[Review] Big Country: Wonderland (1984)

It wasn’t as big a hit as “In A Big Country,” but “Wonderland” did fill the gap until Steeltown arrived.

Kronomyth 1.5: With innocence within ourselves, we sing the same old song.

The story of the EP, in which nearly nothing is learned of wonderland…

At the tony orlando and dawn of the ‘80s, music only existed in one of three forms: cassette, elpee or single. 8-tracks were dead, reel-to-reel was never alive. Each medium had its own consumer: elpees were for the devotees, cassettes for the mobile masses, singles for the fickle stylemongers. And each medium had its respective place in the store: elpees in long and labelled columns (vinyl people are very organized and delight in the tactile experience of touching album spines), cassettes in bland stacks with the label clearly identified (busy, busy, got it), singles in the front of the store (since you know they’re going to walk up to the counter and immediately ask where they can find the song “I Want Candy” or whatever’s on the radio that week, which allows the clerk to simply point to the display next to the counter).

All of this to set the stage for the story of the EP. You see, an EP was actually an inflated single; intermediary product marketed as a mini-album that allowed record companies to reach their most loyal consumers (elpee buyers) in between albums. Vinyl enthusiasts would encounter these in their spiny travels with a giant sticker that said $4.99 or $5.99, almost half the price of an elpee. While EPs have added greatly to the work of discographers ever since, they haven’t accounted for much great music.

Take Wonderland, for example. It’s only half new: “Wonderland” (in case you didn’t make the connection) and “All Fall Together.” The second side of Wonderland consists of two old (relatively speaking) B sides, “Angle Park” and “The Crossing” (which actually did not appear on the album of that name, in case you made the connection). They’re fine, insofar as any four songs from the band’s early albums burn with the same fire, but Wonderland the EP can’t hold company with The Crossing and Steeltown. It’s an appetizer, half of it made from leftovers. Steeltown, now that’s a meal.

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Original EP Version

A1. Wonderland (3:56)
A2. All Fall Together (5:05)
B1. Angle Park (Stuart Adamson/Bruce Watson) (4:07)
B2. The Crossing (7:04)

Canadian Extended EP Version
1. Wonderland
2. Angle Park
3. Chance (extended mix)
4. Heart And Soul
5. The Crossing

Dutch Mini-Album (eponymous)
1. Wonderland
2. All Fall Together
3. Angle Park
4. The Crossing
5. In A Big Country (12-inch version)

The Players

Stuart Adamson (vocals, guitars), Mark Brzezicki (drums), Tony Butler (bass), Bruce Watson (guitar). Produced by Steve Lillywhite except A2 produced by Big Country, B1 produced by Steve Churchyard and Big Country; A2 mixed by Jimmy Iovine.

The Pictures

Cover photos by Red Saunders.

The Plastic

Released on extended play (EP) 12-inch and cassette in April 1984 in the US (Mercury, 818 835-1/4); reached #65 on the US charts. Also released on five-track extended play 12-inch in 1984 in Canada (Vertigo, VEP-325). Also released as eponymous five-track mini-album in 1984 in the Netherlands (Mercury, 822 362).

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