[Review] Big Country: Peace In Our Time (1988)

Apparently, the trouble with Big Country is that they didn’t sound enough like Jefferson Starship and Wang Chung.

Kronomyth 4.0: Wee bilt, this ditty.

On their fourth album, Peace In Our Time, Big Country toned down the e-bow attack and brought synthesizers into the mix. Given how idiosyncratic the heroic e-bow guitars and Stuart Adamson’s passionate singing had become, Peace In Our Time sounded initially like Big Country was backing away from their own image. And maybe they were. Fist-clenched thunderbolts of fury are only sustainable for so long, and even fans would admit that playing everything like survival depended on it painted their songs in a draining sameness.

There’s more space between the songs on Peace, which allows them to develop their own identities quickly: the war cry (“Peace In Our Time”), the sneaky sleeper (“Thousand Yard Stare”), the ballad (“Everything I Need”) and the little lump in the throat (“In This Place”). Lyrically, Adamson has less to say than on The Crossing or Steeltown, or rather chooses to paint these sometimes painful vignettes in conversational language rather than the poetic sloganeering of old. The result is a more intimate album in some ways, though at the cost of fire. The quality of the material on this album (and the excess of material recorded during the same period) shows that Big Country still had plenty of gas in their tank, but poor charting in the US suggested that the band’s fortunes were waning all the same.

A kinder, gentler, more peaceful Big Country didn’t have the same place in the world as an angry Anglo novelty (“In A Big Country”), and American record companies resigned themselves to the fact that the band would always be something of an enigma to the big country across the ocean. Personally, I feel that Peter Wolf (Jefferson Starship, Wang Chung) was a poor match for the band. Yes, they’d softened their attack, but Peace In Our Time is hardly a dud, and fans should rally around it with time.

Original LP Version

A1. King of Emotion
A2. Broken Heart (Thirteen Valleys)
A3. Thousand Yard Stare (lyrics by Stuart Adamson, music by Stuart Adamson/Bruce Watson)
A4. From Here To Eternity
A5. Everything I Need
B1. Peace In Our Time
B2. Time For Leaving (lyrics by Stuart Adamson, music by Stuart Adamson/Bruce Watson/Tony Butler/Mark Brzezicki)
B3. River of Hope
B4. In This Place
B5. I Could Be Happy Here (lyrics by Stuart Adamson, music by Stuart Adamson/Bruce Watson)

All lyrics and music written by Stuart Adamson unless noted.

CD reissue bonus tracks
11. The Travellers
12. When The Drum Beats
13. Starred And Crossed
14. Longest Day

The Players

Stuart Adamson (vocals, guitar, e-bow), Mark Brzezicki (drums and percussion), Tony Butler (bass, vocals, guitar), Bruce Watson (guitars, mandolin, sitar, mouth organ, e-bow) with Maxi Anderson (additional vocals), Merry Clayton (additional vocals), Donna Davidson (additional vocals), Josh Phillips Gorse (live keyboards), Ina Wolf (additional vocals). Produced by Peter Wolf; engineered by Brian Malouf and Jeremy Smith; mixed by Brian Malouf.

The Pictures

Design concept by Paul Harrison and Ian Grant. Sleeve design by Paul Harrison. Front cover photography by Carol Sharp. Inside cover photography by Terry O’Neill.

The Plastic

Released on elpee, cassette and compact disc in October 1988* in the UK (Mercury, MERH/MERHC 130), worldwide (Mercury, 836 325-1/2), the US (Reprise, 25787), Japan (Mercury, 28PD-499) and Zanzibar (Mercury, STARL5523) with gatefold cover and lyrics innersleeve. Reached #9 on the UK charts and #160 on the US charts. (*Entered UK charts on 10/8/88).

  1. Re-released on remastered compact disc in 1996 in the UK (Mercury, 532 326).
  2. Reissued on remastered compact disc on June 30, 1998 in Germany (Polygram Int’l, 532 326).
  3. Re-packaged with No Place Like Home on 2-for-1 2CD on May 19, 2003 in the UK (Track, TRK1026CD) and on July 1, 2003 in the US (Track, 1030).

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