Digitally remastered 1996 reissue on Mercury of their secondalbum (1984) with five unmarked bonus tracks: 'Bass Dance', 'Belief In The Small Man', 'Prairie Rose', 'Winter Sky' and 'Wonderland' (12in Mix - 7:08 long). 15 tr... more »acks in all, also featuring 'Flame Of The West', 'East Of Eden', 'Where The Rose Is Sown' and 'Just A Shadow'.« less
Digitally remastered 1996 reissue on Mercury of their secondalbum (1984) with five unmarked bonus tracks: 'Bass Dance', 'Belief In The Small Man', 'Prairie Rose', 'Winter Sky' and 'Wonderland' (12in Mix - 7:08 long). 15 tracks in all, also featuring 'Flame Of The West', 'East Of Eden', 'Where The Rose Is Sown' and 'Just A Shadow'.
Christopher Loring Knowles | United States | 05/13/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Big Country are one of the great bands of the early 80's and one of the most misunderstood. As bands crashed onto America's shores from Great Britain by the boatload, critics and audiences were prone to pigeon-holing them based on their biggest hits or most memorable video. Big Country, a deadly serious band by any measure, was tagged as a novelty act on account of the bagpipe sound of their screaming guitars. But their first hit, In a Big Country, was a vitally important song because it alone carried the flag for pure Rock and Roll at a time when cheesy LA metal and British synth pop was dominating the charts.
Big Country were inevitably compared to U2. The comparison is apt and inevitable. Both bands fused Led Zeppelin styled guitar Rock with early Clash-styled social protest and added in copious amounts of rain-swept Celtic mysticism. Both bands utilized the seminal British producer Steve Lillywhite, who had previously helmed landmark albums by XTC, Peter Gabriel, the Psychedelic Furs and Siouxsie and the Banshees. Big Country's first two albums employed all the tricks from Lillywhite's kitbag- pounding drums and bass, huge doses of reverberating guitar and the feverish intensity of playing that he coaxed from his charges. But where U2 were stylish and instinctive amateurs, Big Country were virtuosos. Where U2 never seemed to press the panic button of full tilt Rock, Big Conutry were relentless in their fury. In comparison to Steeltown, U2's record are MOR mush.
Steeltown is one of the most intense records you'll ever hear. Unlike today's Hard Rock bands, who offer up a cliched catalog of gimmicks to make their music sound ferocious, Big Country relied on old-fashioned thrashing of their instruments. A review of Steeltown at the time remarked that even with the volume down, the album sounds loud. From the first thundering crescendo of Flame of the West, the album stomps, pounds, roils and flays. The band's amazing rhythm section seem locked into a death duel, playing as wildly as they can manage. It sounds as if the bassist and drummer are trying to trip each other up, but remain locked in exhilirating lockstep nonetheless. The two guitars do likewise, and the frenzy of the playing only heightens the dark tales of tragedy that Stuart Adamson showcases in his lyrics. The fury lets up only for two numbers- Come Back to Me, a haunting dirge about a newly widowed wife and the touching love song, Girl with the Grey Eyes. The latter also boasts some jazz-derived embellishments, strongly reminsicent of 80's era King Crimson.
But buckle your seatbelts for the rest of the album. East of Eden is a pounding dirge that is capped with flame-thrower guitar trills in the fade-out. Steeltown adapts a traditional Scottish reel to scorching hard rock, and features lyrics that would coax tears from a skeleton. Tall Ships Go is a galloping Hard Rock with frenetic drum syncopations and staccato phased guitar. The Rain Dance is another jig, but drenched in soaring slide guitar. The last cut on the official track-listing is the heart-rending Just a Shadow, a song sung to a unemployed worker and his battered wife . The lyrics rip out your soul "It all seemed fine for you/'Til the struggle of ambition turned in violence upon you/ Sometimes a landslide come/If you're hiding in that avalanche you need a place to run". Hardly the work of a MTV haircut jockey.
Steeltown was a monster hit in Thatcher's Britain, but went unnoticed in America. The Music Industrial Complex was force-feeding happy Pop down everyone's throat, and Big Country's thrashing pessimism was wildly out of step. Bonus track Wonderland was a hit though, off the early '84 EP of the same name. The track is a flat-out classic, a soaring dose of optimism and exhiliration that is more in step with the Crossing than Steeltown. But it's presence is welcome on any CD. If you can bear the overwhelming power of its music, Steeltown will reward for many, many years to come."
My favorite band of all time..
Tankery | New Orleans | 12/22/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I had it loaded on cassette and I never grew tired of it. I still can't put it in the CD player and stop it at any point. The bombastic, maniacal but ingeniously controlled tempos exploding through each song have no rival. Why Big Country didn't get the wide appeal in America they should have is odd, but not unexpected. I remember American critics sticking their tongues out at their albums and them. Well, in a span of two weeks I saw first U2 and then Big Country in the same venue. You might as well compare a 1000 piece orchestra with a handful of amateurs playing kazoos. About six of us went to both concerts and maybe only three of us had listened to Big Country at all. We all just stood there frozen, mouth open when Big Country hit the stage. And I mean hit the stage. Very few concerts will take your breath away, but Big Country had a sincere, riveting presence onstage, and you combine this with close to speed metal delivery of some of their songs, and Stuart's profound belief in what he was singing about, well, everyone left converted. The American Record companies screwed them over completely. A few stupid reviews based on comparing them to U2 and other early 80's even more lame alternative bands left them with the wrong identity completely. This was no better illustrated than the big glossy fold out of the band all airbrushed up like Duran Duran on the inside of the Peace in Our Time album. Yuck! This wasn't the band that power-chorded its way through politically-charged songs us working class stiffs embraced with an unrivaled passion. It looked like a bad senior picture. It totally symbolized what their record companies just couldn't figure out about this band.
