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

THE UNDERFALL YARD

Big Big Train

 

Crossover Prog

4.17 | 527 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

grimtim
4 stars Perhaps it's unfair to start this review with an immediate comparison with another and better known band, but as an observer of Prog music through the far too many years of my life, it's apparent that Genesis is almost a holy icon. I haven't myself enjoyed any of their albums since "Duke" which was recorded years before my adult son was born, and I think that qualifies as a lifetime. There has been much great Prog since those days, yet judging the mood on forums such was the wonder of the early Genesis that all subsequent crimes over 30 years can be forgiven in the instant of a reunion announcement.

So if this album, "The Underfall Yard" with its glorious whimsical, watery sleeve bore the word "Genesis" instead of what it does bear, namely "Big Big Train", there would be people making sacrificial offerings of thanksgiving on the the tops of hills all over Albion. Parties would be thrown, tears of joy would flow, there would be massive open air concerts all over the world, the sun would shine and the front cover of the CD would become a t-shirt worn by millions of happy parents from all corners of the globe.

In answer to the question "what's in a name?" then, I can only respond "pretty much everything". If BBT were to play a gig this year, I can imagine that it would be in a small village hall somewhere in Gloucestershire in England, there would be the usual smattering of 300 or so believers there to take it in (as well as 9 other bands on the same bill). They wouldn't even come as far as Scotland.

BBT are not the first band to invite comparisons with Genesis. Marillion's career depended on it at the outset, and despite the twists and turns since, is still founded on it. The Italian band "The Watch" are so like Genesis that they specialize in making albums that could be albums that were lost at the time of he 1970-73 heyday. When the Watch play live they play Genesis songs, because they know more people will turn up if the do. There are many more. On this album, BBT have used a sleeve that would have worked perfectly well for the Wuthering/Trick/Three/Duke era Genesis, added a well known drummer who is himself so influenced by Collins and co that he recorded an entire cover version of "The Lamb", and added a singer who sounds like a cross between H from Marillion and that same Phil Collins. In short, the comparisons are inevitable, unavoidable, probably totally deliberate and equally unfortunate.

There is a magnificent album in this dust jacket. It's beautifully recorded, the arrangements are sublime, the sounds inspiring and nostalgically warming. It's lush and has the same maroon feel to the music as is used on the cover, like the walls of a lovely warm Scottish public house with a lit crackling fire on a cold night. The songs are story led, historically interesting, well told, well played and like the best landscape pictures have paths in them that make your eye follow them and wonder where they go. The album grows with repeated listening and the destinations of those paths becomes proportionally easier to imagine. I love it. I love to close my eyes and just drift away into the music and BBT are exceedingly good at encouraging me to do this. But I just have to get past the constantly re-occurring image that always springs to mind, and that's always masses of Varilites, Jumbo Jet landers, smoke machines, 6 enormous mirrors and a bearded guy in a rugby shirt throwing a tambourine up and down.

I know BBT are capable of making music that stands on its own and find it slightly sad that in order to release such an excellent series of songs as can be found on this album they feel they have to graft the spirit of 76-79 Genesis onto it. (It's that specific!). In the end, I do not blame THEM, but I blame US. Such is our inability to gain closure for the loss of Genesis as we knew them, our grief continues unabated, and bands such as BBT will continue to try and get into our heads by adding the audible icons of that band to the mix. This is a beautiful album that needs no such icons. It would have stood alone, but would any of us have listened to it?.

With a lot of us heading towards our 60s now, I have to ask, are we ever going to accept that Genesis as we knew them are gone, and get on and enjoy the new people? When we were young, weren't we all a bit fed up of everyone trying to sound like Elvis or other 50s Rock and Roll Stars, in that Rubettes/Mud/Showaddywaddy era? ( I reviewed those for a well known paper back then!)

This review is a nit-picking exercise. "The Underfall Yard" is a superb album, one of the best from 2009, one to treasure for many years to come. It is made and delivered with love. It exudes quality. The people who made it should be knighted and given the keys to a couple of English towns. They should be awarded honorary degrees by ancient seats of learning and then go away and make an album that doesn't have to pander to our macabre inability to let go of a band who let so many of us down for so long. Genesis are DEAD!! Long live Big Big Train, Phideaux, the Tangent, Unitopia et al.

grimtim | 4/5 |

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