Best Of The Decade

Big Sky

Compilation album released on the Epic label on the 4th October 1999.
Catalogue number CDEPC 8120 R. ‘Destiny’ and ‘Skin Deep’ produced by Kevin Shirley. Compilation produced by Kevin Shirley and Steve Louw.

Best Of The Decade
Best Of The Decade

Tracks

  1. Destiny [3.20] 1999 recording, single 1999
  2. Mr Green [4.17] from Going Down With Mr Green
  3. Run To Me [4.47] from Horizon
  4. Waiting For The Dawn [5.20] from Waiting For The Dawn
  5. One Cut With A Knife [4.24] from Horizon
  6. Diamonds And Dirt [3.45] from Waiting For The Dawn
  7. Skin Deep [4.00] 1999 recording
  8. Hold Me [3.53] from Going Down With Mr Green
  9. Wasted [4.00] from Going Down With Mr Green
  10. Kathleen [2.57] from Horizon
  11. Forever Love [3.30] from Waiting For The Dawn
  12. Strange Room [3.32] from Horizon
  13. Slow Dancing [6.03] from Waiting For The Dawn
  14. Blue Eyes [2.48] from Horizon

All songs written by Steve Louw except ‘Slow Dancing’ and ‘Skin Deep’ written by Steve Louw and Kevin Shirley.

Musicians (on 1999 recordings)

  • Steve Louw: vocals, guitars
  • Anton Fig: drums
  • Pat Thrall: guitars
  • Mickey d’Michelle: bass
  • Eric Bazilian: guitar
  • Adam Holzman: Hammond organ
  • Kevin Shirley: dulcimer on ‘Destiny’
  • Alex Foster: sax on ‘Skin Deep’
  • Andy Kravitz: percussion on ‘Skin Deep’

More information under Sleeve Notes

Best Of The Decade Back Cover
Best Of The Decade Back Cover

Sleeve Notes

Destiny *

I wrote this new track for my wife, Erna, a few days before I went into the studio in New York which turned out to be the same room where Bowie recorded ‘Let’s Dance’ and Springsteen made ‘Born in the U.S.A.’ Maybe it was the room, maybe it was working in New York again with Kevin (Shirley) and a brilliant band, but everything just clicked that day. From the word go, ‘Destiny’ sounded like a hit. We wrapped up recording in a few hours and I couriered a copy to Erna in Cape Town for our 11th wedding anniversary. She’s still impressed.

Drums – Anton Fig. Bass – Mickey D’ Michelle. Hammond – Adam Holzman. Guitar – Eric Bazilian. Guitar & Solo – Pat Thrall. Dulcimer – Kevin Shirley. Acoustic guitar & Vox – Steve Louw.

Mr Green **

As technology catapults us forward into the new century, ‘Mr Green’ laments society’s lack of progress when it comes to fundamental values and to rampant greed that seems to fuel so much of human behaviour. In a hundred years we’ve come so far, but learned so little.

Drums – Scott Crago. Bass – Mark Harris. Hammond – Benmont Tench. Guitar – Tommy Girvin. Vocals – Steve Louw

Run to Me **

My kids persuaded me to put this song on my second album ‘Horizon’. Whenever I played it, they would literally come running. For me it’s like one big daydream about love and rock ‘roll. About swooping across colour saturated fields and them soaring up into a blue sky that stretches forever.

Drums and Percussion – Scott Crago. Bass – Mark Harris. Keyboards – Benmont Tench. Guitar – Tommy Girvin. Vocals – Steve Louw

Waiting for the Dawn *

A song of which I’ve always been proud. I wrote it in 1987 amidst the rioting and gunfire in South Africa. Kevin decided to use the bagpipes in the second solo. Then we discovered that they can only play in B-flat and the song was in D! So, we took a flyer and speeded up the tape up to E-flat and it worked!

