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Big Big Train - Goodbye to the Age of Steam CD (album) cover

GOODBYE TO THE AGE OF STEAM

Big Big Train

Crossover Prog


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loserboy
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Rich in the English neo-prog vein of JADIS and GALAHAD, BIG BIG TRAIN deliver highly symphonic and memorable music. "Goodbye To The Age Of Steam" is a wonderful little recording with some solid guitar, keyboard and drum interplay. In many ways this album reminds very much of JADIS and in fact Steve Christey and Gary Chandler both join the lads adding some brilliance. In fact this album is hosted by a few other friends including Stu Nicholson (GALAHAD), Martin Orford (IQ) and Sally French. BIG BIG TRAIN play a very tight and bright rock with gentle passages and packed with solid instrumentation. Solid neo-prog all the way through.
Report this review (#12004)
Posted Tuesday, March 16, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars yes i know big big train, not the greatest band in the worldwhen compared to the likes of spock's beard/marillion etc... but still a good effort all the same with this disc. It has its moments and is fairly original sounding, shame about the voice! goodbye... opens with wind distorted pioneers (great title) and with a fairly tricky drum and guitar section, don't under-estimate, these boys can certainly rock when they turn it on, just a shame that aint too often! big big train lack balls and need to prove themselves if they want to be any kind of force in this competitive genre of music. my favourite track has got to be blow the house down, which does rock in places and the rhythm section get to show of a bit. landfall is another nice track withe its meoncholic lyrics its a nice prog ballad and is seperate from all the other tracks. overall a reasonable album -i just wish they'd pump the gas pedal and speed things up a little more, that said we can all benefit from lazy prog now and again.
Report this review (#12006)
Posted Saturday, August 7, 2004 | Review Permalink
2 stars I'm no more impressed with this than the other CD i've reviewed (Bard). The singer just bores me and it appears that the singing parts are ALL EXACTLY THE SAME, tempo tone - just BORING!!! Thus when you get to the instrumental break (where it gets better) you are already realising that you would have to always skip the monotony to get to the little bits of goodness that are within several of the tracks, The instrumental "Expecting Snow" isn't bad and the instrumental break at the end of 2Blow the House down" isn't bad - but it would have to be exceptional to get this CD above the 2.25 that the singing deserves. The last track ia almost good...but the singing again gets my goat - The guitar work isn't bad but it would have to be Stolte quality to get this offering above 3.5, no interesting keys work either !!! Crossover Prog?? Boring dirge more like, it needs ooomph very disappointing.
Report this review (#244510)
Posted Tuesday, October 13, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars From the River to the Sea was their first demo, followed by The Infant Hercules, both pretty awful to be honest. A young band's first compositions I guess. So initially, I ignored this album, not expecting anything too much better. Eventually I think I won a CD prize and chose this as I already had every album I wanted. I gave it a few plays but ws not very impressed so I put it away. Months later a few more spins, then Bingo! On about the 10th play I realised that this was a classic. Suddenly it all fell into place, the sumptuous melodies, the fantastic complex arrangements and that lovely and unique keyboard sound. I read somewhere that Mike Holmes (IQ) said the band had been abducted and replaced by aliens between The Infant Hercules and GTTAOS - maybe true!

To me their sound and style is unique. Not overtly prog like IQ and Pendragon, great though those bands are. There is something very subtle going on with BBT, something that you need to get used to, to tune into, before it makes sense.

I won't even try to describe the individual tracks, I like every minute of every one.

The bottom line is that there is a great album here if only you give it the chance to grab you.

Report this review (#244526)
Posted Tuesday, October 13, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars 5/10

This is a median debut. Although Big Big Train has gained attention with his latest album (the magnificent The Underfall Yard) they are already on the road for a long time - 20 years. While their first demo was a complete abomination to me, the same can not be said Goodbye to Age of Steam. This is an album more mature, and certainly a step forward in relation to that horrible demo, but still not a masterpiece. The vocals, before bad (and still are in some moments) , are a bit better and there are now some harmonies. I think the real problem here are the keyboards that really pulls the album - and my ranking - down. Also sometimes it seems that musicians are a mediocre bunch of amateurs. But the rest is this a good work, even if not we hear Big Big Train in 2009. 3 stars

Report this review (#545107)
Posted Friday, October 7, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Big Big Train first album remastered.

