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Big Big Train - Common Ground CD (album) cover


Big Big Train


Crossover Prog

3.91 | 97 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

3 stars Born in 1990 (and reinvented in 2009), the Big Big Train are now a consolidated reality at an international level and each new release is greeted with enthusiasm by the prog audience. of all the world. The previous Grand Tour reached, in fact, the number one position on the Official UK rock charts and the 2019 tour ended lavishly at London's Hackney Empire, a concert recorded on blue-ray. With the pandemic still underway, the cosmopolitan band - two British, an American and a Swedish currently in the line-up - decides to ride the moment with a self- produced album . The artwork of Common Ground in its immediacy is an invitation to global solidarity and the lyrics address both historical topics (in this the band excels), and moments related to current events, especially the long lockdown experienced in England in recent months. The sonic influences used are, as always, the most varied: there is no shortage of the Genesis, Yes and Caravan, but you can also mention names such as Pete Townshend, Tears For Fears and XTC. The added value of the group is the skill with which it manages to find an optimal synthesis within a similar sound labyrinth interwoven with illustrious reminiscences. This aspect, moreover, gives greater longevity to the proposed songs, which can be listened to again willingly showing new details every time.

The disc opens with the very pleasant notes of "The Strangest Times", which seem to paint a sunny landscape seen from the windows of a speeding car. David Longdon's voice is the epitome of neo-prog. English, synthesizers and the piano are used wisely, while as regards the rhythmic base Nick D'Virgilio does not shy away from proposing some of his unmistakable fills. The composition talks about the impact of COVID-19 on the English population and does so in a poetic way, with a smooth and accurate sound that also includes the backing vocals of Carly Bryant. A beautiful opener, photographing a group in perfect shape, there could not have been a better start. "All The Love That We Can Give" begins on more circumspect and theatrical tones, with a baritone voice accompanied by syncopated rhythms. The piece lasts eight minutes and manages to take off by changing its skin when D'Virgilio at the microphone takes us back to the days of albums like Feel Euphoria and Octane by Spock's Beard. BBT does not lose the habit of experimenting and enhancing the eclecticism of their drummer and they do well. Not bad even the instrumental section in the middle of the song which deserves more than careful listening.

More voices are involved in "Black With Ink", in a well-balanced alternation with the addition of a female component. The passage talks about the library of Alexandria in Egypt, whose precious treasures were destroyed by fire but which nevertheless gave us the story of its glorious existence. The instrumental beats, as always set in the center of the piece, are fun to play as much as to the ear of the experienced listener and offer a flamboyant range of synthesizers. Basically, we are dealing with a song tailored to the theme, between nostalgia and grandeur. "Dandelion Clock" is a song with a contained but refreshing timing, with an excellent acoustic arrangement and some references to the most lulling Yeses. After "Headwaters", an atmospheric interlude for piano only, the instrumental "Apollo" amazes instead with its chameleonic gait, complete with a transverse flute and the presence of a brass ensemble that gives refinement to the sound of the BBTs, who at times approach the Canterbury scene but in a renewed perspective.

The last three tracks cover the last half hour of the disc. The title track re-proposes the usual melodic research of ours, flanked by careful attention to dynamics, including those of the violin: everything flows with the necessary bevels and when you come across more angular notes the effect is desired and impact . The only real suite in the lineup is the next "Atlantic Cable", a 15-minute dip in the ocean that alone is worth the purchase of the platter. The texts speak of the laying of the first submarine telegraph cable in history, a topic also dealt with in a text by Stefan Zweig. In a few moments you pass from the idyllic atmosphere painted by flute notes to a square rhythm punctuated by the snare drum of D'Virgilio, and then return to dreamlike shores with a short a cappella part ... and we are only halfway through the suite! In the remaining sections the English band manages to carry out a refined and at the same time consequent musical discourse with lucidity and inspiration, giving pure emotions. Difficult to keep up with the continuous changes of tempo proposed, the entry of the instruments called into question in the solo moments is always a surprise and immediately grasp the various references to prog. band of the past requires a considerable memory. In short, it can be said that "Atlantic Cable" is covered by authentic inspiration, in a live venue it will be a show. As an epilogue "Endnotes" is the song in the right place at the right time. The rhythms become dilated and the harmonies are airy and visionary; the presence of brass for a moment recalls the genius of Trent Gardner. A classic closure for a prog. excellently conceived.

Nothing else to add, Common Ground confirms the good things made by Big Big Train in the Grand Tour. The band remains at levels of excellence, even at the production level, and continues its career without signs of slowing down.

prog_traveller!! | 3/5 |


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