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WELCOME TO THE PLANET

Big Big Train

Crossover Prog


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Big Big Train Welcome to the Planet album cover
4.15 | 145 ratings | 10 reviews | 37% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
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Studio Album, released in 2022

Songs / Tracks Listing

- Part One:
1. Made from Sunshine (4:04)
2. The Connection Plan (3:55)
3. Lanterna (6:29)
4. Capitoline Venus (2:27)
5. A Room with No Ceiling (4:52)
- Part Two:
6. Proper Jack Froster (6:38)
7. Bats in the Belfry (4:54)
8. Oak and Stone (7:12)
9. Welcome to the Planet (6:41)

Total Time 47:12

Line-up / Musicians

- David Longdon / lead vocals
- Gregory Spawton / bass
- Rikard Sj÷blom / guitars, keyboards, vocals
- Nick D'Virgilio / drums, vocals
- Carly Bryant / keyboards, lead vocals (9)
- Dave Foster / guitars
- Clare Lindley / violin, vocals

Releases information

Label: English Electric Records
Format: Vinyl, CD, Digital
January 28, 2022

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BIG BIG TRAIN Welcome to the Planet ratings distribution


4.15
(145 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(37%)
37%
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(32%)
32%
Good, but non-essential (24%)
24%
Collectors/fans only (5%)
5%
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)
2%

BIG BIG TRAIN Welcome to the Planet reviews


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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Second Life Syndrome
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Originally written for theprogmind.com

I was not thrilled to be reviewing this album so close to such tragedy. Big Big Train recently lost its voice, David Longdon, in a heartbreaking accident. The band chose to go forward with the release of their already-completed new album Welcome to the Planet. Even more painful, this album might be one of the best of their career. It releases on January 28th, though you can hear most of it online already.

Most of you probably know my history with BBT to some extent. I've been a fan for about a decade now, and yet my tastes had started to drift. For their last few releases, I was probably more critical than I should have been. I have to admit that David's passing has caused me to step back and think about writing negative reviews at all. How do I have any right? I almost feel guilty for reviewing some past BBT albums negatively, and now David is gone. Was it really worth it?

I admired David immensely. I've always loved his voice and his quirk. He seemed rather noble with his pastoral tendencies and nostalgic tone. He was eager to discuss the lyrics on each of the albums when I wrote about the English Electric records years ago, and he was gracious in the way he accepted criticism. The "prog" world lost a truly amiable soul in David.

And so I was afraid to approach this release. I did like BBT's 2021 album Common Ground, better than the previous few, that is. Yet, the idea of possibly not liking Welcome to the Planet almost caused me to skip it. After taking the plunge, however, I was quick to see that this new album represents the BBT I always hoped they could become.

Let me explain that. I do love BBT's blend of pastoral, folksy ideas with prog rock. They've always sounded golden, so to speak. But after a while, it felt like they had gotten into a rut: producing albums that sounded the same. This is my opinion only. What I had always wanted was for BBT to bring some zest or some fresh air back into their sound. Common Ground was a good step towards that, but Welcome to the Planet is the fully realized version.

With this new record, the lineup includes: David Longdon on vocals; Gregory Spawton on bass; Rikard Sj÷blom on guitars, keyboards, and vocals; Nick D'Virgilio on drums and vocals; Carly Bryant on keyboards and vocals; Dave Foster on guitars; and Clare Lindley on violin and vocals. Yes, the prog rock remains, but the band is much more sparing with their pastoral and folk sounds. There is a streamlined sense of freshness and modernity that I haven't heard from them. You will hear more in the way of bluesy and even theatrical songs, tracks that I wouldn't have ever expected from them. Between the stilting piano, groovy rhythms, and brilliant vocal performances, this record ends up feeling like a true event.

The album makes this known pretty quickly. "Made from Sunshine" opens the record with a gushing, crisp ballad that simply puts joy into my heart. Right after that, though, "The Connection Plan" provides an absolutely stunning, seriously addictive offering. Between the gorgeous, dynamic violin backdrop and the fast-paced verses, the song produces a riveting steam all its own, complete with what I would call some Spock's Beard accents. This is the BBT that I wanted to hear.

And it doesn't stop there. "Lanterna" comes next with a huge sound and great energy. "Capitoline Venus" interludes with grace and space. "A Room with No Ceiling" delights us with a dynamic and inventive instrumental. "Proper Jack Foster" gives us an absolutely spellbinding second half with all the gusto and power I could want.

