The Waterboys

Room to Roam

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The Waterboys' departure from the self-described "big music" of the early to mid-'80s into the more pastoral Celtic folk-rock landscapes of Fisherman's Blues frustrated many longtime fans who thought that the group belonged in the same arenas as contemporaries like U2 or the Alarm, but it also brought in a new set of listeners who were looking for a young Fairport Convention or Steeleye Span. Taking its name from a passage in Scottish author, poet, and minister George MacDonald' fantasy novel Phantastes: A Faerie Romance for Men and Women, Room to Roam extends the scope of the group's previous effort by integrating that album's Irish and Scottish folk elements further into the rock and pop nether regions. If anything, Room to Roam captures head (and soon to be only) Waterboy Mike Scott at his most unabashedly Beatlesque, stringing together whispery interludes, pub-style jam sessions (of the traditional folk variety), sound effects, and genre-defying forays into soul ("Something That Is Gone"), country ("How Long Will I Love You?"), traditional folk ("Raggle Taggle Gypsy"), and full-on rock & roll ("Life of Sundays") -- the latter cut even dissolves into a group singalong of the Fab Four classic "Yellow Submarine." Of the two albums, Room to Roam balances these two worlds the most effectively, and while the more focused and nuanced Fisherman's Blues is the superior record, it lacks Roam's amiable, schizophrenic, and pioneering spirit.

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