‘The Crossing’ was Big Country’s debut studio album and was released on July 15th 1983, the albums best known track is the top 40 hit “In a Big Country”, that thing was all over the place when it was released…..and I never got sick of it.
Below is the original review for ‘The Crossing’ from the Sept 13th 1983 issue of Rolling Stone Magazine.
Here’s a big-noise guitar band from Britain that blows the knobs off all the synth-pop diddlers and fake-funk frauds who are cluttering up the charts these days. Big Country mops up the fops with an air-raid guitar sound that’s unlike anything else around, anywhere, and if their debut album promises more than the four musicians can quite deliver at this stage in their young career, what it does deliver – especially on the Top Ten U.K. hit “Fields of Fire,” one of the great, resounding anthems of this or any other year–is sufficiently scintillating to preclude any extended critical carps about the group’s occasional lack of focus. At this point, the big picture is clear enough.
Like the Irish band U2 (with whom they share young, guitar-wise producer Steve Lillywhite), Big Country has no use for synthesizers, and their extraordinary twin-guitar sound should make The Crossing a must-own item for rock die-hards. Generally dispensing with power chords, the group’s two lead guitarists, Scotsmen Stuart Adamson (formerly of the Skids) and Bruce Watson, whip up skirling, bagpipelike single-string riffs that, on such crackling tracks as “Fields of Fire,” “In a Big Country” and the grandly martial “Harvest Home,” are a nonstop, spine-tingling delight. The slightly out-of-kilter guitar lines intertwine into a trebly alarm that has all the galvanic urgency of an ambulance careening down a darkened city street–it’s really something to hear.
There’s more, too. Adding oomph down below is the muscular rhythm section of bassist Tony Butler and drummer Mark Brzezicki (both were featured on Pete Townshend’s last two solo albums, and Butler appeared on the Pretenders’ “Back on the Chain Gang” single). Brzezicki, in particular, is more than just a sideman, adding both mainline whomp and wailing fills on all the best tracks. The group’s vocal sound (all four members sing) is identifiably human–a refreshing concept–and though Adamson’s leads sometimes lack nuance; one suspects he’ll get the hang of it. At his full-throated best, he already approximates some of the arena-reaching, emotional power of a young Bruce Springsteen, and that’ll do for starters.
If The Crossing were all blast and bellow, it would still be a gripping LP. But several of the ten songs here–all blessedly free of the cheap, received decadence that disfigures so much current Anglo pop–are lyrically stirring in their own right. The brotherly, against-the-trend optimism of “In a Big Country” (“…that’s a desperate way to look/For someone who is still a child”) is mightily appealing in an era of witless gloom mongering, and the tenderness of the conception of “Chance,” a tale of mismarried youth (“…you played chance with a lifetime’s romance/And the price was far too long”), is unusual for a band of such hard musical instincts. Even when they address the common helplessness felt in the face of impending nuclear apocalypse in “1000 Stars” (“It’s not between you and me/But we are losing”), Big Country aims for the heart, not mere pop hyperbole.
The Crossing is not without flaws: the tone setups cause the guitars to lapse into murk at times, subverting the power of the playing, and the lyrics are occasionally so private–or so poorly thought out–as to be inscrutable. But the big sound is truly unique, and the best songs speak to real subjects. I can’t wait to hear them live.
Kurt Loder (Sept 15 1983)