Big Country – Steeltown (1984)

FrontCover1Steeltown is the second studio album by Scottish band Big Country. The album was recorded at ABBA’s Polar Studios in Stockholm with Steve Lillywhite producing. It was released on 19 October 1984, in the UK and 29 October 1984, in the United States. It was released on CD only in Germany, as well as remastered and reissued there.

Steeltown is the band’s only UK number 1 album, topping the chart for 1 week in October 1984. The title track Steeltown was written about the town of Corby, telling how many Scots went to work at the Stewarts & Lloyds steelworks when it opened in 1935, at the height of the Great Depression, but later found themselves unemployed when the steelworks declined in the early 1980s. (Source: Melody Maker, 1984)

The 1996 reissue contains all of the B-sides from the album’s single releases as well as the extended version of “Wonderland”

“East Of Eden” was the only Top 20 single from the album, reaching #17 in the UK chart. (by wikipedia)

Ad“Clanging and crackling with energy, this second album from Big Country rings natural evolutionary changes on the band’s stirring twin-guitar sound even as it frames still better news: bandleader Stuart Adamson has rapidly matured into a songwriter capable of bringing meticulous craft to his obvious passion. (Fred Schruers, Rolling Stone)

For their second album, Big Country took a heavier direction, both in terms of sound and in lyrical content. Where their exuberant, mega successful 1983 debut, `The Crossing’, used their bagpipe guitar technique to tell somewhat mythical `Boys Own’ stories of heroic soldiers, ships and soaring romance, `Steeltown’ was a darker, more political work. It was full of social observation and examinations of the problems of the British working classes. The romance was still there, but it had become muted and tragic, the soldiers angry and disillusioned. In a way, `The Crossing’ could be seen as a patriotic call to arms and `Steeltown’ the awful post-war reality of husbands killed in war, dole queues and domestic violence.

Lead singer and guitarist, Stuart Adamson’s lyrics are more developed and poetic on `Steeltown’, telegraphing that he had very serious intentions for this band, which went far beyond the gimmick of their guitar sound. In grand imagery, the soaring hard rock attack of the opening track, `Flame of the West’, tells the tale of a visit by a rich politician or industrialist (US movie star President, Ronald Reagan?), to the impoverished mining towns. Adamson sets the tone for the album here – it is working class outrage. The slower, dirgier second track, `East of Eden’, is beautiful and angry, as he takes on the part of a worker in the modern industrial machine (“I looked west in search of freedom and I saw slavery, I looked east in search of answers and I saw misery”). Then the aggression of the towering, anthemic title track makes it abundantly clear that exploitation of the working classes is his main concern this time out (“We built all this with our own hands, But who could know we built on sand”).

Singles

The songs that follow look at the hypocrisy used to motivate young men to go to battle (`Where the Rose is Sown’), the plight of a young mother whose husband is killed in war (`Come Back to Me’) and the frustration of dead end work that ends in relationship breakdown (`Just a Shadow’). Other songs are less overt, but take on a resonance from those around them (`The Girl with Grey Eyes’, `The Great Divide’).

Adamson’s vocals are an impassioned cry on much of this album, but beautifully tender and sadly contemplative on the slower tracks (`The Girl with Grey Eyes’, `Just a Shadow). The musicianship is first rate throughout and Mark Brzezicki’s drumming is fantastic. Steve Lillywhite (U2, Peter Gabriel, Souxie and the Banshees, XTC) once again produces, coating proceedings with a slick sheen while retaining just enough grit to keep it sounding authentic.

MC

Though `Steeltown’ indisputably retains the Big Country sound, it is not an immediately accessible album, but it is one that delivers great rewards with repeated listens. (by B S Marlay)

I added the remastert versions from this LP as a bonus.

BackCover1

Personnel:
Stuart Adamson (guitar, piano, vocals)
Mark Brzezicki (drums, percussion, vocals)
Tony Butler (bass, vocals)
Bruce Watson (guitar, mandolin, sitar, vocals)

Booklet1

Tracklist:
01. Flame Of The West 5.01
02. East Of Eden 4.29
03. Steeltown 4.39
04. Where The Rose Is Sown 4.58
05. Come Back To Me 4.35
06. Tall Ships Go 4.38
07. Girl With Grey Eyes 4.47
08. Rain Dance 4.19
09. The Great Divide 4.50
10. Just A Shadow 5.38

Music: Stuart Adamson – Mark Brzezicki – Tony Butler – Bruce Watson
Lyrics: Stuart Adamson

LabelB1

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More Big Country, one of my favorite bands from the 80´s (click on the pic):

MoreBigCountry

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