Friday, October 31, 2008

FDF Volume 2 Issue 114: Big Country - The Crossing



By: March

Album - The Crossing
Artist - Big Country
Key Players - Bruce Watson - guitar, mandolin, sitar, vocals, e-bow. Tony Butler - bass, vocals. Mark Brzezicki - drums, percussion and vocals. Stuart Adamson - lead vocals, guitar, piano, e-bow
Produced By - Steve Lillywhite


Release Date - July 15, 1983 (re-issue in 2002)

What caused me to blow off the dust? - It has been a while, and a reader commented a bit ago they would like to see me give this one a go...so I hope that person is still around.

Overview - This was the first full length album from the Scottish band Big Country.The album would contain the bands only top 40 US single "In a Big Country" but would capture the minds of music fans with a "bagpipe" guitar sound. The band would go on to release eight albums total and never really reach the wide audience one would almost expect. The band would try to re-invent itself later on, but the fans that knew the sound, missed it and the band would struggle with in-fighting, and their label. The band in the 1990's would often perform as opening acts for larger touring bands. In 2000 the band did a final farewell tour and although spirits were high Adamson was dealing with other demos. He would commit suicide in 2001.

FDF Comments (aka the songs). As noted the album was re-issued in 2002 with the "Wonderland" ep on the same disc. This list is for the ten tracks that made up the initial release. A barrage of drums, a shout and some drum rolls bring up the opener "In a Big Country". The guitars are tucked in the back a little until Brzerzicki kicks it all in, then comes that bagpie-esque guitar. The song has its big breakdown and then the guitars really get going again. Upon listening once more with a critical ear the bass line is rather complex keeping with the dynamic of the track. We get the big riffs once more and a delayed shout from Adamson as the track fades. "Inwards" opens a little more minimalistic. One guitar chirps, while the other grinds the strings before the band comes in. Adamson seems to be pushed down in the mix on the track but seems to be a little more at ease. His vocals have the drawl to them and the band is tight, they are a proficient band as evidenced by the tempo changes in the track. A single guitar works up "Chance". We are at a much slower pace on this track. There are moments with steel drums and the guitars don't overdo it. There are never any really flashy moments on the track, it sort of sticks with the verse chorus verse mantra. The pace picks up once more on "1000 Stars" as the band wastes little time getting off. The battle drums and the bass crunch hard as the chiming guitar returns over the top. Adamson gives some strong yells that fit with the track as the buzz of guitars surrounds the listener. A strong track. A single guitar, awash in distortion slowly fades up on "The Storm". All this sort of gets thrown out the window about one minute in as the band falls in to a country feel. Brushes on the drum and a 12 bar blues bass line fill the void before the click of the drums brings the "rock feel" back, but the band changes gears once more and repeats the musical formula. The familiar guitar sounds once more bring up "Harvest Home". The rhythm section sort of holds the guitars from really getting rolling, but they get there. Adamson is once more in strong voice, singing the verses about as choppy as he can, almost chanting the lines. The music will sound familiar as the "sound" of Big Country is there once more. On the intro to "Lost Patrol" on guitar does the slow swirling buildup while the second strikes out a few notes and allows it to resonate. Brzezicki layers the drums down hard while the band explodes over the top. The guitars are less "chimy" this time around, opting for more deeper riffs. Butler still is given moments to flash off a quick bass fill as well. Fuzzed out guitar brings up "Close Action" as Brzezicki once more gives the drum kit a work out. Adamson seems once more laid back in his vocal delivery, but is very strong not hesitating to hit higher notes in his vocal range. The song spreads its wings musically and really the guitar get up, and out there. A soaring track. The widely known "Fields of Fire" follows. The track would not even crack the Billboard top 50 (peaking at 52 almost a year after the album came out). The bagpipe guitar sounds are made with a combination of e-bow and an effect pedal (an MXR Pitch Transposer 129 if you are into that stuff). It clacks off with "1-2-3-4" and the drums swallow you whole. Most readers know this track but if you check it out again, listen to the bass line. I know its hard because the guitars are so cool, often times when the guitars really get up there, listen to what Butler does. Warn your co-workers at 1:54 in you are about to shout "Hut/Hup" along with Adamson. A watershed moment for the band that set the tone for the early days of MTV. The originally released album closes out with "Porrohman" a track close to eight minutes long. The track starts of with guitar and a slow drum build. Single bass notes resonate as the song slowly builds. Its sort of run of the mill honestly until about the five minute mark when the band simply explodes, the tempo goes up and the band really feeds off one another. An epic closer in a pure sense of the word.


