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Big Big Train - Ingenious Devices CD (album) cover


Big Big Train

Crossover Prog

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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is a quite successful attempt at presenting previously released tracks in a slightly new and different way. Three long tracks about technology (common theme), one of them completely re-recorded (with the exception of the late David Longon's voice), the other two re-mixed and/or partially re-recorded. All three tracks feature a 17 piece string ensemble, and together with an entirely new short track that links the slightly older East Coast Racer to the two newer tracks, it all results in a really homogenous suite. Symphonic Prog Rock at its finest!


1. East Coast Racer (2023) (5 stars): The newly added string section really works well, as does the outro guitar solo by Dave Gregory.

3. Brooklands (2023) (4.5 stars): A really nice track, but on this album it is the least significant.

Originally published at

Report this review (#2936674)
Posted Friday, June 30, 2023 | Review Permalink
4 stars Just a plug for the new version of Brooklands. This was, historicallym an OK track on Folklore and there was IIRC further works in progress on Second Brightest Star. This new version *utterly* transforms the track - turns it, frankly into an epic piece that at times sounds like something out of a Bond Film, and leaps it up the table of BBT's best songs.

This album of reworks and presents what now must be considered the definitive version of three BBT long-songs.

The live version of Atlantic Cable is nice. I struggle with Alberto Bravin but my main criticism is simply that he is not David Longdon, and that's not his fault.

Report this review (#2936678)
Posted Friday, June 30, 2023 | Review Permalink
3 stars The addition of a 17 piece string section certainly works for two of the three pieces treated - Brooklands is indeed given new life and a new dynamic in this version. Voyager also sounds fresh and renewed with plenty for the Big Big Train aficionado to listen out for, be it Dave Gregory's small guitar bursts, Rachel Hall's backing vocals or the enhanced bass sound from Gregory Spawton. The live version of Atlantic Cable from the 2022 Aylesbury gig is a subtle and interesting contrast between the "old" band (Manners, Gregory and Hall) from the three revisited tracks and the "new" members on stage at The Waterside Theatre - Oscar Holldorff, Dave Foster and Clare Lindley. It is also, more markedly, an opportunity to compare the vocal contributions from Alberto Bravin on Cable with the late David Longdon who passed away suddenly in 2021. Bravin is an admirable vocalist (and instrumentalist) with a similar range. He sounds comfortable with the old material and will no doubt be accepted warmly and readily during the upcoming European tour. There are two other tracks on this album, a short segueing piece for strings entitled The Book Of Ingenious Devices which slides comfortably between Brooklands and the opening track, the much admired, nay revered, East Coast Racer. Since 2015 it has been a cornerstone of Big Big Train's live shows and the closing section, especially composed by keyboard player Danny Manners has been faithfully re-recorded for this version. East Coast Racer is a difficult song to add to, the original being a masterpiece of writing, studio performing and Rob Aubrey's immaculate production; even adding the full string section was going to be a difficult enterprise. Does it work? Yes insomuch that the scale of an already epic song now easily takes over any sound system. The price to be paid for these added riches however is to push David Longdon's previously expansive vocals towards the back of the mix; at times they seem to dwindle to nothing. As the instrumental parts of ECR had been re-recorded by the original players prior to Longdon's passing in preparation for this project perhaps it would have been an opportunity for the new vocalist to record over the existing re-recordings and put his own voice to the song. An opportunity missed possibly.
Report this review (#2936874)
Posted Saturday, July 1, 2023 | Review Permalink
4 stars My first review about a Big Big Train album on Prog Archives was in 2005, I wrote: "With their fourth release entitled Gathering Speed the UK band BIG BIG TRAIN seemed to have taken a giant step into the prog rock zone. To be honest, I was stunned by their progressive progress because I knew this band and was far from delighted about them." Well, almost 20 years later Big Big Train has turned into one of the leading prog bands, and I got their latest effort to review.

Releases information. Songs 1, 3 and 4 (featuring the late David Longdon) are completely re-arranged with a 17-piece string section. East Coast Racer is a completely new studio version recorded by the line-up of the band as it was in 2019. Brooklands features newly recorded drums, bass and bass pedals, while Voyager includes additional guitar and violin. All three songs have been re-mixed for this release. Ingenious Devices also includes a previously unreleased orchestral piece called The Book Of Ingenious Devices which links East Coast Racer and Brooklands. Finally Ingenious Devices features a live performance of Atlantic Cable, recorded at Friars, Aylesbury in September 2022. The extensive line-up on this compilation features drummer Nick D'Virgilio.

Apart from the short instrumental track The Book of Ingenious Devices (melancholical sound with wonderful violins) this compilation features four varied and dynamic epic compositions that sound melodic and harmonic, with flowing shifting moods, wonderful work on guitar and keyboards, and topped with the beautiful voice of David Longdon (with that Peter Gabriel-like emotion) and the 17-piece string section. I consider Big Big Train as one of the best current prog formations, and what a tribute to the late singer David Longdon, one of the best prog singers in this decade. And let's not forget the outstanding work by drummer Nick D'Virgilio. My highlights.

