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4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
Format: Audio CD|Change
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This was by far and away 'Big Country's' best album. It sold well but should have been absolutely massive. In fact this group never did get the recognition they deserved.
Since learning of the untimely death of Stuart Adamson, I have been listening to their music more than ever and realise that GREAT music never sounds dated.
Steeltown - Superb!
RIP stuart.
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on 26 July 2008
Remember buying this on vinyl the 1st day it was out & nearly crying when I gave it it's first listen. I was so dissapointed but that all changed the more I played it. One of my all time great albums, no wonder:- Tall Ships Go, Steeltown, Raindance, Where The Rose Is Sown, Come Back To me..... Hell, not a weak song on the whole record! Big Country still mean a lot to me to this day. RIP Big Man, you're sorely missed.
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on 4 August 2009
This is easilly the best album Big Country ever made, and in my opinion one of the best albums made in the last 30 years. Woefully underated, this should be regarded as a rock classic.
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on 2 March 2004
I remember loving this album when it first came out and being disappointed by the relatively poor reception it got from the music press at the time.
Where the Rose is Sown is a truly great song. Just can't understand people who think it was one of the weakest BC singles
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on 10 March 2002
This is classic Big Country - thumping drums, rumbling bass, loud guitars and great lyrics sung with great passion.
This and The Crossing are a great introduction to the most underrated band of the past 20 years - RIP Stuart Adamson.
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on 8 June 2007
Big Country were often accused of only having one tuen, but I challenge anyone to listen to "Steeltown" and say honestly that all the songs are the same tune. From the opening bass riff on "Flame of the West" to the final chorus of "Just a Shadow", this album is a real tour-de-force, with intelligent musicianship throughout.

The late Adamson's lyrics are intelligent and thought provoking and he has an amazing voice, doing his own harmonies along the way. To think that the guy also does some of the main guitar lines as well just goes to show what talent he really had.

So put all the misconceptions to one side and give this album a listen - you won't regret it.
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on 29 June 2010
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").

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.

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.

The 2 Disc Deluxe Edition sports beautiful sound and stunning repackaging. It also includes b-sides as well as the Wonderland EP and the songs that featured on its various incarnations around the world (but sadly not the beautiful cover art!!). The other radio edits and rough mixes on disc 2 are interesting. This is a brilliant and worthy reason to repurchase and upgrade this outstanding album on CD.
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Not so long ago, it seemed as though Big Country's "Steeltown" had been overlooked: once difficult to find on CD (I had to buy my copy from Amazon US a few years back - although it was eventually re-pressed in Europe) it was a pleasant surprise to find a deluxe version in the Amazon listings. When The Crossing [2CD Deluxe Edition] was given the full on re-issue treatment a couple of years ago, I only had a faint hope then that "Steeltown", whilst a strong favourite of mine (indeed I can't say whether I prefer "The Crossing" or "Steeltown"), would be deemed classic enough for the record company's powers that be. But, here it is...

Released at a turning point in popular music - when people's tastes were just starting to move away from guitar towards electronics, "Steeltown" has an unusual sound - metallic, dense and dark. Thematically it's a mix of wartime nostalgia (possibly brought on by the threat of nuclear war at the time?) and industrial. Lyrically, this is the band's Closer: "Why care about the weather, it always ends in dark" [from "East of Eden"] or "It's just a shadow of the man you should be, like a garden in the forest that the world will never see, you have no thought of answers only questions to be filled, and it feels like hell" ["Just a Shadow"]. I remember digging out "Steeltown" after hearing about Stuart Adamson's suicide in 2001 (not having played the LP in many years) and reflecting that (not unlike the surviving members of Joy Division on deciphering Ian Curtis's lyrics) that it was perhaps, in this context, no surprise that he had gone on to take own life. "Steeltown" is not all doom and gloom though - there's romance, idealism and political awareness which make it a much less inward looking proposition than Joy Division. That it was recorded in Abba's Polar Studios also lends the album something extra - there's maybe the faintest echo of disco in some of the guitar strummings to my ears and, we learn in the booklet, that Bjorn and Benny were present at one point.

The reissue? Well, I note some other Amazon reviewers' dislike of the sound of the PREVIOUS CD edition; who say that this one's better. Being honest, I can't myself hear that much of a difference - maybe it's just my c**p equipment. The first CD contains the original album only - no bonus tracks to fill up the extra space - I don't mind that though, as sometimes these can spoil the integrity of the original. CD2 does however more or less make use of the full length of CD space. All bar one of the bonus tracks from the old single disc edition are included, the only omission being "Wonderland 12"", although the superior 7" version IS included - so no great loss. However, the bonus disc contains only the radio edits of "East of Eden", "Where the Rose Is Sown" and "Just A Shadow". Not only do these sound very similar to the album versions, they also make for a repetitious listening experience and it is surprising to note the omission of the 12" versions. Admittedly I haven't heard those in years - and there's many an Eighties extended mix that hasn't aged well - but, due to the passage of time or otherwise, I simply can't tell if that is the case here. The unheard tracks - consisting of "rough" and "work in progress" (instrumental) mixes are interesting - particularly for Adamson's vocals on tracks like "Tall Ships Go" and "Where the Rose is Sown" which have a more human and emotional quality than they do on the finished record. The "work in progress" instrumentals are perhaps less valuable to my ears, although I did enjoy "Wonderland (Work In Progress #1)". Oddly "Wonderland (Work In Progress #2) sounds to me more like an instrumental of "The Great Divide" - not sure if there's a typographical error or the tracks were, at one time, related?

The packaging is a faithful reinterpretation on digipack of the original vinyl, with Stuart Adamson's moving liner note from the previous CD version also retained for good measure. Tim Barr (better known for his writings on electronic music) takes up where he left off on "The Crossing" sleeve note duties with yet more informative and well written stuff - a real highlight of this reissue package.

"Steeltown" is a fine album which has had deep personal influence on me over the 21 years since it was released and this reissue definitely is an enhancement - though maybe not so much so as to make it an absolutely essential purchase to current owners of the existing standard edition, maybe one for the Christmas list though.

5 for the original album, 4.5 for the reissue.
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on 14 November 2003
This has to be the best Big Country album ever and should be recognised as a "Classic Album" in its own right. It has a "BIG" sound and the songs are filled with passion and truth, the drumming is the best I've heard on an album, and the musicianship flawless. I never get tired of this album and find that it gives me hope when I feel everything is pointless!! The artwork is great and for me the album contains the most emotive song ever written "Where The Rose Is Sown". An absolute belter.
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on 23 August 2000
The second album from Big Country did not deliver on the commercial front here in the States but it made me a Democrat! The stirring guitar riffs are less bagpipe and more industrial Sturm und Drang. The Thatcher-Reagan war machines-can you believe the Falklands and Grenada! -were in full swing and the safety net was being unraveled, but these guys soldiered on armed with geetars and effects pedals. Seriously, a good introduction to how the corporate establishment, in this case Mercury Records, can be used to subvert on overly corporatist state. And the tunes rock! Solid backbeat from bass and drums with spiraling guitars make this the most underrated major label release of the '80s.
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