Monday, 4 June 2018

Big Country - The Crossing (1983)

Oh Lord, where did that feeling go....

  

Released July 1983

Recorded at The Manor, Oxfordshire

Running time 48.24

It has always puzzled me why Big Country have often got such a bad press. When discussing music, if you say you like Tom Waits, Neil Young or The Smiths, people will nod sagely in agreement with your great taste. If you say you like Big Country they either laugh or shake their heads. Quite why, I just don't know - a) this is a great debut album; b) their first four/five albums were all both competent and credible; c) they were superb live; d) their sound was unique; e) Stuart Adamson is much missed and was a much underrated songwriter and indeed singer/guitarist.

TRACK LISTING

1. In A Big Country
2. Inwards
3. Chance
4. 1000 Stars
5. The Storm
6. Harvest Home
7. Lost Patrol
8. Close Action
9. Fields Of Fire
10. Porrohman                                      

As I said, this is truly one of the great debut albums. Released in 1982 it contained a sound unlike anything anyone had ever heard. Yes, the band were Scottish, but the guitar sound really did sound like bagpipes. 

The album's two iconic upbeat hit singles, "Fields Of Fire" and "In A Big Country" ("Chance" was also a hit) hit you between the eyes and ears like a chill wind from the North. The latter's Edinburgh tattoo military-style drums kick in to start the album as it means to go on. It absolutely blows away any cobwebs, announcing itself big time. 

"....In a big country dreams stay with you, like a lover's voice across the mountainside..."

The album is full of Jacobean imagery (aided by the inner sleeve drawings) and the skirl of rabble rousing calls to arms. Just listen to the opening riff of "Harvest Home" or the energy of some of the lesser-known rockers - the pounding, early U2-esque "Inwards", "Close Action" and "Lost Patrol". Or the Celtic soul on the heartbreaking lament and in concert crowd favourite "Chance" -

"....He came like a hero from the factory floor
With the sun and moon as gifts
But the only son you ever saw
Were the two he left you with...."

What great lyrics they were. Full of characterisation. What a wonderful, immense song it is too. So much sombre emotion in it, so much empathy. 

"1000 Stars" has a killer riff and a huge rolling drum sound, while the folky guitar-driven "The Storm" is overflowing with Scottish historical ambience. 

Then there is the mighty closer, "Porrohman" which sounds great on this remaster. Some stonking guitar. Watching them perform this live was an experience. Big Country's audiences were always passionate, involved and enthusiastic. Singing along to "Chance", bouncing along to "Fields Of Fire". Great memories. 

A true Caledonian masterpiece. 

Incidentally, the "deluxe edition" contains several excellent tracks that did not appear on the album, notably the lively rock of "Angle Park" and "The Crossing", the latter being particularly impressive.

"Rolling Stone"'s Kurt Loder described the arrival of Big Country on the scene in these glowing, and very apt, terms -

"...Here's a big-noise guitar band from Britain that blows the knobs off all the synth-pop diddlers and fake-funk frauds who are cluttering up the charts these days....Big Country mops up the fops with an air-raid guitar sound that's unlike anything else around anywhere..like the young Irish band U2, with whom they share a producer in Steve Lillywhite, they have no use for synthesisers...."

I couldn't have said it better myself, hence my utilising this excellent quote. 

B+

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