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Big Big Train - The Difference Machine CD (album) cover


Big Big Train


Crossover Prog

3.64 | 316 ratings

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5 stars "Crossover"?!! I've just discovered BBT, now own The Difference Machine, English Boy Wonders and Gathering Speed and cannot figure out how any artist recording songs at an average of 9 minutes in length could be considered "crossover"! Plus, the GENESIS/ANT PHILLIPS/FLOYDian musicscapes just don't fit, to my mind, the "crossover" sub-genre. Also I have to ask: WHERE IS THE LOVE? These guys are amazing! I haven't heard anyone so "new" old prog (Does this make them "neo"?) with such high quality, great melodies, great vocal harmonies, amazing song structures, album concepts (with musical themes being repeated throughout la A Trick of the Tail). And these guys are humble! Unafraid to cite their musical influences and references. And please notice the list of Who's Who in Prog that they are attracting to work with them: Dave Meros, Pete Trewavas, Nick D'Virgilio, Jem Godfrey, Frances Dunnery, and Dave Gregory?THE Dave Gregory, for god's sakes!!! Nevertheless, this is supposed to be a review of The Difference Machine, my favorite work of BBT, so far, though the new release of the revamped English Boy Wonders is a close second. Like other reviewers I find myself wanting to extol the praises of the longer playing songs. "Perfect Cosmic Storm," "Salt Water Falling on Uneven Ground," "Summer's Lease," and "Pick Up If You're There" are absolute masterpieces of progressive, mostly symphonic, music. The shorter, "fill" pieces are fine, beautiful, full of lots of haunting mellotron, interplaying woodwinds and strings, they're just not as interesting or as "full" as the long monsters. Perhaps they are intended to calm the spirit of the listener before having to re-enter the bigger sounds of the longer pieces. Anyway, these guys have a talent for finding amazingly catchy melodies BOTH vocally and instrumentally, but more, they do it multiple times within each song!! And they might be knitting one melody with/within another (or more!!) THEN(!), as if this were not enough, they hook these amazing melodies into the harmonic setting of some stunningly beautiful and intricately woven music. I can definitely feel the complexity of early GENESIS/ANTHONY PHILLIPS in their work, and yet so many of their other influences come gloriously to the listener's ear, as well. But let me not forget to tell you: THESE GUYS ARE UNIQUE! Fresh! New! Original! Not copyists or imitators.

1. "Hope This Finds You" (3:12) is an almost classical instrumental introduction to the album--with some of the themes to follow included. Beautiful though not as impactful as what is to follow. (9/10)

2. "Perfect Cosmic Storm" (14:40) is one of my favorite prog songs of all-time. From the amazing guitar intro, to the "signal's gone to ground" lyric hook, to the rollicking recurring lead bass line, to the incredible dynamic shifts and "familiar" sounds (CHRIS SQUIRE-like bass, KING CRIMSON-like mellotrons, STEVE HACKETT-like guitar, MEL COLLINS-like saxophone, RICHARD WRIGHT-like organ). And what an incredible, shifting, engaging rollercoaster ride of music. Original symphonic prog at its best! (30/30)

3. "Breathing Space" (1:47) is another ambient instrumental interlude. Not as interesting or engaging as the first one but definitely a mood-setter. (4/5)

4. "Pick Up If You're There" (13:39) is another masterful epic with great vocals great pauses and buildups and deeply hooking key and chord changes. Wonderful bass, drum and keyboard work, as well. I love the melodic flow of this song, which actually seems to better showcase the performances of the individuals in the band. Wonderful tapestry! (27/30)

5. "From The Wide Open Sea" (1:20) is the third mellow instrumental interlude, this one almost all subtle chord washes. Actually, quite wonderful; I wish this one were extended. (4.5/5)

6. "Salt Water Falling on Uneven Ground" (12:38) starts a bit jazzy--almost PAUL WELLER-like--and soon breaks into full gallop. At 2:38 the masterful chorus "The ground is frozen underneath my feet", is established among awesome space music effects and the gutsy use of space. "The ground is frozen underneath my feet". So fresh and inventive! I like the use of effects on several of the instruments on this one (guitars, especially, but also vocals--amazing vocals!). More spacey/psychedelic instrumental work in the mid-section. A headphone-listeners delight! Then there are the absolutely gorgeous final two minutes, following the "Do you remember the days of summer" lyric. Strings, multiple guitars (introducing XTC's DAVE GREGORY!), deep bass notes, and beautiful vocals. (23.75/25)

7. "Summer's Lease" (7:34) ends the album in a mellow, atmospheric way but with again SEAN FILKINS' gorgeous voice singing some very touching lyrics--tying together previous themes, both lyrically and musically, in an absolutely powerful, melodic, heart-sucking way. (15/15) Total Time: 54:50

Check out "Perfect Cosmic Storm." I dare you! You will be hooked. You'll become an addict. PROG IS ALIVE AND WELL and it is nowhere so well embodied as in the work of BIG BIG TRAIN!!

Five stars to a masterpiece of fresh new music--one of my Top 15 Favorite Albums of the Naughties.

BrufordFreak | 5/5 |


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