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.
For its fourth album, Big Country made two changes seemingly intended to bolster its fortunes in America – switching from Mercury Records to Reprise and enlisting hot producer Peter Wolf. The bagpipe guitar sound was de-emphasized, along with the political lyrics, and Wolf treated singer Stuart Adamson as he had Starship singer Mickey Thomas, adding echo and backup harmonies to beef him up. On songs like the lead-off single "King Of Emotion" (Top 20 in Britain, non-charting in the U.S.), Wolf sought to retain Big Country's heroic quality while adding the widescreen dramatic style and cheerleader choral approach of Starship's "We Built This City." It was a brave try, but didn't really suit the group, making Peace In Our Time Big Country's least representative and least interesting album. (Nevertheless, the title track made the U.K. Top 40, and "Broken Heart [Thirteen Valleys]" also charted.)
Big Country comprised Stuart Adamson (formerly of Skids, vocals/guitar/keyboards), Bruce Watson (guitar/mandolin/sitar/vocals), Tony Butler (bass guitar/vocals) and Mark Brzezicki (drums/percussion/vocals). Before the recruitment of Butler and Brzezicki an early incarnation of Big Country was a five-piece band, featuring Peter Wishart (later of Runrig and now an SNP MP) on keyboards, his brother Alan on bass, and Clive Parker, drummer from Spizz Energi/Athletico Spizz '80. Parker had approached Adamson to join his new band after the demise of Skids.
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 who were one of Britain's most successful international rock acts during the 80's were very popular in Germany where all this material originates. Hit singles and albums many TV and festival appearances they toured consistently there until their end in 2000. This DVD is from 1995. The main concert is from their headline appearance at Das Fest in Karlsruhe.