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Big Big Train

Crossover Prog

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Big Big Train Gathering Speed album cover
3.64 | 274 ratings | 19 reviews | 16% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2004

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. High Tide, Last Stand (7:06)
2. Fighter Command (10:44)
3. The Road Much Further On (8:39)
4. Sky Flying On Fire (6:04)
5. Pell Mell (6:36)
6. Powder Monkey (9:08)
7. Gathering Speed (7:23)

Total Time: 55:40

Line-up / Musicians

- Sean Filkins / vocals, blues harp, percussion
- Gregory Spawton / guitars, keyboards, vocals, co-producer
- Ian Cooper / keyboards
- Andy Poole / bass guitar, co-producer
- Steve Hughes / drums, percussion

- Laura Murch / vocals

Releases information

Artwork: Jim Trainer with Joe Moore (design)

CD Treefrog ‎- TFCD002 (2004, UK)
CD English Electric Recordings ‎- EERCD006 (2009, UK) Remastered by Rob Aubrey

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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BIG BIG TRAIN Gathering Speed ratings distribution

(274 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(16%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(50%)
Good, but non-essential (28%)
Collectors/fans only (5%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

BIG BIG TRAIN Gathering Speed reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by erik neuteboom
3 stars 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. I think this CD will appeal to many prog rock fans: seven melodic, warm and tasteful compositions that contain many shifting moods and lots of good musical ideas. The music has strong hints from mid-GENESIS (twanging acoustic guitars and moving Mellotron waves) but also elements from YES (vocal harmonies) and Alan PARSONS PROJECT (pleasant progressive pop) can be traced. At some moments BIG BIG TRAIN still sound a bit poppy, the music is not very original but most of this CD was a pleasant session, I'm looking forward to their next one!
Review by tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Big Big Train has a lot going for it on this release: beautiful cover art, a theme that we can sink our teeth into (the Battle of Britain) , seven longuish tracks all in the 7-8 minute range, brilliant musicianship featuring excellent guitars from Greg Spawnton, effective rythm section that is upscale from your usual neo lineups, fantastic vocals both male and female and , in closing an overall positive listening experience. The style is very similar to fellow Brits Tantalus who score big prog points worldwide with "Lumen et Caligo", which serves as almost a companion to this release. All tracks are tinged with a very British, Genesislike storytelling atmosphere which is extremely pleasing to the ear, directing the listener into a hitorical/musical return to a time when survival was everything and war , the epitome of evil (Lest we forget). From the opening moments of "High Tide, Last Stand" , the inward musical spiral gathers speed (sic) , London-blitzing through "Fighter Command", through the fiery skies of "Pell Mell" and like a waywardly brave Spitfire, reaching for glory 'til the bitter end and ultimate victory. Very nice job, unexpected really and the basis for future releases from Greg and the boys. Congratulations! 4.5 spitfires
Review by ZowieZiggy
2 stars "BBT" is a neo-prog outfit as there are plenty. The usual suspects of borrowing some good old giants music ("Yes" and "Genesis") with some fantasy I have to say. But the original brand always sound better to my ears and here are obvious plagiarism moments in here.

The music displayed is enjoyable at times, but when I listen to the first part of "Fighter Command" I can only be disappointed. Weak vocals, déjà vu instrumental parts (did you say "Trespass"?). All in all pleasant, but so cliché.

Same feel about "Powder Monkey". But this one does hold some fine mellotron lines (yes, I like this!). The closing of that song though is just a pastiche of the start of the great "Time" from Floyd. What a mix!

The quality of the musicians is quite good, but the song writing is rather thin ("Sky Flying on Fire"). There is little to no inventiveness in this album. Just average music ("Pell Mell").

Some pop prog item are to be heard as well. I am not sure that these will be the cup of tea of many of my colleagues ("Gathering Speed"). The title track is just a combo of what's available before. Nothing gorgeous, nor splendid. But nothing bad either.

