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.
on 19 September 2011
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.
on 25 March 2012
I have been a fan of Mike Scott's Songs for some time ( and so the music of his band The Waterboys). Also having a great fondness for the words and works of W.B Yeats, I was interested to hear this 'coming together' and I have to say on the first hearing, I thought "Noooooooooooooooooo !". Maybe it was the circumstances of that first listening, but I decided to give it another listen and on the second listen it was 'Nectar for the Ears' - and I can only say (after listening numerous times - by the fire with a glass of mead, on the MP3 player on the train, in the car etc) - every listen just re-affirms my opinion this just might be Mr Scott's finest offering - yes, perhaps even better than "This Is The Sea"....this is so exquisitely beautiful... and the final track 'Last Song of The Faery' - is heart renderingly beautifully bitter sweet - the Beauty of Life - the eventuality of Death that makes each moment so sweet....live in the Now not the past or the future..live and love in the moment for tomorrow may never come....Poetry Indeed....Mike Scott 10 out of 10!
ps: I would recommend playing the the last track especially on the headphones whilst stood on a hill somewhere out in Mother Nature watching the sun slip away....life might never be the same again !
on 8 January 2012
This is a great album, which I really enjoy - here comes the "but". It is not an esoteric cd, but the more you know about W.B. Yeats, the better you'll appreciate the album.Newcomers to the music of the Waterboys might like to listen to previous Mike Scott/Waterboys albums to hear more accessible works - then buy this one. It pays to be aware that Yeats was associated in his day with what we would now describe as "New Age" types, such as Madam Blavatsky. This is why so many tracks deal with creatures from Celtic mythology - a fascination shared by both Yeats and Scott. It is to Mike Scott's credit that he has created outstanding music around even Yeats' most obscure works. For me, the highlight is the marvellous "An Irish Airman Foresees His Death", which is a great poem and, in the hands of the Waterboys, a great song. "Let the Earth Bear Witness" deserves to be played at any occasion for remembrance. So - if you are a Waterboys fan already, or you are just into Celtic music and/or folk, buy this album - but it might help to buy a book of Yeats' poems as well. Mike Scott would probably agree! (And I'm sure that Yeats would have loved "The Whole of the Moon"!).
on 6 October 2011
The concept of this album appalled me somewhat. I thought 'this is bound to make me cringe': I couldn't imagine how Yeats's poetry could be anything other than ruined by such an enterprise. But I thought I'd give it a go, and I'm very glad I did.
If you know Yeats, you'll be surprised at how well music and verse fits together. Mike Scott really does seem to wring out some extra meaning from these unparalleled poems.
If you don't know Yeats, treat this as a highly enjoyable introduction to some of the greatest wordsmithing the English language has experienced. The verse is not obscured by the music, at all.
Not every track is successful but mostly this is very good. I really feared that 'The Lake Isle of Innisfree' would be cliched slush, but absolutely not. The first two tracks are outstanding while 'A Full Moon in March' is my favourite.
Congratulations to Mike Scott - he's pulled this off. It was a brave and difficult thing to do.
I adore this album. Five stars are not enough in my opinion.
I bought this album because I love W B Yeats's poetry and have spent the last year studying his life, his poetry and his occult interests. I confess that on first listen, I was not sure whether I liked the way The Waterboys have interpreted Yeats's poems probably because I had not previously experienced them set to music. But the more I listened, the more I tuned into their sound - and I have found that my obsessive listening has helped me get to know each track intimately and has enhanced my enjoyment of Yeats's poems.
Let The Earth Bear Witness has become one of my all time favourite tracks.
My only disappointment is that the album does not include The Stolen Child which is another magnificent rendition of a Yeats poem.
on 3 November 2011
Am I getting soft as I get old?
All the tracks on 'An Appointment' are great but it's Track 2 'Wondering Aengus' and above all the last Track 'A Faery's Last Song' that really hit the spot for me.
'Last Song' is unbelievably sad if you see it in the 1st person, maybe retitled for modern times.....'An Aetheist's Last Song' perhaps.
As the winter comes and we know it's all up with us, let us dance and sing our song for the last time. Soon it will all be over and done.
'Haunting', the critics said.....for me it surely is.
But hey, back to the rest of the Album, buy it, surely no one can be disappointed with this great CD. Thanks Mike Scott.
on 7 September 2012
"I find so many of these reviews puzzling. I loved The Waterboys during their purple patch but have been underwhelmed by all the newly written output since Mike Scott's first solo album. The magic flash seemed to dim. The music was ok, that was all. What I like about this is that it is a different thing and should perhaps not be judged by the same criteria. It is a heartfelt attempt to do justice to another man's words and it is almost entirely successful. Engaging, emotional, stately without getting dull, beautifully artful in many places, done with absolute skill and integrity, and it seems to me to be faithful to the poetry, which is surely the point? It's often unfair to expect the magic that spewed from the intensity of mad youth from an older artist, so I'm happy to treasure 'The Big Music' and the Ireland period for what they were and accept that they are part of history, but for me The Waterboys are very welcome to make music this engaging around such interesting subject matter until the cows come home."
