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Members include Kevin Batchelor, horns; Tony Chin, guitar; Santa Davis, drums; Michael Hyde, keyboards; Jerry Johnson,horns; James McWhinney, percussion/vocals; Joaquin McWhinney"Quino" vocals; William Shively, bass; Billy "Bones" Stoll,keyboards. Addresses: Record company-Giant Records, 729 Seventh Ave, 12th Floor, New York, NY 10019.
In the 1990s, Big Mountain had two self-imposed challenges. Philosophically, they wanted to spread their positivemessages of One World/One People" peace and harmony throughout the world. Musically, they sought a balancebetween commercial success and their reggae roots. Their 1994 hit "Baby, I Love Your Way" garnered internationalsuccess, but also resulted in some criticism among reggae fans and critics. After the wave of popularity began to recede,Big Mountain focused on more of a balance in their career. "The bottom line is we all see a real serious voice in the waypeople deal with each other socially," singer Quino told Lee O'Neill in Reggae Report. AReggae people are consciouspeople. I see reggae as being a rallying cry for this new time."
Growning up in San Diego, California, Quino was exposed to the various Latin American musical styles. At theage of 13, he saw reggae legend Bob Marley on the television news program 60 Minutes, and his love for reggae wasborn. In 1986, Quino joined a reggae band called Shiloh, who would release their debut album three years later. By1992, the members had changed their name to Big Mountain, which was inspired by a mountain peak on a Navajoreservation in Arizona.
During that same year, they released their first album Wake Up on Quality Records. Their single, "Touch My Light,"reached 46 on Billboard's pop charts, an unusual accomplishment for an unknown reggae band. From the beginning,Big Mountain was plagued by several line-up changes. At one point the group went through four guitarists in one monthbefore settling on Jamaican guitarist Tony Chin. Chin's reggae roots were unquestioned, as he was a founding memberof one of reggae's most sought after backing bands, Soul Syndicate. He also had stints with the Peter Tosh band, as well.
With the new line-up in place, Big Mountain performed on the 1993 Reggae Sunsplash USA tour. Quino toldReggae Report that the tour was like "jumping off a cliff and hoping to fly." Big Mountain jumped right back in thestudio the following year, but encountered some difficulties. Having ran out of money before the record was complete,their crew decided to pack up and go home. Their savior came in the form of Ron Fair, executive producer for the movieReality Bites. Fair asked the band if they would be interested in recording a reggae version of Peter Frampton's hit"Baby I Love Your Way" for the film. Sensing that the knock on the door was indeed opportunity, the band recruitedsaxophonist Warren Hill to contribute, and launched an international number one hit. The success of "Baby I Love YourWay" allowed them to finish their next album, Unity, and release it on Warner Bros. Records before the end of the year.With new found notoriety, Big Mountain was able to tour the world in support of the album with stints in Europe,Japan, South America, and Jamaica, where they played the original incarnation of the Reggae Sunsplash.
By 1995, Big Mountain had reached a crossroads in their career. "There wasn't enough straight-ahead roots (onUnity), and it's important to let people know we're a reggae band," Quino told Reggae Report. They decided to let goof the demands of success and popularity and stick with their deep reggae influences and the core reggae audience."We're still balancing how much we're willing to sacrifice to gain exposure," Quino told Peter Cronin in Billboard, "buteveryone involved has been respectful of the fact that we are a reggae band."
Later that year, veteran drummer Santa Davis joined the band. Davis grew up in Kingston, Jamaica, where hedeveloped his talent in a youth Drum Corp. He began performing as a professional drummer in the mid-1960s, and wenton to play with such reggae legends such as Wailing Souls, Soul Syndicate, Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Andrew Tosh,and Peter Tosh. Davis confessed to O'Neill in Reggae Report how joining Big Mountain infused his playing with freshinspiration. "This is the best thing that's happened to me in a while," said Davis. "They're young and open to new ideas it's like working on a whole new level."
Davis was the perfect catalyst for the band's redefined focus on their next release, Resistance. The album openswith the track "Hooligans," a song about the violence among inner city youth. Big Mountain's 1996 world tour includedstops in Brazil, where reggae was gaining popularity. "We went to Brazil three times in 1996," Quino said in the band'srecord company bio. "It's like a gold rush, sooner or later every reggae band finds out about it. Not every nation is onthe same cycle with reggae. Sometimes it's big in one place and not in another, but it's always burning hot somewhere."Big Mountain recruited two new members in 1997, keyboardist Michael Hyde and bass player William Shively. Asthe band returned to the studio, they sought to continue the momentum they started on Resistance. "We wanted to puttogether a record that would establish us as a driving force behind reggae music in America," Quino said in the band'sbio. They achieved their goal of balance with their next release Free Up. They continued their revolutionary philosophy,but also added a love song and two cover tunes to the mix-Al Green's "Let's Stay Together" and Gary Wright's"Dream Weaver.'
With Big Mountain standing firmly on the reggae high road, Quino told O'Neill in Reggae Report that the bandnever regretted the path they had chosen. "Looking back, when you have a worldwide hit, people think, This is easy,"said Quino. "You're riding high and feeling [good]. Then, you release three singles that basically flop. It's a trip the wayyou learn your business. Things had to happen the way they did."
by Sonya Shelton
Big Mountain's Career
Band formed as Shiloh, 1986; changed their name to Big Mountain and released their debut Wake Up onQuality Records, 1992; released hit single "Baby I Love Your Way" on the Reality Bites soundtrack, 1994; signed toWarner Bros. Records, 1994; released Resistance, 1996; released Free Up on Giant Records, 1997.
- Selected discography
- Wake Up , Quality Records, 1992.
- (Contributor) Reality Bites (soundtrack), BMG/RCA, 1994.
- Unity , Warner Bros. Records, 1994.
- Resistance , Warner Bros. Records, 1996.
- Free Up , Warner Bros. Records, 1997.
- Billboard , April 16, 1994.
- Entertainment Weekly , July 29, 1994.
- Reggae Report , Volume 14, Number 5.
- "Big Mountain, New Album, New Lineup, New Tour," Reggae Report, http://www.bigmountain-onelove.com.
- Additional information was provided by Giant/Warner Bros. publicity materials, 1997.
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