Where are they now?
- After 10 years the band was dropped from their label yet the band soldered on. The band would be considering an "opening act". The band would support acts like the Rolling Stones and Who. The band would appear on Roger Daltrys solo record "Under the Raging Moon" and Tony Butler worked with Pete Townshend on "Let My Love Open the Door". The band as a whole would release their final studio album in 1999. Tony is/has worked as a teacher as well as playing with the aforementioned bands. Mark has also worked with various bands including the Cult and in 2004 joined a band called Casbah Club with Pete Townshends brother Simon. The band is currently on hiatus as Simon tours with The Who. In the end Stuart Adamson battled depression and "disappeared" a few times, the final time being in November of 2001. The band and fans pleaded by the web site for any update from Stuart, sadly he was found dead in a hotel room in Honolulu Hawaii on December 16, 2001. Adamson committed suicide by hanging. On a happier note, the band re-formed in 2007 to celebrate their 25th Anniversary with Butler taking over the lead vocal duties. The three are working together once more as BBW with a new album "In Our Name" recently released.


FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience)
- I never saw Big Country live.

FDF Overall Take - MTV put these guys on the map in the US for sure with the great videos and unique sound. It is a fun listen to go back track by track and really feel the power they were able to convey musically. I personally haven't heard much of the later albums (I think the last one I recall hearing all the way through was their third called "The Seer") but in reading a later record was a return for form that is perhaps worth tracking down. It was a fun walk down memory lane on this. For the casual fans the "hits" are probably more than enough, but this band had some talented guys on board, evidenced by their colleagues having them work, and support them.

Links
Official page here.
Bruce Watson official site
Mark on myspace.
The project the three guys are working on, here on myspace.

Curious? Check out some MUSIC!

The MP3's have been removed....
In a Big Country
Harvest Home
Fields of Fire

All the tracks taken from The Crossing which you can buy here

Disclaimer - For the most part songs listed you can find on iTunes or your local cd shop. The idea is to give you a little taste of the music. Please support the artist buy purchasing some of their work. Songs are posted for about 1 week but can and will be removed at the request of the artist, band, band management etc. If you are one of those persons contact me via the email link in the profile and they will be removed as soon as we are made aware of the request.

9 Comments:

At 8:08 AM, Blogger BERSONALITY said...

Good blog, but Simon Townshend is Pete's Brother, not his son.

 
At 8:55 AM, Blogger Evil Speakers said...

Thanks for getting around to posting this one. I've learned two things today The Crossing is still great and I'm as old as dirt.

 
At 9:18 AM, Blogger March to the Sea said...

bersonality - fixed my mistake..i even had it in my notes as brother. Thanks for the catch..it is corrected.

evil - indeed.

 
At 9:23 AM, Blogger Trish said...

W00t!

Thanks for another great write-up on a fabby 80s band March. I saw them in concert and had an instant crush on Stuart Adamson. It was at a small venue in Ottawa Ontario . . . I want to say around 1984? Anyways, I was there with some friends and we were right up close to the stage so that I could make eye contact with him - omg! I was 18 and totally infatuated. Great memories. I still listen to them on my iPod.

Very sad news about his suicide.

 
At 3:57 PM, Blogger Travis Erwin said...

One of the many nicknames I've had over the years is Big Country but never quite got into this band however.

 
At 6:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, I was the one who asked you to dust off The Crossing, so thanks :) I look forward to reading your blog each week.
I could go on for ages about Big Country, but I'll just say a couple of things. Firstly I totally agree with the bit about Tony's bass in Fields Of Fire - he is such a great bass player, and secondly, you will find that 2 of the last 2 albums "The Buffalo Skinners", and "Driving To Damascus" were both aimed at American audiences (obviously without much success)but were both excellent albums, particularly DTD.
Anyway, that's my two cents worth.

Craig

 
At 9:27 AM, Blogger March to the Sea said...

Craig..thanks for the advice on the two later records. I will have to check around for them. Thanks again..and let me know if you have anything else in mind..some weeks I am sort of not sure what direction to go.

 
At 6:06 AM, Blogger Hotwire said...

this band was pretty big way back in the olden days when i was in college. thanks for blowing the dust off of this one!

 
At 10:12 PM, Anonymous Jimmy said...

Wow...I can't say how much better this band has gotten with time. I was with them from the beginning seeing their first tour in the states. I lost track of them through time and have only gone back to them the past few years. I can't believe I forgot them for so many years. What a great sound. It is unfortunate that their hit single "In a Big Country" was such a success. Fans asked for more of that sound but they were much better than that. I myself was part of this group. Check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=82YS-9MB2j8 video for "Alone" off Buffalo Skinners. A big loss for music when Stuart passed.

 

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