That was my original 4 -star review after about 5 listens. I think I should have shut up until I'd given it the time it deserves. Since then I haven't had it off the stereo. The new Dylan album's been out 3 days and I haven't actually played it yet as I haven't stopped wanting to hear this. I have to concluded that the fact that it hasn't sold 10 million copies can only be because the Waterboys aren't famous enough and sadly too many people will either want to read Yeats or hear U2 or Rhianna, leaving this project somewhat between two stools. As it were. As for the ludicrous and nasty one-star review on here, the man is obviously either in some way impaired or Mike Scott once slept with his girlfriend.
To the music again - I enjoyed it all first few listens, but somehow after a a few more, the songs somehow knitted together anew and the tunes began to reveal their substance. I've only broken from it to go back over 'Universal Hall' and the solo outings to check I hadn't missed something. I have to confess that bar the odd track, those albums still don't grab me, so if you're a one-time Waterboys fan who gave up during the 90's, I would urge you with every ounce of urginess to buy this. Once you're buried in it, out of the marvellous words and the striking and quirky musical phrasing and the beautiful mistiness of some of the tunes come galloping some strident Waterboys tunes which would sit comfortably on any of the first 3 or 4 albums. I might even go so far as to say that some of Scott's best ever melodies are on here. Overall, the inclusion of horns, electric guitars, flutes and fiddles makes the album sound like a greatest hits of Waterboys noises '84-'89, minus any boomy 80's production. The production by the way is excellent. I know this is now a gushing review. I'm knocking it out quickly as I have to go to work and see if I can make myself put Tempest on instead on the way, but if anybody who's ever liked a Waterboys track reads this, give it a go. If you spend a week with it, I think it'll will end up as something you'll treasure. It's sad that to sell something like this it's necessary to stick it on the internet, lumped in with so much that is cheap and temporary.
on 30 April 2014
I wondered how well the poems of Yeats would serve as pop song lyrics - especially a whole album's worth - but Mike Scott carries it off superbly. Of course he's done it before - he set "The Stolen Child" on the Fisherman's Blues album - but this is a far more sustained effort: Scott says he's written around 36 settings, 20 of which were used for a road show which premiered at Yeats' own Abbey Theatre, Dublin in March 2010. The audiences responded well, so he recorded 14 of the songs for this album, released a year later. It works because Scott isn't over-reverential about the texts, he's prepared to adapt them as necessary to serve the song, changing rhyming schemes, repeating phrases and in some cases, mixing several poems together. But they stay essentially intact and the words are always audible, so if you listen with a Selected Poems edition in hand it can act as a great primer to the poetry. Scott's doesn't just stick to the early poems, his choice covers all periods, right up until "Politics", the last lyric poem Yeats wrote in 1939.
Early Yeats, often based on romantic Irish folklore, has more often been used as the basis for lyrics. "The Song of Wandering Aengus" (from the 1899 collection The Wind Among the Reeds), set previously by Judy Collins, Donovan, Christy Moore and David Gray, among others, is both familiar and suitable for song:
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.
Mike Scott's version is based on a simple 16 bar chord sequence that repeats right through the song, and uses a regular meter, the instrumentation gradually building until it reaches the famous final couplet - and there follows a long flute solo by Sarah Allen on the same chord sequence that further intensifies the mood. (The same technique is used in the Waterboys song A Man is In Love).
However, Scott also tackles late Yeats, where the language is greatly simplified and more direct - the lively "Sweet Dancer" for instance, from 1939's Last Poems, which describes the mental breakdown of the poet's much younger lover, the actress Margot Ruddock. I especially like "Before the World Was Made", a poem from 1929 (part of the sequence A Woman Young and Old) exploring self-identity, one of Yeats classic themes. With everything leading up to the haunting final two lines, it comes over as almost Dylanesque in this tiny setting.
I'm looking for the face I had
Before the world was made.
Here's another example of why Scott is one of the most interesting of contemporary musicians. This came out in 2011 and is a collection of songs with lyrics taken from poems by William Butler Yeats the famous Irish poet and playwright. To do something like this and do it artistically successfully is not easy. At the very least the singer has to sing with absolute clarity so that every word is heard by the listener, and not only that but it has to convey the rhythm of the poem as created by its author. The music then has to mirror the poem's tone and tempo. Lastly it has to appear seamlessly as an organic unit as if it was always a whole piece, not just a poem set to music.
Amazingly, Scott has done just this. I won't pretend it's an immediately accessible album, it isn't. Like, say Joni Mitchell's masterpiece Hejira, it takes several listenings to reveal its secrets. But it's worth it. The first track The Hosting of the Shee opens softly but rapidly changes into a barrage of multi-instrumental sound as Scott almost yells out the Wild Ride of faery warriors. The lovely and all too brief Sweet Dancer, with singer Katie Kim, could almost be a modern song. That said, Scott has not always lifted the poems intact. Although all the words are by Yeats, sometimes they can be pieced together from up to three sources, often to add a chorus. When you read his autobiography, which ends a decade before this was recorded, you realise that this is something he's been building up to for years.
Well done, Mr Scott. Now where's the new album?