Craobh Rua | N. Ireland | 08/15/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Big Country were one of the better rock bands to surface in the 1980s. Formed in Scotland in 1981, the band were fronted by onetime Skid Stuart Adamson, and also featured Bruce Watson on guitar, Tony Butler on bass and Mark Brzezicki on drums. This album was a number of retrospectives released after Stuart's suicide in late 2001.
The album contains some, though not all, of the bands hits - "Chance" and "East of Eden", for example, are noticeably absent. The sleeve notes also strangely refer to a live version of "In a Big Country" featuring, when it doesn't feature on the track listing. However, it does feature a live version of "Wonderland" , that originally featured as a limited-edition B-side. There's also the 12" version of "Fields of Fire" (anyone else remember 12" singles ? They were made from something called vinyl ?) - you just can't beat that drumming intro (terrible pun entirely intended). The standard versions of the excellent "Look Away", "King of Emotion", "One Great Thing" and "Where the Rose is Sown" are also included.
Although the remaining 10 mightn't be so widely known, it would be a mistake to think that they're maybe not quite so good. The album's opening track, "Flame of the West", is a good example. Having featured on the "Steeltown" album, it shows a band prepared to stray from the standard boy-meets-girl line, and good enough to carry it off. The same could be said of "We're Not In Kansas", where the guitars are as catchy as they are interesting - they sound almost banjo-like, would you believe. Lyrically, both songs also have quite `serious' points to make. "Ships" - although released as a single - is a song I somehow missed. It's also one which, on paper, I would never have associated with the band : keyboards, a hint of strings and not a guitar in earshot. It is, however, heartfelt and absolutely beautiful.
For a while during the eighties, wearing a checked shirt identified you as either a Big Country fan or a lumberjack (who sleep all night and work all day). After the shirts, a conversation about the band would almost certainly have seen someone mention "bagpipe-like guitars". Celtic rock would probably be a better description - though it is more obvious on some songs than on others. There are definite folk-trad influences on "The Storm" and "The Seer" (which also features Kate Bush), while "The Red Fox" nearly sounds like a plugged-in ceili song. While it may be a little difficult to imagine, you'll have an idea where those descriptions come from after having heard some of the tracks. It would be unfair, however, to suggest that this is `all' the band were : this collection shows a band much better and more capable than they were widely given credit for. Highly recommended."