And then the last three tracks arrive. These, besides, "The Connection Plan", are probably the best on the album. "Bats in the Belfry" is a quirky, spunky, and even weird instrumental with great performances and creative character. I love how it plays with various instruments and solos, and how it jumps around untamed and even a bit dark at times. "Oak and Stone" is a glorious and peaceful piece, sinking deeply into David's vocals for what feels like the last time. It revels in gorgeous atmospheric keys and hushed ambience, and it soothes my soul.

The title track, though?well, the title track is something unexpected and also something somehow innately BBT to my ears. This regal, theatrical track feels so luxurious and so melodic on one hand, while also feeling ever so slightly macabre and maybe even Bohemian in its style. There are hints of cinematic and musical theater throughout, and the interplay between David and Carly is truly something meant to be, though we are graced with Carly's voice primarily for this track. The song may feel like pure atmosphere and introspection at times, but it soon rises with a jangling piano rhythm that just feels right, even though it is quite different. This song defines everything the band has been and also what they have become. And it makes me quite proud.

Big Big Train will never be the same after David's passing. While he wasn't the original vocalist, I do feel like he was the best, and I think his voice helped create the soul of the BBT we know. Welcome to the Planet is an amazing combination of new ideas with hints of the old, and the entire band performs it with artistic grace and sheer elation. This is the album I've wanted since English Electric, Part 1, and it makes me sad that it arrived when it did. Still, this record represents a fantastic legacy for David and for the entire band.

Review by The Rain Man
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Firstly, deepest condolences to the band and their friends and families following the tragic passing of Big Big Train's lead vocalist David Longdon on 20th November 2021. "Welcome to the planet" was already complete before the passing and it must have been a difficult decision whether to go ahead and release this album which came out on the 28th of January 2022. I am very new to this band. In fact, I only heard of them when I saw a You Tuber called "Notes reviews" had reviewed this album. I haven't watched the video yet, but I decided just to see what I thought of it first. And my first impressions were that I was quite taken aback by its magnificence. It was after a few listens I looked them up on Facebook and found out about the sad news. To be honest I wouldn't have reviewed this album if I didn't like it given the circumstances. However I do have a very minor critique which I will go into on what in general is sensational.

First of all, let's give a bit of background to the band. They formed in Bournemouth in 1990, releasing their debut album "Goodbye to the age of Steam" in 1994. There has been a lot of people involved with the band over the years with many line-up changes as well as members who just join them for touring. For this, their 14th album, the line-up was David Longdon on lead vocals, flute, keyboards and guitar. Greg Spawton on bass guitar, guitar, keyboards and backing vocals. Nick D'Virgilio on drums, percussion, guitars and keyboards. Rikard Sj÷blom on guitars, keyboards and backing vocals. As you can see with all the members chipping in playing different instruments you can see why they need those extra members when touring.

"Welcome to the Planet" is a nine-track album sitting at 47 minutes and 16 seconds. The album opens with the glorious sun ray of a track that is "Made from Sunshine" and you can feel the warmth coming out from your speakers when listening to this song. The guitars, the vocals, the keyboards and the brass section combine to make such a wonderful, uplifting opening to the album. And the guitar solo at the end of the track has the perfect tone to match.

The thing I love about this album is that every track feels so different. It's like they put the emphasis on different people's abilities and vary the prominent instrument on each track. The second track "The Connection Plan" for instance, the violin is really prominent, particularly early on in the track. The short, sharp, snappy playing makes the intro so inviting. The third track "Lanterna" is currently my favourite track on the album. The song starts gently with David's vocals along with one of the backing vocalists intertwining to make a blissfully magic track which builds so perfectly. David's vocals are noticeably excellent throughout the album. You can really feel the emotion he puts into the delivery. "Laterna" is just a fantastic progressive rock song sitting at 6 minutes 30 seconds long and again finishes with a fine solo.

"Proper Jack Froster" is another classic progressive track which also features a female vocalist which again mixes things up for the album. The way the album keeps moving in different directions and still maintaining the feel that they all belong together is one of the reasons which makes it so good and keeps me listening to this album over and over again. This again happens on the penultimate "Bats in the Belfry" which has this great electronic vibe and finishes with a drum solo which in 2022 feels special as it feels quite rare for bands to do this these days, particularly on a studio album. It is still commonplace I think on the live circuit for drummers to get their moment in the limelight with an extra drum fill in a song. But to do it on an album makes it not only stand out on this album but also when comparing to other albums out at the moment.

