Years and years ago, my brother-in-law Brian, as he examined my record collection, said “You really are loyal to bands you like! You have all these Big Country albums! I only bought the first one!” He was right, and I acknowledged his correctness. When I buy an album and find I like it (and this habit has persisted for decades now), I typically try to keep up with as many of the artist’s later releases as I can track down.
Imagine my surprise, then, to discover that Big Country had released a new album in 2013. That surprise derived from the knowledge that (as all loyal fans of the band will know) Big Country’s acknowledged leader, Stuart Adamson, died in 2001. But there was a further surprise: the new lead singer was The Alarm’s wonderful Mike Peters, who, for worse or most likely for better, sounds absolutely nothing like Adamson. His vocals make Big Country’s new album, The Journey, a point of contention for the kind of loyal fan that Brian proclaimed me to be.
How Is It?
You know, it’s pretty darned good. I will admit at this point that I find it difficult to assess the album as objectively as I ought to. Big Country’s first few albums (The Crossing, Steeltown, The Seer) are so much a part of my musical genome that it’s very hard for me to accept Peters, as good as he is (and this comes from someone who was and still is a fan of The Alarm, too), as the new lead singer. That, even though two of the band’s current five members were founders of the original incarnation. And it’s not just Peters’s vocals that are different from Adamson’s (though they sure are: at times – check out “After the Flood” – he reminds me eerily of Bono); the music itself is different in many ways from what we had come to expect from Big Country.
And Yet, And Yet. . . .
I think, with this kind of album in front of us, the bottom line has to be – do I enjoy listening to it? And we should add, Can I still enjoy it with the original band’s name attached to it? I will answer a qualified “yes” to both those questions. But I have to be honest and say I wonder just why these talented musicians decided to record together under this name. If you’d handed me this album and said “Hey, check this out – it’s a new band called Sizeable Continent,” I think I’d be more enthusiastic about it than I am as I listen to it under the original band’s name; and, again being honest, I’m not sure that there’s any point at which I’d say “Hey, wait a minute – these guys are ripping off Big Country.” This is an enjoyable album by a talented group of musicians. But – I guess I have to say – to this loyal fan’s ears, it just ain’t Big Country.
Check out our review of Big Country's Steeltown.
Please rate this album and visit the band’s website: http://www.bigcountry.co.uk