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155. A Pagan Place – The Waterboys

A PAGAN PLACE (1984)

The Waterboys

The first single from this amazing album was “The Big Music.” This ended up being descriptive of the band’s sound from that point forward. A huge wall of beautiful sound to counteract lead vocalists Mike Scott strained and nasally approach. That signature sound would rule the bands album for several years and would prove to be more of a critical acclimation than a sales tool. Though a loyal and die hard following signified the bands fanbase, there was never a point where the acclaim matched the quality.

Pagan Place was the first album that also featured keyboardist, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Karl Wallinger (World Party). This inclusion would help create a more commercially viable sound and a more “band” appeal. The addition of brass instruments also set the band apart from the their peers in the genre. The Waterboys may have been the most “musical” band of the era.

“Church Not Made With Hands” features a double entendre of both a sexual and spiritual sense. This would arise over and over again on this project. The feeling of love lost runs throughout, but with more emotional depth than just a “she’s out of my life” retread. There is a real sense of loss on a deeper level. Perhaps its Scott’s delivery that makes the loss so real, or perhaps the impact on the soul and spiritual side is more impactful than CCM artists would dare offer.

This is most obvious in “The Thrill Is Gone.” The cracked voice and “missed” notes were not edited out and the emotional comes across as more raw and unnerving. The same for “All the Things She Gave Me” and “Rags.”

The title track is a tough song to address. Here Scott complains about how evangelizing a lost world is done by the modern evangelist. More than a shot a TV evangelists, the song is also directed at the Church in general and the lack of respect shown by many in the spread of the Gospel today and in history. Oh yeah…and the trumpet solo freakin’ rocks!

Wallinger would stay for one more album before leaving to create World Party and the band’s sound would evolve over time. But they never achieved the acclaim their art deserved.

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  1. Don
    April 8, 2011 at 4:48 am

    I really liked Fisherman’s Blues and This is the Sea (right title?) better. But have read that this is still very good. Another undiscovered treasure that I actually own but haven’t yet listened to all the way through.

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