There just wasn't a genre easily recognized by the American critics for their sound so they took the easy way out-they summarily ignored or dissed Big Country without acknowledging what an incredible stage presence they were, or how powerfully evocative their songs were to so many people. Big Country should be mentioned in the same breath as Husker Du and the Pixies as seminal 80's bands. Their whole catalog of albums even holds up well through the 90's, I think (well, maybe a misstep here and there...). But pick up their Live without a Net album if you want some incredible acoustic versions of their greatest songs.
Long live Big Country. "
The best album you never heard
L. Crow | United States | 04/10/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If there had been any justice in 1984, this album would have catapulted Scotland's Big Country into one of the biggest bands of the 80s. It certainly did in the UK, but America missed the boat. That's a terrible shame, because this album is better than BC's debut "The Crossing," which made significant inroads in the US in 1983. "Steeltown" sports an enormous sound, with militarylike drums and soaring, stratospheric guitars, all gloriously overdubbed to the Nth degree. Stuart Adamson's (God rest his soul) apocalyptic lyrics and strong vocals combine with the music to create a tour de force that leaves scorched earth in its wake. This album was meant to be played and played LOUD! Perfect for a cold, cloudy, rainy winter's day, or anytime you're in the mood for some serious-themed rock. Adamson always had a gift for expressing universal themes in personal ways. "Steeltown" is full of issues that you don't have be Scottish to appreciate: duplicitous political leaders, personal alienation, the plight of the unemployed, the fear of a young soldier in combat, union vs. management, etc. I have loved this album since the winter of 1984 and it's just as powerful and relevant today. If you enjoyed The Crossing or any of Big Country's other works, do yourself a favor and pick up "Steeltown," too. The band was just too good!"
Still ahead of its time in its genius
The Green Vortex | Saratoga Springs, NY USA | 01/21/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Big Country's sophomore disc "Steeltown" came out during my sophomore year of college and it practically never left my walkman until after graduation. My friends and I latched onto Big Country as OUR band when frat boy posers stole U2 from us. Saw them at the Filmore in San Francisco on their first US tour and it was the most incredible musical experience ever--never to be topped in my lifetime.The album opens with "Flame of the West" which starts with Tony playing the fastest bass riff you ever heard. The drums come pounding in and they sound amazing. Mark's skill is right up there with Neil Peart. And then this album does the thing that makes it unique to this day: guitar after overdubbed guitar come in, and soon you can hear like six wailing guitars all weaving in and out of each other at breakneck speed -- like the sonic equivalent of the flying taxi sequence in The Fifth Element.Only Steve Lillywhite would dare try this, and the technology of the day couldn't keep up with his production. My store-bought cassette couldn't do justice to the material and even playing the LP through headphones it seemed a little muddied. No wonder radio ignored it.On CD, we can now enjoy this masterpiece properly. Enjoy the drum heroics of "Tall Ships Go", the soaring highlander riffs of "Where the Rose Is Sown", the sheer ass-kickingness of "Steeltown", the raw emotionality of "Just a Shadow". Enjoy the visionary production -- this record screams now for a 5.1 channel re-mix.When I saw Big Country in a little club on their last US tour they still sounded incredible. They played mostly later stuff, but the highlight was an ear-splitting run though "Steeltown", the only song of the night from this album. It makes me sad to know that now I'll never see the rest of these songs played live.This is the best album from the band and the man that inspired me to become a musician myself. Thank you, Stuart Adamson, wherever you are. You were my hero."
Cinematic like a war epic and a wounding love
The Green Vortex | 03/13/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This amazing album has a thick heavy sound that doesn't sound quite the same on every stereo. It may have too much echo and effects here and there, but get used to all that because the songs and performances triumph. The vocals and lyrics lead with stunning power and volume. "The Flame of the West": huge rock with wailing guitars and an epic sense of scope. The monstrous swing of the scottish military drums fuses with a funk-inflected metal bass for truly alarming effect. If you've ever felt like the whole world is chasing its icons down the toilet, you will JAM to this song. "East of Eden": the huge sound, this time with less of a cautionary tale than a personal account of prophecy, adventure, and persecution. Very catchy, but with a couple weird splices. "Steeltown": could anything be as exciting as this song? the hellish and insidious forces of hate and destruction are heavenly to labor against. "Where the Rose Is Sown": i'm a total pacifist, but this song makes you want to fight for the homeland. A backward-looking, but genuinely thrill-packed ride on the soldier's courage. "Come Back To Me": incredibly strong, slow, mournful, loud, and beautiful, a day in your life you exult in never having lived. "Tall Ships Go": Back into high gear: dreams, inspirations, nightmares, understandings. "Girl With Grey Eyes": One of the all-around most well-crafted and original ballads. Obeys no rules of songwriting or arrangement, yet states its longing misery with grave dignity. "Rain Dance": A well-placed but drably executed invocation of the elements. Beautiful bass playing barely saves the day. "The Great Divide": rythmically a tour de force, with optimism and an enourmous sense of a great war all but won, all in a simple power-pop single format. "Just a Shadow": a sum it all up style groove to close the album with a flood of sorrow and gratitude and a final chorus that will have you crying like a baby. STEELTOWN is one of my favorite albums."