Drums – Godla Mgcinga. Bass – Jimmy Mngwandi. Keyboards – Don Laka. Guitar and Solo – Robbie McIntosh. Acoustic 12 String Guitar and Vocals – Steve Louw. Bagpipes – The Cape Town Highlanders 

One Cut with a Knife **

I was song-writing in the basement one night when an abused woman arrived at our house seeking comfort from my wife. I never talked to her myself, but I overheard enough to write ‘One Cut with a Knife’. Unfortunately, during live gigs, it has been misinterpreted by some fans as a macho anthem.

Drums and Percussion – Scott Crago. Bass – Mark Harris. Keyboards – Benmont Tench. Guitar and Guitar Solo – Tommy Girvin. Vocals – Steve Louw

Diamonds and Dirt *

Written in 1987 at the end of the ‘Waiting for the Dawn’ recording sessions. This song contains my grittiest and most cutting lyrics. I think it’s the closest I’ve got to writing the quintessential South Africa rock ‘n roll song.

Great keyboards by Benmont Tench of Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers.

Drums – Godla Mgcinga. Bass – Jimmy Mngwandi. Guitar – Waddy Wachtell. Guitar and Guitar Solo – Robbie McIntosh. Hammond – Benmont Tench. Sax – McCoy Mrubata. Vocals – Steve Louw.

Skin Deep *

The second new song that I wrote with Kevin in New York this year was inspired by an interview with Keith Richards who was quoted as saying, “All our bones are white and our blood red – beauty is ‘skin deep’.”

Drums – Anton Fig, Bass – Mickey D’ Michelle, Guitar – Eric Bazilian. Guitar – Pat Thrall. Keyboards – Adam Holzman. Vocals – Steve Louw. Sax – Alex Foster. Percussion – Andy Krovitz.

Hold Me **

I played this gong to the band on acoustic guitar and asked one time Eagles drummer, Scott Crago, to come up with something exciting. It was the catalyst for a great evening’s work that produced one of my favourite songs. The lyrics were inspired by my children who are forever saying, “Hold me!”

Drums and Percussion – Scott Crago. Bass – Mark Harris. Keyboards – Benmont Tench. Guitar – Tommy Girvin. Vocals – Steve Louw

Wasted **

Written after I heard about the death of Nico Burger who played with me in All Night Radio and Big Sky. He was a brilliant guitarist and a beautiful person with huge talent. It seemed such a waste for him to die so young. Poignant sitar playing by Tim Pierce captures the mood.

Drums – Scott Crago. Bass – Mark Harris. Keyboards – Benmont Tench. Guitar – Tommy Girvin. Sitar -Tim Pierce. Vox – Steve Louw

Kathleen **

In 1989 my first-born Kathleen came into this world and I was speechless with love. Some of that emotion is captured in this song which I wrote to keep Katie company while I was on the road.

Drums – Scott Crago. Bass – Mark Harris. Keyboards – Benmont Tench. Guitar – Tommy Girvin. Vocals – Steve Louw

Forever Love *

Two years before we married, I wrote this song for Erna. We met at Stellenbosch University and became best friends. Fifteen years down the track and three children later I am happy to say that we still are.

Drums – Godla Mgcinga. Bass – Jimmy Mngwandi. Keyboards – Don Laka. Guitar – Robbie McIntosh. Vocals – Steve Louw. Sax – McCoy Mrubata. Acoustic Guitar – Steve Newman.

Slow Dancing **

One of my top hits off ‘Waiting for the Dawn’, ‘Slow Dancing’ was inspired by the ebb and flow of the sea in front of my home. It started out as a reggae song until Kevin reworked the drum pattern. It features some inspired playing by Robbie McIntosh of The Pretenders and sax wizard McCoy Mrubata.

Drums – Godla Mgcinga Bass – Jimmy Mngwandi. Sax – McCoy Mrubata. Piano – Don Laka. Acoustic Guitar and Vocals – Steve Louw. Guitar – Robbie McIntosh.

Blue Eyes **

I wrote this for my second daughter, Nina, shortly after her birth. She has the deepest most soulful blue eyes.

Drums and Percussion – Scott Crago. Bass – Mark Harris. Guitar – Tommy Girvin. Acoustic Guitar and Vocals – Steve Louw

***

Thank you to all of the musicians whose talent and creativity gave life to these songs.