Always to start is difficult.

This guys overtake the afraid and temptation to be likeable (or not) to everybody(fans of prog)

Melodies are beautiful.

Yes in their last albums they were going to show us all their very talented skills in instrumental development and with more technical and modern compositions.

These work reminds me very much the best Salem Hill albums .

Yes Salem Hill is more in the symphonic or neo prog rock line and BBT then went to a more crossover prog vein.

So a very good start that showed us what was going to come later:a master prog.rock band.

Four stars(4,5).

Report this review (#756650)
Posted Tuesday, May 22, 2012 | Review Permalink
The Crow
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars After two interesting demos, Big Big Train released their first full length album back in 1994. And the project started good!

I must say that the production of the album sounds professional. The only problem I find in terms of sound is the dated and unfitting sound of the keyboards in some songs. I think for their attempt to create a melancholic neo-prog approach to music the keys are too strident and too much early 80's oriented. And while in other acts like Pendragon or Arena that's not a big deal, in the music of Big Big Train sounds just incorrect.

Nevertheless, Wind Distorted Pioneers introduces correctly the style of the band, despite its dubious initial guitar melody. Melancholic melodies, piano-based sections and some folk elements. Pure Big Big Train! And typical is also Head Hit the Pillow, which starts with a long instrumental introduction with old-sounding keyboards. After that, at 2:28 we can hear an excellent chorus and good bass playing. Fine song!

Edge of the Known World is not so good, because the more rocking tracks of the album are curiously also the worst. Despite the good and complex initial riff and the neo-prog elements, this song is not remarkable. Landfall's start is also very neo-prog at the beginning, especially in the keyboards. After that we can find a beautiful song dominated by the excellent voice of Martin Read and acoustic guitars. The keyboard is a bit annoying in the chorus, but the inspiring guitar solo accompanied by a fine piano melody compensates that.

Dragon Bone Hill is a dreamy instrumental tune played with Spanish guitar and delicate keyboards, and it gives way to Blow the House Down. This song starts very beautifully, just voice and keys in the first two minutes. After that the track becomes a bit more conventional, but very good nevertheless. The instrumental progression is remarkable, and the great melody of bass and keyboards which appear at 4:09 too.

Expecting Snow is another harmless instrumental with Spanish guitar, but this time with drums and bass and some acoustic chords. Not really special. Blue Silver Red is also a bit irregular, with great sections like the one which starts with the words 'So sorry'', and others which are not so good, specially the rockier ones. Nevertheless, this song has another mature and intense instrumental work. This band was good since the very beginning!

Losing Your Way starts with an epic keyboard, and even more epic guitar melody, which leads to another good song. The fans of Marillion will be specially delighted with this one! The acoustic guitar solo is the top of the track, which ended the album in its first edition.

Because Far Distant thing is an extra song added in the remastered edition, obtained from the demo The Infant Hercules. Not a bad one, but pales in comparison with the rest of the album despite the good electrical guitar works which contains. And Expecting Dragons is a new track made specially for this re-edition with the actual line-up. Is a mixture between Dragon Bone Hill and Expecting Snow, adding Big Big Train's modern elements like flutes, strings, better production and D'Virgilio.

This reissue contains also a longer version of Losing Your Way, but I honestly prefer the original.

Conclusion: a good album from a very talented band! The true personality of the band is here, despite being their first official full lenght. So, the melancholic mixture of neo-prog, folk, pop and symphonic prog will surely delight not only the fans of Big Big Train, but also to curious listeners desiring to know the origins of this gifted group of musicians. In my opinion is also not a bad place to start with them!

