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TOP 500 REVIEWERon August 15, 2008
This 11 August 2008 re-issue is part of EMI's "COLLECTOR'S EDITION" series and is a 2CD major overhaul and remaster of the Waterboys much loved 5th album. Here's the breakdown:

DISC 1 (42:43 minutes):
Tracks 1 to 17 are the album "Room To Roam" released September 1990 in the UK on Ensign Records CHEN 16
DISC 2 (49:03 minutes):
Tracks 1 to 17 are "Additional Recordings" - 14 studio outtakes with 3 live recordings

Mike Scott has overseen the song choices, presentation, the booklet. The first half of the excellent inlay produces the original album credits, lyrics etc - the second half does the same for Disc 2 - including full session details, lyrics, photos of the band, a history of the album and their stay in Ireland by Scott - Sharon Shannon and Noel Bridgeman's influence on the sessions and their love and knowledge of Traditional Irish music - all of the recollections about playing and choices, the details - all of it - very nicely done...

The Waterboys Band and Session Players for the LP were:
MIKE SCOTT on Lead Vocals, Guitars & Keyboards (principal songwriter)
ANTO THISLETHWAITE on Baritone Saxophone, Mandolin
COLIN BLAKEY on Whistle, Flute, Hammond Organ and Piano
STEVE WICKHAM on Fiddle, Hammond Organ and Backing Vocals
TREVOR HUTCHINSON on Double Bass and Bouzouki
NOEL BRIDGEMAN on Drums, Percussion and Backing Vocals
SHARON SHANNON guest player on Accordion and Fiddle

Recorded in Galway in the West of Ireland over many months, "Room..." follows on from the `Traditional Irish Folk Meets Rock' of "Fisherman's Blues" in 1988; it's simply more of the same. But what's improved most here is the SOUND. The remaster is beautiful, clean and clear - loads of space and warmth around the instruments - my 1990 original CD is a bit haggard compared to this. Steve Wickham's lovely fiddle playing on "A Man Is In Love" sails out of the speakers. The bass on all tracks is warm and backdrops everything with a real sweetness. Many of the songs are now LOUD too, but not in that overbearing way, more live-in-your-living-room - and wonderful for it. Improvements would include the fiddle jaunt of "Natural Bridge Blues" which is now so clear - the sax break on "Something That I Lost" - the whack of the drums on the Traditional Irish Air made famous by Planxty, "The Raggle Taggle Gypsy" - all fabulous work done with the master tapes. And the album's best track "A Life Of Sundays" with Noel Bridgeman's great backing vocals is now just HUGE - a wow!

But the biggest surprise is DISC 2, which I feared would be rammed full of worthy but dull filler. It isn't. It does of course have some clinkers - the 3 live tracks are ok, but full of drunken crowd shouts that detract too much and could have been dropped, while the cassette quality of "Florence" in "Danny Murphy/Florence" is unlistenable. But the rest of it is excellent - proper studio out-takes - and some that would make you wonder why they didn't make the finished album. "Three Ships" sounds like something that came off "This Is The Sea" - a trippy instrumental jaunt with Celtic overtones - excellent stuff. "Sunny Sailor Boy" is gorgeous - a genuine bonus track. "A Strathspey In The Rain At Dawn" is simply SHARON SHANNON and her accordion with Irish rainfall and birds tweeting as her backdrop - very pretty. A real rarity, however, is the lovely Irish-Only 1989 single release of "Down By The Sally Gardens" which features the wizened and emotive lead vocals of TOMAS MacEOIN. And as the slow air of "A Song For The Life" draws Disc 2 to a close, it's hard not to be moved.

MIKE SCOTT has always been a magical songwriter to me - an artist who pens a tune that nails you - moves you impossibly - and then you find yourself backtracking - buying up everything that he and his band have ever done.

To sum up, I've come back to this album not expecting much, but this great re-issue is making me love it all over again. Sure, as you can see from the short playing time of both discs, with a bit of judicious pruning on Disc 2, they could've been combined and would have made an excellent single CD thereby saving us punters a few bob. But I won't begrudge THE WATERBOYS a sausage - anything new by them is good news in my book and well worth paying for.

"Room To Roam" COLLECTOR'S EDITION is a nice album made a whole lot better - and with a top REMASTER too. Highly, highly recommended.
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on August 30, 2008
In retrospect, Room to Roam made complete sense, following Fisherman's Blues, which took several steps from This is the Sea; but these traces are much clearer in light of the remastered F.Blues and of course Too Close to Heaven, where the evolution becomes apparent. But this album seemed like quite a change, even from side two of F.Blues, when it dropped. It proved to be a gem with a few listens, so having it (here as Side One) in greater sound is worth the price. And having the tunes accurate is a help too. Side two is obviously the feature here:

In Search of a Rose: splendid alternate take, showing how well the band indeed played together, how well these instruments layered into beauty.

