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There are quite a few seminal albums in the genre of Post Punk and New Wave. This is indeed one of them. Here is a classic example of a band coming of age, and the crystallization of a unique sound, coupled with the questing experimentation of the early eighties. So, in 1983 Big country found themselves along producer Steve Lillywhite in the studio. In hindsight it was a good move for the band to use Lillywhite. The album opener "In A Big Country" opens with a bang, along with skilled drumming a few echo effects and a rousing guitar line, this being one of their biggest hits, is a very good track. Chance is the real jewel on this album though, a fabulous and poignant track. With excellent lyrics sparse production and that unique melodic guitar riff. The late Stuart Adamson's deep mournful vocals add depth to the track, easily this is the best song of the set. Further highlights are the introspective "Inwards" along with the obligatory crashing drums and ringing guitars, and the stirring "Fields Of Fire"
Porrohman the last track off the set, could be a contender with chance as another standout here, starting with a slow quiet chiming guitar, it ends with a forceful crescendo finish. This track bookends the album perfectly. If you like post punk or new wave music, or even pop or rock, you should get this. Its worth it on the strength of "Chance" alone. The Second album Steeltown, is also very good but it never captured the magic like this album did.
Back in 1982, a new band emerged with a unique sound which saw their debut album 'The Crossing' become a big success and is now considered a 'classic album'.
The band was Big Country. Founded by guitarist and songwriter Stuart Adamson, formerly of The Skids.
I had been waiting for this album release with great anticipation. I was a very young teenager when this was released, but I'd been heavily into music from a young age. I loved everything from David Bowie to Kate Bush and The Beatles to Roxy Music and AC/DC. I was also a fan of Scottish band The Skids, mainly because I thought Stuart Adamson was an amazing guitarist.
So initially when he departed from The Skids, I was sad, but then I read in the music press he was forming his own band and I eagerly kept an eye out for news.
Eventually the news came in summer 82' that he had formed Big Country along with Bruce Watson - guitar, Tony Butler - bass and Mark Brzezicki - drums.
I recall pre-ordering their first single release 'Harvest Home' not long after and tuning in to John Peel on Radio One where the band performed in session some tracks from the forthcoming album. I loved the session and it made me even more excited for the album release a few months later in 1983.
Big Country produced a sound which I remember was described often as 'Celtic Rock', as some of the sounds Stuart produced from his guitar were thought to be akin to bagpipes. Their big noise guitar sound was described by the music press as blowing the knobs off all the synth-pop diddlers and fake-funk frauds who were cluttering up the charts back then.
The Crossing originally contained ten tracks, but when the album was remastered in 1996, it was released with an extra four tracks which had previously appeared on b-sides and bonus tracks from 12" singles - remember those?
The tracks :-
1. In A Big Country
4. A Thousand Stars
5. The Storm
6. Harvest Home
7. Lost Patrol
8. Close Action
9. Fields Of Fire
10. Porroh Man
Bonus tracks :-
11. Angle Park
12. All Of Us
13. The Crossing
14. Heart And Soul
One of those bonus tracks is one of my favourite Big Country songs and I have always wondered why it was not included on the original album. It is actually entitled 'The Crossing', an epic track which is almost like three tracks in one and I am so pleased that this masterpiece made an appearance on the remastered edition, as my 12" vinyl copy was nearly worn out!
The album holds a mixture of rousing guitar anthems with a couple of brilliant ballads thrown in for good measure and was produced by Steve Lillywhite, (who also produced U2).
Big Country produced an extraordinary twin-guitar sound courtesy of Stuart and Bruce, who generally dispensed with power chords and instead whipped up strong single-string riffs, with a thundering rhythm section from Tony and Mark making the perfect accompaniment. Even die-hard rock fans loved this album.
Both 'Fields of Fire' and 'In A Big Country' became Big Country's anthems through the years that followed. No encore was complete without these being played to hundreds of fans joining in to shout : "In a big country, dreams stay with you" and "400 miles....on fields of FIRE! "
It's not only the music that is rousing, the lyrics quite often stir the soul also. Whether Stuart is singing of 'the shining eye that never cries' from the anthemic 'Fields of Fire' or 'playing Chance with a lifetime's romance' from the ballad : 'Chance', his words have a way of reaching out and touching your soul, as any Big Country fan will surely testify.
I am sure anyone who can remember the music of the 80's will recall the chorus of Chance as it raced up the charts :-
"Oh Lord, where did the feeling go?
Oh Lord, I never felt so low..."
I have many memories of the whole crowd singing this back to Stuart at live performances and it is one of my favourite tracks on this album.
'Lost Patrol' and the epic 'Porrohman' both have brilliant into's featuring some innovative guitar work from Stuart. Whilst speaking of intro's then 'The Storm' must have a special mention as Stuart's hypnotic guitar and use of the E-bow still sends a tingle down my spine. Whenever I visit Scotland and see the mist covered mountains I always think of this track and it is another of my favourites here.
The album has another subdued moment with the melodic 'Close Action', which features a beautiful riff. Then the album picks up the pace again as we are encouraged to "Cry out for everything you ever might have wanted!" and "Give all your heart and soul!".
The songs have a 'Great War' theme running throughout but also represent the era, especially the worry that was felt in the face of impending nuclear apocalypse. "A Thousand Stars" addresses this in its lyrics which explain that it is "not between you and me, but we are losing".
The Crossing is a brilliant debut album with no weak moments. It gained critical acclaim from not only the fans but also the music press, who had probably been queuing up ready to criticise it.
Stuart wrote lyrics with strong feeling for things he felt strongly about. His impassioned words could be sadly poetic or uplifiting, but always sung with raw emotion, as he told tales of life's triumphs and tragedies that never fail to move me.
I say 'wrote' as Stuart sadly is no longer with us. After battling with alcohol and inner demons, he tragically took his own life in 2001. Such a tragic loss of a great man, I hope he eventually found peace amongst the 1000 stars he wrote about. His music and lyrics will live on in the hearts and minds of his fans forever.
"In a big country, dreams stay with you..."
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 In A Big Country
4 A Thousand Stars
5 The Storm
6 Harvest Home
7 Lost Patrol
8 Close Action
9 Fields Of Fire
10 Porroh Man
11 Angle Park
12 All Of Us
13 The Crossing
14 Heart And Soul