Posts Tagged ‘Stuart Adamson’

Cherry Red’s longtime association with Scottish rockers Big Country – which manifested in a release of the group’s last album The Journey in 2013 and continued with deluxe reissues of latter-day and live bootleg material in 2017 and 2018 – continues with another multi-disc anthology project due this September.

Cherry Red Records are pleased to announce the release of “Out Beyond The River: The Complete Compulsion Recordings”, a newly remastered six disc boxed set featuring the original classic line-up of Scottish rock giants Big Country, fronted by the late Stuart Adamson. A new 5 Disc boxed set anthology (5CDs / 1 DVD) celebrating the recordings of Big Country, made between 1993 and 1994 for Chrysalis Records imprint Compulsion. Featuring 71 tracks on five discs, including the albums ‘The Buffalo Skinners’ and the double live album ‘Without The Aid Of A Safety Net’, recorded at Barrowlands Ballroom in Glasgow on 29th December 1993. Includes rare B-Sides / bonus tracks, US radio mixes, previously unreleased instrumental demos, plus the original demo for every track on ‘The Buffalo Skinners’ album. DVD includes highlights from the Glasgow Barrowlands concert, together with promo videos for the singles ‘Ships’ and ‘Alone’ DVD is UK region PAL.

Out Beyond The River – The Compulsion Years Anthology showcases the group’s journey through the mid-’90s as they released The Buffalo Skinners, which was their sixth album, in 1993. After seeing all their albums reach the U.K. Top 10 in the ’80s (plus a No. 2 compilation, Through a Big Country, in 1990), the group fell on hard times as musical tastes shifted. They left long time label Phonogram for Vertigo in the U.K. and recorded the difficult No Place Like Home in 1991. Drummer Mark Brzezicki left the group during recording, leaving frontman Stuart Adamson, guitarist Bruce Watson and bassist Tony Butler to continue as a trio; following poor sales of 1988’s Peace In Our Time in America, the album was not released stateside.

But hope was around the corner: veteran A&R man Chris Briggs, who’d recently begun mentoring Robbie Williams of Take That fame, was lured to Chrysalis/EMI with the allowance to create Compulsion Records, a new label. His first signee: Big Country – a fitting reunion, as Briggs had signed the group to Phonogram more than a decade earlier. With a renewed sense of energy – the group produced this one themselves – The Buffalo Skinners was a return to and refreshment of the classic guitar-driven Big Country sound, continuing the group’s foray into pointed political lyrics (“What Are You Working For,” “The Selling Of America,” “We’re Not In Kansas” – the latter revisited after kicking off No Place Like Home). Best of all, the group returned to the U.K. Top 40 twice for the first time since 1989 with “Alone” and another re-recorded track from No Place, “Ships.” An American deal with 20th Century-Fox’s fledgling music arm yielded a moderate modern rock cut, “The One I Love.”

The group continued doing what they did best – namely, hitting the road. With Brzezicki back behind the drum kit, the quartet packed European theaters and American small clubs, rousing audiences with favourites new and old (and, in a nod to current rock trends, often offering an “unplugged” portion of the set – an accidental moment of brilliance after a venue they performed at that year lost power). At the close of 1993, Big Country performed a trio of dates in Scotland and England recorded for a live album and video, Without The Aid Of a Safety Net. Considered by fans to be one of the definitive concert documents of the group, the album earned them another U.K. Top 40 placement.

That rousing period, and everything in between, makes up Out Beyond The River. This 5CD/DVD set includes previously expanded editions of The Buffalo Skinners and Without The Aid Of a Safety Net issued by EMI in 2005 (the latter of which was presented across two discs for a complete concert experience). Another two bonus discs collect The Buffalo Skinners‘ various, uncompiled B-sides, remixes and early versions, including unreleased instrumental demos and monitor mixes alongside demos released on rare fan collections. The box wraps up with a DVD of the original Without The Aid Of a Safety Net film and two music videos. (Unfortunately, the DVD seems to be PAL-only.) Like previous Big Country boxes from Cherry Red, each disc is housed in its own mini-jacket, encased in a clamshell case.

Out Beyond The River is due September 25th.

Big Country / Essential 3CD set

Universal Music will issue another great value three-CD Essential set under their budget Spectrum imprint, this time featuring Scottish rock band Big Country.

This package includes all 13 of the band’s UK top 30 singles (including ‘Look Away’, ‘One Great Thing’, ‘Chance’ and ‘Wonderland’) as well as highlighting key album cuts (including the title track of 1986’s The Seer which features vocals from one Kate Bush) and offering a smattering of remixes. A live cover of the soul classic ‘The Tracks of My Tears’ features at the end of CD 2.

