KamerTunesBlog

Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time

Thirty Year Thursday – BIG COUNTRY “THE SEER”

[Welcome to Thirty Year Thursday, the weekly series on my favorite albums of 1986]

Artist: BIG COUNTRY
Album: THE SEER

Big Country - The SeerFor most American music fans of my generation, Big Country was a one-hit wonder with their 1983 Top 20 single “In A Big Country.” To a small but devoted contingent of people like me, however, they are one of the most important artists of all time, a powerful awe-inspiring live band that released eight essential studio albums over a nearly 2-decade career prior to the death of songwriter/lead singer/guitarist Stuart Adamson in 2001. In my first Great Out Of The Gate post last year, I described their debut album The Crossing as “one of the rare albums that truly changed my life,” and I’m equally passionate about the rest of their catalog. They were much more successful on the other side of the Atlantic, with four Top 10 albums and more than a dozen Top 40 singles. Clearly their homeland embraced them more than we did, but in some ways that gave us U.S. fans the feeling of being part of an exclusive club.

Their sophomore album Steeltown was a monster hit at home, reaching the top of the charts, and it’s long been my nominee for “best album of the ‘80s.” Unfortunately, the dark & dense production and the political nature of most of the songs scared off American audiences, and by the time their third album The Seer was released in 1986, they had been forgotten by the majority of fans who were won over just three years earlier. I’ve often thought that their career would have taken on a completely different trajectory had their second & third albums been released in reverse order. First single “Look Away” was as radio-friendly as anything on The Crossing, and even managed to get some airplay on rock radio stations. Rousing tracks like “One Great Thing,” “I Walk The Hill” and “Remembrance Day” were tailor made for stadiums full of fist-pumping fans. The incredible rhythm section of drummer Mark Brzezicki and bassist Tony Butler shine throughout, but their performances are especially noteworthy on songs like “Teacher,” “The Seer” (with guest vocals by Kate Bush, her second appearance in Thirty Year Thursday after her duet with Peter Gabriel) and the majestic “Eiledon,” an epic track that’s among the best songs in their discography. The Seer even includes their first straightforward ballad, “Hold The Heart,” which should have been as successful as U2’s “With Or Without You.” 

Big Country Photo circa 1986

Big Country was also one of those rare artists whose b-sides were as important as their singles and album tracks. If this post inspires you to check them out for the first time, or to further explore their catalog, you’ll be well-served by expanded CD reissues that include the majority of their rarities. Their soundtrack to the Scottish film “Restless Natives” is excellent, and “Song Of The South” would have been a welcome inclusion on The Seer. Some of the production choices on this album date-stamp it to 1986, but the songs and performances are timeless and it still thrills me as much as it did 30 years ago.

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27 comments on “Thirty Year Thursday – BIG COUNTRY “THE SEER”

  1. ianbalentine
    March 10, 2016

    I really need to get this one. When it was first released I absolutely devoured The Crossing. I know that you are aware I lost them with the follow up only to have my passion reignited by you, and you’re correct Steeltown is a masterpiece. This will now be my next step to becoming a Big Country obsessive.

    Like

    • I’m so thrilled that you fell in love with Steeltown. I hope the same thing happens with The Seer. It was their first album without Steve Lillywhute in the producer’s chair, so the sonic landscape is slightly different, but the songwriting & musicianship were as great as ever. Enjoy your descent into Big Country obsession. Haha.

      Like

      • ianbalentine
        March 10, 2016

        I always welcome a new obsession, Rich. They’ve been mostly of a neo-prog nature recently; I think I now own everything Spock’s Beard, Porcupine Tree, Wilson, and the Flower Kings ever released! But at heart I’m a pop and rock kind of guy, and Big Country is a welcome addition to my growing list of musical obsessions. Thanks! Also, thanks for Hall and Oates. Brilliant stuff there, too, especially enamored with the early discs.

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      • Of course I appreciate your recent neo-prog obsession. I was fortunate to discover those artists in the mid- to late-’90s, and the resurgence of prog into the (somewhat) mainstream has been a joy to witness. Glad you’re enjoying some early H&O as well. Such great music.

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  2. Heavy Metal Overload
    March 10, 2016

    Another superb 30yo! Been listening to Big Country a lot lately. I prefer the previous two… but only just and I agree this is essential. Look Away is a brilliant opener.

