Review: Big Country - We're Not In Kansas: The Live Bootleg Box Set 1993-1998

Big Country were one of the biggest British alternative rock bands of the 1980s, selling millions of albums around the world.

Saturday, 2nd December 2017, 3:00 pm
Updated Wednesday, 6th December 2017, 11:47 am
Big Country m- We're Not In Kansas (The Live Bootleg Box Set 1993-1998)
Big Country m- We're Not In Kansas (The Live Bootleg Box Set 1993-1998)

For all their impressive sales, for me they were always a band who sounded even better live than in concert.

That was especially the case with their later releases, which packed a real wallop live which didn't always come over on vinyl or CD.

They retained a loyal fanbase for many years after their commercial peak, and it's those relatively fallow years which are covered by this 5CD boxset.

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It gathers live shows from Minneapolis (1993), Stirling (1994), Glasgow and Rotterdam (both 1995), and a couple of other odds and ends.

All are officially released for the first time, though, as the set's name suggests, they have been doing the rounds among fans as bootlegs for years.

Hits such as In A Big Country, Chance, Look Away and Wonderland were still an important part of their set, but the highlights here come with some of their later material.

From hugely-underrated 1993 album The Buffalo Skinners we get rousing versions of songs such as What Are You Working For, Chester's Farm, Long Way Home, and Pink Marshmallow Moon.

And from 1995's Why The Long Face there are a couple of more-laid-back late-era classics in You Dreamer and I'm Not Ashamed.

There's also a smattering of covers - Blue Oyster Cult‘s Don’t Fear The Reaper; Neil Young's Rockin’ In The Free World and My, My, Hey Hey, and Smokey Robinson's Tracks Of My Tears.

The crying shame about the set is that Cherry Red, who can usually be relied upon for top-notch releases, seem to have let their quality control standards slip on this one.

The Stirling and Glasgow sets in particular sound like not-terribly-good audience recordings, where you'd hope for soundboard or radio sources for an official release.

There's also the irritation of the three of the shows starting on one disc and being continued on another - could they not have each fit onto one, to save splitting the show unnecessarily?

Add the fact that only the Minneapolis set (disc one and four tracks of disc two) is a 'plugged in' show, while the others are acoustric, and I'd say this is for real BC completists only. 5/10.