This set takes us up to 1991, although the band would continue releasing albums and touring until the end of the millennium. Frontman Stuart Adamson tragically took his own life in December 2001. The amazing thing about this Scottish rock group is that none of them were born in Scotland. In fact, Bruce Watson (posessor of the group’s thickest brogue) was born in Ontario,Canada. And we still don’t know what a “Porrohman” is (Porrohman is an african witch doctor, the song in part is based on a short story which i think was called Pollock and the Porroh man, it was published in a book of short stories edited by herbert van thal in the pan horror series ) .

Funny how times change…back in the early 80s it seemed like a three horse race with Big Country, U2 and The Alarm in the frame and BC were always a great gig, too many check shirts perhaps but always a great gig! Otherwise, the Thin Lizzy set with fifty tracks for a fiver, Like the previously announced The Human League Essential package (due out on 5th June) this triple-disc Big Country offering is not really one for the diehards, although anyone with half an interest should find plenty of rewards for their £7 investment. Also in the series is a Thin Lizzy collection ( all details on Amazon)

“Essential Big Country” is released on 19th July 2020.

Big Country / The Seer 2LP reissue

Indie rock band Big Country’s 1986 album “The Seer” is being reissued as an expanded 2LP set in July. The album features the band’s biggest UK hit “Look Away” and the title track features vocals by a certain Ms Kate Bush .This the third proper album by Scottish quartet kicks off with the stellar “Look Away,” a rocking outlaw tale with very cool guitar work from Bruce Watson and lead singer and guitarist Stuart Adamson. However, the simple, anthemic choruses and effects-laden guitars are beginning to wear four years on after the band’s promising breakthrough. After the darkness and social commentary of their second album, `Steeltown‘, the Bigs returned with a set full of soaring majestic romance, Boys Own adventures, soldiers, witches, heroes and tales of the high seas – all polished up with the pop sensibilities that were evident on their 1983 debut, `The Crossing’. As a result, `The Seer’ is a much brasher, more commercially minded work than they were.

Big Country does little to expand on their sound or lyrical themes and is somewhat disappointing. There are a few solid tracks like the stirring “Eiledon,” is an ode to a beautiful land (“I may walk in cities where the wolf once had his fill”) and `Hold the Heart’, a ballad of a man hoping his lover will come back to him (“I would lie and curse the day, And visit places where we lay alone, And find them turned to stone”).Then things pick up again with the grand rocking adventure of `Remembrance Day’, `The Red Fox’ and the breath taking album closer, `The Sailor’.

It managed to chart three singles in the U.K., with “Look Away” going Top Ten. The opening single, `Look Away’ is a rollicking rock track about a man on the run after committing a murder, desperately trying to retain the trust of his woman and convince her to ignore the stories she will hear about him. There is Wild West undertone to this that finds its perfect sonic partner in the third track, `The Teacher’ about a young man’s first love. “The Seer” is an epic Celtic journey through the visions of rape and pillage foretold by a Seer who “washed her hair among the stones”.

The new vinyl edition is pressed on two 180g black vinyl records and features four bonus tracks. These are ‘Song Of The South’, ‘Look Away (12” Mix)’, ‘One Great Thing (Disco Mix)’, and ‘Giant’.

The 2LP expanded vinyl reissue of “The Seer” is released on 26 July 2019 via Music On Vinyl.

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Skids were an art-punk/punk rock and New Wave band from Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland, founded in 1977 by Stuart Adamson (1958–2001, guitars / backing vocals / keyboards / percussion), William Simpson (bass guitar / backing vocals), Thomas Kellichan (drums) and Richard Jobson (vocals / guitar / keyboards). Their biggest success was the single “Into the Valley”, released in 1979.

The complete session recorded by Skids on 16th May 1978 for the John Peel show on BBC Radio 1 and broadcast on the 19th of that month.

The John Peel session and possibly one of the best for me personally as the 3 original tunes were never made available beyond the broadcasted session though there was another version of WOTWS on a `Best Of’ compilation. These tracks really underline how fast the Skids were developing as a band and their keen ear for a tune. As another fan has already said, it’s a shame all the sessions weren’t bunched together and put out as a vinyl LP.

Peel was a big supporter of the band and saw them play live on at least one occasion, probably twice. The track “TV Stars” recorded for the group’s debut session namechecks Peel. According to singer Richard Jobson, it was made up on the spot during the session itself A live version of this was released as the b-side to the group’s fourth single, ‘Into The Valley’.

