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Big Big Train - Wassail CD (album) cover


Big Big Train


Crossover Prog

3.79 | 115 ratings

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4 stars A cider with a peculiar flavour

Big Big Train has a recent history of mostly excellent releases like The Underfall Yard and their masterpiece English Electric. After cranking up English Electric beyond full power, they have not been idle. They are on their way to become a big big band with Rikard Sjöblom and Rachel Hall added to the line-up. The EP Wassail preceeds a new album to be released sometime in 2016, called Folklore. It contains four tracks which all clock between 6 and 7 minutes.

The end point of the journey took us to Wales, where Jacques de Saint-Georges d'Espéranche a.k.a. Master James of St. George was involved in the building of castles during the late 13th century. This song, which appeared on The Underfall Yard, was recorded live in the studio. Unlike most bonus tracks, this one does not bring the album down. This version, with its orchestration and the superb part-singing, sounds at least as good as the original.

The previous two stops were in London: one within sight of the Thames, the other somewhere above some other river:

Mudlarks is a musical watercolour depicting scavengers on the muddy banks of the Thames in the nineteenth century. This must have been a hard job during the Great Stink. It is a rather jazzy jam with some time signature changes, performed by a tight playing band. It makes me think of Focus somehow. Nice track.

Lost Rivers of London sounds like a soft-pop track with some folk influences. In terms of composition, this one is less strong than the others, but still quite good. The subject, rivers still running underneath the city's surface, may be interesting for someone who has visited London six times and whose eyes have seen only the Thames. Maybe the city will be surprised by a Great Collapse one day when these waters have eroded its foundations.

In the opener, the title track, the Train takes us to a rural environment in wintertime. The listener stumbles in an episode of Midsomer Murders, entitled The Old Serpent Does Not Hibernate, in which a certain Eve White, nicknamed Snow for her beauty and her pale skin, is killed along with her husband after just one bite in an apple injected with poison, shortly before Twelfth Night, apparently to ensure that the Queen of an upcoming yearly event called Wassailing is the uncontested personification of beauty. The murderer from the beginning kills some others in the event - it's Midsomer Murders after all. And the cider of last year's fruit will get a peculiar flavour again. Cheers, inspector Barnaby!

This song has strong folk influences blended with classic rock to make a brilliant composition. In terms of music this one is my favourite track. Nottingham-based David Longdon sings as if he attended many Wassaults in his youth and cherishes their memories. His description of Wassailing, the folkloristic ritual performed in the orchards in the west of England to bless the apple trees, does not need any completion - it is accurate. Yet there are some neo-pagan greets and creeds incorporated: "Blessed be" could be a translation of the title, but for its obviously coven-compliant connotation, just like "a five-pointed star, a sign of who we are".

Overall, this record shows that Big Big Train has succeeded to maintain the high standards of their previous releases. They confirm once more that they are on their way to become one of the big big names of progressive rock. The folk influences, which were perceivable on English Electric (Part One), have increased.

Now only the rating remains: I am not the one who deals out the fivefold kiss, but two apples cut in twain render an appropriate result.

someone_else | 4/5 |


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