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Big Big Train - Bard CD (album) cover


Big Big Train

Crossover Prog

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4 stars A very mellow, melancholic release this time -lots of pained lyrics about love and heartbreak and growing old -some beautiful and subtle arrangements -sometimes I feel BIG BIG TRAIN could set themselves the challenge of being a more up-beat edge band and be more adventurous or heavier or even more commercial! but you can't mistake their unique mainly slow trademark sound, This did slightly annoy me at first as all the songs were slow and laid-back, but having given this c.d some time to sink in, you can forgive them for this. BARD has a beauty about it and the subtlty washes over you (if you give it time!)-often miserable, this album could reduce one to tears in the sadder sections! but also has a lasting quality about it. once its clicked and you've grasped the beauty of this album you'll want to shout it from the rooftops to tell everyone about it, its that good.
Report this review (#11990)
Posted Thursday, June 10, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars Not anywhere near as good as Gathering Speed and a few of the songs are miles too long. The biggest problem for me - and which was dealt with on the new album - is the vocals. I think they are the weak link in this and previous albums. The vocalist does not have a decent voice and the female is used sparingly. The songs themselves are really good but with the right guy on lead, they could have been better. A nice album completely surpassed by Gathering Speed, both in composition and vocals.
Report this review (#11991)
Posted Wednesday, September 29, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars I really would've loved to have given BARD a four stars rating but, no matter how many times I listen to this album, and how hard I try to love it, it just seems to me that big big train dont want to be anything more than what they are, I know this seems harsh but they seem to have so much potential as a band of status in the cruel and dead-end world of prog music that I wonder why I have come to this conclusion; That they make slightly boring music instead! How cool is that? But on the other hand, I think this is precisely the reason why they make a more middle of the road style of prog that doesn't break any new ground, this is the impression I get anyway, but I love BBT because they have nothing to prove to anyone and they still seem to survive amongst the best songwriters in the small- time u.k progressive music community today.
Report this review (#11992)
Posted Wednesday, December 22, 2004 | Review Permalink
2 stars Sorry, but it's boring.

It's even more boring than some other new bands which try to play Classic Rock/AOR with obvious FLOYD influence. Hate to be a basher here, but everything in "Bard" usually goes around few relaxed chords, which fail to keep listeners attention. A psychedelia? Sorry, but there's no experimental stuff/sounds or challenging approach - even DIRE STRAITS were more energetic! I don't need any fiery breaks to enjoy the music but I also don't want to fall asleep in the middle of every track I listened to. I hope it's just a wrong album for me and BBT can do better (will try to check it out). 2 stars only because of few nice guitar solos (Guilmor's copycat) and "How the Earth..." tune.

Report this review (#120785)
Posted Saturday, May 5, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars Just read a few of the other reviews and I think I see a lot of what I am about to report in other peoples views. I bought this CD ages ago and I have only just got around to giving it a bit of ear-time. I hope the other efforts from this band are better because this is a very flat, lifeless and (in parts) uber boring. Even lots of mellotron do not save this from the lambasting it's going to get. The only track worth listening too is the final instrumental, which in itself sort of collects all th little good bits from the rest of the CD and plays em back. The track is called "A Long Finish". The 2nd track isn't too bad once you have got past the monotonous vocals, however the guitarist/keys man just isn't up to the standard required to get past a two star CD with this effort - The lyrics and singing are horrendous and the sixteen minute track seemed to last for a week!!!! The rest of the tracks are either pointless ballads or pointless short instrumentals - MUST DO BETTER 2.4 stars rounded down I think.....
Report this review (#244364)
Posted Monday, October 12, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Of course, it's only my opinion, but this is mine. Bard is a superb album, their 3rd of 5 in a row. What other band can boast that track record? Yes, Tony Muller's vocals can be a bit gruff, but it adds character to the overall sound. The material is subtle and requires repeated listens (like most good music). I can find no fault with the instrumentation but I admit that some of the vocal lines do at first sound a little odd or even obvious, but not enough to detract too much.

There is a great album here. If you don't like it, then fair enough, but that does not mean it is rubbish. I can't see anything worthwhile in the Flower Kings or Spock's Beard, but I appeciate they must be good at what they do.

Big Big Train is prog's best kept secret.

Report this review (#244371)
Posted Monday, October 12, 2009 | Review Permalink
2 stars I was not deeply impressed by their previous album but this one is far below.

Quite dull for the majority of its length (almost seventy minutes!), average vocals weak to no melodies, little great instrumental passages (except the good guitar at the end of the epic "Broken English").

My preferred track in the first half of this album is the short instrumental "Harold Rex Interfectus Est": light, elegant, skilled. But it lasts for just over one minute. And I can't say that when I listen to "Love Is Her Thing", I am submerged with emotion. Sounds as average Marillion Mark II tune (if you see what I mean).

At least, on their debut album, several long songs were really good and could hide the weaknesses of the band (which is basically song writing IMO). Unfortunately, on this "Bard", there is hardly anything as such. I already mentioned that only the closing part of "Broken English" was good (which only represent two minutes out of forteen).

