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Familiar Country

RECORD RACK

July 20, 1986|TERRY ATKINSON

"THE SEER." Big Country. Mercury. A short memory--or pure ignorance--can sometimes help you enjoy an album more. Take "The Seer": its chiming, bagpipe-like guitars, rolling drums, hopeful lyrics and yearning vocals are pretty charming. They might even be impressive--if you've never heard this Scottish band's 1983 debut LP. The new album seems an attempt to recapture the flavor and feeling of that first effort after a rough-road detour through unconvincing social statement on '84's "Steeltown."

Returning to the tone of that dreamy-eyed yet forceful debut wasn't a bad idea, but it would have been a better one if singer-writer-guitarist Stuart Adamson had progressed in any or all of those roles. He hasn't. When Kate Bush drops by to co-sing the title song, her dancing vocals remind you how limited Adamson's are; he seems to have only two gears--plaintive and straining.

The songs, meanwhile, stick too close to tried-and-true patterns. Once again, Adamson's electric guitar work, overdubbed and ringing with folk fury and beauty, is the outstanding feature and the main reason why every song here is pleasantly listenable. But this was once a band that promised to be something special, along the lines of U2, rather than merely enjoyable.

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