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4.5 out of 5 stars
The Journey
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Big Country enjoyed massive success in the 1980s, notably with their first album, The Crossing, but sadly the band folded after the death of singer and guitarist Stuart Adamson at the turn of the millennium. They lived on through a series of Rarities albums and occasional bootleg albums released over the next decade, together with a brief reformation as a three piece a few years ago, until old friend of the band Mike Peters, singer with The Alarm, came on board as vocalist at the start of 2011. They've played a series of live dates since that time, both on their own tours and at festivals, and The Journey album, their first in 14 years, is the end product of this time.

From the first few tracks, it's immediately obvious that far from being a pale imitation of the 'old' Big Country, this is something else entirely. As a long-time fan of the band, I was worried that the album would be 'The Crossing-lite', rehashing old themes and styles in a bid to appeal to those who have followed the band for the past 30 years, but instead The Journey, whilst never forgetting the band's roots, is an at times surprisingly punky and rocky mix of old and new.

Several tracks could have been recorded in Adamson's day, and would have stood happily side-by-side with the old material - In a Broken Promised Land, The Journey, Strong, Return and Another Country would have graced a Big Country album of any era. There's the single, the slow and moving Hurt, as well as the other downbeat track on the album, Angels and Promises, originally recorded as a tribute to Stuart Adamson, and re-recorded for The Journey. It's a track guaranteed to be found moving by older fans of the band, with its lyrical references to Chance, one of the singles from The Crossing.

What is a surprise though, and in my eyes the best sign of things still to come from the band, are the remaining tracks. After The Flood welds Adam And The Ants style double-drumming (courtesy of one drummer, Mark 'The Octopus' Brzezicki) with at times Robert Plant-style vocals from Mike Peters, the hints of Led Zeppelin being reinforced by the lyrical references to the houses of the holy in the awesome Winter Fire, in which the bass of ex-Simple Minds member Derek Forbes will blow your socks off. Home of The Brave and The Last Ship Sails are punchy punky affairs, the latter of which sits quite happily alongside anything recorded by The Skids, Adamson's first band. Best of all, perhaps, is the closing track, Hail and Farewell. Complete with a hint of actual bagpipes, Mike Peters exhorts listeners to 'let the bells ring out', in a song destined to be played at Big Country New Years's Eve shows for as long as they continue.

Is this farewell? Well, as Mike sings on the title track, 'sometimes, you've got to make the journey'. And who should make the journey? There will no doubt be some fans who think that Big Country without Adamson isn't to be contemplated, and that's to be expected. However, hopefully many of the fans will come along for the ride, and I don't think they'll be disappointed. Let's hope the journey is a long one, and that it's all as good as this.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 8 April 2013
A brilliant return after a fourteen year gap between new studio albums.
Mike Peters has made a brilliant debut with the band and I hope that this is only the first of many new recordings.
Great production and Mark's drums really sound great in the car and Derek Forbes's bass has never sounded better.
Bruce and Jamie Watson work seamlessly together on guitar and Mike's vocals are some of the best he's ever done.
I am sure that Stuart Adamson would have really loved this album which has been made by people who will always love and remember his music and friendship.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Never mind The Hobbit, here's a truly unexpected Journey. 14 years after their last album and 12 after the death of talismanic frontman Stuart Adamson, Big Country's return could be forgiven for being a damp squib.

Instead, against all odds, this new line-up has managed to deliver a quintessential Big Country album. Those first two classic records are inevitable and welcome starting points. If opener 'In A Broken Promise Land' roams in the wide open spaces of The Crossing, 'Winter Fire' reacquaints fans with the darker industrial shades of Steeltown. Aided by his son Jamie, founder member Bruce Watson recaptures the Celtic guitar sound that later albums lost to America and there's some rambunctious, career-best drumming from a re-energised Mark Brzezicki. The production deserves credit of its own for bringing the latter to the fore like never before.

Elsewhere, 'Strong (All Though This Land)' heads off into The Seer territory, calling to mind 'The Teacher'. Standout track 'Home Of The Brave' starts a fight with the fiercest tracks from The Buffalo Skinners. Lyrical and musical references to the BC of old are abundant throughout the album for trainspotter types to list.

Themes of redemption and fighting back against adversity are key. The Journey sets out to be a euphoric return that celebrates the work of Stuart Adamson rather than be dictated to by his absence. Nowhere is this more evident than on 'Last Ship Sails', an aggressive punk rock number that would normally be more at home on a Skids album.

There are more sombre moments, such as single 'Hurt' and closer 'Hail & Farewell', and although they feel like necessary ingredients given the circumstances, it's the vitality of the uptempo numbers that shines brightest. 'Return' bounces along as if it were 'Fields Of Fire' Part 2 and everything is helped by sounding like it was recorded on U2's budget. Speaking of which, with its Joshua Tree-esque atmosphere, 'After The Flood' hints at how the band might have originally developed during the Peace In Our Time era to keep pace with their Irish contemporaries if record companies hadn't hampered them.

