Sunday, July 14, 2013

Big Country - The Crossing

Tomorrow (July 15th) marks the thirtieth anniversary of The Crossing, the debut album from Scotland’s Big Country. This 1983 record charted at number 18 on the US Billboard Hot 200, number 17 in Sweden, number 11 in the Netherlands, number 8 in New Zealand, number 4 in Canada, and number 3 in the UK.

The initial line-up for the band was Stuart Adamson (vocals, guitar and piano), Mark Brzezicki (drums, percussion and vocals), Tony Butler (bass and vocals), and Bruce Watson (guitar, mandolin, sitar and vocals). Steve Lillywhite produced this album.

Side one begins with “In a Big Country”, the group’s breakthrough third hit single. It charted at number 34 in New Zealand, number 17 in the UK and on the US Billboard Hot 100, and number 3 in Canada and on the US Mainstream Rock chart. I remember this one being very popular at the time, with a video that ran often on MTV and a song that was on every station I listened to (Top 40, college, and album-oriented rock); it had a mass crossover thing going. The up-tempo tune has an inspiring message of finding the strength to pick yourself up after a particularly difficult situation.

I like the cascading guitars that open “Inwards”. The song has a completely chaotic turmoil to it as if everything in life has been up-ended. I remember this song getting some airplay on the college and rock stations as well as folks were trying to get more of the band’s music.

“Chance”, the fourth and final single, reached number 18 in New Zealand and number 9 in the UK. This slower tempo, introspective song has an interesting, almost Calypso, rhythm to it.

On “1000 Stars”, the song’s protagonist finds himself in a difficult and unavoidable situation. He has to just press forward, face the consequence and hope to come out the other side a stronger man.

“The Storm” opens with haunting instrumental overture before shifting to a rousing folk rhythm. It sadly tells of one group in pursuit of another; the former discovers a village that the later have set aflame as part of their escape.

Side two opens with “Harvest Home”. Released as the band’s first single in late 1982, it charted at number 91 in the UK. To me, the song has a Biblical message as emphasized by the chorus of “just as you sow you shall reap”.

“Lost Patrol”, with its beautiful opening and blending vocal harmonies, overflows with feelings of hopelessness and frustration. The men are in a dark situation that stinks of death and decay. It is very powerful imagery.

“Close Action” is next, with its swaying rhythm. This one brings to mind, for me, the image of two close friends on a battlefield where one is critically injured and the other vows to bring him out of the conflict. Moreover, should the man die, which I think he does, the other will keep his memory alive to those back home.

The second single “Fields of Fire (400 Miles)” charted at number 52 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 26 in New Zealand, and number 10 in the UK. This anti-war anthem tells of someone who goes off to war and does not return. I really like how the stringed instruments have a bag-pipe like sound effect to them thanks to the use of e-bows.

The album closes with “Porrohman”, a nearly eight-minute long mid-tempo. The extended opening instrumental really sets a great tone for the whole piece.

As noted, I was familiar with the hits and a few other tracks from The Crossing back in the day. I certainly enjoyed the sounds of Big Country’s music, built upon powerful guitars and pounding percussion. Given all that, I am not sure why I never ended up picking up the album as I found it to be a very solid debut.

1 comment:

HERC said...

Don't know when I first heard the song but I bought the album soon after and filled an entire side of a TDK SA 60 minute tape with "In A Big Country". Never really got much into the rest of the album or any future Big Country music.

(The other side of the tape was filled with "Talk Talk" by Talk Talk from their mini-album Talk Talk. Those 2 songs were my jams for a solid month at the start of my Senior year in high school and probably the last two songs I listened to so obsessively.)

I prefer the album version of the song, with its full intro, to the truncated single version. There is also an extended "Pure Mix" of the song with an engaging extended intro but I feel that track loses energy as it continues.

Was a complete surprise when I read singer Stuart Adamson had taken his own life around Christmas 2001. Broke out that cassette (labeled "IABC") and played it for nearly two hours until I sobbed myself to sleep in middle of floor with headphones on.

I continued listening to Talk Talk as their career went on and their sound evolved but I never gave Big Country a chance. Maybe, now's the time. Thanks for the post, Martin, sorry if I brought the mood down.