Big Country Info Big Country Info


4 June 2015

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Hosted by Svein with special guest co-host Arlin Bartels.

  • Svein talks about why Tom will be sitting out the next few episodes of the podcast, and introduces Arlin as a special guesting co-host
  • Tony Butler’s “The Great Unknown” – our respective first impressions of the album.
  • What Tony did during BC’s break between 1996-98 – the launch of Great Western Records, some of the bands Tony worked with, and how the recording of his first solo album was part of a master plan.
  • The other bands Tony got involved with during this time – including Syrup, Caroline Barry, Blind Panic, Sacred Turf, and especially Pelt.
  • The other musicians on the Great Unknown album, including fellow Big Country travellers Mark Brzezicki and Josh Phillips on some tracks
  • Tony’s liner notes for the album
  • The modus operandi for the album: a tribute to his musical heroes, with songs written over the then past 15 or so years. No info in the booklet on who these heroes are, however!
  • The album’s availability today – Arlin has combed the internet for available copies. There’s not a lot of them out there…

The Great Unknown – song deep dive by Arlin and Svein

  • Out the gate, this is a song that very much reminds us of Tony’s main band. Unashamedly so!
  • Tony’s vocal style – not always the most technical singer, but often very emotional, earnest and heartfelt.
  • An epic song, the longest one on the album.
  • The title of the song AND the album - a great theme for the album, as going solo was a “great unknown” for Tony, as was his record company venture. It’s a mission statement, and fits old BC themes.
  • The character in the song is however more down and out, trying to put his life together.

Living Side By Side – song deep dive by Svein and Arlin

  • A song with a strong religious message – about “the book of light that shines the answer” (the bible) and “the words in stone will be my guide” (the ten commandments). It’s a declaration of Christian faith.
  • More shades of classic BC – wonderful lead guitar in the intro, and an unconventional song structure.
  • Tony as the backing vocal king – the second verse is especially amazing.
  • There is a structure to the lyrics where the verses contains a lot of scenarios and descriptions. They are nice, but it is the bridge and chorus that ties it together and give it direction.

I Believe In Angels – song deep dive by Arlin and Svein

  • The first song on the album that breaks significantly away from the “Big Country sound”.
  • A very evocative song – representative of the “other” side of Tony.
  • Interesting sounds – the keyboard touches, a more electronic bass sound, etc.
  • The concept of angels and the secular meaning of them in this song (people pass on, but are still a big part of your life because they left such a deep imprint) vs. the more traditional biblical angels.
  • The song’s personal significance to Svein.

When the Trees Go Down – song deep dive by Svein and Arlin

  • A song about Seasonal Effective Disorder. Someone is feeling the post-Christmas blues quite heavily as the Christmas trees are taken down.
  • Some examples of dry humour, but primarily the words describe a genuine emptiness in his heart when Christmas is over.  
  • Musically uptempo, with a lot of sparkling guitar themes and interesting parts. An interesting contrast to the depressing lyrics.

Mist In Your Moonlight – song deep dive by Arlin and Svein

  • A very angry song! He sings, “I will call you a whore, always wanting more. I should break your jaw, you just used me.” This makes it hard to tap into emotionally.
  • A song about a one-sided relationship, where the guy still cares deeply for someone but is taken advantage of and also likely ignored when the woman has gotten what she wants. This song catches the guy during a wave of anger.
  • The song is a solid hard rock blast, with a lot of great instrumentation – including a great twin guitar solo section. It is really the lyrics, though, that pushes it “into the red”.
  • A great and melodic chorus, with a lot of great backing vocals.

The May Queen Leads Her Parade – song deep dive by Svein and Arlin

  • May Day celebrations and the May Queen tradition.
  • The most uniquely different song on the album? Almost a folk song, albeit with a catchy synth flute (not pan pipe!) theme, great layers of acoustic guitars, and a quiet but full arrangement.
  • A song totally devoid of epic bombast – it is an idyllic, pastoral, beautiful song, both musically and lyrically. The song simply describes an idyllic place, a beautiful day, a life filled with hope for the future, peacefulness, and the simple, pure joy of life.
  • Arlin’s interesting journey with this song, going from hating it intensely at first to eventually embracing and loving it.

“The May Queen Leads Her Parade” – acoustic version from the Acoustica album, 2005.