Big Country Caught at an Interesting Moment in Time
C. Jannuzi | Fukui, Japan | 08/22/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"If you know Big Country from their trademark guitar anthems of the 1980s, this early 1990s lp might not be recognizable. It, along with the previous studio album, "Peace in our Time", have to be the least appreciated by fans and critics.The opening cut "We're Not in Kansas" is presented here with a rather simple arrangement and it got a harder treatment on the later album, "Buffalo Skinners". The same with the country sounding "Ships"."Republican Party Reptile" would appear to be a parodic take on people like Lee Atwater and P.J. O'Rourke--probably not much understood by the U.K. fan base that has kept BC in business and not much appreciated by conservative types in the US--still the sound is the bluesiest that Big Country has done--like Z.Z. Top with a sense of irony.In the middle of the album there is one cut that I leaves me spellbound: "The Hostage Speaks". Stuart Adamson, the main song writer for BC, seems to have a fascination with the Middle East scenarios for story-telling in his songs (since the new 1999 album is called "Driving to Damascus", that seems pretty obvious). This song is a very haunting rocker about a common BC theme: the way the media exploit people's misery. "Comes a Time" is another strong commentary, handling the fall of the Iron Curtain with an irony and caution missing in most treatments of it. Gung-ho patriot types might not like being reminded that there were and still are other sides to these historic events. "You, Me and the Truth" and "Into the Fire" are Stuart Adamson at his most humane. The strong social commentary is put on hold and human relationships at their most personal are given the all-out lyrical treatment. Musically, a very strong Celtic country rock sounds comes through--as it does throughout this album. "No Place Like Home" seems to capture a time when Big Country was at a real crossroads with their music and careers. No one seemed to like the previous late 80's studio album, "Give Peace a Chance", a work where some usually fine song writing got buried under a glossy mix. Overall "No Place Like Home" would seem to be an assertion that they were still a creative band willing to take risks: it is in most ways the opposite of "Give Peace a Chance". It displays some of the 60s influences that have become apparent on the later work. Its lyrics' themes share a lot in common with 1999's "Driving to Damascus". I think if recent fans are enamoured of the "Driving to Damascus" sound and lyrical themes, they will find this earlier 90s work a very worthwhile listen. Whereas "Why the Long Face" seems like a very logical follow-up to the resurgently rocking "Buffalo Skinners", the key to understanding the variety and exploration on the most recent album, "Driving to Damascus", is perhaps better found in this early 1990s studio effort. It may also give a clue as to what will follow now that Stuart Adamson is Nashville-based and working on a solo career as well as a country project called Blue Heeler. Also, perhaps someone making a future hit film will discover a Big Country song, put it on a hit soundtrack, and they will get the popular audience they deserve."
Correction to previous review
C. Jannuzi | Fukui, Japan | 02/11/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Twice I referred to the previous l.p. as Big Country's 'Give Peace a Chance'. Apologies to John Lennon and B.C. The album I had wanted to refer to is titled 'Peace in Our Time'.This is really the start of the second half of Big Country's album recording career. It has a very stripped down production, but often the songs seem more complete in a traditional way than the first three studio l.p.s.See earlier review further down. Anyway, this long player is an extra special good deal for the extra tracks that are on it."