Remember these guys? Even if you live under a rock, you’ve probably heard the group’s lone U2-style hit “In A Big Country” — whereever there are compilations of 1980’s one-hit wonders, a general rule is that they usually carry this song, right next to The Fixx (oh excuse me, they actually had two hits), Dexys Midnight Runners, and a couple of other UK cult/post-punk acts that don’t immediately come to mind. They came from the same Scottish town (Dunfermline) as classic rock heroes Ian Anderson and Nazareth, and their de facto leader, Stuart Adamson, had also spent some time in another noteable post-punk band prior to Big Country (The Skids).
Now, having a bunch of BC albums I can tell you their career is not really worth getting into beyond the debut. Only the third record, The Seer, kinda sorta comes close to replicating the magic of the first album, but simply replicating is one thing and building on that success is a totally different animal. That was something Big Country was unable to do, and if you’re wondering, the rest of their career is a slow, downward spiral which ended with Adamson’s tragic suicide in 2001, which is why I say get this album and be done with them, unless you’re really curious.
Anyway, Big Country’s debut wasn’t the most original album to come down the pike, but it was infectious enough to seduce American record buyers, for the first and only time in the band’s career. The big hit and early MTV staple “In A Big Country” tells the tale of Crossing the best, combining effects-laden guitar heroics (the infamous bagpipe riff, for example) with an airy arrangement, and an E-bow, of all things, and most everything else follows that formula. Which isn’t a bad thing, because Adamson and crew have put together a prime bunch of tunes: “Chance” combines Eastern mysticism and a bit of the Irish drinking song, “The Storm” is a spooky country-folk number, while the title track blends all these elements together in an epic, multi-part stew. Most of the other songs are decent but don’t jump out at you (“1,000 Stars”, “Harvest Home”), and whoever thinks this is a U2 clone better have The Edge meet Adamson and his bag of guitar tricks, and by the way, I still think it sounds fresh as a daisy all these years later.
One other item of note: the re-issued version adds the 1982 Wonderland EP, which ironically, actually contained a song called “The Crossing” (another “epic” of sorts), while the album in its’ original form didn’t.