16th May 1978

Richard Jobson (Vocals)
Stuart Adamson (Lead Guitar)
William Simpson (Bass)
Thomas Kellichan (Drums)

The complete session recorded by Skids on 29th August 1978 for the John Peel show on BBC Radio 1 and broadcast on 1st September 1978.

29th August 1978 

Richard Jobson (Vocals)
Stuart Adamson (Lead Guitar)
William Simpson (Bass)
Thomas Kellichan (Drums)

The complete session recorded by Skids on 19 February 1979 for the John Peel show on BBC Radio 1 and broadcast on the 26th of that month.

19th February 1979

Richard Jobson (Vocals)
Stuart Adamson (Lead Guitar)
William Simpson (Bass)
Thomas Kellichan (Drums)

The complete session recorded by Skids on 30th April 1979 for the John Peel show on BBC Radio 1 and broadcast on 7th May 1979. “Hymns From A Haunted Ballroom” was released in November 1979 as part of the special 2 x 7″ issue of ‘Working For the Yankee Dollar” single, where keyboards are credited to Midge Ure

30th April 1979

Richard Jobson (Vocals)
Stuart Adamson (Lead Guitar)
William Simpson (Bass)
Thomas Kellichan (Drums)

1st September 1980

Richard Jobson (Vocals, Guitar-Snakes And Ladders (Instrumental)
Russell Webb (Bass, Guitar)
Mike Baillie (Drums)
John Mcgeoch (Guitar-Filming In Africa, An Incident In Algiers, Circus Games, Vocals-Filming In Africa, Circus Games)
Steve Severin (Vocals-Filming In Africa, Circus Games Only)

“The Five sessions”. All available on The Virgin Years boxset (CD6), Virgin (2015). released in 2009 as digital download and on streaming services.

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The Skids were a Scottish punk rock and new wave band, formed in Dunfermline, Fife, in 1977 by Stuart Adamson (guitar, keyboards, percussion and backing vocals), William Simpson (bass guitar and backing vocals), Thomas Kellichan (drums) and Richard Jobson (vocals, guitar and keyboards). Their biggest success was the 1979 single “Into the Valley” and the 1980 album The Absolute Game.

Skids played their first gig on 19th August 1977 at the Bellville Hotel in Pilmuir Street Dunfermline.  Within six months they had released the “Charles” EP on the No Bad Record label, created by Sandy Muir, a Dunfermline Record shop and music shop owner turned Manager. The record brought them to the attention of national BBC Radio 1 Disc jockey John Peel. This led to a local gig supporting The Clash. Virgin Records then signed up Skids in April 1978.

In a two year period in 1979-80, the Skids hit the UK top 40, four times, with singles like “Into The Valley” (a top 10 hit), “Masquerade” and “Circus Games” plus the singles “Sweet Suburbia” and “The Saints Are Coming” both made commercial inroads, Guitarist Stuart Adamson left the band in 1980 to form Big Country, while singer Richard Jobson went on to form The Armoury Show, before becoming a poet, TV presenter, writer and film director, with six features films to his name.

Adamson took his own life in 2001. The Skids first reformed in 2007, with Adamson’s former Big Country band mate Bruce Watson, and Watson’s son Jamie, on guitars.

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Scared to Dance

The band released their debut studio album, “Scared to Dance” the same year. It was recorded at The Townhouse Studios in London, England with record producer David Batchelor, Adamson walked out towards the end of the sessions before all the guitar overdubs were completed .Session guitarist Chris Jenkins was chief maintenance engineer at Townhouse studios and completed the album using Adamson’s studio set up, adding additional guitar to four tracks “Into the Valley”, “Integral Plot”, “Calling the Tune” and “Scared to Dance”.

The Skids’ anthem was born from Alfred Tennyson’s The Charge of the Light Brigade – its anti-war sentiments are still relevant today. People seem to remember it more for my daft dancing rather than the themes we were exploring. That’s the price you pay for doing a daft dance on TOTP.”

In the meantime, Adamson had returned to Scotland when the recording was finished. He re-joined the band for the live concert tour promotion of the album. The record included “The Saints Are Coming”, which was later covered in late 2006 as a single by American band Green Day.