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    • Heavy Metal Overload
      March 10, 2016

      And they get extra points for this clearly being their ‘Miami Vice’ era.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Haha, I love that they changed their look for this album so drastically compared to the flannel plaid look of the first few years. One of the reasons I took to them so quickly was that I was already dressing like that in ’81 & ’82, so it was great to see a band copying my look. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      • Heavy Metal Overload
        March 10, 2016

        Always loved the look! (and the TV Show) Also… photos or it never happened! Heheh

        Like

      • Haha. I was never a Miami Vice fan but I appreciated the new, sleek look they had. The change wasn’t as drastic as the next one, when Bruce Watson grew his red hair really long and Tony Butler grew dreadlocks for Peace In Our Time, a very underrated album in their catalog.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Scott. Glad you’ve been in a BC mood lately. I agree that The Seer is just slightly less perfect than the previous two albums, but it’s still pretty close. Also, I can’t argue about “Look Away” being an excellent album opener.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Heavy Metal Overload
        March 10, 2016

        The bonus tracks from the era ramp it up to equal standing anyway! The Restless Natives stuff is wonderful. I’ve only got the album after this though so not heard any larger stuff. I’d love to catch up. Adamson was a tragic loss. Got a great box set if his earlier stuff with The Skids recently.

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      • Yep, the bonus tracks are pretty vital to this whole era. It’s a shame they didn’t release Restless Natives as a separate mini-album. I was fortunate to find those 12″ singles at a very reasonable price in 1986. I’ve had the whole Skids discography on vinyl since the late-’80s but I also got the box set you’re referring to. What a great package, and essential for any Stuart Adamson fan.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. J.
    March 10, 2016

    Great to see Big Country here, Rich. I’m not too familiar with this one, though. Really only familiar with the ‘hits’ but, again, a band that I’ve been intending to investigate further (have been for years!)

    Like

    • Thanks, J. Needless to say I highly recommend a further exploration into their catalog. The albums after this one are an acquired taste for a lot of people, but the first three are definitive and contain multiple classic tracks. Please let me know your thoughts if/when you give them a listen.

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      • J.
        March 10, 2016

        You betcha, Rich. As you can imagine, I see their albums fairly regularly!

        Like

      • You’ll probably find them at reasonable prices, but once you’re hooked you’ll want/need to have the deluxe editions, so choose wisely.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Phillip Helbig
    March 11, 2016

    “Haha, I love that they changed their look for this album so drastically compared to the flannel plaid look of the first few years.”

    I never saw them with Adamson, but have in newer incarnations, with the addition of the son of the guitarist and the bloke from The Alarm on vocals and, on at least one of these occasions, the first bassist from the Simple Minds replacing Butler. Speaking of clothes, he was wearing a skirt, though of course this is par for the course for a Scotsman.

    Like

    • Sorry you never got to experience BC with Adamson, Phillip. They were a force to be reckoned with, and I don’t think I’m overstating it when I say that they were one of the most powerful live bands of all time. I only saw them twice, both on their 1993 Buffalo Skinners tour. Not only were they amazing, but I got to meet all four of them and they couldn’t have been nicer. I had met Brzezicki a couple of years earlier when he was playing with Simon Townshend’s On The Air in NYC (after he briefly left BC), and he was kind enough to pretend that he remembered meeting me.

      I also saw the Mike Peters-fronted version of the band in Edinburgh a few years ago, when Butler was still playing with them. My wife & I were in Scotland for a friend’s wedding and the timing was perfect. Needless to say we had a great time, and you can see us in the front row of the balcony on the DVD of that show. I’m glad there’s a version of the band still out there bringing the music to fans, and the current singer sounds more like Adamson than Peters did.

      Like

  5. 80smetalman
    March 11, 2016

    Years ago, I heard quite a bit of stuff from Big Country and most of it I liked. I think that “hit” didn’t really do them justice as they were better than what that song suggested.

    Like

    • The hit you’re referring to, “In A Big Country,” was my introduction and I immediately fell in love with this band. I think it’s a good entry point but only scratches the surface of what they were capable of. Glad you’ve enjoyed most of what you’ve heard by them.

      Liked by 1 person

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  7. Murphy's Law
    March 15, 2016

    I love this album as well as the previous 2. Admittedly, they lost me with Peace in Our Time. I don’t want to use the “S-O” word (although my 18 year old self did) but I didn’t appreciate the change in sound.

    Like

    • Thanks for the feedback, Murphy’s Law. I understand why a lot of fans jumped ship when Peace In Our Time came out, but once you get past the thinner production and Adamson’s more Americanized vocal style, it’s a really strong collection of songs. There are also some amazing b-sides from that era. Not sure my comments will convince you, but if you ever give it another shot I would love to find out how you feel about it.

      Cheers!
      Rich

      Like

      • Murphy's Law
        March 16, 2016

        I got rid of it long ago but if I happen to see a copy I will certainly give it another try.

        Like

      • I hope you feel differently about Peace In Our Time if/when you give it another chance. Hopefully you can find a reasonably-priced copy of the deluxe edition, which features so many great b-sides & demo recordings.

        Like

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