This album is dedicated to the memory of my father, Jas Louw, and my mother, my greatest fan – the one and only Ethnee Louw.

With love for Erna, Katie, Nina.

* Produced by Kevin Shirley

** Produced by Steve Louw

Compilation produced by Kevin Shirley and Steve Louw

Mastered by Leon Zervos at Absolute Audio, NYC

All songs written by Steve Louw except ‘Skin Deep’ and ‘Slow Dancing’ written by Steve Louw and Kevin Shirley. All songs published by SloSongs.

Cover photography: Gerda Genis. Design: CODE – a company of designers

Videos

Strange Room is a “S’Effrican in New York” thing with a reference to Sting, singing about Russians and trees, and all he’s got is a one-way ticket and a case of anti-freeze. Truly terrific

Michael Cross
Slow Dancing features Don Laka on piano and the collaboration is simply out of this world.
Look to find One Cut With A Knife on the radio almost every time you switch it on; it’s just the right combination of hook and rock, a humming and bopping thing.
From Big Sky’s debut Album, Waiting for the Dawn, this lively and powerful track was a instant success.

The title, somewhat anthemic track, refers to the South African situation and includes the lines: “People suffer for so long now … We’re still waiting for the dawn / For the sea to wash the sins from our sands.” Good stuff. 

Glynis O’Hara, The Star TONIGHT!

Reviews

BIG SKY – BEST OF THE DECADE
by Mike Behr

Several years ago, during a spellbinding two-hour set of near religious ecstasy at the House of Blues in New Orleans, I had the pleasure of acquainting myself with the music of Canadian singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn.

What amazes me now as much as it did then, is how a cruel twist of fate has for decades denied Cockburn the fame he deserves. In another time and place, Canada’s best kept musical secret could have been a Springsteen, a Mellencamp or a Jackson Browne.

Just as astonishing is the way big-time success has eluded our very own best kept rock secret, Steve Louw. Heaven knows, South Africa’s premier singer-songwriter has paid his dues, from tireless gigging with All Night Radio – which he formed at Stellenbosch University in the early Eighties while he was studying law – to prolific movie soundtrack work and the elegant output of his all-star band Big Sky.

The lack of wider recognition would have been palatable had Steve’s rocking ‘n rolling been mediocre. But, as anyone who knows his distinctively relaxed style will attest, the man is a class act. The kind that lures collaborators of a similar pedigree.

Steve started keeping auspicious company in the studio way back in the early Eighties when a bunch of scratchy C60 demos impressed New York-based John Rollo enough to agree to produce All Night Radio’s debut, The Heart’s the Best Part. Having worked with Roberta Flack, Stevie Nicks, former E-Street Band guitarist Steve van Zandt and The Kinks, Rollo had what it took to capture on vinyl the raucous, raunchy essence of All Night Radio’s famed live shows.

The next producer of note to work with Steve was South African born Kevin Shirley. In 1986, he produced All Night Radio’s second album, The Killing Floor, before launching an international career that would find him producing Aerosmith, Silverchair, Black Crowes and a host of other hot global acts.

Two years later, Shirley teamed up again with Steve to produce Big Sky’s debut, Waiting For the Dawn. A watershed album in the history of South African rock ‘n roll, it spawned a trio of top 10 radio hits: Waiting For the Dawn, Diamonds and Dirt and the delectable Slow Dancing. Each one finds a place on this classy retrospective which was released to satisfy a growing demand for a Big Sky back catalogue that is in scarce supply.

Scan the credits, and you’ll notice that Steve rock ‘n rolls in the super league. Besides a star cast of South Africans, the musicians who took their three songs to the top of the charts included Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers keyboardist Benmont Tench, Chrissie Hynde and The Pretenders guitarist Robbie McIntosh, Linda Ronstadt guitarist Waddy Wachtell who also played for Keith Richard’s Xpensive Winos and Eagles drummer Scott Crago.