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Days in Europa

Skids enjoyed a further year of chart success as “Masquerade” and “Working for the Yankee Dollar” reached the UK Top 20 singles chart. Both came from their second album, also released in 1979, “Days in Europa” with the record’s production and keyboards by Bill Nelson (musician) of Be-Bop Deluxe” Nelson was the obvious choice for the record’s production duties as he was not only Adamson’s principal ‘guitar hero’ but also an enormous influence on Adamson’s playing. Nelson also played an important role in polishing Skids’ sound and in encouraging the development of Jobson’s lyrics. Just before recording of the album commenced, Kellichan left the band and was temporarily replaced on drums by Rusty Egan from the band Visage and later The Rich Kids The New Romantic Egan played on the album and later on the live concert tour of the record. Keyboard player Alistair Moore also temporarily joined the band to perform live with them. He had been recruited to play Bill Nelson’s keyboard parts from the record. The opening track of [second album] Days In Europa. It sets the tone for the new Skids. This was our second album. We had gone to Wales to record with Bill Nelson and we wanted to do something new and fresh. Bill encouraged me to write lyrics the way I wanted to write, which is captured perfectly here in this abstract poem on the working man. “Thanatos” “A blistering, ferocious song that always seemed to work better live than on record. It sits well on Days In Europa. We still play the song today as part of our live set and it still works. A song about Death called Death. I think I must have been going through a difficult period with my health at the time which has dogged me all my life. I’m epileptic.”

I was thinking about my father when I wrote it, he was a coal-miner. Adamson’s guitar work is brilliant and Rusty Egan helped develop a new sound through his innovative drum playing.” People missed the irony of Days In Europa and misread the lyrics as having some kind of Fascist fetish thing going on. I hate fascists and everything they stand for. The song was about the undue pressure put on young men to be somebody in the traditional sense of masculinity. This was something we all rejected.”

“A backwards version of Animation with a spoken word poem about the crumbling fabric of Europe after WW2. It was a brave thing to do at the time and critics were always looking to shoot anyone down who dared rise above their station. Fuck the critics.”

In November 1979 Mike Baillie, ex-Insect Bites, was recruited as a permanent band member, taking care of the drums, backing vocals and percussion). He slowly took over from Egan, while the band was still touring “Days in Europa”. Some of Jobson’s lyrics as well as the album cover caused controversy. It showed an Olympic Games” Olympian being crowned with laurels by an Aryan looking woman, and the lettering was also in Gothic script. Some, including DJ “John Peel” felt that this glorified Nazi ideology and it was indeed similar to posters from the “1936 Summer Olympics” held in Germany. After the original version of the album had already been released, The Canadian record producer Bruce Fairbairn was brought into the project. The original cover and the track “Pros and the Cons” were removed. The sleeve was completely re-designed and the song “Masquerade” added. The album was also remixed and the tracks re-sequenced. This second version was released in 1980.

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The Absolute Game, Joy

In February 1980 one of the Skids founding members William Simpson left and was replaced by Russell Webb (bass guitar, backing vocals, keyboards, percussion, and guitar). Webb joined as a permanent band member and immediately started work on the recording of the band’s third album “The Absolute Game”, released in 1980 and produced by Mick Glossop. It proved to be the band’s most commercial release, reaching the Top 10 of the UK Albums Chart and contained the minor hit single “Circus Games” Jobson has great memory of recording in the manor studios in Oxfordshire. We were working with Mick Glossop who focussed on Adamson’s guitar work and the band’s love of big choruses. We weren’t sure of how to make this song ignite until we decided to try kids singing the chorus. Its a song about people making mistakes and somebody paying the price, which is normally kids or the next generation.”

A few of the tracks on the album also included a collection of fourteen adult and child backing vocalists, along with a lone didgeridoo player. Initial copies of The Absolute Game came with a free limited edition, second album entitled Strength Through Joy, echoing the band’s previous controversial themes. Jobson claims to have got the title from Dirk Bogarde’s autobiography

Soon after the release and live concert tour of The Absolute Game Baillie left the band and was followed soon after by Adamson (although Adamson did stay around long enough to play on one more song for the next album “Joy”, called “Iona”). Baillie moved back to Scotland to live and Adamson went on to launch his new band, Big Country. This left Jobson and Webb to write and record the band’s fourth and final album Joy, which Russell Webb also produced. The pair played multiple instruments on the album, and also invited a collection of seventeen musical friends to perform on various tracks with them. Skids finally dissolved in 1982, with the compilation “Fanfare” posthumously issued by Virgin. It was a mixture of most of the band’s singles and some B-sides, though it omitted any tracks from the Joy period.

Jobson and Webb then went on to form a new band called The Armoury Show. The group recorded just one album, “Waiting for the Floods” in 1985 before splitting up. Jobson went on to pursue a solo career as a poet, songwriter, television presenter and most recently, as a film director. He released albums on the Belgian record label Les Disques du Crepuscule and the UK’s own Parlophone Records. Webb proposed a solo career and, according to Armoury Show fan page, later joined Public Image Ltd. in 1992 (but played only on their last tour), and is now a video game designer.