I love the exciting blend of the electric prog sound and the 17-piece string section, the shifting moods, and the final part wonderful with violin and Mellotron choirs and strings, concluded with moving guitar solo and tender piano in East Coast Racer.

The focus is on sensitive electric guitar and the beautiful emotional voice, halfway dynamic and powerful with wonderful electric guitar and strings, and what an awesome interplay, in Brooklands.

Tasteful arrangements with mellow piano, inspired vocals and violin, a classical sound, and Mellotron choirs, halfway a break with flashy synthesizer solo, tight drum beats and rock guitar, and in the sumptuous final part emotional vocals, blended with Mellotron choirs and fiery electric guitar runs in Voyager, wow!

The final song is a live version of Atlantic Cable on which new lead singer Alberto Bravin does a fine job. First an intro with tender piano and violin, then a mid-tempo with the propulsive Rickenbacker bass, embellished with Vintage Keyboard Heaven (Hammond, Minimoog and Mellotron choirs) and moving guitar, goose bumps. In the second part we can enjoy spectacular work on the synthesizer and strong breaks, this is the most Old School track on this compilation, and I am blown away!

Not to be missed by any serious proghead!

This review was previously published at the Background Magazine website, the oldest Dutch progrock source.

Report this review (#2947327)
Posted Friday, August 25, 2023 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Honorary Reviewer
5 stars Given the importance of David Longdon to the history of Big Big Train it always seemed likely that the next release following his death was going to somewhat special. Yes, I know 'Welcome to the Planet' was released at the beginning of 2022, but that had already been long planned and David had performed on it and knew exactly what it was going to sound like. Here the BBT guys have partially re-recorded and rearranged three of their songs about technology, namely "East Coast Racer", "Brooklands" and Voyager" (which in total is more than 40 minutes of music), including a 17-piece string section recorded at Abbey Road, keeping David's vocals. There is a previously unreleased short orchestral piece, "The Book of Ingenious Devices", which links "East Coast Racer" and "Brooklands", and then a live version of "Atlantic Cable", which was recorded on the band's tour in September 2022 with ex-PFM singer Alberto Bravin.

One can see why Greg was keen to revisit the older numbers as here they have been lifted, and sympathetically dealt with to give them a new life. Any excuse to listen to Longdon's vocals is always to be welcomed of course, as he was one of the finest singers in the prog scene and here, he has been kept front and centre while the arrangements have been made more sumptuous and the addition of the strings lifts the songs to new heights. BBT are one of the largest prog bands around in terms of membership, and this allows them to take music in new direction without ever sounding muddied or confused. There is a delicacy and space within "Atlantic Cable", a poignancy perfectly captured by the introduction by piano and violin. It must have been incredibly difficult for Bravin to join the band in such trying circumstances, and he would be aware that every night the fans would be comparing him to Longdon, yet he is a fine choice as his voice is different enough to ensure he is not too close, yet similar enough to be able to pull it off and he is in total control throughout this.

This is yet another great release from BBT, and I look forward to the next album with great interest indeed.

Report this review (#2955974)
Posted Saturday, September 30, 2023 | Review Permalink
4 stars 1.East Coast Racer (2023) starts directly after a Genesisian intro on the Anglican bucolic space, on the FLOWER KINGS, on, well I'm not going to name everything, BIG BIG TRAIN is now one of the prog dinosaurs who secrete vintage prog well made and allows prog veterans to keep hope that prog still exists! What else can I say about all the other titles? Well delivered, well delivered sound, David's voice which resonates as if he were still there; jazzy rock influences, flights of strings, breaks with spleen trumpet in the distance, a sound which makes me think of a progressiveness of XTC, if they had continued in this direction I maintain it. A spleen souvenir album which bathes in emotions, progressive dreams and which shows that we can have fun listening to music without bringing out an old dino from the 70's 2.The Book of Ingenious Devices as a spleen interlude, moment when David goes up there? 3.Brooklands (2023) is worth for its delicate piano arpeggio and its grandiloquent symphonic rise, a well-crafted and put together ersatz between GENESIS, SUPERTRAMP and another dino group, a pinch of the ALAN PARSONS PROJECT; a great progressive fresco that must always be tamed and which can explain why prog of this ilk only thrills ultimate fans: too long, too slow, too much for today's life, unfortunately. 4.Voyager (2023) for yet another pastoral, bucolic marshmallow title, with its progressive meanders, in which I find sounds of SPOCK'S BEARD, of the Neal MORSE BAND; a swirling tune to take as a fusion of genres and as a rise of musical art, a spleen title to eat and keep for yourself. 5.Atlantic Cable (live) live you have to know; 3 minutes of Genesisian drift and Alberto at the helm with a hoarser voice, for FM rock, AOR that would be perfect; we will get used to it; a long track which lacks pep, which leaves with a jazzy prog pop hint but which allows us to tumble into a divine guitar solo, yes with two big names in the guitar section, BIG BOG TRAIN can afford some nice breaks in the end; for me a spiritual son of Neal MORSE who transcends genre admirably. In short, whether we like it or not, a group which shows that the prog of the 2020 decade still exists, well done you can applaud.
Report this review (#2993113)
Posted Wednesday, February 21, 2024 | Review Permalink

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