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Big Big Train - English Electric (Part One) CD (album) cover

ENGLISH ELECTRIC (PART ONE)

Big Big Train

 

Crossover Prog

4.21 | 711 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

JonnyM79
5 stars Talk about a band with a knack for wise line-up changes! Picking up Nick D'Virgilio would have been impressive enough - and his drumming is at its usual impressive standard here, but the addition of Dave Longdon on vocals - probably the voice with the most expressive power in modern prog - catapulted BBT into the spotlight with their 2009 release "The Underfall Yard". With that album sitting 3rd in ProgArchives Best Of 2009 list the new release has a lot to live up to - how would it fare?

Longdon has been fully integrated into writing duties by now (with about 50% of the writing credits shared with Spawton) and this seems to have galvanised both of them. Song subjects still revolve round historic English themes but with a wry modern twist. Judas Unrepentant may describe a crafty fine art forger but seems more like a biting comment on the modern recorded music industry. A Boy In Darkness contrasts the fate of mining children in the 1800s with what they might have suffered at the hands of the Catholic Church in more recent times. The vocal delivery is distinctively powerful and clean.

The previous album may have been notable for its distinctive brass section - and they do make a return here - but the diversity of sound has expanded with use of flute, piano and strings, and an especially impressive addition of Hammond Organ and synth flourishes on several tracks (provided by The Tangent's Andy Tillison no less). The addition of Dave Gregory as a full member has lead to more prominent role for lead guitar and some impressive solos.

So what is the result of all this development? Well it's just astonishing! I cannot remember the last time I listened to an album with my mouth literally hanging open in awe at the achievement of the musicians who created it. This is melodic prog with not a note wasted - yes there is virtuosity on display but everything is in place to drive forward the songs and the stories they tell - and storytelling is the purpose of this album with tales and characters described and brought alive by both words and music. The emotional impact of some of the climaxes comes as a physical experience. Any accusations of being a Genesis clone are long forgotten - indeed Genesis never managed such a lush or diverse sound palette as this - with hints of jazz, folk, spiky Crimson, Floydian effects (ping!) and even hints of Canterbury. What they sound of most of all though, is themselves - the mark of a band come of age. There is literally no other band in the world that sounds like this - that even COULD sound like this if they tried. It transcends the boundaries of Crossover, Eclectic and Symphonic prog and would be enjoyed by fans of all these genres.

After about 15 listens so far my admiration has only increased. This is the album of 2012 - and of the millennium so far. For both creativity and beauty it can take its place alongside any other great album of the genre. A truly groundbreaking release that is the measure of what prog can achieve in the 21st century. 11/10.

JonnyM79 | 5/5 |

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