The Singles Collection, Vol. 3

by: Big Country

The third volume of Big Country's somewhat exhausting Singles Collection covers material released between 1988 and 1993 -- well after the Scottish combo's defining and chart-topping debut, but a time still fruitful for their thriving European audience. It's a straight compilation of seven singles and their accompanying tracks, so there's a bit of repetition (the rousing "Thirteen Valleys" appears in two versions), and the sequencing shifts between instrumentals, studio, and live material. But longtime fans will love the diversity. There's a ragged live take on Neil Young's "Rocking in the Free World," informed with Big Country's famously populist ethos; to that end, there's also the scathing "Republican Party Reptile." Other highlights include the amplified folk-ballad "Troubled Man," as well as the "R.E.L. Tapes" B-sides of "Promised Land," most notably the meditative "Over the Border." Best is "Alone," (taken from 1993's spectacular Buffalo Skinners), a scalding anthem to match the intensity of "Fields of Fire." Singles Collection, Vol. Three is only necessary for the Big Country completist; it's much too extensive for the casual fan. Listeners looking for the highlights should pick up the band's installment of Mercury's 20th Century Masters series. ~ Johnny Loftus

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