The unfitting keyboard sound which ruins some sections, alongside some repetitiveness prevent this album to receive four stars. But It's a good album, even very good sometimes, and it has a great singer who sings very catchy vocal lines and a very versatile and delightful guitar work.

I'm willing to hear more of this band!

Best Tracks: Head Hit the Pillow, Landfall, Blow the House Down, Losing Your Way (short version)

My Rating: ***

Report this review (#1772011)
Posted Wednesday, August 16, 2017 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars It's doubly appropriate that, after producing two demo albums, Big Big Train should have released their full-fledged debut through Giant Electric Pea. Though it swiftly expanded into releasing music by other groups as well, GEP was founded as and remains the forever-home of IQ, and not only was BBT co-founder Andy Poole a roadie for IQ (and their predecessor band, The Lens) back in the early 1980s, but the musical style here is closer to neo-prog than the more ornate, lush symphonic prog style that Big Big Train would adopt later in their career. (Martin Orford even makes a guest appearance, helping out with the arrangements and contributing some backing vocals.)

Still, their sound here is far from being a glib rehash of Marillion, IQ, or any of the other neo-prog big names: early in their career, Big Big Train have already latched onto a wistful, melancholic aesthetic which is distinctly theirs, along with showing a knack for ornate vocal harmonies which add a lovely texture to things.

Thematically, the title of the album immediately calls to mind Big Big Train's long-running tendency to give nods to Britain's industrial past. I'm actually making a point of gradually revisiting the Big Big Train discography from the beginning at the moment, because whilst initially I bounced off their style somewhat, I think that's because I was mistaking their sometimes-nostalgic tones for an endorsement of a reactionary past.

Lately I've started to think I may have been mistaken - a lot of the historical lynchpins they've celebrated over the years have been directed to the overlooked working class history of Britain, not the typical flag-waving of narrow-minded jingoists, and furthermore they're not just nodding to the past for the sake of wallowing in yesteryear but tying in these themes they are fond of with particular emotional and philosophical considerations. This album is a great example of this: though title and cover art suggest mourning a vanished landscape, lyrically they weave these ideas in with a sense of vanished relationships, personal interactions gone to pot with the passage of time.

As one would expect for a band which, at this time in its history, was taking a more neo-prog oriented approach, Big Big Train draw on then-current music in more popular strains as well as the prog past, and in some passages here and there you can almost imagine hearing this sort of music on the radio in the mid-1990s - had they sustained that for an entire song. The band's prog instincts are not to be too easily suppressed, however, and any particular song will end up combining wickedly catchy moments with delightful prog workouts.

There's also a light touch of folk influences here and there, which is a nice way to make the package seem softer and less inaccessible without necessarily pandering to fashion. Adding a pinch of folk to neo-prog is something which seems to pay dividends - though Fish's experiment with it on Internal Exile had slightly mixed results, Mostly Autumn have been able to make an entire career out of it.

What this most reminds me of, in fact, is echolyn's Suffocating the Bloom - which preceded this release by a bit, but shortly enough that I am inclined to think of this as parallel evolution rather than conscious influence. There's the same attention to harmony, the same combination of modern (for the early 1990s) instrumentation with decidedly unfashionable ornateness.

Though I was curious about this debut album, I wasn't expecting to be as blown away by it as I am, and I'm looking forward to continuing my gradual trip through the Big Big Train discography - I expect I'll have a much better appreciation of releases like The Underfall Yard or English Electric now I've got the context offered by picking up their story from the beginning. Goodbye to the Age of Steam might be rather different from the band's current musical approach, but I think it is a beautifully-executed musical statement in its own right and doesn't deserve to be overlooked.

