody (in places) Katie Kim is here, reminding me of Stevie Nicks for some reason, Her voice and Scotts are from opposite ends of the spectrum but they compliment each other perfectly, I hope they do more work together, I hope to hear more of her own work and will seek it out, Her voice is sublime and bliss as is Scotts, but in very differing ways.
''Let the earth bear witness' is tragedy in 3:37 minutes of hurt, it's relevance to events of today are not to be understated but the fact these words were written so long ago bears witness to the fact we never learn from our mistakes, It's all about the hurt, the pain , the loss in the midst of the beauty of this earth we have inhabited for free and ruin on a daily basis, a truly beautiful song, very emotive and stark.
'The Faery's Last Song' closes the album, as has gone before it's steeped in atmosphere, it comes to you in waves, with many layers, There's so much going on in this song, you'd think it would be cluttered but it's not, it's the perfect finale to the most perfect of albums. I am sure the descendands of Yeats will be proud to hear the work of their ancestor handled in such a masterful way, I am sure Yeats himself will be looking down (or looking up depending on your point of view of the man) and smiling.
Mike Scott, The Waterboys have achieved what many have failed to do previously with the work of a poet, They have transported it into another field of talent and given it a life it never had, a whole new audience, a whole new feel, a whole new essence of beauty and glorious adaptation.And with Katie Kim harmonising us into a howling wind before the fade, we are at the end of our journey, With any Waterboys release you always find something new with each listen, or some new depth you never noticed, this is no different, I am sure this is going to be given regular rotation in my house for a long time to come and always giving me a new reward along the way, which is a rare thing in the world of music these days.
As a stand alone album this is a work of art, you can see and hear it's a labour of love for the artist, It will bring Yeats to a whole new audience but it's also got enough about it to let you experience that duality I mentioned previously, but duality is probably doing it a limited disservice, theres so much more to it than that.
I absolutely love it (can you tell?)
I want to thank Mike Scott and all those involved in bringing this (and all his music) into my life and ears, as my parents used to say to me when they were dismayed about their generations music and the music of the day 'They just don't make em like they used to' how right they were....they sure don't make them like this at all!
Thanks for listening to this meandering fool.