Studio albums

  • Scared to Dance (1979)
  • Days in Europa (1979; remixed and re-issued with a new sleeve design in 1980)
  • The Absolute Game (1980)
  • Joy (1981)

Fickle tastes and trends aside, the Peter Wolf-produced Peace in Our Time (“King of Emotion”) was a slick, topical tour de force to mark the end of the ‘80s, and No Place Like Home (“We’re Not in Kansas”) and Buffalo Skinners (“Alone”) were all a series of terrific, hard-rocking album releases to greet the ‘90s.

But Big Country had lost its foothold on the pop charts: No Place and Skinners weren’t even released stateside, which raised the stakes for “Long Face” and tested the group’s mettle with minders, marketers, and bean-counters at Transatlantic, Castle, and Pure Records.

Formed in Dunfermline, Scotland in 1981 by the band’s guitarists and founder members Stuart Adamson and Bruce Watson, Big Country quickly broke worldwide with their initial album “The Crossing”, selling over 2 million copies and receiving 3 Grammy nominations in the US. Success continued, and the band went on to put out another 5 highly regarded albums before the release of “Why The Long Face” in 1995.

With original singer Stuart Adamson at the helm, Big Country scored 17 top 30 singles in the UK, and achieved 5 gold and platinum albums during the period.

This release includes not only the full length album “Why The Long Face”, but also their live 1996 album “Eclectic”, plus a huge array of bonus tracks and band demos, including alternative and acoustic versions of classic tracks such as ‘In A Big Country’ and ‘You Dreamer’, plus a whole load of rarities including Big Country’s cover versions of Alice Cooper’s ‘Teenage Lament’, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s ‘Down On The Corner’ and Neil Young’s ‘Hey Hey My My’.

All material contained within has been freshly remastered especially for this release. It Comes packaged in a clam shell box set, with booklet containing full sleeve-notes documenting the band’s activities throughout the release of the album.

Suffice to say, ...Long Face didn’t broaden Big Country’s audience as intended. Following a similar fate as The Seer seven years prior, the disc—packed with muscular, melodic guitars and bold, book-smart verses—sated core fans but didn’t yield any radio hits or MTV mainstays like “In a Big Country” and “Fields of Fire.”

The album’s under-performance on the charts never really warranted it being overlooked by listeners (who by now had latched on to Nirvana, Dave Matthews, and Pearl Jam) or its dismissal in the annals of rock history.

That injustice is precisely what makes Cherry Red’s reassessment so crucial.

Handsomely packed in a sturdy yellow case (instead of original powder blue) with another photogenic Doberman on front, the 4CD set  “Why the Long Face” 2018 includes not only the remastered ’95 album, but three extra CD’s worth of bonus Big Country tracks, demos, covers, and in-concert cuts from that era (1994-1996).

Disc One contains the album proper—fourteen tracks of sparkling guitar (clean and crunchily distorted), robust rhythms, and intelligent lyrics (about love, regret, and hope), all anointed by another serving of the same hardy, anthem-like refrains that made Big Country famous.

Opener “You Dreamer” rides high on a bagpipe-esque guitar riff and rugged, dirty power chords (courtesy Adamson and Bruce Watson) before introducing Stuart’s vignette of forgotten souls in pizza shops (where “prescription junkies” “watch the window fill with flies”). It’s an electrifying ode to shattered dreams that ponders a plethora of what-ifs and what-might-have-been…yet—in true Big Country form—keeps positive rather than give up the ghost to adversity.

“Is this the way that you believed your life was gonna turn out?” muses Adamson (quite possibly about himself). “Is this the better world that you were making all those plans for?”

Then there’s the typical (but effective) valentines to both imagined paramours (“One in a Million,” “Send You”) and humanity at large (“Message of Love”), reflections on personal triumphs and private travails (“I’m Not Ashamed,” “Wildland in My Heart”), and sundry entries (“Sail Into Nothing,” “”God’s Great Mistake,” “Post Nuclear Talking Blues”) that couple the Dunfermline four-piece’s penchant for outdoor themes (nature, freedom, adventure) and affinity for its signature Scottish sound into upbeat, zeitgeist-sensitive zingers.

Disc Two is jam-packed with bonus tracks including single edits of “Dreamer” and “Ashamed,” early / alternate takes of “One in a Million,” and acoustic versions of old standbys “In a Big Country” and “All Go Together.” There’s also a bunch of extra songs that didn’t make the album (but might’ve popped up on the band’s Rarities series later), like “Crazy Times,” “Ice Cream Smile,” and “Bianca.” This is also where fans will find working versions recorded by Adamson, Butler, and company at House in the Woods studio in Surrey (“Hardly a Mountain,” “Can You Feel the Winter”).