Report this review (#2608216)
Posted Tuesday, October 26, 2021 | Review Permalink
3 stars So a review for a band that I've been checking out quite a bit. So, Big Big Train, one of modern prog's more staple bands with their unique blending of a more English and old British sound with a more neo-Prog or symphonic Prog sound. I've been loving their music for quite a bit so far, and I've heard albums like English Electric and Gathering Speed, which were really great Prog albums in of themselves, but I was curious to see what their first was. The album that basically birthed this band into the light of the Prog scene was one that I was fairly interested in, so I decided to check out what this album had to offer, mostly to see how they evolved from this root in their career.

So this album genuinely surprised me after my first listen due to how it sounds. Many songs here sound completely different from their other albums and a lot more like songs you'd hear from Neo Prog groups, specifically IQ, but more on the edge of Nomzamo or Are You Sitting Comfortably type of IQ with that more pop and new wave style of prog, now I won't say this is a bad thing, but it definitely leads into some minor complaints, which I'll get into later.

So the album starts with Wind Distorted Pioneers. I find this a very neat opener for this album since it starts off very proggy, but shifts to a slower and more rock-like tune. I honestly like this song as an opener, it gets the gears turning to what might come further with this album, and one of the most interesting thing that hits you nearly immediately is the singing, the late David Longdon doesn't sing on this album at all with Martin Read taking up the opportunity instead, and it was a bit jarring since David Longdon was someone I'd see was the conductor of this train with him appearing on a lot live album covers, promotional material, and photos of the band, so it was both interesting but also jarring to not hear David's more older and more British sounding vocals on this album and instead experiencing someone else's vocal performance.

Next song is Head Hit The Pillow, and this is where we can fully see the whole new wave sound that was at the time, still kinda big. Again I hear a lot of influence from early IQ and I really dig this song, but I also do not in a weird way. The sound isn't bad, but it doesn't feel like that staple Big Big Train sound, and I know that this is their first album and they wanted to try and find their sound, but with this I feel like I am not getting at least a hint of what that sound might be. They were clearly trying to make a Neo Prog sound, but my guess was they also wanted to be more pop-like to get more sales so they springboard into a more progressive sound with ease, which is not bad, it's just kinda odd for me. I believe that's my issue with this album, it doesn't feel like Big Big Train, it feels like a completely different band and there is no hint of what the band would become anywhere which certainly is a miss in my eyes when checking out first releases of a band's work.

Next we'll skip a bit of songs and get into Dragon Bone Hill. So this track is rather unique. A lot of the songs here are very loud and proud, full of pop and new wave Prog songs, and then there is this, an instrumental acoustic song. I feel like, unlike many of the songs on this album, this does show a bit of the hint of the slower and more contemporary side of Big Big Train and honestly I am quite for it. This also reminds me of the late Nick Drake and his Five Leaves Left album, which I feel this song sounds kinda like a tribute to that artist with how the guitar is being played, being more softer and more lavish and beautiful than jamming and powerful, which I think is good and necessary for a more upbeat driven LP like this.

Skipping ahead we have Blue Silver Red, which I consider to be the band's first major epic. Again keeping with a Neo Prog sound, but they try a bit more different things here since they have room to really stretch their legs and try somethings new here. Still doesn't sound like what Big Big Train would become, but here you can definitely feel those strong eclectic gears turn with this song as opposed to the others, and with that fact I feel like this is the best song on the album by a long shot, but my main issue is that at the end, it doesn't feel like should've ended in that way, it feels like it should've done a bit more in my opinion and it was a bit of a downer when that played, and I was just sitting there like "Oh, that's it? The song is over?" which is and shouldn't be a good thing to hear from anyone reviewing your album or just listening to it.

And with that, my review for Big Big Train's Goodbye To The Age of Steam is done. So I thought this album was good, and very interesting to hear what the early form of the band sounded like. Obviously it wasn't the best due to the lack of what makes the band in later incarnations really pop out in a lot of Prog spaces, but they definitely showcase a knack for making good progressive music, even if it's in a different form unlike most of their stuff beyond. So I can safely say that I really did enjoy this album, but not as much as their other works obviously.

Report this review (#2713237)
Posted Friday, March 25, 2022 | Review Permalink

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