Two stars for this.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I became a fan of the Big Big Train sound back when Andy and Greg were running the show, treading water with a revolving door of musicians to collaborate with--before "The Underfall Yard." This is probably the reason that 2007's "The Difference Machine" remains my favorite album of theirs (the new stuff is often a bit too over-the-top bombastic). In "Gathering Speed"--Andy Poole and Greg Spawton's fourth self-produced album--the boys continued their affinity for expressing their admiration for under-recongnized "heroes" of British (and often, more specifically, English) history (mostly of recent history, i.e. the modern Industrial Age). This album is dedicated entirely to the RAF heroes of World War II. The story is well done, the music quite well composed and performed to top notch professional standards by collaborators such as keyboardist Ian Cooper (playing on the last of his four albums with Andy and Greg), drummer Steve Hughes (who also was playing on his last BBT album, played on albums by THE ENID and KINO, but who would go on to release a string of well-regarded prog albums under his own name from 2014 to the present), and singer and multi-instrumentalist SEAN FILKINS, and there is one super-outstanding five star song that has remained on my frequent playlist in "Powder Monkey" but, overall, the music and stories fail to engage the listeners as fully and consistently as their albums to come. Still, as with all BBT albums, I offer high recommendations for any and all fans of modern British history.

Review by b_olariu
3 stars Gathering speed from 2004 I can say is among my fav Big Big Train albums, I mean from what I've hered so far, I have all their albums, ep or demos this one is most intrestinng intresting ones but in same time far from being original influences from older Genesis is still present almost on every BBT album. Sean Filkins apear here for the first time on vocals and he did a good job overall, he has that special voice for such neo cross prog very much loved by many listners, he apear aswell on their next album The difference machine. High tide last stand is among the top pieces from here together with instrumental Sky flying on fire and Fighter command, the melodic guitar and good keybords parts of Spawton combined with Poole bass and good voice of Filkins make from this one a good listning even as I said before I'm a moderate fan of them and each album is good but nothing close to masterpiece, at least for me. Pleasent most of the time. 3.5 stars to this one.
Review by kev rowland
4 stars Big Big Train have only ever had one weakness in their musical arsenal, that of vocals. For their fourth album they have definitely got to grips with that by bringing in singer Sean Filkins. Sean used to be in Lorien, whose SI album 'Children's Games' I reviewed some eleven years ago in #22 (by the way ? I still have the press photo ? blackmail can be a powerful thing). Although the music for this concept album was basically written prior to his involvement, it sounds as if he has been there from the outset. It is strange to think that apart from Sean and additional vocalist Laura Murch, the other four guys were all there at the beginning, some thirteen years ago. Mind you, the only constants in the intervening time have been guitarist Greg Spawton and bassist Andy Poole, but the guys have come back together in order to produce their masterpiece.

This album tells the story of a spitfire pilot who is shot down during the Battle Of Britain, and is easily their most musically complex to date. It has an extremely polished sound (due in no small part to the involvement of Rob Aubrey), but the layered vocals fit in with the different sections so that it is hard to imagine the band sounding any other way. In parts it is almost Floydian as the music moves like waves, with plenty of space for the music to get into the psyche. Starting with the roaring of merlin engines flying overhead, the gentle almost Genesis-style guitars soon become much harsher, showing that here is a band with their own musical identity ? it goes back to the classic days of the early Seventies but is also very much for today. Even though the songs aren't exactly short, there is the feeling throughout that there is definite structure which gives the music definition and purpose.

There is just so many good things to say about this CD that by far the easiest is just that if you like modern progressive rock then this is an album to savour. This really is a million miles away from 'From The River To The Sea' (thinking about it, I probably have photos of the band from then as well ? I must get them out of my file?). They seriously thought about ending the band after 'Bard' ? that in itself was a great album, but this is even better. For more details visit the good site

originally appeared in Feedback #79, June 2004

Review by Warthur
4 stars There's a strong overlap in personnel between this and earlier Big Big Train releases - Greg Spawton and Andy Poole remain the core of the band, Ian Cooper is still on keys (though this would be his final album in the position), and Steve Hughes is back after not being able to contribute to the sessions for Bard. (Then again, I think most of the band would have preferred not to be on Bard - it's not an album they are proud of, and they were left extremely discouraged after its release and even made noises about packing it in - it's no surprise that they've not reissued it.)

