The Seer – Big Country ( Mercury Records)

I heard this album once before and that was on a plane, the day I bumped into Stuart adamson and Bruce Watson on a flight to Edinburgh.  It all seemed very appropriate then, sitting above the clouds listening to Stuart ‘s tales of winds and mists, stars and sun and rain and snow.  But every airplane must eventually come back down to earth, and it’s the same with Big Country music; for all of its romantic imagery, its heart is beating very much in reality and its concerns are for the welfare of our children’s children children in the local, national and international circumstances.  It’s heartening that Adamson, confronted with the issues and implications of the present, has not yet lost hope, is still prepared to believe in the greater good of mankind.  In “Eiledon”, he sings of “Strength for us to find/To turn the old to new/And wipe our eyes of misty years/And see the future through”.

He’s even more optimistic, more emotional, on “One Great Thing”.  If there’s one great thing to happen in my life/If there’s one great day/If there’s one great height/Let it be the time for peace/Let it be the time of right”.

Passion and compassion are, of course, the forces that have always driven Big Country and their success in musical terms has been to present these convincingly as well as commercially, to encourage thought but to give us the thrill of the moment with their fiery rhythmic surge, their melodic cheer ….. and their originality.

There’s a problem, though, with originality.  Once it’s established, once a group has created a sound that’s unmistakably their own, it’s then their duty to avoid boring people to death with it.  The overwhelming temptation can be to “develop”, to diversity miles beyond the outlines of the original blueprint or else to get extravagant, pile on layers of decoration to the point of suffocation.  Big Country, with “The Seer”, have done the opposite.

There’s a simplicity about all of this that effectively serves to emphasise the scope which exists within their scheme of things, a scope that extends from the mellow flow of “Hold The Heart” to the straightforward punch of  ”I Walk The Hill”, from the fresh charm of “The Sailor” to the ingenious melodic twists of “The Red Fox”.

The Celtic elements are persuasive still for the same understatement: “Eilidon” is one of the most haunting songs the group has ever recorded, while the title track – which in other hands could have trivialised itself to the point of nonsense – succeeds as a lyrical ballad and a warning.  The athletic warbling of Kate Bush offer an added attraction.

Really, “The Seer” sounds like a compilation album of greatest hits, all bound together by a central theme, such is the strength of its individual tracks.  That a good half of it remained with me through all those weeks after Edinburgh says just about everything you need to know.

Carol Clerk

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