Within seconds of pressing play on this six-disc set (five CDs and a DVD), there’s really only one word to describe the music you’re hearing – joyous. In capital letters. Seriously, if the editor of the Oxford English Dictionary at some point gets to hear the jubilant, positively glowing live version of ‘And A Bang On The Ear‘ recorded at Glasgow’s Barrowlands venue, which heads off this boxset, then I suspect he or she will have no hesitation whatsoever in ripping the old definition out for both of those ‘J’ words, and replacing them simply with an entry that reads: “The Waterboys.”
As The Magnificent Seven‘s lengthy title would suggest, all of these recordings were made over a one year period where this particular incarnation of the band were playing at every given opportunity, on tour buses, backstage, at friend’s houses, in the streets, on the toilet for all I know – anywhere, in fact, where the mood took them, and the high-spirited aura of the day comes through so effectively that you often feel like you’re there with them, having the best time of your life.
What shines through the most here, however, is the band’s Celtic roots, more so than any of their studio albums. I’m not sure why that is – maybe it’s the sheer raw authenticity of these recordings that hammers that home, whether it’s the vibrant energy of the seamlessly segued live versions of ‘This Is The Sea’ (Boston) and ‘New Morning’ (Paris), ‘Maggie (It’s Time For You To Go)‘ which, according to Mike Scott’s sleeve notes, was never released because he couldn’t get the lyric right (though there’s little doubt as to whom it was aimed!), or the pub sing-song of ‘Yellow Submarine‘ in a playful tongue in cheek teasing of a woman who’d asked Mike to play ‘And A Bang On The Ear‘.
This is a quite wonderful boxset with a lovely informative accompanying booklet full of fascinating facts and insights into that particular period, just how accompanying booklets should be, in fact. Other bands, please take note! Of course, it helps if you also have the almighty talent of The Waterboys, and Mike Scott in particular, but often on The Magnificent Seven, interestingly, the most resplendent moments come in the form of cover versions – Dylan‘s ‘Rainy Day Women #12 & 35‘ is both exemplary and incendiary, while the reading here of Stan Lebowsky’s ‘The Wayward Wind‘ (popularised in the sixties by Australian singer Frank Ifield) is as pretty as a picture.
There’s such a wealth of great music here that it’s difficult not to get a little misty-eyed about this simpler, more innocent time, and perhaps the best example of that comes from the last two tracks on the final CD, the original Room To Roam album, with the glorious sway of the title track (“How on earth did Steve come up with those fiddle lines? Did the angels whisper in his ear?” wonders Anto Thistlethwaite in the booklet) and the boozy, frenzied bar-room folk of ‘The Kings Of Kerry‘ that rounds things off.
The only thing I need to say about the DVD is that it should reaffirm to any longstanding fan that The Waterboys are undoubtedly up there with the greatest bands we’ve been fortunate enough to get to know in our lifetime. Just beautiful.
The Magnificent Seven etc. is out now on CHRYSALIS.