Disc Three is a digitally-retouched edition of the in-concert Eclectic album released by Castle Communications in the year following …Long Face. Recorded live at Dingwalls in London in late March of ’96 (and long since out-of-print), the album shines with a mix of old and then-new Big Country classics (“River of Hope,” “Where the Rose is Sown”), all rendered before an elated audience. Also on the menu here is an assortment of choice cover songs that speak to the band’s early influences (The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby,” Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire,” Neil Young’s “Hey Hey My My,” CCR’s “Down on the Corner.” The smoldering set (with bassist Tony Butler and drummer Mark Brzezicki underpinning the guitar hysteria with glorious grooves) also features guest spots by British vocalist/actor Bobby Valentino, rocker Steve Harley (of Cockney Rebel), and American soul singer Kym Mazelle.

The Long Face prototype is represented by Disc Four: This is where collectors and curators will discover working versions of the tunes that would be polished up later for the final version of the album. Workshopped at various locations in Scotland and England (Audiocraft, Riverside, Chapel, HITW), this missing-link record presents some of Adamson’s best ideas in a stripped-down format. But most the program is dominated by near-finished “jam” versions of “Dreamer,” “Message,” “Ashamed” and other stand-outs that sound—unlike most demos or garage versions—almost as concise (in performance) and as crystalline (in production) as the finished Long Face LP.

So if you know Stuart Adamson and Big Country only by their earliest “essential” hits, now’s as good a time as any to revisit the well and get acclimated with the group’s strong, inspirational, and sorely-overlooked middle catalog. And there’s never been a better opportunity to take those first steps than with this respectfully-rendered Long Face deluxe box.

The Skids were they just punks with O-levels, or new wave cop-outs, or just chance-takers and opportunists? The answer is probably a combination of all three. Far more important, however, is the fact that they left behind a clutch of great, if sometimes pretentious, singles. On album, it was hard not to get a little miffed at Richard Jobson’s would-be aristocrat pop nonsense. Still, this debut album release had some good tunes, courtesy of pre-Big Country Stuart Adamson, like “The Saints Are Coming” and, of course, the wonderful “Into the Valley.”

Anti-war themes are a recurring motif in the album. There are also a great deal of references in singer Richard Jobson’s lyrics to the band’s home region in Scotland, “Scared to Dance” was the first album to feature Stuart Adamson’s ‘bagpipe styled guitar playing’, which would be the trademark of his later band Big Country.

Scared to Dance has been well received by critics. Ira Robbins of Trouser Press called the album “excellent […] Using loud guitar and semi-martial drumming for its basis, Jobson’s hearty singing sounds like an 18th century general leading his merry troops down from the hills into glorious battle

The album was preceded by the single “Into the Valley”, released on 16th February 1979, which reached No. 10 in the UK Singles Chart, “Into the Valley” became popular as adopted and sung by fans of Dunfermline Athletic F.C., the band’s local football team.

Of huge importance to Skids fans is that the CD reissue includes the original live B-side to the latter, “TV Stars,” a song which will mean nothing to anyone who didn’t grow up watching British television, but a whole heap to those who did.  ‘Scared To Dance (Expanded)’ is a three CD reissue of the Skids seminal debut album through Caroline International.

Each disc comes in it’s own cardboard wallet and is housed in a clamshell box featuring the original ‘Scared To Dance’ artwork.

Disc one contains the original album expanded with nine bonus tracks. Disc two features 12 previously unreleased 1978 studio demos (long sought after by collectors of the band) and a third disc contains a complete live show from late 1978 at the legendary London Marquee from which the b-side ‘T.V. Stars’ (Albert Tatlock!) was taken. Also included is a 28 page bookle t with lyrics to the album, pictures of all relevant singles and detailed liner notes.

Originally released in February 1979 the album spent ten weeks in the UK National Charts, eventually peaking at number 19. It spawned the singles ‘Sweet Suburbia’, ‘The Saints Are Coming’ (which was covered by U2 and Green Day in 2006 as a charity single in the wake of Hurricane Katrina) and the track that catapulted them into the top 10 ‘Into The Valley’.

All though maybe not the first punk band on everyone’s lips – Skids are without doubt one of the most important. They were big influences on rock behemoths U2 and the Manic Street Preachers, and having reformed in 2017, they have been playing to sold out shows and festival across the UK with more announced in 2018.”

