With their ringing, bagpipe-like guitars and the anthemic songs of frontman Stuart Adamson, Scotland's Big Country emerged as one of the most distinctive and promising new rock bands of the early '80s, scoring a major hit with their debut album, The Crossing; though the group's critical and commercial fortunes dimmed in the years to follow, they nevertheless outlasted virtually all of their contemporaries, releasing new material into the next century.
With producer Steve Lillywhite at the helm, Scotland's Big Country managed to deliver earnest, socially conscious arena anthems in a similar vein to U2 and the Alarm. The twist was their trademark bagpipe sound, achieved through the use of E-Bow. The unique sound of "In a Big Country" garnered the band considerable attention and a Top 20 single in the U.S. The Crossing, however, is an album whose richness goes beyond the single. The more subdued "Chance" is sparser and its personal lyrics are every bit as heartfelt as the more populist-inclined anthems like the wonderful "The Storm" or the thundering "Fields of Fire." The lyrics are straightforward and, despite the grand themes of many of the tracks, manage to steer clear of being overly pretentious. While this album earned the band a gold record, Big Country's sound and image (reinforced by the members' tartan checked shirts) resulted in them being tagged a novelty, and they never duplicated their initial success in America.
Big Country may never have reached the commercial highs of similarly structured outfits like the Waterboys and U2, but the Scottish rockers had all the ingredients needed for stadium domination. This two-disc U.K. collection from Spectrum dutifully chronicles the underrated Dunfermline, Fife-based outfit’s nearly 20-year career, from the band's classic 1983 debut, The Crossing, to 1999’s Driving to Damascus. Listeners who only know the group’s two big international hits (“In a Big Country” and "Fields of Fire”) will find in Fields of Fire: The Ultimate Collection a veritable treasure trove (as in 35 excellent remastered tracks) of anthemic modern rock with a rural twist, propelled in large part by the late Stuart Adamson’s soaring, bagpipe-inspired guitar leads.