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Big Big Train - Folklore CD (album) cover


Big Big Train


Crossover Prog

4.03 | 658 ratings

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3 stars Decent Music, but BBT Formula.

Big Big Train (BBT) albums, and this album of theirs in particular, often come across very strongly on first listen, because the execution, playing and singing are so strong, but that feeling tapers off with multiple listens due to what I can only call the "mushiness" of some of the songs, in which a certain kind of sameness or lack of definition among the tunes make them less memorable. This album evokes this response in me more than other BBT albums. Perhaps related to this, I also find BBT have become a bit formulaic over time. While The Underfall Yard largely set the formula (although much of the formula actually started in previous BBT albums too), it did so in a novel musical way, and with not too much syrup. The lyrics and singing on that album don't try overly hard, and there is enough musical diversity to prevent one from getting stuck in the same emotional frame of mind (which the first volume of the original version of English Electric also accomplished very well, despite sticking to the same theme of decaying English ways of life). But each subsequent BBT album up to this one has leaned a bit more on the formula, and on steeping the tunes in much of this melancholic emotion. I find the second (original) volume of English Electric, and this album (Folklore) to be prime examples of this. While it is true that Folklore conjures up a bit more of the old pagan English folk, notably in the excellent title track, and in "Wassail", the rest of the tracks sound not dissimilar to those found on English Electric vol.II and Far Skies Deep Time, and many of them, to my mind (after multiple listens) are often not quite as good. Indeed, the album is on the whole slower, and while I have no problem with slow music, I don't find Folklore maintains interest as well as many other BBT albums. Some of the slower pieces are simply not as musical, and there seems to be less diversity (in tempo, style, etc). The best tracks are the opener/title track ("Folklore"), the closer ("Telling the Bees"), and the two that border them ("London Plane" and "Brooklands"), while "Wassail" is also very notable for sounding sufficiently different. Don't get me wrong, the musicianship and most of the music here is high quality, better than a lot of other albums on PA, including a number of classic ones. As other reviewers have noted, their sound has matured, and the music can be quite subtle. I particularly enjoy listening to Nick D'Virgilio's drumming. But this album drags more than other recent BBT albums, and other than the two folk-inspired tunes I find it a tad formulaic, long, and undifferentiated. I give this 7.6 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which translates to (high) 3 PA stars.

Walkscore | 3/5 |


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