The Skids
  • Richard Jobson – vocals, guitar
  • Stuart Adamson – guitar
  • William Simpson – bass guitar
  • Thomas Kellichan – drums

Formed out of the ashes of Scottish punk band Skids by their guitarist Stuart Adamson, Big Country became one of the biggest British alternative rock bands of the 1980s, with a huge reputation as a live band to rival the likes of U2 and Simple Minds.

After their initial success with a string of albums on Mercury Records, Big Country continued throughout the 1990s with new albums on a variety of labels, playing as ever around the world to their devoted fanbase. Sadly, Stuart Adamson’s untimely death in 2001 closed a chapter on Big Country’s story forever…

“We’re Not In Kansas” pays tribute to the tour de force that was Big Country were in the Nineties, with recordings of five live shows released officially for the very first time and with the full blessing of the band.

The new box set We’re Not In Kansas (The Live Bootleg Box Set 1993-1998) (Cherry Red CRCDBOX43) seeks to fix this, offering fans a handsome, band-approved chronicle of a worthy era.

The story of Big Country up to the time covered in We’re Not In Kansas goes like this: the quartet, featuring ex-Skids guitarist Stuart Adamson on vocals and guitar, guitarist Bruce Watson, bassist Tony Butler and drummer Mark Brzezicki, hit the U.K. Top 10 with singles like “Fields of Fire,” “Chance,” “Wonderland” and “Look Away” during the early-to-mid-’80s; the hopeful, ringing guitars of “In a Big Country” gave the band a taste of American success, too. But by the late ’80s, consistent hits were harder to come by, with the Peter Wolf-produced Peace In Our Time (1988) a particular misstep, overly reliant on middle-of-the-road pop production. Brzezicki left the group at decade’s end, but served in a session capacity on the fraught 1991 follow-up, No Place Like Home, which turned out to be the band’s last major-label effort. 1993’s The Buffalo Skinners saw the trio go back to basics – effective, guitar-driven melodies coupled with fiery lyrics in praise of the hopes and dreams of the working class – and the ensuing tour found the classic lineup whole once more. The full band continued for two more albums and a final tour in 2000, one year before Adamson took his own life after a prolonged battle with alcohol abuse and depression.

Included on this 5CD set are selections from six different shows: a gig at Minneapolis’ First Avenue in 1993, right after the release of The Buffalo Skinners; an acoustic theatre show at the University of Stirling in the band’s native Scotland from 1994; two shows from the summer of 1995 (an electric performance at Glasgow’s Tower Records store and an acoustic one in Rotterdam) in support of that season’s seventh album Why The Long Face; a portion of a 1998 acoustic set in the group’s hometown of Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland (recorded at Tappie Toories, a pub run by Adamson and his second wife); and a final cover of The Monkees’ “Daydream Believer” from a 1995 set.

For a band so known for electric guitar tones, the presence of so much acoustic material here is a particular treat. (As John Gouveia writes in his liner notes, the band’s first acoustic appearance at an American show in 1993 was in fact out of necessity, after the venue’s power failed before the group took the stage.) The songs retain their power even without their distinctive solos, and at a time when “unplugged” shows were in fashion, it ceretainly fits the mood of the day.

Indeed, “In a Big Country,” “Chance” and “Look Away” don’t lose much power when de-amplified, nor do newer tracks like “We’re Not In Kansas,” “All Go Together” and “Ships.” And both acoustic and electric sets from the same tour have enough unique songs among them: the First Avenue set includes powerful renditions of Buffalo Skinners cuts “What Are You Working For” and “Pink Marshmallow Moon,” while the Stirling set features a gorgeous, quiet take on Steeltown (1984) closer “Just a Shadow” and a slowed-down “One Great Thing,” one of the fine singles from The Seer. The electric set at Tower Records in Glasgow is more devoted to then-new selections from Why The Long Face, like “You Dreamer,” “I’m Not Ashamed” and “Send You.” Meanwhile, the acoustic Rotterdam show (punctuated by some interesting interactions between Adamson and the audience during the set) features some of those same tracks alongside the hits you’d come to expect.

Of particular note across the entire set is the presence of exciting covers. The quartet, eager to experiment on stage and nod to their musical influences, tackle tunes by Neil Young (“Hey Hey, My My,” “Rockin in the Free World”), Blue Oyster Cult (“(Don’t Fear) The Reaper”), The Miracles (“Tracks of My Tears”) and even a fun, faithful acoustic take on the Gin Blossoms’ “Found Out About You.”

