- Two superb sides each rating a solid Double Plus (A++) giving you an excellent pressing of this New Age masterpiece – fairly quiet vinyl too
- Orinoco Flow (aka Sail Away) is the big hit here and it sounds amazing on a copy like this
- 5 stars: “…the subtlety that characterizes her work at her best dominates Watermark, with the lovely title track, her multi-tracked voice gently swooping among the lead piano, and strings like a softly haunting ghost, as fine an example as any.”
The sound here is airy, open, spacious, and super transparent. This may not be our favorite music in the world, but it’s hard to argue with sonics like this. The instruments all have lovely texture, and it’s easy to pick out and follow them over the course of a song.
This vintage pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with Enya, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.
What the best sides of Watermark have to offer is not hard to hear:
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the studio
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes even as late as 1988
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
AMG gives this album 5 stars and it’s easy to see why. Even if it’s not your thing — and truthfully it ain’t really ours, you can check our Top 100 to know where our tastes lie — there’s no denying that Enya is an artist at the very top of her field, and it is easy to see why Watermark is widely considered her masterpiece. If you are going to own one New Age album, you can’t do much better than this.
By the way, do you have any idea how difficult it is to find quiet vinyl for this album? It’s easier to find quiet Stones albums, I kid you not. We never see this one in the bins for under $25 these days, and even when they look Minty they often are too noisy to even bother with. We don’t do too many shootouts for Geffen albums from the ’80s, so I’m not sure if their vinyl is the problem but it seems likely.
What We’re Listening For on Watermark
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks for the guitars and drums, not the smear and thickness common to most LPs.
- Tight, note-like bass with clear fingering — which ties in with good transient information, as well as the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the players.
- Then: presence and immediacy. The musicians aren’t “back there” somewhere, way behind the speakers. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would have put them.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
On Your Shore
Storms in Africa
Miss Clare Remembers
Na Laetha Gael M’Óige
Storms in Africa, Pt. 2
AMG 5 Star Rave Review
Thanks to its distinct, downright catchy single “Orinoco Flow,” which amusingly referenced both her record-company boss Rob Dickins and co-producer Ross Cullum in the lyrics, Enya’s second album Watermark established her as the unexpected queen of gentle, Celtic-tinged new age music. To be sure, her success was as much due to marketing a niche audience in later years equally in love with Yanni and Michael Flatley’s Irish dancing, but Enya’s rarely given a sense of pandering in her work. She does what she does, just as she did before her fame. (Admittedly, avoiding overblown concerts run constantly on PBS hasn’t hurt.)
Indeed, the subtlety that characterizes her work at her best dominates Watermark, with the lovely title track, her multi-tracked voice gently swooping among the lead piano, and strings like a softly haunting ghost, as fine an example as any. “Orinoco Flow” itself, for all its implicit dramatics, gently charges instead of piling things on, while the organ-led “On Your Shore” feels like a hushed church piece.
Elsewhere, meanwhile, Enya lets in a darkness not overly present on The Celts, resulting in work even more appropriate for a moody soundtrack than that album. “Cursum Perficio,” with her steady chanting-via-overdub of the title phrase, gets more sweeping and passionate as the song progresses, matched in slightly calmer results with the equally compelling “The Longships.” “Storms in Africa,” meanwhile, uses drums from Chris Hughes to add to the understated, evocative fire of the song, which certainly lives up to its name.
Watermark ends with a fascinating piece, “Na Laetha Geal M’Oige,” where fellow Irish modern/traditional fusion artist Davy Spillane adds a gripping, heartbreaking uilleann pipe solo to the otherwise calm synth-based performance. It’s a perfect combination of timelessness and technology, an appropriate end to this fine album.