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Why The Long Face was Big Country's seventh studio album, released in the summer of 1995. The band had seen a mighty return to form with their previous album The Buffalo Skinners (March 1993), the tour of which was chronicled on the live LP Without The Aid Of A Safety Net (May 1994). Suitably enthused, the band did not rest on their laurels and in August 1994, they headed into the studio to record demos for their follow-up album.

Bruce Watson: "The mood in the band at that time was great because Mark was back. We were back to being Big Country as a four-piece. The camaraderie was good, we got along very well."

Tony Butler: "That time saw the re-emergence of happiness in the band. We felt a lot happier that Mark was back on board, and we were doing demos for the album at a place called Chapel Studios over in Lincolnshire. I'm not sure that everybody is familiar with the topography of that part of England, but it's flat - in fact, so flat it should be part of Holland! You can see for miles in any direction. We found we were really enjoying ourselves in that studio. It had two recording rooms. We would get together in one room and bash out some song ideas and arrangements, then we would work on things in smaller groups, and swap around. Everything was open and free. In the evening, after dinner, if anybody wanted to return to the studio to work out a tune or an idea, we allowed ourselves to do that. I just enjoyed that time a tot!"

The following month, Big Country took a break to play a number of live shows first, a few acoustic shows at the Jazz Café in London (1 and 8 September), before accepting an opening slot on Meat Loaf's European tour sprinkled through the first half of that month. The live dates for 1994 were wrapped up with a final gig at Manchester's In The City festival on the 19th, after which recording eventually resumed.

Amazingly, amongst all of this activity, frontman Stuart Adamson and his family were in the middle of relocating to the US. That move was also completed in September, although it would be a short stay, with all of them returning to live in Dunfermline the following summer.

Bruce Watson: "I think that with Stuart moving to America, the sessions became a bit disjointed. Not just him, but everybody was living miles apart, and there was always a challenge with everyone logistically. As a consequence, things were done in several shorter periods of time, Like recording through a week or weekend, then Stuart had to go back to America on the following Monday - or something else going on, like breaking up the sessions for gigs."

Recording for the album was wrapped up in RAK Studios in January 1995. The previous album had been solely produced by the band themselves. This time, they tapped Chris Sheldon (known for producing or mixing records for the Foo Fighters, Garbage, Feeder, Therapy? and Pixies amongst others) for co-production duties.

The band's feelings towards the album were very positive, if initial quotes shared by those involved were anything to go by. In Country Club Magazine #33, Ian Grant said: "All I can say is that the album surpasses The Buffalo Skinners."

Tony would add: "We have fourteen terrific songs - none of them over four minutes and they are all meat and bones, no fat, with definite flavours of what Big Country used to sound like with loads of e-bow all songs are very melodic. The only problem we have is selecting the singles, because there are so many which are suitable. None of the tracks are too heavy and they should, hopefully, be radio-friendly. The album only took an amazing three weeks to record - everything just went so well that it was just a joy to record it."

However, just one month later in February, the band were released from their contract with Compulsion. They had formed a strong working relationship with Chris Briggs at that label for the previous albums, but he was lukewarm about the new material.

Bruce Watson: "I know for a fact that Chris Briggs got the demos sent to him, and he came back and said we needed to do more work - that we didn't have enough of the right type of songs. Looking back, I think he was right. But there's also stuff on there that I really like, like 'I'm Not Ashamed' and 'One In A Million'... great songs, you know? But overall, I felt there was too much of those heavy-sounding distorted guitars and over-the-top, compressed drums."

The Buffalo Skinners had seen the band bursting at the seams with energy. While Why The Long Face definitely also has its rock moments, it also offered more diverse styles.

Tony Butler: "On the previous album, me and Bruce really wanted to rock things up, and we pushed in that direction. But for Why The Long Face, Stuart came to the fold with some different song ideas. And I listened to the demos he brought in when he played them for us, and... you can't deny good songs. Regardless. And recording those songs, as watered down as some of them were in intensity and power, that didn't matter. They were great songs. For instance, a song like 'Send You' was at one stage possibly my most favourite ever Big Country song. I just Loved the chorus. There was just something incredibly enchanting about that song, and I just loved it to death. I couldn't understand why that wasn't shared by a bigger, larger public."

