Review Summary: I never should have said out loud that I wanted to save the world...but I let it slip away.
Big Country. What are you gonna do about a band like that? This album sounds big. Like a Big Country. So that's fitting enough. Coming just a few years after the bands now classic The Crossing album and just a couple or so after their underrated sophomore effort Steeltown, Big Country returned with a bigger sound then ever and power chords galore. Oh those guitars. Those big, beautiful guitars. With E-Bow in tow, and all.
Whereas on the bands debut album we got a lot of Scottish mysticism of Braveheart proportions with songs of hope and faith and war and despair all poetically strung together with musical muscle to match, and on Steeltown we got somewhat stripped down working class lyrics and a somewhat stripped down musical approach to match, The Seer would see Big Country get bigger, bolder, and more ambitious. Tossing The Crossing and Steeltown producer Steve Lillywhite to the curb in favor of Sade producer Robin Millar paid off big for the group, as Millar cleaned up their sound and refined the bands raw edges to a smooth, polished sheen. The resulting album is nothing less then near musical majesty. Of the rock 'n roll sort, of course.
The albums first single Look Away kicks the album off and it's an immediately catchy, even bouncy, big pop song unlike the band had recorded on its previous two efforts. The song is smooth and tuneful, and its story of an outlaw on the run and unrequited love is familiar lyrical ground for the band. Certainly a promising start that continues as the title song comes along next and delivers more traditional Big Country fare with it's traditional Scottish folk music influences and the inspired choice of Kate Bush providing cool and crooning back-up vocals. Folksy, rock, and pop all at once, this song puts on full display the talent of this band to weave a mystic tale without being pretentious or ponderous as when singer and lyricist Stuart Adamson sings Long ago I heard a tale I never will forget / The time was in the telling on the bank the scene was set
the listener is immediately drawn in by the drama in his voice as well as the musical backdrop. And we stay with him, Kate, and the wonderful drumming of Mark Brzezicki propelling the whole thing forward, pushed way up in the mix as is the case for the entire album. Always one of rock 'n roll's better drummers, Brzezicki's big beat style dominates this album like never before, and we just keep following that beat.
With the table set the band and producer Millar just continue forward with a set of ten songs that make up an album
of music in the truest sense of the word. Uniformly brilliant and with a singular vision, The Seer is simply one of the more listenable rock albums of the 80's. The Pop stomp of I Walk The Hill with its message of perseverance, faith, and love is both simple and bold musically and lyrically with a fun humable melody, the joyous prayer for peace that is One Great Thing is unabashedly hopeful and musically accessible in a way that could could be corny in the hands of another band, but Stuarts plea of "I only hope what pleases me will also pleasure you" in his cry for peace comes across as nothing but earnest in the hands of this band. Simply brilliant, and unabashedly sincere lyrically and musically.
Even the more obvious, radio friendly Hold The Heart with its bland, cookie cutter melody and somewhat cliched lyrics comes across well thanks to the skill of the players here. And in this regard Big Country must be recognized. With the experienced rhythm section of bassist Tony Butler and intrepid drumming of Mark Brzezicki anchoring a big beat album, and the tremendously underrated guitar playing of Stuart Adamson propelling his well written songs forward, this album is tight and sleek. Musically it simply gels and feels like a much bigger work than it is, similar to the bands debut The Crossing. Producer Robin Millar keeps everything flowing from track to track and before the album is over you're already looking forward to hearing it again. And again and again.
If this album represented an evolution of sorts for the band, a maturation if you will, it closes with more familiar Big Country fare as found on the bands previous two albums. And while the album is not a huge departure for the band nor an artistic compromise, it is a step forward. But as if to reward the loyal fan with a token of appreciation the final three songs of the album look back a bit with the very familiar traditional Scottish music influence the band is known for with the sad tribute to the fallen song Remembrance Day, the jig like melody that moves through the youthful anthem The Red Fox, and finally the hopeful and faith filled song The Sailor, which dreams of nothing more then a place to call home and rest a tired soul. And while the guitars never quite sound
like bagpipes on these final three songs, they could be bagpipes. And that's good enough for the bands faithful, indeed.
And it would be remiss not to mention what might be one of this bands finest moments on record. The lovely, heartbreaking, and sometimes breathtaking loss of innocence power ballad Eiledon with its soaring guitar work, hopeful tale of faith payed forward, and lush backing vocals provided once again by the amazing Kate Bush, is nothing short of musical storytelling at it's very best and provides a strong heart and center for this album that brings it all together, and helps us take it all in. If one song could sum up the whole, it's this one.
Big Country. A band sometimes overlooked, underrated, and under heard. But never let it be said that for a time, even if a short time, they were great. And they remained being great to one degree or another before the sad and lonely passing of the beautiful Stuart Adamson. This album is perhaps the best evidence of that greatness when put in proper perspective and considering the bands work before, and after. A true masterwork of 80's rock, if you will, The Seer sounds and plays as good today as it ever did. And it deserves to be heard and appreciated for many years to come.