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Big Big Train - The Underfall Yard CD (album) cover

THE UNDERFALL YARD

Big Big Train

 

Crossover Prog

4.16 | 541 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

fuxi
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Well, I just can't tell you how much I'm impressed with this one.

I was a complete newcomer to Big Big Train, I'd never heard of them until THE UNDERFALL YARD. I suppose it was Jim Trainer's extraordinary cover art which drew my attention. As I started seeing more and more positive and intelligent reviews of this album, I decided I couldn't go wrong and gave the album a try. What I discovered surpassed my greatest expectations.

THE UNDERFALL YARD is quite possibly the most triumphant progressive rock album to come out of England in more than thirty years. As other reviewers have pointed out, it grew out of the classic tradition established by Yes, Genesis and Pink Floyd. Since David Longdon's lead vocals bear a striking resemblance to Phil Collins's (in fact Longdon is the more powerful singer) you might even go as far as to say that THE UNDERFALL YARD is the most convincing Genesis album since A TRICK OF THE TAIL. Big Big Train's epic compositions fulfill all requirements of symphonic prog, but the band also have some tricks up their sleeve of their own. Just as Anekdoten sprang out of a style developed by early 1970s King Crimson, Big Big Train have made some highly creative use of tradition.

To start with, THE UNDERFALL YARD doesn't feature songs about pantomime burglars or cute little rodents dissolving themselves in tears. For once, this is a prog album which sounds terribly urgent (NOT in the overblown way we have come to expect from the likes of The Flower Kings) and which deals with the real world. Its main theme is the dissolution of the old industrial England which reached the height of its power in the Victorian age. The album's lyrics are subtle and elegiac, and to my relief they are kept within reasonable bounds; you never get the feeling the band are setting to music some middle-aged bloke's endless rants, as happens with The Tangent.

Furthermore, virtually all the tracks are enlivened with inspired, truly exciting guitar solos, mainly performed (as far as I know) by XTC's own Dave Gregory. These solos never sound vulgar or banal but truly take the music to a higher level. Coupled with Dave Desmond's delicate brass arrangements, David Longdon's superb vocal arrangements, and generally inspired writing and playing by the entire band, they make for an album that will be enjoyed for decades to come.

Progarchives discussion threads often pose the question if it's possible to do original things in a genre that reached its apex in the 1970s. Bands like Spock's Beard, Transatlantic and Beardfish have tried to swallow and digest 1970s styles, but they have failed, in my view, to come up with anything really new. For many listeners (myself NOT included) the most striking developments in recent years have been in progressive metal.

Until I discovered Big Big Train, I was convinced that all of the greatest progressive acts of the past 25 years had a foot (or at the least a few toes) in jazz-rock territory (e.g. Kenso, Robert Wyatt, Discus, the Pat Metheny Group, Bill Bruford's Earthworks). Now I see this is not the whole story. Big Big Train have shown there's abundant life outside "fusion". Long may they thrive!

fuxi | 5/5 |

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