ENYA in the 80s - Songs and Albums

By Mark Nobes, chief editor

Enya Patricia Brennan was born on 17th May 1961 in Gweedore in County Donegal in Ireland. She is the best-selling Irish solo artist of all-time, and is best-known for her No.1 single "Orinoco Flow".
Enya started her career in music in 1980, when she joined her family band Clannad for a brief period, playing keyboards and providing backing vocals, before leaving to perform as a solo artist. She gained more recognition for her music in the BBC series The Celts (which aired in 1987), which was included on the self-titled album Enya. Shortly afterwards she released her 1988 album, Watermark.
All of the thirteen videos featured in the playlist above are official and include Enya's best-known hits. For this post, I'm going to concentrate on her early work in the 80s and early 90s.

Enya (Debut Album)

Enya released her self-titled first album on 4th March 1987 on BBC Records in the UK and Atlantic in the U.S. Sales were poor in the UK, where the album only reached #69, but were impressive overall, selling around 6 million units worldwide and receiving a platinum sales certificate in the U.S. and Australia.
In 1992, the album was re-released and retitled The Celts, and this reached #10 in the UK, receiiving a platinum certtificate from the British Phonographic Industry.

Watermark (1988)

For her second album release, Enya signed up with WEA, who gave her a lot of creative freedom and no deadlines. The new-age, Celtic avant-pop album became an unexpected commercial success and, unlike her debut, received much more positive feedback from the critics.
|Watermark vinyl LP sleeve front featuring a painting of Enya
Watermark was produced by Nicky Ryan, Ross Cullum and Enya herself, and it was recorded between June 1987 and April 1988. As with the following three albums, it opens with the title track.
The original album release included 11 tracks, A reissue in 1989 also included "Storms in Africa" (Part II)

Synths Played By Enya On Watermark

Many synths and keyboards were played on the album, which were a mix of digital and analogue (the latter giving a warmer sound). Enya refused to use a metronome to give a more natural feel to her playing. Her favourite synth is the Roland Juno-60 (pictured below). Other keyboards used on the album included the Roland D-50 (their first fully digital synth with many unique sounds at the time), Oberheim Matrix-6R, Akai S900 (the company's first professional sampler), Palm Products PPG Wave, Yamaha KX88 (a MIDI master keyboard which is still used by many devoted fans) and TX802 FM Tone generator. 
Roland Juno-60 used by Enya on her Watermark album

Track Listing

Side One

1. Watermark (2:24)

2. Cursum Perficio (4:06)

3. On Your Shore (3:59)

4. Storms in Africa (4:03) - released as the third single

5. Exile (4:20)

6. Miss Clare Remembers (1:59)

Side Two

7. Orinoco Flow (4:25) - released as the lead single

8. Evening Falls... (3:46) - released as the second single

9. River (3:10)

10. The Longships (3:36)

11. Na Laetha Geal M'oige (3:54)

1989 and 1991 reissues

12. Storms in Africa (Part II) (3:04)


"Orinoco Flow" was released as the lead single from Enya's second studio album Watermark, and became a big global hit, reaching No.1 in the UK on 29th October 1988, where it remained for 3 weeks. The single also reached No.1 on Switzerland's Hitparade chart, the Irish Singles Chart, the Eurochart Hot 100, Belgium's Radio 2 Top 30 (BRT Top 30), and also both main charts in the Netherlands.

The song was released by WEA in the UK on October 1988, but wasn't released until the following year in the U.S. by Geffen Records. It was nominated for two Grammy awards; Best New Age Performance and Best Music Video.
The video was directed by Michael Geoghegan, and is in the style of an animated painting.
Although it was released in the 80s, the song has a timeless production, which features pizzicato chords that were played on a Roland D-50 Linear Synthesizer, which was launched just a year earlier on October 1987.
The lyrics were penned by Roma Ryan, who was married to the song's producer Nick Ryan. 
The song title refers not only to the Orinoco river that flows across South America, but also the Orinoco Studios in London, UK, where it was recorded.
The B-side of the 7 inch vinyl and cassette singles included the track "Out Of The Blue". The 12 inch vinyl and CD mini single also included the track "Smaoitm (d'Aoah agus do Mhaire Ui Dhigain".
Two more singles were released from the Watermark album; "Evening Falls..." which reached #20 in the UK and "Storms in Africa", which reached #41.
Black and white portrait of Enya wearing a beret on Orinoco Flow vinyl sleeve

Evening Falls... (1988)

This haunting track was very reminiscent of the Clannad sound, and was released in December 1988 as a single. It was accompanied by a black and white video. The B-side included the track "Oiche Chiún", with the 12" also including "Morning Glory".
The song entered the UK singles chart at #36 on 18th December 1988, reaching a peak position of #20 on Christmas Day, while Cliff Richard was at No.1 with "Mistletoe and Wine". It fell back to #32 the following week and spent just four weeks inside the Top 100.
The single performed well in Ireland, reaching #3 on the Irish Singles chart, and also in the Netherlands, reaching #2 on the Dutch Tipparade Chart. "Evening Falls" also reached #14 in New Zealand.
Evening Falls vinyl 7 inch single sleeve front - Enya

Storms in Africa (1989)

The B-side also included "Storms in Africa (Part II) which is a rearranged version of "Storms in Africa" with English lyrics. This was later included on the 1989 reissue of Watermark. The 12" and CD singles also included an extra two tracks; "The Celts" and "Aldebaran".
The video is filmed in a similar style to "Orinoco Flow" with Enya singing against a backdrop of animated artwork, this time featuring desert landscapes, elephants and African people. 
The song played in the 1990 romantic comedy film Green Card, as did "Watermark" and "River". However, the songs were not included on the soundtrack album, which seems bizarre!
The single entered the UK singles chart at No.64 on 4th June 1989, reaching a peak position of No.41 the 11th June, in the same week that Clannad reached No.30 with "In A Lifetime featuring Bono".
However, the single performed better in Enya's home country, reaching #12 on the Irish Singles Chart.
Shepherd Moons CD album by Enya

Shepherd Moons

Enya spent most of 1989 touring the world to promote her Watermark album and singles, with performances and interviews. The success of the album gave the musician the funds to purchase some new equipment, and she then focused on recording new material, rather than touring, 
Of course, Enya went on to achieve even bigger success in the 90s, with her Shepherd Moons album selling around 13 million units worldwide. This was her most successful album in the UK, topping the album charts and receiving 4 x platinum sales certificates from the BPI.
However, her 2000 album A Day Without Rain became her most successful globally, selling around 15 million copies. However, "Orinoco Flow" remains her only No.1 single in the UK.
Released in the Autumn of 1991, the lead single, "Caribbean Blue", became Enya's third Top 40 single, It was not quite as big a hit as "Orinoco Flow" (it has a very similar feel, though), but still reached a respectable #13 in the UK, although stalled at #79 in the U.S. In the video there is an early appearance by Martine McCutcheon when she was a child actress. The imagery features the distinctive paintings of Maxfield Parrish, an American painter who was active during the first half of the 20th century.
A second single "How Can I Keep From Singing" was not a major hit anywhere, but still broke into the UK Top 40, peaking at #32. The original song was composed by the American preacher Robert Lowry.
The third and final single from Shepherd Moons, "Book Of Days", reached #10 in the UK, and differs from the Gaelic album version. This English single version featured on the soundtrack to the movie Far And Away which starred Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman.