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Karma To Burn

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Album Review

In 2001, Mike Scott decided to return to recording and performing under the Waterboys moniker. He released his first new-era Waterboys studio record, A Rock in the Weary Land, a good seven years after 1993's Dream Harder — with some small contributions of some the more permanent Waterboys of the '80s and '90s. In between those records, Scott had recorded and performed solo in two different incarnations: one as an acoustic singer/songwriter (Bring 'Em All In), and one as a bandleader (Still Burning). And on 2005's Karma to Burn, the first ever official Waterboys live record, it's these two sides that he wants to capture. Where 1998's bootleg Live Adventures revealed a Mike Scott fronting a full band back in 1986, wanting to grasp the stars in the sky, Karma to Burn is, partially, a much more quiet affair. Culled from tours Mike and company made in 2003 and 2004, half the songs have a piano (Richard Naiff), acoustic guitar, and fiddle (Steve Wickham) setup, while on the other half the three core members are backed by then touring drummer Carlos Hercules and bass player Steve Walters. As a result, the record is a two-faced one: there's the rock band playing old and new Waterboys songs, and there's the acoustic trio playing material from Dream Harder, Universal Hall, and Scott's solo work. There are also two covers. Unfortunately, the record is too short too really show the two sides of the Waterboys: it plays off as just a rock show with some quiet tunes thrown in for good measure. It would have been wiser for Scott to release a double album, with one disc given wholly to his quiet side and one to his rock band persona. The 13-plus-minute guitar-heavy version of "The Pan Within," for example, is now followed by an intimate reading of "Open." As a consequence, both songs feel out of place. Hopefully, the next time around (be it an archival release or new recording) Scott will give his music the space it deserves, and have a clearer idea about what he wants to release. Nonetheless, the record kicks off with a strong rendition of "Long Way to the Light," sort of a retelling of Scott's life up until the end of '90s, and it sounds very inspired. And "The Return of Jimi Hendrix," finally, also makes a good appearance with Wickham's fuzz fiddle stealing the show. "Peace of Iona" is played in all its heartbreaking beauty, too. ~ Philip D. Huff, Rovi


Formed: 1981 in London, England

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Led by the literate singer/songwriter Mike Scott, the group's sole constant member, the mercurial Waterboys formed in London in 1981. Born December 14, 1958, in Edinburgh, Scotland, Scott first became involved in music as the creator of the fanzine Jungleland and later played in a series of local punk outfits. After college, where he studied English and philosophy, Scott and his band, Another Pretty Face, moved to London; following the group's breakup, he formed the Waterboys, so named after a line...
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Karma To Burn, The Waterboys
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