Category: Big Country

Big Country – Steeltown

ARTIST: Big Country 220px-Big_Country_-_Steeltown
TITLE: Steeltown
YEAR RELEASED: 1984
CHART ACTION: #70 US, #1 UK
SINGLES: East of Eden (#17 UK), Where the Rose Is Sown (#29 UK), Just a Shadow (#26 UK). Wonderland (#86 US, #48 US Modern Rock, #8 UK) is a bonus track as a UK single and an EP release in the US that’s not available except as bonus tracks on their first two albums.
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: In the UK, probably Flame of the West and Steeltown.
LINEUP: Stuart Adamson, Mark Brzezicki, Tony Butler, Bruce Watson
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Their unique guitar sound and Scotland-centered songwriting still finds favor in the UK, but loses support in the US as they now become more of a cult band.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Did you like the deep cuts on The Crossing? If so, you’ll like Steeltown. If not, then you probably didn’t bother with this one. Radio picked up “Wonderland” a bit, but that wasn’t on this record, and they avoided the UK singles. MTV played “Where the Rose Is Sown” some, but not a lot.

There may be a reason for this. To casual fans, this was basically ‘second verse, same as the first’. There was no novelty or kick for them to stand out on the radio, and in reality, the sound is very similar to their first album. In fact, it’s more monolithic in terms of the sound.

Lyrically, it’s more focused – it’s really focused on Scotland and the issues therein. For those who like the twin guitar sound, there’s plenty of that. What’s missing are hooks and standout songs. Good, not great, throughout.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The title track is the story of Corby, a town in Scotland that was the site of a steel mill that was built in 1935 and provided work during the Depression to many Scots, but then withered and died in the 1980’s. Over here, it could be a song about Youngstown.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, a couple floating around with half of the Wonderland EP, B-sides and radio mixes.

GRADE: B: Again, did you like the deep cuts from the first album? If so, by all means. If not, you may want to test spin it.

Big Country – In a Big Country

ARTIST: Big Country Big_Country_-_The_Crossing
TITLE: The Crossing
YEAR RELEASED: 1983
CHART ACTION: #18 US, #3 UK
SINGLES: Harvest Home (#91 UK), Fields of Fire (#10 UK, #52 US), In a Big Country (#17 UK, #17 US), Chance (#9 UK)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: A fan knows the record. Nothing else got airplay here.
LINEUP: Stuart Adamson, Bruce Watson, Tony Butler, Mark Brzezicki
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: First album from the Scottish band that taught us all about E-bows and current Scottish patriotism.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The first thing you notice about this album is the guitar sound. Yes, the infamous bagpipe sound is there for the song everyone knows, but the rest of the album also has the E-bow guitar showcased in several subtler ways. Also, the rhythm section of Butler and Brzezicki, who worked together for several years, are solid and give the songs a solid framework.

The songs are all strong and closely related to Scotland, defending the land and the betterment of man. No hippy dippy love songs here. Sometimes, the arrangements for individual songs are similar. The singles are standouts as well as Inwards and Lost Patrol.

Since In a Big Country is such a hallmark of the 80’s, the rest of the album never got the respect it deserved. It’s a very solid debut for a unique band.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Also contributing to the guitar sound was Pitch Transposer effect. Whatever it really was, they used those effects to their advantage.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, a couple. The first has the Wonderland EP  and the second has several outtakes and demos. The bad news is that Wonderland is split between this record and Steeltown on the second deluxe version.

GRADE: A-: This is definitely more than In a Big Country. The whole thing makes you want to put on some kilts and defend Scotland’s honor.