From page 81 of Classic Rock Magazine June 2011
Fields Of Fire: The Ultimate Collection MERcURY
Triumphal, bagpipe-aping, tartan-clad rock from the band fronted by the late Stuart Adamson.
H aving already impressed beyond the confines of punk with his visceral but arty guitar style in The Skids, there was always a suspicion that Stuart Adamson painted himself into a creative corner with Big Country. The distinctive ‘bagpipes’ tone he fashioned alongside fellow axe-slinger Bruce Watson served the band well on Celtic-tinged early singles such as Harvest Home and the song that gives this compilation its title, but they tended to come unstuck away from the formula.
Hence, the most enduring and appealing of the 35 tracks across these two discs are the ones that stay truer to the rousing reels of their heyday. There is, however, a pleasing soul-rock vibe to the semi-power balladry of I’m Not Ashamed . Less palatable are the generic bluesy workouts ( Republican Party Reptile , God’s Great Mistake ), which when placed alongside Big Country’s more celebrated material, almost sound like the product of a different band altogether.
Arguably, the turning point came with 1988’s Peace In Our Time , represented here by the title track and King Of Emotion . The group
were keen to change what had been a well-received template, but seemed not to have anything specifically fleshed out to take its place.
Adamson was always a dab hand at the anthems, though, even in his punk days. On Skids singles such as
Sweet Suburbia and Into The Valley he
showed he knew how to construct a crowd-pleaser, so it’s no surprise that even after Big Country’s sales trailed off (only the first four of their albums reached the Top 10) there was always a devoted gig following to keep him in checked shirts.
Regrettably, there’s only one live track here (a splendidly ramshackle
charge through Fields Of Fire , prefaced by a snippet from The Jam’s Boy About Town ), where
a few more in place of some plodding album filler might have made for a more positive portrait of the band’s strengths. But let’s not get too
downbeat, as there’s more than enough to salute, and the sound of Kate Bush letting rip on The Seer still gets the feet flying and the sporran stirring.
nnnnnnnnnn Terry staunton