The voice is different, as are the lyrics, but Mike Peters injects a passion and authority that's no easy task when faced with such a formidable void to fill. Above all else he re-establishes the 'stay alive' ethos that the name Big Country was built on. His is not the only new face. Ex-Simple Minds bassist Derek Forbes has joined the ranks to replace the recently retired Tony Butler (who is credited with co-writing 9 of the tracks here but doesn't play on the album).

It would be wrong to underestimate the contribution Tony made to the music over the years through his distinctive bass lines and recognisable backing vocals, and it would be equally unfair to hold that against Derek. His contributions to the album are significant - and he adds to the Scottishness of the band! Check out the intro he came up with for 'Home Of The Brave' for validation.

Because of the changes in personnel, The Journey is perhaps best taken as a reboot more than a comeback. It doesn't seek to continue the story that previously ended with 1999's Driving To Damascus, it starts out all over again. Big Country in name and Big Country in nature.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 30 April 2013
Undoubtedly will be the best album of 2013.

Other reviewers will have more eloquence, but just to add my tuppence worth.....

There is not one dud track on this one.

People might wonder what influence Mike Peters has had on the sound. Yes, there are hints of The Alarm's anthemic choruses ( a good thing for me, and something for fans of The Alarm to lap up), but the overwhelming vibe is that of classic Big Country. Echoes of The Crossing, Steeltown, Buffalo Skinners and some of those uplifting rarities tracks are in abundance, and there is even a nod to The Skids on one of the tracks.

Great production, twin guitars in perfect harmony - dancing on a solid bass line, Mike Peters on vocals and the best drummer in the land. All this, and well crafted songs.

Perfect.

This one makes it to my desert island discs list.

(An added bonus for 2013....an expanded version of The Armoury Show album, Waiting For The Floods, has been released. Fans of The Skids should enjoy it.)
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 21 April 2013
A brilliant album from the new line-up of Big Country. In place of the late and great Stuart Adamson, Mike Peters (The Alarm) works his magic here. Derek Forbes (Simple Minds) replaces Tony Butler admirably. With Jamie Watson joining his dad Bruce and Mark Brezezicki, the end result is still very identifiable as Big Country. Stand-out tracks for me are 'After The Flood' and 'Return'. You also get nice re-workings of the well received Single 'Another Country' and the Stuart Adamson tribute track 'Angels and Promises'. The album has high production values producing a great studio sound. It takes a new approach of 12 relatively short tracks on a 46 minute album. No epics, but much variety ranging from the ballad and latest Single 'Hurt' to the thrashing 'Last Ship Sails'. There is much to enjoy here, and as a life-long fan, I'm very impressed with it and I highly recommend it to you.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 13 May 2013
I wanted to make sure I didn't rush into reviewing this album as Big Country have been such an important band to me, I wanted to fully digest the album first.
I had my doubts about this latest incarnation of Big Country as the 3 piece revival a few years back that to be honest sounded awful. However, after seeing the 5 piece line-up live with Jamie Watson and Mike Peters I was very impressed. The news that Tony Butler had left was a surprise but Derek Forbes is a very competent replacement. The big question though was could a Big Country with only 2 original members left deliver a new album that had the intrinsic sound and atmosphere of the original band but be modern enough not to sound like a tribute act? The answer for me is an overwhelming "yes". This album is pure quality from start to finish with 12 wonderful songs that have Big Country stamped firmly right through them. I would go so far as to say that this offering can stand up against The Crossing and The Seer and is a far stronger album than their last one with Stuart which is not bad but sounds like a band that has run out of ideas.
I will not get into individual songs here only to say this album has something for all Big Country fans to enthuse over, the big anthemic sounds, the intricate stirring guitars, the hope and passion of a band revelling in the beauty of music.
This album is a must for those of us who thought Big Country were dead when the late, great Stuart Adamson died.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 30 April 2013
This is the quite simply the best 'rock' album release of the year and it has far exceeded my expectations. The album sounds like a classic BC album and fits in extremely well with all the previous studio albums. There is not a bad track on this record and 'In a Broken Promise Land', 'Another Country', 'Hurt', 'Return' and the jaw droppingly good 'Angels and Promises' are simply outstanding. Nothing short of a disgrace that boring radio stations don't play it; buy it, you will definately not be disappointed!!!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 10 April 2013
really like new cd, keeping big country going .would recommend anyone who likes big country to give it a try !
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 14 April 2013
If you want an in-depth review, others have already put it into words more eloquently that I could manage. All that I can say is this, I could not help but smile when I listened to this for the first time.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 24 April 2013
If you buy any rock album this year make sure this is it -

Big Country's reawakening has to be heard to be believed it is one of the finest most cohesive rock albums released for many years. Even with the line up changes the origanal ethos of the band comes through . and for once I've been listening to an album I cant find any track i'd skip on
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