Recorded at Park Gates Studios, near Hastings, in March 1985, In a Special Place collects 15 demos from Mike Scott's third full-length album under the Waterboys moniker. This Is the Sea represented a unified vision for the band. Scott's inward and outward search for what he liked to call “The Big Music” had finally reached its apex with songs like “The Whole of the Moon,” “Medicine Bow,” and the glorious, epic title track, and this collection, though geared primarily toward longtime fans, offers up a spirited snapshot of that period. Whittled down from a scant 40 or 50 song ideas, This Is the Sea’s nine tracks felt indispensable, and even in demo form (some with alternate lyrics), songs like “Old England,” “The Whole of the Moon,” “Don’t Bang the Drum,” “Be My Enemy,” “The Pan Within,” and “Trumpets,” the latter of which appears as a 2011 remix by London-based electronic producer Don Jackson, their sense of hopeful cynicism, youthful altruism, and righteous indignation rings true. The remaining tracks, none of which made it onto the studio album, are cut from the same vivacious cloth, and whether it’s just Scott on piano trying to lock up with a drum machine, or Scott solo, it’s hard not to get swept up in all the potential grandeur.
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AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger