When he left them in 1980, Stuart Adamson’s song writing talent and unique guitar playing had already elevated Scottish punk/new wave band the Skids, led by charismatic singer Richard Jobson, to 5 UK top 40 singles and 3 UK top 40 albums in 3 short years. Whilst DJ John Peel had dubbed him ‘the new Jimi Hendrix’, most were surprised to see him step centre stage to take lead vocal duties in the new band he’d co-founded called Big Country but by the start of 1983 they were already gracing the UK top 10 singles chart.
Formed in Dunfermline 2 years earlier, Adamson had clearly learnt from life in the Skids, spending the time away from the spotlight constantly writing collaboratively and rehearsing with his new bandmates in a disused furniture warehouse. It was here they defined not just their sound, an unparalleled mix of traditional Scottish folk, rock, pop and martial styles but also their working relationship. It was relationship which over the next 8 years would see them score 13 UK top 30 singles (all included here) and from where the bulk of the rest of this 3 disc set is derived, 5 UK top 40 studio albums, including the UK No1 Steel Town. Welcome then to a Big Country.
Disc 1 starts with their 2nd single (and 1st hit), the distinctive Fields Of Fire (UK No.10). Wearing its Scottish folk influences on its sleeve, the bagpipe-like ringing guitar sound gave the track an anthemic quality and very much heralded the bands arrival on the music scene. It’s followed by the reflective, melancholy of Chance (UK No.9), which introduces a very different side to the band. The marvellous bittersweet In A Big Country (UK No.17) picks up the pace and as the title suggests conveys a sense of the great outdoors. Debut single Harvest Home is next and closely followed by King Of Emotion (UK No.16), taken from their 1988 UK top 10 album, Peace In Our Time, the title track from which provides the next selection (UK No.39). From there for the most part it’s much loved tracks from debut album The Crossing (UK No.3) amongst which you’ll find the wonderful folk inspired The Storm and the beguiling Close Action.
Disc 2 begins with Wonderland (UK No.8) from 1984 and their 4th hit single (and 3rd top 10) in 12 months! East Of Eden (UK No.17) is next and at time of release was a taster for their 2nd album, whilst Just A Shadow (UK No.26) with its reflective mood was a late single from the same long player. That album Steel Town had taken them to the top of the UK album charts in the autumn of 1984 and ensured the band were in demand here, across Europe and in the US. Where The Rose Is Sown (UK No.29), Broken Heart (UK No.47) and Beautiful People (UK No. 72), taken from their 3rd album The Seer (UK No.2) follow. The title track from that same album, also included on disc 2, features Big Country fan the legendary Kate Bush! Collectable 12” mixes and a live cover of the soul classic The Tracks of My Tears conclude the set.
Disc 3 commences with the bands most successful and arguably most memorable single Look Away (UK No.7). From the same album (The Seer) comes One Great Thing (UK No.19) and The Teacher (UK No.28). Further later singles including Republican Party Reptile and Save Me (UK No. 41) follow, whilst Hold The Heart (UK No.55) brings us back to The Seer album. Further sought after 12” mixes (One Great Thing, In A Big Country, Fields Of Fire) rub shoulders with experimental outings (Flag Of Nations) and later key album tracks.
This set takes the listener up to 1991 when commercially their star began to fade but they continued recording and touring extensively until 1999 when they released Driving To Damascus. Adamson would later confide that the poor response to the record left him with depression, which in turn caused him to disappear on more than one occasion. More live work in 2000 followed but later that year and much to everyone’s concern he would disappear again. Shortly before Xmas 2001 terrible news broke, Adamson had taken his own life. Inevitably tributes came from many including David Bowie and the Clash’s Joe Strummer & Mick Jones. U2’s The Edge stated that Adamson with Big Country had written the songs that he wished U2 could write and Bruce Springsteen is quoted as saying ‘Whoever wrote In A Big Country was the real deal’. The 10 million album sales Big Country racked up during their time together are testament to that. Enjoy.