But to find its equivalent during the long and boring "For Winter" is quite an exercise. Mellowish and uninspired vocals, discreet to non-existing solo breaks: the result is just a long complaint that lasts for almost seventeen minutes. Gosh!

As you might have understood, this album is not a fave of mine. Very little to remember after all. I would recommend you to skip this one. Two satrs is really a maximum rating. I have exactly the same feeling as my colleague Prog jester: boooooring. All the way through.

Report this review (#267197)
Posted Saturday, February 20, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars 5/10

I think the main problem of the BBG in their early years is the lack of energy. Seriously, the songs tend to drag on unnecessarily, and there is no motivation for them to remain interesting, there is nothing to "hook" the listener's attention.

Nevertheless Bard is a much more interesting than the previous albums, partly because of the change of singer (although Martin Read also being present here singing a song). But the overall sound of the album is boring, terribly boring. And although it is not good to give a high rating, it's not bad to deserve a star or two.

3 stars.

Report this review (#551996)
Posted Monday, October 17, 2011 | Review Permalink
Marty McFly
Errors and Omissions Team
4 stars Frankly, when I saw such ratings here, I was terrified what this album would sound like. But how was I surprised to find this album actually quite interesting. Still not surpassing their later masterpiece (The Underfall Yard), but still a good one.

It's easy, take for example Avant Prog albums, when there will be 5 reviews by 5 Avant lovers, with no major voice of opposition, the result will be high rating, but it will be a flawed one. The same will be if for example Crossover album will be spammed by generic reviewers, who will all rate 5 stars and therefore harm the entire system. I believe that what happened here is that there is not enough lovers of this genre, to counterbalance those who does not digest it that much. I for one try to have an open mind, but from a look on previous two reviewers tastes, I get a feeling that they don't like Crossover so much. I do. Some of it at least.

The fact (as Prog-jester pointed out) that this music is not energic enough is mostly true (there are parts where mildly wilder music appears though), but that's not the point. I am not sure since when Prog has to be energic to be interesting, we have thousands of albums here that would not be described as such. Anthony Phillips is the name that comes in my mind when listening "Bard". That's calm, pastoral and atmospheric music and I can clearly hear how this process will culminate in 7 years in the masterpiece. Some Genesis moments as well, especially those calm acoustic parts of theirs, but without a perk that many Genesis-like bands (some call them clones) use - Gabriel-like vocals. Vocals here are fine, well, English.

4(-), some albums are criticized for not having soul or emotions. This albums has it.

And so the voice of opposition spoken again. Damn, I haven't felt more different from other reviewers in months.

Report this review (#590853)
Posted Sunday, December 18, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars Next in their catalogue after a silence break of almost 5 years between this one named Bard from 2002 and previous one, Big Big Train comes with an album considered by many an almost a failure. I'm agree in some parts with them, because this relese is almost boring with out energy or excellent ideas that will make them big later one. Besides some 3-4 decent pieces the rest is almost mediocre but not bad, only unintresting because is to mellow most of the time without catchy up tempo parts at all.. BY far the best tracks re the first two The Last English King and Broken English with some excellent guitar parts at the end of the piece with a Floydian atmosphere, really great tune, the rest are more or less ok nothing memorable or intresting but in same time can be listened from time to time no need to be concentrated on what is going on on the album. Hardly 3 stars to this one and is the last album featuring Martin Read on vocals.
Report this review (#875972)
Posted Saturday, December 15, 2012 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Honorary Reviewer
4 stars I have some history with BBT. They were the first band to ever send me something to review without me asking for it in the first place, the first band ever to use a review from Feedback in an ad (in fact it was just credited to RockSIG as the mag didn't even have a name back then), as well as the first band I ever managed to upset. I will never forget seeing Greg making a beeline for me to ask me what I thought of the new album, when I had already decided that I wasn't too keen..

So, I was very interested to hear what the new album was like. The band has been through quite a shift since the last one and BBT are now just the two main members Greg Spawton (guitar/keys) and Andy Poole with assorted others. I had always felt that Martin Read's vocals were something of a weak point for the band but here he is sounding at his best, and the band have moved on by also using Tony Müller (who originally joined the band as keyboard player) and female singer Jo Michaels. Add to that a more fluid dynamic style and the result is an album that while staying within the realms of their musical past is a giant leap forwards. The production is top notch and the overall effect is of a band at the top of all of their powers, instead of one that according to their web-site is seriously considering packing it in.

Big Big Train were never much of a live act, in fact I think that they have played less than twenty shows in their ten-year plus existence (I caught one of those at The Astoria, and they were much better than their confidence showed), and have relied on CD sales to keep their profile going. However, they are another act that has suffered through the downturn in the prog scene, but hopefully this album will do well enough to make them reconsider their position. This is an album full of depth and balance, well-produced and full of melody and soul that makes it an enjoyable jaunt. Nice one lads ? you owe it to yourselves to keep it going.