Big Sky’s second album, Horizon, a beautifully crafted, mostly acoustic set spawned two huge radio hits in One Cut With a Knife and Strange Room before edging out younger, hipper bands like Urban Creep and Squeal to win a South African Music Award for Best Rock Act. Both hits, plus four other songs from Horizon, are featured on this collection.

Steve’s sequel, Going Down With Mr Green, maintained the same high standards of his previous albums.

The bitter irony is that playing in the big league hasn’t opened the doors to the big time – yet. Listen to the pair of brand new songs that fit this retrospective like an old slipper and you’ll discover that Steve Louw is not about to hang up his guitar.

Titled Destiny (penned for his wife Erna for their 11th wedding anniversary) and Skin Deep, both sparkling rock gems with Kevin Shirely behind the studio controls. Not one to make rash predictions, Shirley remarked during his recent recording of the new Springbok Nude Girls album that Destiny in particular is good enough to crack the American charts. Having been there several time, he should know.

After such a long haul, it would be sweet rock ‘n roll justice if Steve got to thrill the heartland that has inspired his music through the years. God knows, he deserves it. The only bummer is then we’d have to share our best kept secret…


Steve Louw
Steve Louw

SA Rock Digest Issue #127

by Kurt Shoemaker, October 2001

I have heard that Japan does not permit masters of certain crafts to leave the country for fear of losing them. The fact that Steve travels to the States and NYC in no way diminishes how I think of him as a rock master. Y’all won’t lose him, though, because his heart is in South Africa.There is no posturing, no rear-wagging and tongue-unfurling here, only unabashed good-feeling rock, heavy on melody; rock resonant with a clear and sharp electric guitar and strong drums.This is mature rock, not rebel-without-a-clue anger-for-the-sake of-anger rock. So if you think Huck Phlegm and the Pissed-Off Kids is gobs of fun, this might well not be a CD for you.

However, if you have a couple of kids whom you adore, one with blue eyes, a forever love of your life (and a long-ago girlfriend named Kathleen), and a passion for melodic rock played with masterful finesse, then this is a CD to spin for the fun of it.

The closest Steve Louw gets to anger is a slow burn at best on the tune ‘Mr. Green’, where he laments our loss of inner-strength and its replacement by materialism.

Mostly he sings of people-things: relationships and love, side trips into disappointments, feeling wasted, and diamonds and dirt. All sung with open sincerity, all cleanly played on the electric guitar, without forgetting the pounding drums — both really are nicely favored in the mix.

Not to diminish this CD’s rock value, but it can be played softly for melodic rock background, or it can be cranked up to dominate the room and keep a small party chugging along. It can even make work pleasant. ‘Best of the Decade’ is not laid back — don’t think that — but it does have a casual insouciance, an inspiring lift, that talks to you if you’re at a certain responsible age of life.

See I sometimes think that female singers sing to me, and male singers sing for me. In this greatest hits CD, Steve seems to be coming from a place and time in his life where he sings for me, expressing in song what I haven’t the musical skill to sing and play, though I have the life to feel.

I enjoy the rolling beauty and almost plaintive feel of Steve Louw’s music. He’s a masterful guitarist and assembles a great band — not to mention having a friend like Kevin Shirley produce a number of the tracks for him in New York City.

To use a rock cliché in describing a work that is not clichéd, but rather is personal and musical: this CD has some infectious songs. I defy even the most hardened distortion lover from tapping along to songs like ‘Blue Eyes’, ‘Run to Me’, and ‘Strange Room’.

If you enjoy the sort of work work I’ve described, and can’t sustain anger and screaming for 56 minutes, you might could, as we say in Texas, check out Steve Louw and Big Sky’s international rock with its heart in South Africa.



