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


Big Big Train


Crossover Prog

4.21 | 1097 ratings

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Symphonic Team
5 stars Big Big Train excel on their best release to date "English Electric Part One". The fact that this is a first part obviously means there is soon to be released a sequel and if it is as fabulous as this release we are in for a real treat. From the very beginning I was taken on a journey of melodic and innovative musicianship with beautiful rivers of flute and uplifting guitar solos, along with swathes of keyboards and crystalline ambience. Each track is diverse from the one preceding and makes this a very entertaining hour of music. The songs are accessible enough for the average music listener but have inspired musicianship that lift the compositions out of the ordinary and into the more progressive side of music. The flute is absolutely stunning and the grinding organ punctuates the atmospheres with a retro 70s feel.

Songs like the wonderful 'Judas Unrepentant' have the 70s sound and yet remain modern enough to fit into the current music scene comfortably. There is an uplifting soundscape on such songs, and the band leave room for quiet passages of flute played with aplomb by the incomparable David Longdon, and the string section by Ken Brake is mesmirising tranquillity. This track is one of the greatest pieces of music I have heard in years, and even features strong organ soloing, and meanders into quiet textures allowing it to lift again into the main bright melody. The vocals of Longdon are always clean and easy on the ears, sounding somewhat like Peter Gabriel in places, a clear influence.

The opening track 'The First Rebreather' is also masterfully composed with lengthy solos and a soul stirring melody, reminiscent of Genesis, with creative shifting time sigs. Surprisingly after this prog sound the following track 'Uncle Jack' is a diversion into Cotton Eye Joe banjo and hoedown musical shapes. It seems to work though as it is so unique to the album and shows the band having fun with their creativity. Another diversion on this album is the ballad 'Upton Heath' that is acoustically driven and has a beautiful Celtic folk flavour of accordion sounds and a strong multi harmony of voices throughout. The violins and flute are a nice touch and enhance the folk textures on this very accessible track.

On the flip side of the band's style 'Summoned by Bells' is a 9 minute romp with cascading flute and guitar picking and violins that melt into the icy atmospheres. It has a dreamy feel, especially in the verses and at times a heavier guitar riff from Greg Spawton breaks through to keep things interesting. The electric piano is quite bluesy, and there is a section sounding like Genesis as it moves into a new time sig. Andy Poole on keyboards and bass keeps a consistent rhythm and the steady tempo from percussionist Nick D'Virgilio is always reliable. Spawton has a chance to launch into a lead guitar solo that is well accomplished striking against the tempo. The meter slows down with nice keys and a horn section that augments the atmosphere. This section is very relaxing and moves along at a measured pace as an extended coda and the lead solo is tasteful; an excellent progressive track.

'A Boy In Darkness' is an 8 minute track with some odd melodies and shifting signatures. It begins with elongated musical bars that sound ethereal along with the haunting harmonies. It has a darker feel purposefully due to the thematic content. It is delightfully unique on the album, with more chilling atmospheres, and an overall sense of foreboding. These atmospheres are augmented by sustained violins and reflective vocals echoed by multi harmonies. The keyboard effects have an esoteric quality, echoing with distant bells, wind effects and dissonant notes. The Hammond organ sound crunches gloriously into the song and is joined by violin serrations and heavy guitars. The flute joins in and lifts the atmosphere but it still feels appropriately off kilter and disjointed. A tremolo bar wavers on the guitar and then a low ominous drone is heard. This is followed by a peaceful passage of lonely violin and Longdon's vocals return with reflective lyrics. Overall this is another of the masterpieces of the album.

'Winchester From St Giles' Hill' is another case in point that focuses on varying musical styles. 'Hedgerow' closes the album with another lengthy piece at about 9 minutes, and sounds totally different to the other tracks, beginning with a folk tinged melody and ending with pastoral tones with multi layered majestic harmonies.

Overall this is another great album from Big Big Train who are slowly gaining a solid reputation and wider acceptance on a worldwide scale. They are capable of incredible music and the compositions are infectious and accessible for the FM radio market. "English Electric Part One" is packed with brilliance, and no doubt part two will be followed up soon, and hopefully as consistent in quality as this magnificent release.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 5/5 |


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