Today’s POP RESCUE from a fate unknown, is the 1988 hit second album Watermark from Irish artist Enya.
This bi-lingual album was given to me, so including it here is a natural choice, even if the genre is a little different from others reviewed here. It’s hard to fit Enya into a genre, but it’s often guessed at ‘New Age’.
The album opens with the title track Watermark, a gentle, beautifully tinkling piano-led instrumental. Warm synthscapes compliment the piano as it builds with some gentle choral vocals and cello. This very much reminds me of something you might find on the Twin Peaks soundtrack by Angelo Badalamenti.
The pace quickens for second track Cursum Perficio, again led by pianos, but this feels far more up-beat and modern. Those trademark Enya vocal choruses are soon in as the track builds. The lyrics are scant here, a kind of chanting style.
Up next is On Your Shore, which quickly reminds me of something you’d find lurking in the back catalogue of Sinéad O’Connor. Unsurprisingly, it turns out that Enya had previously worked with Sinéad in 1987 on her song Never Get Old. The focus here is the very rich, gentle, vocals, and a wonderfully sad and perfectly complimenting clarinet.
This is followed by third single Storms In Africa, which is carried by a pulsating synth line. Enya sings in her native Irish language, although when released as a single, the track’s pace was upped, sung in English, and subtitled ‘Part II’. In contrast to Orinoco Flow, the song stalled at #41 in the UK singles chart.
Exile is next, and this was the fourth and final single from the album, released in 1991 (almost 3 years after this album). This seems to have been due to the song appearing in films Green Card (1990) and Steve Martin film L.A. Story (1991). It’s a gentle song, and one that is thoroughly tinged with an Irish sound. It doesn’t appear to have charted in the UK singles chart.
Next up is the wonderfully titled Miss Clare Remembers, weighing in at just under 2 mins long. This is a warm gentle piano instrumental.
Finally! The seventh track is *that* big lead single Orinoco Flow (Sail Away). This was the track that brought a then 27yr old Enya huge success, and I can remember her performances on Top Of The Pops – like a Princess Leia of Piano with her black grand, white dress, and red roses scattered around. This song stood out amongst the rest in 1988, and was pushed up the charts by Radio 1 DJs. It’s synthy, pulsing, with a wonky orchestra feel and a relaxing set of vocals. A classic anthem.
This is followed by what was the follow-up second single, Evening Falls… which once again, gives Enya the perfect place to showcase her beautiful vocals, and vocal range. A gentle synth accompanies here.
There’s a familiar synth rhythm in next track River, sounding a little like Orinoco Flow, and one that would crop up again in 1991 for her #7 UK singles chart hit Caribbean Blue.
Penultimate track, The Longships, fades in, sounding somewhat cinematic, with Enya’s haunting vocals set against heavy percussion, vocal harmonies, and piano.
The album closes with Na Laetha Geal M’óige which, whilst I’m not able to translate the lyrics, it feels like a warm track – with the vocal and synth layers. Again, the vocals are beautiful and sound somewhat choral.
Enya’s success with this album, no doubt paved the way for other acts like Enigma to find chart success with similar, although a little more upbeat, songs. At times, I sometimes feel that maybe Vangelis‘ 1981 track Chariots Of Fire may have some common ground.
As I said at the start, it’s hard to classify Enya into a genre. At times, she feels 80s experimental synth, other times, she runs into classical, or something that you’d hear in a church. Her sound is a long way from what she has, at times, been mixed with (like this video mash-up with the Prodigy’s Smack My Bitch Up), even though it kind of works. Her uniqueness has earned her a fortune.
Where is Enya now?
Enya found chart and media attention with this album, and particularly the Orinoco Flow single.
Since then, she has gone on to consistently release singles and albums that evolve this style. But her distinctive style has led her to become Ireland’s best-selling solo recording artists, and one of the world’s best-selling artists of all time.
Enya’s most recent album was And Winter Came… which was released in 2008. Whilst there have been several ‘Best Of’ albums, her 8th studio album is long awaited.
She lives in a castle. Beat that.
POP RESCUE RATING
- POP RESCUE 2015 RATING: 4 / 5
- 1988 UK CHART POSITION: #5, certified 4x Platinum.
- POP RESCUE COST: Free