If there’s one caveat to the material on We’re Not In Kansas, it’s that is very much an official bootleg. These aren’t soundboard-quality recordings by any means, and even the better of the audience recordings tend to flutter quite a bit in the headphones. For some, that may drop it down from “must hear” to “fans only” status – which is a shame, as it’s not only good material, but packaged far better than any unofficial release. Cherry Red put each disc in its own cardboard wallet, accompanied by a fine booklet with band photos and a new interview with Butler and Watson – all in a compact clamshell box.

We’re Not In Kansas may not appeal outside of Big Country’s fan base, but if you’re part of that base, you should absolutely check it out. Adamson’s tragic passing means we only have Big Country’s music and memories to commemorate him as a frontman – and, speaking wholly from personal experience, his music has uplifted me long and far enough to consider any opportunities to hear him on record. The output of Big Country, as heard on We’re Not In Kansas, feels like home to those who feel that familiar lift whenever those guitars ring out. And you know what they say: there’s no place like home.

Across these various in-concert recordings, which have previously been available only on elusive, under-the-counter bootlegs, you’ll hear a band touring to promote their most recent albums The Buffalo Skinners (1993) and Why The Long Face (1995), with live sets which often climaxed with impassioned cover versions of ‘Don’t Fear The Reaper’ (Blue Oyster Cult), ‘My, My, Hey Hey’ and ‘Rockin’ In The Free World’ (both Neil Young) and ‘Tracks Of My Tears’ (Smokey Robinson & The Miracles).

Founder members Bruce Watson and Tony Butler have been interviewed for the Q&A sleeve-notes, which document a fascinating and largely undocumented period in the band’s history.

Also included, as one would expect, are rousing versions of many of their evergreen hits – ‘In A Big Country’, ‘Look Away’, ‘Chance’, ‘Wonderland’, ‘Peace In Our Time’ and ‘King Of Emotion’.

Track List:

DISC ONE:
MINNEAPOLIS 6/11/93

1. ALL GO TOGETHER
2. WE’RE NOT IN KANSAS
3. LOOK AWAY
4. WHAT ARE YOU WORKING FOR
5. CHESTER’S FARM
6. WONDERLAND
7. PINK MARSHMALLOW MOON
8. SHIPS
9. LONG WAY HOME
10. ALONE
11. THE ONE I LOVE
12. IN A BIG COUNTRY

DISC TWO:
(MINNEAPOLIS 6/11/93)(continued)

1. CHANCE
2. LOST PATROL
3. DON’T FEAR THE REAPER
4. HEY HEY, MY MY

GLASGOW TOWER RECORDS 23/06/95
5. YOU DREAMER
6. LOOK AWAY
7. I’M NOT ASHAMED
8. ONE IN A MILLION
9. SEND YOU
10. WE’RE NOT IN KANSAS
11. HEY HEY, MY MY
12. ROCKIN’ IN THE FREE WORLD

DISC THREE:
STIRLING 29/4/94

1. ALL GO TOGETHER
2. HARVEST HOME
3. KING OF EMOTION
4. LOOK AWAY
5. THIRTEEN VALLEYS
6. ONE GREAT THING
7. WINTER SKY
8. LONG WAY HOME
9. SHIPS
10. THE STORM
11. EVERYTHING I NEED
12. RIVER OF HOPE
13. JUST A SHADOW
14. WE’RE NOT IN KANSAS
15. COME BACK TO ME

DISC FOUR:
STIRLING 29/4/94 (continued)

1. PEACE IN OUR TIME
2. IN A BIG COUNTRY
3. CHANCE
4. ROCKIN’ IN THE FREE WORLD
5. DON’T FEAR THE REAPER

ROTTERDAM ROTOWN 28/08/95
6. INTRODUCTION BY MARK
7. ALL GO TOGETHER #1
8. ALL GO TOGETHER #2
9. YOU DREAMER
10. LOOK AWAY
11. SHIPS
12. I’M NOT ASHAMED
13. JUST A SHADOW
14. LONG WAY HOME
15. THE STORM
16. THIRTEEN VALLEYS

DISC FIVE:
ROTTERDAM ROTOWN 28/08/95 (continued)

1. DON’T FEAR THE REAPER
2. WE’RE NOT IN KANSAS
3. IN A BIG COUNTRY
4. PEACE IN OUR TIME
5. FOUND OUT ABOUT YOU
6. ROCKIN’ IN THE FREE WORLD
7. CHANCE
8. TRACKS OF MY TEARS

TAPPIE TOORIES (1998)
9. YOU DREAMER
10. LOOK AWAY
11. CHANCE
12. IN A BIG COUNTRY

TUNBRIDGE WELLS HIGH ROCKS 09/06/95
13. DAYDREAM BELIEVER