Big Country – No Place Like Home (1991)

FrontCover1No Place Like Home is the fifth studio album by Scottish band Big Country, released in 1991. (see 1991 in music). Its title derives from a quote in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which is referenced by the first track, “We’re Not in Kansas”. Dorothy’s statement was in turn taken from the famous poem and song Home! Sweet Home! by John Howard Payne and Henry Bishop. (by wikipedia)

By 1991, Big Country had decided to ditch the Scottish lilt theme from their sound, seemingly in a quest, not only to evolve from the 1980s music scene, but to make themselves more relevant to the US market. But, as was their mistake with 1988’s `Peace in Our Time’, they chose to work with another unsuitable American producer. Pat Moran had been engineer and producer for big-sounding, overblown prog rock metal outfits like Hawkwind, Budgie, Rush, Lou Gramm (from Foreigner), Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant and for Dr Feelgood (though, he had also produced a few albums for Iggy Pop as well). But, for The Bigs, his approach did not seem to work very well.

Big Country’s sound, whether Scottish in flavour or not, is a big sound that needs big production. Curiously, given his evident background, Pat Moran does not deliver a big enough, or at least, the right kind of big sound for their music here.

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It is a shame, because practically all the songs on `No Place like Home’ are actually quite good. Setting the tone with the twang of opening track, `We’re Not in Kansas’, the set (practically to the point of cliché) achieves an almost classically American sound – which is curious, given how critical its lyrics are of the US. Maybe that was meant to be irony! The sound, along with the awkward cover art, is also infused with a certain 60s psychedelia. This quality gives it another interesting dimension, even if it is somewhat under-realized.

Most of the tracks are rocky. But the use of cool effects, such as wah wah pedals, in some of the songs, are not strong enough in the mix to truly make them groove. Others wind up sounding a little ho hum. `We’re not in Kansas’, `Republican Party Reptile’, `The Hostage Speaks’, `Beautiful People’ (featuring banjos) and the reflective closing track, `Into the Fire’ are all great. There is even an echo of the soaring exuberance of their former selves on the excellent `Keep on Dreaming’. But the pièce de résistance is definitely `You, Me and the Truth’, an acid-rock imbued ballad which easily sits among the best songs the band ever wrote and recorded.

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Stuart Adamson continued to try and Americanize his accent on this recording, an error that plagued Big Country’s later recordings to varying degrees. He gets away with it here, but unfortunately, it is just another factor that works against real sonic success for this fifth album. Another seems to be drummer Mark Brzezicki’s change from band member to session muso. All in all, though, it is reasonable. (by B. S. Marlay)

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Personnel:
Stuart Adamson (guitar, vocals)
Tony Butler (bass, vocals)
Bruce Watson (guitar, mandolin)
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Pat Ahern (drums on 15.)
Mark Brzezicki (drums, percussion)
Richie Close (piano)
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background vocals:
Katie Kissoon – Carol Kenyon

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Tracklist:
01. We’re Not In Kansas (Adamson) 6.13
02. Republican Party Reptile (Adamson/Watson) 4.02
03. Dynamite Lady (Adamson) 5.36
04. Keep On Dreaming (Adamson)  4:00
05. Beautiful People (Adamson) 5.34
06. The Hostage Speaks (Adamson/Butler/Watson) 5.52
07. Beat The Devil (Adamson) 4.04
08. Leap Of Faith (Adamson) 5.44
09. You, Me And The Truth (Adamson) 5.19
10. Comes A Time (Adamson) 3.54
11. Ships (Adamson/Watson) 4.01
12. Into The Fire (Adamson/Butler/Watson) 5.54
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13. Heart Of The World (Adamson) 3,46
14. Kiss The Girl Goodbye (Adamson) 5.12
15. Freedom Song (Adamson) 4.33

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More Big Country

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