In short, Big Big Train here are almost the same band as the one that made their classic debut, Goodbye to the Age of Steam - the major distinction is that Sean Filkins is on vocals, replacing Martin Read (whose vocals on Bard constitute either a misjudged affectation or evidence of Martin badly needing to step away and recover). Despite this, it really feels like that Gathering Speed heralds the dawn of a new band - Big Big Train Mk II, if you will - from the ashes of the old.

The previous sound of Big Big Train I'd personally describe as a 1990s take on neo-prog - taking similar influences that the neo-prog bands of the 1980s did, but updating them using the sort of sounds common among indie rock of the 1990s instead of applying the sort of production and presentation updates which the 1980s neo-prog bands did. The proportions varied - Goodbye To the Age of Steam leaned a little less on those indie rock influences, English Boy Wonders leaned a little more, Bard kind of didn't know what the hell it was doing - but they remained present.

For the new Big Big Train sound, I'd say they've shifted gear to a more unambiguously nostalgic prog mode, with the influences of the bands of the 1970s more prominent in their sound and little to none of the indie rock influences that had crept in previously. One wonders whether Martin Read was responsible for the latter, since his voice - when it was on form - seemed particularly suited to that blend.

So what does that add up to in practice? Well, take the sound of classic Genesis, subtract Peter Gabriel (and therefore make it a few notches less whimsical), but keep Anthony Phillips (and therefore let the folkier side of Trespass stay intact). Then give them much more modern production standards and keyboards, simmer them in a little Pink Floyd (think the more mellow tracks on Meddle), and maybe tweak the folk dial up another notch, to add in more acoustic guitar and even a touch of harmonica here and there.

It's without question a bit of a gear shift from what they were doing previously, but the band would be the first to admit that what they were doing on Bard wasn't working. It's also got a bit of a hopeful title: it'd certainly be ironic if, far from "Gathering Stream", Big Big Train were ploughing further into the rut they'd landed in during Bard. That said, in this case their optimism was justified - it's simply a better album than its predecessor, amply justifying their decision to steer away from the direction they'd be going in, and is at least as good as English Boy Wonders despite the significant pivot in their sound.

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars "Gathering Speed" is the sixth full-length studio album by UK progressive rock act Big Big Train. The album was released through Treefrog Records in 2004. It´s the successor to "Bard" from 2002. "Bard" was originally meant to be a swansong from Big Big Train, as the band had more or less become a hobby project by the late 90s/early 00s, but band founder/guitarist Gregory Spawton got the troops together for another round replacing lead vocalist Martin Read with Sean Filkins in the process. The remaining members are Ian Cooper (keyboards), Andy Poole (bass), and Steve Hughes (drums). The latter returns after having been away from the band since "English Boy Wonders" (1997).

"Gathering Speed" is a concept album influenced by and dedicated to the airmen and women who lost their lives in the Battle of Britain. Stylistically it´s slightly more 70s progressive rock influenced than the direct predecessor, with an increased use of 12-string acoustic guitars and mellotron, but otherwise you´ll immediately recognise this as a pre-2007 Big Big Train release. High level musicianship, decent production values, and an intriguing songwriting style (with great nods toward late 70s Genesis). It´s nothing out of the ordinary for the style, but Big Big Train understand how to build climaxes, use dynamics, and create a nostalgic melancholic atmosphere.

They also happen to be skilled musicians and everything is delivered with great sophistication and finesse. Strong melancholic lead vocals, beautiful choirs, harmony- and backing vocals are supported by clever and tasteful instrumental arrangements. Although this is progressive rock, you won´t find anything overtly complex here (although some song structures definitely are unconventional). Big Big Train are much more focused on the song itself and the melody lines and little compositional details which all help make a great whole.

