As someone who only recently rediscovered Mike Scott's enormous back catalogue (both as a solo artist and The Waterboys' heart and soul), I consider this latest release to represent his absolute best work, as great as anything he has so far created. Given his penchant for exploring diverse musical styles and his successful refusal to be shoe-horned into any particular genre, fans of Mike Scott's music are roughly divided between those who only love the songs of this or that period, and the much smaller group of those who simply embrace everything he does. For myself, I enjoy about 90% of his output, and the same can be said for this album.
My favourites so far include "The Hosting of the Shee", "Mad as the Mist and Snow", "White Birds", "Politics", and the incredibly poignant "The Faery's Last Song". The treatment of "The Lake Island of Innisfree" is pure genius, as this over-exposed Yeats classic presented a host of spiked challenges, all brilliantly overcome by the robust bluesy approach. Another stand-out is "Before the World Was Made", a gorgeous duet with Katie Kim, one of the most interesting female voices I've heard recently. In fact, there isn't a weak track on the whole album and I suspect people's favourites will vary greatly.
What is beyond discussion is the superb quality of this music, a welcome change from today's frankly depressing standards. A special mention for the other superb musicians involved, especially the mercurial Steve Wickham whose fiddle work reaches new heights in some truly inspired solos. I was pleased to see a fair amount of media interest for this potentially "difficult" release and I have yet to read a less-than-positive review. For those considering a purchase, the Waterboys Soundcloud has three tracks available to preview. Highly recommended.