Originally appeared in Feedback #67, Apr 02

Report this review (#975487)
Posted Tuesday, June 11, 2013 | Review Permalink
The Crow
2 stars In my opinion, Bard sadly marks the lowest point in Big Big Train's discography...

I do not really know what happened to Martin Read, but he lost almost all of his fine and charismatic vocals through the years. In Goodbye to the Age of Steam, he sang great. English Boy Wonders shows a little decline on his capabilities, but nothing to worry about... However, in Bard his voice became definitely a shadow of his original one. Hoarse and out of tone. That is really sad! No surprise that this album was his last with the band.

The music is the typical symphonic prog with folk elements, tons of acoustic passages, band's trademarks... Nevertheless, with lack of strength and true interest this time. The style of the album feels a bit disjointed, some songs are just too repetitive and the lack of new ideas in comparison with their two previous album is worrying.

The result is a record that is not catchy enough and easily forgettable. Maybe for background music...

Best tracks: some funny moments in Broken English (fine bass lines), Blacksmithing (the best vocal melodies of the album), A Short Visit to Earth (beautiful jazzy passage at 4:27...) and For Winter (the most accomplished song here. I find particularly lovely the female vocals on this one)

Conclusion: the deterioration of Martin Read's vocals along with the boring songwriting, makes Bard the least interesting Big Bit Train album in my opinion despite the fine production and beautiful Jo Michaels's vocals.

Just for true fans of the band.

My rating: **

Report this review (#2054006)
Posted Wednesday, November 7, 2018 | Review Permalink
4 stars Big Big Train have always been a special band for me, especially their earlier albums, which I've come to enjoy a fair bit. I won't disagree that David Longdon's arrival heralded the band's best era, but I feel as though the five albums that came before him are often overlooked as a result. And of those albums, none are more left out than Bard.

This is the one album that Greg Spawton and company seem to have no plans to reissue, and on first listen, it's understandable: A lot of the music is laid-back and sleepy, Tony Müller's gruff vocals are present throughout most of the album, and the instrumental bits can meander, most notably the latter ten minutes of Broken English being entirely instrumental. In spite of all this, however, Bard has become the one album of Big Big Train's early five that I listen to the most often, and I've grown to appreciate it and its faults a lot.

In spite of the album's laid-back sound, the band crafts some nice soundscapes with it in mind, such as the slow, longing guitar lines in The Last English King, and the synthy calm of the interlude connecting For Winter and A Long Finish. While Müller's vocals may be rough, they are balanced out by the contributions from Jo Michaels and Martin Read, and Read's final appearance, on A Short Visit To Earth, is perhaps the album's finest moment, with Read's hushed, melancholic vocals perfectly matching the sense of longing the lyrics and music exude. And while the instrumental sections can go on for too long, they still add to the album, with the ten-minute coda to Broken English serving as one of the album's more hard-edged moments, and A Long Finish providing callbacks to previous songs on the album and ultimately bringing the album full circle by closing with the opening of The Last English King.

It's a shame that Bard has never been reissued, as while it does have its faults, there's moments of beauty to be discovered within, and it's likely to be appreciated by those inclined to more laid-back affairs. In any case, it's certainly an album that I'll enjoy for years to come.

Report this review (#2571000)
Posted Monday, June 14, 2021 | Review Permalink
2 stars It's no secret that after their very capable debut album, Goodbye To the Age of Steam, Big Big Train ended up going into a bit of a slump. They've made no secret of the fact that their second album, English Boy Wonders, was released in a rather unfinished state, due to them simply being unable to afford to finish it, and they would part ways with Giant Electric Pea after its release.

Greg Spawton and Andy Poole soldiered on, however, working on demos and getting together with other band members as and when they could to try and produce a new album - that being Bard. This seems to have been an onerous and discouraging process for them; if you dig around on the Wayback Machine you can find their old website at the time, with blog posts suggesting that Greg and Andy were seriously considering giving up on the band after this.

The results here suggest why. Bard is a tepid, unhappy-sounding album - not unhappy in the sense that the music is artistically melancholic, but unhappy in the sense that it feels glumly unenthusiastic. One wonders if this is deliberate - an attempt to mimic the world-weary pose of indie rock darlings of the era. If that is the case, and it's all a pose, then it's a seriously misjudged one, and if it isn't then there's some real behind the scenes problems here.

As well as a fairly subdued and dull musical backing, mention has to be made of Martin Read's vocals here. This would be his last album with the band, and his voice this time around has taken on a rough, gravelly tone which stands at odds with the singing voice he used on the preceding albums. Again, I have to ask whether he's deliberately doing this, or whether the constrained circumstances of recording caused this (is he having to semi-whisper his vocals so as not to disturb the neighbours?), or if his voice had simply gone to pot; in any event, it's a step down.

Front-loaded with its best tracks, the album only gets more forgettable as it proceeds. Big Big Train have made the call not to revisit one, as they did with English Boy Wonders, and when the band themselves aren't willing to stand by their work, there's precious little reason for listeners to.

Report this review (#2696648)
Posted Thursday, March 3, 2022 | Review Permalink

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