Although Big Big Train would become even more interesting and professional over the next couple of releases (which also gave them their big breakthrough), "Gathering Speed" is the beginning of that successful journey. A transition album if you will from their slightly more amaturish previous releases towards their better produced and more professional future releases. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is warranted.

Latest members reviews

3 stars I discovered Big Big Train with their CD "English Electric Part 1." I loved that one so much that I have been buying up everything I can find in their back catalog. I have found their older music to be very rewarding and enjoyable. Then I came across "Gathering Speed" and was a little dis ... (read more)

Report this review (#1732382) | Posted by stefano | Monday, June 12, 2017 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Well, 2012 has ended and what was the outstanding album of the year in terms of the prog genre? For me (and many others it appears) it was Big Big Trains English Electric Part 1, an outstanding statement of modern prog/classic rock with a nod to the past. But what of their earlier works. This ... (read more)

Report this review (#890417) | Posted by MarkGregory | Wednesday, January 9, 2013 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Well I've decided to review this now, 13 years after its release, because with the now popularity of BBT, there may be many who have not ventured into their pre-Longdon era, and although all of these albums are good, this is the one album I believe to be equal to the albums with David Longdon. No, i ... (read more)

Report this review (#817681) | Posted by snelling | Sunday, September 9, 2012 | Review Permanlink

4 stars 7.5/10 Although Big Big Train has had a long-lived career of almost 15 years when he was in 2004, poisso safely say that it was with Gathering Speed ​​things started to go well for the band. His three previous albums and their debut demo bordered between the mediocre and the med ... (read more)

Report this review (#553697) | Posted by voliveira | Thursday, October 20, 2011 | Review Permanlink

3 stars The unmistakable sound of the Merlin engine, good way to start an album! After three dismal efforts BBT suddenly produce music that does in fact cross the progressive Rubicon !! Even the singer doesn't drone on (thankyou Cosmic Joker!). The hackettesque guitar and abundant mellotron helps of cour ... (read more)

Report this review (#244703) | Posted by M27Barney | Thursday, October 15, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Well its been almost a year since Big Big Train released this album et I must confess that I only just recently became an owner of a copy of GS! But they do say the best thing come to those who wait... Simply a wonderful release and have been playing it over and over I must say there is not to ... (read more)

Report this review (#28829) | Posted by | Thursday, December 23, 2004 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This is a lovely piece of yesteryear progressive rock with modern flavours, which BBT are able to meld better than most un-original prog rock bands of today, these humble boys are not in it for competitiveness, there are so many neo prog bands that are so hung up on being better or more compl ... (read more)

Report this review (#28828) | Posted by | Friday, October 15, 2004 | Review Permanlink

3 stars big big train have proved themselves worthy of the label PROG this time, I feel that this is a good release and have listened to it again and again and it doesn't burn out as quickly as a lot of stuff in this sometimes limited and complex quagmyre that is prog rock. I do think though that the ... (read more)

Report this review (#28827) | Posted by | Wednesday, September 15, 2004 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This is my album of the year. Early Genesis feel , fantastic vocals (finally got it right), mellotron, hooks and melodies to die for. Beautiful album and all prog fans should own this. Essential. Well done Greg and the boys ... (read more)

Report this review (#28826) | Posted by | Tuesday, August 31, 2004 | Review Permanlink

4 stars yes BIG BIG TRAIN'S stars are definitley rising, i'd like to see this band do well -i can see their potential and this relese is their strongest yet I think their main songwriter GREGORY SPAWTON has captured the mood and conveys it to the listener almost perfectly, it draws you in and keeps yo ... (read more)

Report this review (#28825) | Posted by | Tuesday, August 24, 2004 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This is undoubtedly BBT's finest work to date, especially if you prefer slightly mellower prog in the vein of genesis etc... Fantastic musicianship and great song strucures are its strength. I can't believe this band -they've been around over ten years and are mostly 'out of the spotlight' w ... (read more)

Report this review (#28824) | Posted by | Thursday, June 10, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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