Bruce Watson: "There are many good moments. I especially like 'Post-Nuclear Talking Blues', which is my favourite song on that album. It gives you a bit of relief!"

The band signed to Transatlantic/Castle Communications in March 1995, and after a short while, it was announced that 'I'm Not Ashamed' would be released as the first single. It appeared on 27 May, reached #69 on the singles chart, and was gone again by the following week.

One could definitely make the case that the band didn't quite fit in with the current fashions. As Big Country entered their second decade as a band, Britain was swept off its feet by the new Britpop movement, with bands like Blur, Oasis, Suede, and Pulp now leading the musical charge - much like Big Country, U2, Simple Minds and The Alarm had done in the 1980s. In America, the wave of bands collectively referred to as Grunge had taken a similar foothold.

The Why The Long Face sessions had proved to be very productive. On top of the fourteen album tracks, the band kept up the tradition of adding numerous B-sides to the mix. These sessions yielded the highest number of non-album material yet: eight additional original Big Country compositions, four re-workings of album tracks and three cover versions. This added up to an initial 29 songs from the WTLF sessions released across different formats, in addition to later demos and outtakes released as part of the Rarities series, all of which are collected on this expanded release.

Big Country B-sides would often be playful, showing unexpected sides of the band. Songs like 'Ice Cream Smile' and 'Magic In Your Eyes' represented this side of the band. They bore a more than passing resemblance to the material Stuart was exploring in America, but Bruce is quick to dismiss the notion that Stuart brought these songs in and led the charge in this direction.

Bruce Watson: "From memory, for the songs 'Ice Cream Smile' and 'Magic In Your Eyes', we just got into the studio and said 'let's do something', then played and worked out these songs together. I don't recall them being written by one person, they were very much band compositions coming out of the good mood in the studio. We recorded them up in Scotland - and I love those songs! They are really not something you'd expect Big Country to come out with. Mark really got into the arrangements of these songs as well, especially the vocals. They really don't sound like typical Big Country but it was such good fun to play those songs."

Mark Brzezicki: "I've always contributed small musical things like that, but you know, I never made any noise about that, but I'm always involved in contributing to the whole thing. Vocally as well, I have always enjoyed that, rather than just sitting and playing the drums."

Tony Butler: "'Take You To The Moon' was also touted by some as a 'country and western'-type song. You could see it that way, if you like, but I don't. I'm seeing it as a very lamentable [as in full of or expressing sorrow or grief - ed.] rock ballad that really sings its heart out. And I think this song, and some of the others on the album, really worked on that level."

The album continued the lyrical direction that Stuart had embarked on in the earlier part of the 1990s. In the early days, the words were very inward-looking, made good use of literary sources, and relied on imagery (and sometimes mysticism) to get things across. As the band moved into the 1990s, this would change, and at the time of this album the lyrics would look more outward, be observational, more direct and often personal. This was a conscious development, as Stuart explained in a discussion with Christian Jennings in 1995: "I don't really feel any kind of a responsibility (other than to myself) to write 'weighty' lyrics. In fact, I sometimes wish I could learn to write in a simpler form, to be more direct, and I'm going to be experimenting with this."

Why The Long Face was released on the 12th of June 1995 on CD, cassette and a limited edition of 3,000 copies on vinyl. It reached #48 in the UK charts and stayed in the Top 100 for two weeks. This was the lowest performance of any Big Country album thus far. However, rather than being an immediate hit LP, it proved itself a steady seller over time, both in UK and internationally (especially Germany). At the time, the business was still very much singles and chart-oriented. The term "long-tail selling" - and that way of working an album - was not yet established the same way it is now.

To launch and promote the album, the band went on a record store signing tour across the UK, performing an in-store acoustic set of mostly new tracks. This helped build some momentum, and the band's spirits and profile was further heightened when they got some opening slots for Jimmy Page and Robert Plant's Irish shows.

