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The Seer is the third album by Scottish band Big Country, who also happen to be my favourite all-time band.
Sadly the tragic death of the band's founder member and frontman/guitarist Stuart Adamson in 2001 (formerly of The Skids) meant the end of Big Country as we knew them, although the other three members have continued to make music, both together and also separately, as well as releasing rare Big Country tracks, sessions, albums and live footage on CD and DVD over the last few years, which has been great for fans like myself.
The Seer was released in 1986, following on from the success of the band's debut album 'The Crossing' and their second album 'Steeltown'.
With Big Country, it was as much the lyrics as the music that resonated with me. Stuart Adamson wrote not only the soundtrack to my youth, but also I feel, my life.
Just as The Smiths lyrics made an impression on me in the 80's, so did Stuart Adamson's, but for different reasons. Morrissey's morose and humorous style a complete contrast to Stuart's poetic, stirring lyrics which were often sad but held a certain optimism for better times ahead. The 80's were hard, unemployment was high and prospects low for school leavers like myself. We all needed hope and inspiration and Stuart provided that for me, whilst Morrissey provided the humourous slant on those bad times.
I Walk The Hill
One Great Thing
Hold The Heart
The Red Fox
Although a little mellower overall than the previous albums there is still some rousing stuff to be heard here. You need look no further than the opening track 'Look Away' which became one of the band's most successful singles. A brilliant guitar intro courtesy of Stuart Adamson accompanied this track when played live and I wish it had been included in its entirety on the album, but nevertheless it is still a great opener. One of the bands catchiest songs which you could not fail to sing along with, particularly the chorus:
"Look away, look away, hide your eyes from the land where I lie cold. Look away, look away, from the lies in the stories that were told..."
Which leads us into title track and apocalyptic tale, 'The Seer', which for me is one of the stand out moments on the album, as it also features the vocal talents of Kate Bush. From the opening "Long ago I heard a tale..." the scene is set for a story brilliantly told by both Adamson and Bush. Kate adds an atmospheric quality to the track to produce a quite literally spellbinding effect, particularly when she tells us "All this will pass". Indeed if any other female vocalist had been used, the effect could never have been this good.
One of my favourite all time Big Country songs features here on The Seer and that is the beautiful 'Eiledon'. Beginning slowly, Stuart also uses the E-Bow to great effect as this moving and seering track wove its way into my heart on the first listen and has remained there ever since. Eiledon conjures up images of the Scottish hills and mountains as well as moving me lyrically. I never fail to be moved by the lines : -
"Here is strength for us to find
To turn the old to new
And wipe our eyes of misty years
And see the future through"
Those lines are sung at the beginning and also at the end of the song, which ends as acoustically as it began, thus retaining the feeling the track promotes.
The ballad 'Hold The Heart' with its soft melodic notes ends the quieter moments here. If you are going to have one slow number on an album then best make it a memorable one. Hold The Heart ticks all the boxes, with again some moving lyrics and the heartfelt plea "I would wait a hundred years to hear you say my name..."
Both 'The Red Fox' and 'The Sailor' see the return to the rousing stuff and both epitomising what Big Country did so well. The Sailor begins quite slow and melodic. A 'nice' song which you feel is going to get bigger at some part, which of course it does, building to an almost explosive ending. The instrumental break with the soaring guitars courtesy of Adamson and Bruce Watson along with the drums and bass rhythm section of Mark Brezezicki and Tony Butler complimenting perfectly, is particularly worth a mention. The transition from the helpless dreaming beginning to the "cry no more" ending, makes this another standout track.
Likewise 'The Red Fox' although more upbeat from the start, the song changes halfway through and becomes stronger. It is almost like two songs in one, reminiscent of what Big Country did with the track 'The Crossing' .
A military feeling accompanies both 'I Walk The Hill' and 'Remembrance Day' . The latter telling of a vow to remember and to return : "I must leave this land and the hunger that is here, but the place I stand is the one I love so dear".
I can guarantee the catchy riffs of 'One Great Thing' and its cry for peace, proclaiming that talk will come to nothing while the shouting still goes on, will stick in your mind after the track has finished. Peace and hope being a topic that was at the forefront of many Big Country tracks.
Overall, The Seer had a slightly mellower feel than its predecessors. After the industrial cries of Steeltown and the fighting spirit of The Crossing, it showed the band's diversity as well as retaining their Celtic sound. Having said that, there is still some rousing stuff on this album, as well as once again some beautiful lyrics penned by Adamson. It is worth owning for the beauty of 'Eiledon' alone in my opinion.
These days, The Smiths are no more, although Morrissey's solo career has been quite a good substitute. Stuart Adamson, however, is gone.
Thankfully though I have great albums such as this to listen to and DVD's to watch, along with many memories of seeing the band live. I have my own 'Remembrance Days' every time I listen to this album.
Big Country were brilliant...I miss Stuart Adamson.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Look Away
4 I Walk The Hill
6 One Great Thing
7 Hold The Heart
8 Remembrance Day
9 Red Fox
11 Song Of The South
12 Look Away
13 One Great Thing