My Morag: an unreleased gem, a wonderful addition to the library, no mere throw-away by any means. Mike's voice is perfect here and shows just how much these traditional songs were not a stretch for this rocker at all.

Man is in Love alternate: not as effective as Rose, perhaps because the sparse song then suddenly gets Wick's fiddle tossed on it from nowhere, but a useful example of how tunes changed.

Wyndy Wyndy Road: excellent example of Mike's dexterity in taking tunes and applying words - not top notch but a nice addition and helps with context.

Three Ships: "She's All That I Need" tune expanded and wordless, which is slightly long but ends in absolute beauty - that these are just a few instruments producing this otherworldly sound is amazing - true for all the songs, really.

Sunny Sailor Boy: synth? what?? This song seems like something from years later, completely out of place. It is interesting in itself, a nice tune and a departure for Mike, but it doesn't belong here. Maybe I'll warm to it over time...

Sponsored Pedal-Pusher's Blues: Mike has written into his songs much of his tribulations with fame, which is difficult out of context; occasionally it works, even on Lightning, but not really here. It's okay but that's all.

Wayward Wind: I was disappointed first hearing, since I was used to the strong vocal on Live Adventures, but a few listenings reversed that. This is perhaps the best example of what Mike once described as the Waterboys at its best being the blend of his voice and Wick's fiddle - his voice just melts into the instruments perfectly. It doesn't have the ragged tumbling of the live version, but is a wonderful complement to that. Another gem.

Danny Murphy/Florence: the two tunes don't mesh at all - I don't get it at all. Why not Florence separate? The two are okay, but together they are jarring opposites. Danny Murphy is nice enough, though only as filler, though it shows Mike's dexterity in writing music for others' words, as if other examples (Yeats poems) didn't suffice.

Raggle Taggle live: shows the band in great, strong performance - a great addition.
Custer's Blues live: I'm not a fan of this song generally, but live it is much better, for Mike's vocals are not lost as they are on the studio version. Most of the 'blues' songs from the period don't appeal much to me, so don't take it too seriously.
Twa Recruiting Sergeants: priceless vocals from Mike - how did he pull this off?? It may be useful only to show how comfortable he was with traditional music, but that it does spectacularly! It's a fun song, but that's all, nothing great except for context.

Reel and Stomp in the Kitchen: a nice short instrumental, not as good as some (Natural Bridge Blues) but a decent segue

Down by the Sally Gardens: We knew from Stolen Child that Yeats/Scott/Mac Eoin was a deadly force, but this puts the full weight of the Yeats' pathos into the music. The music is gorgeous and perfectly matched for the lyric, everything about it being perfectly rendered. My only complaint is the music should have gone a bit beyond the end of the vocal, for it could have added to the intensity - maybe. In any case, this is the highlight of the album (but that might be because I've had Song for the Life for years...)

Strathspey: Nice enough, sound isn't great or terrible, though it sounds a bit like a nature CD...though that the birds are real is stunning- I think you'd have to be there...

Song for the Life: released on a compilation, this song is a real gem, worth the cost of that album and this. A lovely tune rendered perfectly, with a sense of hope exiting the album...

Kings of Kerry: how could you not like it?

So overall the album is a treasure, with a few to forget. From here the band split, and the Waterboys have not regained this strength. The current lineup is great, but something about this time, with Mike evolving musically at breakneck pace, can't be matched. Over the years, Mike seems to have grown happy with his life calmed, and so I am happy for that and the musical gems that have come about...but this whirlwind of joy is something else completely, a world unto itself of which I'm happy to have recorded here.
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on October 9, 2001
It's a shame that Room to Roam isn't better appreciated. Even many Waterboys fans look past this wonderful tour de force, a rich and dazzling pastiche of styles and moods--a kind of electro-Celtic Sgt. Pepper for the 90s. Some fans who were attracted by the somewhat more traditional and stripped-down sound of Fisherman's Blues (perhaps the closest Mike Scott ever got to making a Pogues album) have failed to appreciate Room to Roam's greater experimentation. But as far as whole albums go, for richness and variety of musical styles, as well as sheer poetry and exuberance, I think Room To Roam has a slight edge over Fisherman's Blues.
In fact, Room to Roam is a solid tie for my favorite Waterboys album, along with This is the Sea. There's not a note of RTR that isn't blessed by the goddess, and a number of these songs are among Mike Scott's finest moments, including "Something That is Gone," "How Long Will I Love You," "A Man is in Love," "Bigger Picture" and "Raggle Taggle Gypsy." "Raggle Taggle" in particular is one of Mike's most joyful and electrifying performances on record--it never fails to send me through the roof.
What I love about Room To Roam is that it's wonderfully true to both the traditional folk AND the experimental, electronic impulses in Mike's work. That may be the very thing that alienates some of the folks who were attracted by the more "pure" sound of FB, but for me it's that amazing blend of styles that puts Room to Roam at the top of the Waterboys' canon. Any album that encompasses well-executed traditional Celtic folk like "Raggle Taggle Gypsy," or "Kaliope House," as well as the heartbreaking eloquence of songs like "A Man Is In Love" or "Something That Is Gone" (complete with that stunning backwards saxophone break)--not to mention the Abbey-Road rapture of "Bigger Picture"--well, let me just say that Room To Roam is still one of those rare albums that makes me glad to be alive each and every time I hear it.
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on February 27, 2000
I'll admit I haven't heard "Fisherman's Blues" yet, but wow, what a weird mix of traditional Irish music and, and, .....weirdness? some form of rock I guess. I like this album because it exhibits such a great deal of creativity in blending different genres of music, while keeping the traditional Irish sound throughout. It is musically capitivating, and the lyrics are quite good as well. Probably I wider variety of musical instruments are used here than in any other album I have heard......mandolin, bagpipes, didjeridu, trombone.....sounds dreadful I know but they are all integrated together beautifully.
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on April 20, 2013
As "Zooropa" is to "Achtung Baby" for U2, so is "Room to Roam" is to "Fisherman's Blues". Fisherman is the better know, better reviewed but "Room to Roam" is just more fun. An eclectic blend of Irish Folk, Celtic Rock, and a couple of the best love songs ever written.

