Tonight (September 19th) on the world famous Classic Album At Midnight on Radio Nova we’re playing The Waterboys’ This is the Sea in full on vinyl, courtesy of The Record Hub.
The album is presented in full with no commercials or interruptions.
The Waterboys were formed in Edinburgh in 1983 by singer/songwriter/guitarist Mike Scott, who would ultimately remain the one constant throughout the band’s ever-revolving line-up of musicians.
The title of the band’s 1984 single The Big Music became a descriptor of their musical style. Blending folk with rock and new wave, The Waterboys had a distinctive sound that seemed to fill any room it was played in. According to Scott, The Waterboys’ style was “a metaphor for seeing God’s signature in the world.”
By 1985 The Waterboys’ lineup was centred around the trio of Scott, Anthony Thistlethwaite (saxophone, double bass, bass guitar, mandolin) and Karl Wallinger (bass synth, piano, organ, keyboards, synthesiser, celeste, percussion, backing vocals).
Scott is said to have written as many as 40 songs for his band’s third album, eventually whittling it down to nine songs “that were intended to be there.”
The Waterboys entered the studio in March 1985. Producer John Brand added to their ‘Big Music’ style by layering sound in the manner of Phil Spector’s famous ‘Wall of Sound’ production technique. Joining the central trio were a slew of folk and rock musicians including In Tua Nua’s Steve Wickham; trumpeter Roddy Lorimar; drummer Chris Whitten; Elvis Costello’s drummer Pete Thomas; and The Thompson Twins’ bassist Matthew Seligman. Wallinger played so many instruments on the record (his last with the band) that Scott described him as “like having a one-man orchestra around.”
Lyrically, Scott used the album to explore themes of spirituality, nature and politics. A fan of Irish poetry, Scott borrowed lines from James Joyce and WB Yeats.
In its original release This is the Sea contains nine songs – Don’t Bang the Drum; The Whole of the Moon; Spirit; The Pan Within; Medicine Bow; Old England; Be My Enemy; Trumpets; and This is the Sea. A 2004 rerelease featured a second disc with 14 bonus tracks.
This is the Sea was released on September 16th 1985. It was The Waterboys’ first album to crack the UK Top 40, peaking at number 37. The single The Whole of the Moon reached number 28, but fared better on its 1990 rerelease when it made it to number 3 in the UK and number 2 in Ireland.
The album was well received by critics. Reviewing the album for Rolling Stone, Parke Puterbaugh wrote “Mike Scott is more of a poet than a songwriter, yet within his limitations he weaves trances so spellbinding that he has few peers among his musical contemporaries.” The Whole of the Moon was awarded the Ivor Novello Award in 1991.
Soon after the release of This is the Sea, The Waterboys relocated to Ireland and have since acquired a large following in their adopted country. You can dip your toes into This is the Sea at midnight tonight on Radio Nova.