In Germany, album sales proved to be so solid that they helped secure Big Country a prestigious guest slot on the European leg of the Rolling Stones' Voodoo Lounge tour. They trekked with them across Germany and the Benelux region for a total of nine dates, fitting in shows of their own between the Stones gigs. These would frequently be acoustic. A particularly memorable one from Rotterdam Rotown (28 August 1995 alias the glorious, so-called "Sheepshaggers" gig) can be found in its entirety on the recently released We're Not In Kansas "live bootleg" box set.

There are many examples of acoustic gigs from this time in the mid-1990s. The band always had an acoustic side, to the point that the first half of the live album Without The Aid Of A Safety Net starts off with an "unplugged" set.

Bruce Watson: "We were always exploring that side of things, doing acoustic versions of our songs. There was one gig in America on The Buffalo Skinners tour, I think it was Detroit [4 November 1993], where the power just failed. The backline and PA and everything just went off completely. We started wondering, 'what are we going to do now?' We ended up getting the acoustic guitars out. Some of the songs we obviously knew in that format, but others we were almost making them up as we went along. It turned out to be a happy accident. It was really great."

This side of the band would be explored further on their next project: the acoustic live album Eclectic, recorded at Dingwalls over two nights on 20 & 21 March 1996 and released later in the year on 12 August. The album certainly is something else - multiple new cover versions, several (mostly reworked) originals, rarities and songs rarely performed live, and a lot of musical guests (including Carol Laula, Steve Harley, Kym Mazelle and several instrumentalists). The Eclectic album has long been out of print, but is included in
this box set to round off the Why The Long Face era.

"I think we got a bit bored with being Big Country around that time," Bruce laughs. "We started playing covers just to have some fun - things like 'Daydream Believer' and other things. Just for fun, you know? Just because we could!"

Fun is really the best way to sum up this set. The album boasts a diversity and several songs of incredible quality and is high on this writer's list of favourite Big Country albums. For the first time, every B-side, bonus track, all existing demo versions and several outtakes are also included in the same package. Not even Indiana Jones could deal with that. Why the Long face indeed!

Svein Børge Hjorthaug

Stuart Adamson - Vocals, Guitars, E-bow, Slide Guitar, B-bender Guitar
Bruce Watson - Guitars, Mandolin, E-bow
Tony Butler - Bass Guitar, Backing Vocals
Mark Brzezicki - Drums, Percussion, Backing Vocals

Disc One
Why The Long Face
1. You Dreamer
2. Message of Love
3. I'm Not Ashamed
4. Sail Into Nothing
5. Thunder & Lightning
6. Send You
7. One In A Million
8. God's Great Mistake
9. Wildland In My Heart
10. Take You To The Moon
11. Far From Me To You
12. Charlotte
13. Post Nuclear Talking Blues
14. Blue On A Green Planet
All Tracks Written by Adamson Except Track 8 Written By Adamson/Butler, Track 4 & 12 By Adamson/Watson,
And 13-14 Written by Butler/Brzezicki/Adamson/Watson.
All Songs Published by SGO Music Management Ltd.
Ⓟ1995 Sanctuary Records Group Ltd, A BMG Company. Licensed Courtesy of BMG Rights Management (UK) Ltd.


Disc Two
Why The Long Face
(Bonus Tracks)

1. I'm Not Ashamed (Single Edit)
2. One In A Million (1st Visit)
3. Monday Tuesday Girl
4. In A Big Country (Acoustic Version)
5. Crazytimes
6. Blue On A Green Planet (Cool Version)
7. You Dreamer (Single Edit)
8. Ice Cream Smile
9. Magic In Your Eyes
10. Bianca
11. Hardly A Mountain (HITW Tapes)
12. Golden Boy Loves Golden Girl (HITW Tapes)
13. Can You Feel The Winter (HITW Tapes)
14. I'm Eighteen
15. Vicious
16. On The Road Again
17. All Go Together (Acoustic Version)
All Tracks Written by Adamson Except Track 3 Written By Adamson/Watson/Brzezicki,
Tracks 4 & 6 By Butler/Brzezicki/Adamson/Watson, Track 10 By Adamson/Butler, Track 14 By Buxton/Bruce/Dunaway/ Cooper/Smith, Track 15 by Reed, Track 16 By Jones/Wilson, And Track 17 By Adamson/Watson/Butler.
All Songs Published by Stage Three Music Publishing Ltd Except 1-2 & 6-7 Published By SGO Music Management Ltd, 14 Published by BMG Rights Management (UK) Ltd/Universal-MCA Music Ltd, & 15 Published By Emi United Partnership Ltd.
Ⓟ 1995 Sanctuary Records Group Ltd, A BMG Company. Licensed Courtesy of BMG Rights Management (UK) Ltd.