The bonus disc was a great surprise! Most of the studio tracks could have easily fit right on to the original. If your a fan of the Waterboys and for some reason have never picked this up, it is a little different but is really great.
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on July 30, 2015
I heard "Raggle Taggle Gypsy" in the Tower Records in Tokyo in '91 and I bought "Room To Roam" immediately. This is a review of the new 2CD collectors edition. Still a great disc plus a very satisfying second disc. Based on the quality I wouldn't call them "outtakes". The version of Rodney Crowell's "A Song For This Life" surprised me, it is such a perfect fit for the Waterboys it took a bit to realize it was Crowell's song. Splendid. Another bit of Yeat's poetry "Down By The Sally Gardens" is sublime. (As was "Stolen Child" on "Fisherman's Blues".) Some alternate takes, some great newly released songs, make for a great expanded set. Not just for Waterboys super-fans.
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on June 13, 2014
On Room to Roam the Waterboys emphasized the folk element of their folk-rock fusion sound. The song “A Man is In Love”, however, begins as a straight pop love song by Mike Scott, based around strummed piano and guitar chords with just hints of folk through the violin and flute solo lines within the arrangement. The conceit of writing the lyrics in the third person until the end is a simple, but effective way of providing a punch line with impact: “A man is in love – and he’s me”. That’s reinforced by the gradual build up in instrumentation as the song progresses – two verses, the flute solo and then the final verse, with no chorus.

And that leads up to the coda, which suddenly takes off into a lively instrumental jig in 6/8 time, listed as a separate track called “Kaliope House” on the original CD booklet. Although essentially unrelated, this fits perfectly with the song, turning it into a joyous dance. It sounds traditional but was in fact composed by Dave Richardson of the Scottish band The Boys of the Lough, and it has since been adopted (more often named “Calliope House”) as if it were traditional by many others, including Riverdance. Mike Scott and the Waterboys are still recording: 2011’s An Appointment With Mr Yeats earned highly appreciative reviews.
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on December 19, 2013
Frankly I had never heard of "The Waterboys", but I bought this album specifically for the song, "How long will I Love You" which was included in the movie, "About Time". This album certainly exceeded my expectations. Not only was this this song included, but several other original songs with beautiful lyrics written by Mike Scott were also included along with the more traditional songs from The Waterboys' repertoire. Liner notes along with the song lyrics and photos were included which makes this album even more special and well worth the price.
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on July 2, 2013
A work of joy by Mike and his Waterboys. Two of the songs rank as the most beautiful love songs one could wish to hear: "Man is in Love" and "How Long Will I Love You?". Don't just take my word for it - Richard Curtis thinks the same!. But there is also simple, delicate beauty in "The End of the World", "In Search of a Rose" and "The Star and the Sea" (a concise, enigmatic riddle, which if anyone can solve please contact me). Other highlights are "Islandman" - an ingenious personification of Britain & Ireland (which indeed shows where Mike Scott's heart lies) and of course the devilish fiddling of Steve Wickham.
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on May 2, 2012
I was a big Waterboys fan back in the 80s, but somehow I missed out on hearing this album the first time around, and now I could kick myself. A great batch of songs! As another reviewer noted, for those that like "Fisherman's Blues," this album should slip into the listening groove rather easily. I wasn't sure what to expect from the second disc, as I'm not a big fan of outtakes and "alternate" versions, but the tracks on here are very satisfying. Some truly different takes on a few of those tunes, plus some decent live material, and several very interesting B-sides. A cover of Jerry Jeff Walker's "Song for the Life" is absolutely stunning. All in all, this one should appeal to all Waterboys fans, from those that loved "This is the Sea" to the more Celtic sounding albums such as "Fisherman's Blues." A truly great band, and nice to see this neglected album given a deluxe treatment.
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