When Big Sky won the SAMA award for Best Rock Act in the mid-’90’s, beating off a strong challenge from the younger turks of the SA rock scene (Urban Creep, Squeal), many folks’ reaction was “Who?”. A typical response towards an artist who has worked consistently since the early ’80’s to establish himself as one of SA’s foremost rock musicians. Steve Louw began his career with All Night Radio before creating Big Sky in 1990. With no other fixed band personnel involved, Louw worked with an assortment of producers and musicians, usually international, to create his ’90’s body of work. He worked with Kevin Shirley on the first album, ‘Waiting For The Dawn’, and then used the legendary producer and arranger, Shelley Yakus, for his second, ‘Horizon’, which was the album that won the SAMA award. The third album, ‘Going Down With Mr Green’, completed his trilogy of exceptional ’90’s rock albums.

But despite the quality of the material on these three albums, Steve Louw remained SA Rock’s “Invisible Man”. He popped up with a full band as the support to Rodriguez on his 1998 SA tour and caught the attention of a host of SA rock fans who then went looking for some of these albums. Now Steve has released a compilation of the best tracks off these three albums, and ‘Best Of The Decade’ is a worthy title and damn fine album. Besides the older hits like ‘Waiting For The Dawn’, Diamonds And Dust’, ‘Slow Dancing’, ‘One Cut With A Knife’, ‘Run To Me’, ‘Wasted’, and ‘Strange Room’, there are two new tracks – ‘Destiny’ and ‘Skin Deep’. Steve Louw is a no-frills rocker with an ear for elegaic melodies and intelligent lyrics. He deserves far more attention then he has received and hopefully this strong collection will achieve just that.

Stephen Segerman, October 1999



YFM
Ok, he’s no Carlos Santana but he plays some wicked tunes, Steve Louw is the man behind Big Sky and he’s the man who’s recognised in the forefront of South Africa’s Rock ‘n Roll. He’s a class act and his distinctively relaxed style. He’s almost too smooth and he unfortunately also fell victim to the South African soil that doesn’t do much in marketing our local sounds abroad. Big Sky’s second album, ‘Horizon’, won them a South African Music Award for Best Rock Act and that they are. Whether through mixing their sounds or sticking to acoustics they are just brilliant. In the song ‘Slow dancing’ he features Don Laka on piano and the collaboration is simply out of this world. In all honesty I’ve always loved his music but had never bothered to find out his name – call it inexcusable ignorance. You’ll enjoy this – definitely the best of the last century.


Lyrics

Destiny

Destiny cuts through my life
You to me like a train through the night
Holds me like that silver moon
Holds the sea to her womb

Anywhere you walk, you walk with me
Anytime you talk, you talk to me
Everywhere I go, come with me
Everything you show, show me
My destiny

Show me the key to your door
Take me with you once more
Talk to me about anything at all
Tell me your secrets once more

Anywhere you walk, you walk with me
Anytime you talk, you talk to me
Everywhere I go, come with me
Everything you show, you show me

Where you go, baby, I’ll follow
Beg, steal, maybe I’ll borrow
Dance with you, under this blood-red moon
Stars light sparks in this room

Anywhere you walk, you walk with me
Anytime you talk, you talk to me
Everywhere I go, come with me
Everything you show, you show me
Come on, come with me

Anywhere you walk, walk with me
Anytime you talk, talk to me
Everywhere I go, come with me
Everything you show, you show me
My destiny
Baby, you show me my destiny
Oh yeah

Skin Deep

Beauty is skin deep
My blood is hot, I can’t sleep
You trace your hand across my skin
Your eyes are burning black as sin

You look like an angel
You come in from the night
That cigar tastes like caviar
Dip it in the honey jar
You got me, babe
Well I got you

Pull me closer, take me in
Taste the sweat on your skin
Wind blowing through your hair
Ghosts are with us, but we don’t care

You look like an angel
As you come in from the night
End of the ’90s and nothing can stop us
They sang Pink in The Oval Office
You got me, babe
Well I got you
Ain’t got no money
Ain’t got a clue

You look like an angel
As you come in from the night
Your eyes on fire
Your skin so tight
Back in the ’60s the Stones used candy
They’re still rocking, we’re still standing
You got me, babe
Well I got you
Ain’t got no money
Ain’t got a clue
Well I got you

5 thoughts on “Best Of The Decade

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