Disc Three
1. River of Hope
2. King of Emotion
3. Big Yellow Taxi
4. The Buffalo Skinners
5. Summertime
6. The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down
7. Eleanor Rigby
8. Winter Sky
9. Sling It
10. I'm On Fire
11. Where The Rose Is Sown
12. Come Back To Me
13. Ruby Tuesday
Bonus Tracks:
14. Teenage Lament
15. Down On The Corner
16. Hey Hey My My
17. You Dreamer (Acoustic Version)
18. I'm Not Ashamed (Acoustic Version)
Tracks 1-2 & 17-18 written by Adamson, track 3 by Mitchell, track 4 by Adamson/Watson/Butler,
track 5 by Heyward/Heyward/Gershwin/Gershwin, track 6 by Robertson, track 7 by Lennon/McCartney,
tracks 8, 11 & 12 by Watson/Adamson/Brzezicki/Butler, track 9 by Harley, track 10 by Springsteen,
track 13 by Richards/Jagger, track 14 by Cooper/Smith, track 15 by Fogerty, track 16 by Young.
Songs 1-2, 4, 8, 11-12 published by Stage Three Music Publishing Ltd, 3 & 7 published by Sony/ATV Music
Publishing (UK) Ltd, 5 by Downtown Music UK Ltd/Warner-Chappell North America Ltd/IRA Gershwin Music,
6 by Warner/Chappell North America Ltd, 9 by RAK Publishing Ltd, 10 by Universal Music Publishing Ltd,
13 by Onward Music Ltd/Westminster Music Ltd/ABKCO Music Ltd, 14 by Universal/MCA Music Ltd,
15 by Jondora Music, 16 by Sharandall Music, 17-18 by SGO Music Management Ltd.
Tracks 1-13 Ⓟ 1996 Sanctuary Records Group Ltd, a BMG company, Licensed courtesy of BMG Rights Management
(UK) Ltd. Tracks 14-18    Ⓟ 2001 licensed courtesy of SGO Music Management Limited.

Disc Four
1. You Dreamer
2. Message of Love
3. I'm Not Ashamed
4. Sail Into Nothing
5. Thunder And Lightning
6. Send You
7. God's Great Mistake
8. Wildland In My Heart
9. Take You To The Moon
10. Far From Me To You
11. Charlotte
12. Post Nuclear Talking Blues
13. Crazytimes
14. What About Peace
15. Normal
16. God's Great Mistake (Alternate Version)
All tracks written by Adamson except track 7 by Adamson/Butler, 11, 15 & 16 by Adamson/Watson,
and 12 by Adamson/Brzezicki/Butler/Watson.
All songs published by SGO Music Management Ltd except 13 published by Stage Three Music Publishing Ltd.
Tracks 1-5, 7-9, 11-12     Ⓟ 2004, 6 & 14 Ⓟ 2002, 10 Ⓟ2018, 13 Ⓟ 2001, 15 & 16 Ⓟ 1998 licensed courtesy of SGO Music Management Limited.
Compiled with thanks to John Gouveia
With special thanks to Stuart Ongley (SGO Music Management), Bruce Watson, Tony Butler, Mark Brzezicki, and the family of Stuart Adamson.
Coordinated for Cherry Red by Oli Hemingway & John Reed
Design by Keith Davey at
Remastered by Simon Murphy at Another Planet Music
Compiler's note: Due to licensing/copyright reasons, the original front cover artwork for Why The Long Face has been replaced for this reissue.
Thanks to Adam Velasco, Paul Robinson, Dave Timperley, Jon Roberts, Matt Ingham and all at Cherry Red Records.