The album finishes with the title track "Welcome to the Planet" and it starts off amazingly and in a kind of big brass band kind of feel making a big entrance. The song then calms down for the majority, with the vocals being delivered in a kind of freestyle type form which sounds refreshing before going into a nice climax to finish. It is slightly strange to me closing an album with title and lyrics saying "Welcome" a lot. It feels like a way to start the album rather than finish one. But at the same time the climax at the end does end up closing it nicely. But that's really my only minor critique bit of the album.

Overall, this album is ridiculously good, and I mean every track is great. I hope the warmth, positivity and outstanding musicianship on this album give comfort to the people affected by the loss of David Longdon. I have seen a statement by the band recently saying that David wished the band to continue if this event was to occur and now the band have come out and said they wish to fulfil David's wishes and continue as a band. I wish them all the best. And I do hope I can start working my way through Big Big train's back catalogue as if the other albums are up to "Welcome to the planet" standard. They'll be worth a listen.

Review by A Crimson Mellotron
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars What we have here is a very, very good collection of songs and sadly a posthumous release for vocalist David Longdon; The fourteenth studio album by British prog-rockers Big Big Train should be taken more as an assembly of compositions, rather than a continuous, long-running piece that has all parts connected to each other - this most recent recording by one of England's most English bands is musically a bit of everything one could expect from the 7-piece that recorded 'Welcome to the Planet', this including lush instrumentation, pastoral passages, mellow guitar parts, fantastic drumming, countryside visions, and really impressive lead vocals and vocal harmonies.

Bassist Greg Spawton, drummer Nick D'Virgilio, guitarist and keyboard player Rikard Sj÷blom, who currently make up the line-up of the band, are joined by Dave Foster who provides some guitars, Clare Lindley providing some violins and vocals, and Carly Bryant on keys and lead vocals on the title track and album closer, alongside the late David Longdon, are the people responsible for the great music on 'Welcome to the Planet'. In the dense release schedule that the band has had in the last couple of years, it is quite normal to expect that the quality of the albums will deteriorate and repetition will become an apparent moment in the music. Fortunately, this is not the case.

I hear tons of Genesis, a lot of Spock's Beard, and above all, heaps of Big Big Train - quite normal, given the background of the band, the roots of their sound, and the pedigree of the band members. Despite these facts, as I dare call them, this 2022 album is very impressive, the quality of the songs is enviable, they are all incredibly recognizable as Big Big Train compositions, and yet, they are all entirely enjoyable, calming, and beautifully composed. Opening track 'Made From Sunshine' is a lovely, peaceful track that gives off this aforementioned pastoral feel, so present in all of Big Big Train's works. Then comes the most Spock's Beard-y of all the songs, 'The Connection Plan', that even has NDV singing the leads; This one could have been a perfect fit on an album like 'X' or maybe even 'Snow'. 'Lanterna' is a fabulous exercise is building proggy musical English landscapes, 'Capitoline Venus' is a more vocally-centered piece, and 'A Room With No Ceiling' is the first of the two very excellent and intriguing instrumentals, concluding what is generally known as part one. 'Proper Jack Froster' and 'Bats in the Belfry' are the two big highlights of part two, with the latter being the other instrumental, a more drum-centered piece, with NDV simply going all technical. The final two tracks are a bit less memorable when compared to the rest but still manage to add something pleasant to the overall feel of the album.

'Welcome to the Planet', despite the tragic events accompanying it, will most certainly go down as one of the strongest and most uplifting releases of Big Big Train, marking an important episode in the band's career, a watershed moment even, if you please, as one could hardy imagine something more unbearable for a rock band than loosing its voice, the man who gives life to the words of the songs, the person who embodies all the different characters one could meet in the band's catalogue, and one of the most recognizable voices in the genre's modern story.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Like many here, Dave Longdon's sudden and unexpected departure from his corporeal body has left me stunned. I was not expecting an album from them again--especially not so soon as this--but am quite pleased by it. There is a very different side of the Train on display here--one that I wish we might have seen/heard more of over the past 14 years and, should Greg and Nick continue, I hope to hear more of in the future. As it stands, this is a wonderful tribute to Dave Longdon's skills--showing a range that we'd not seen as much of since he joined back in 2009 for The Underfall Yard. Well worth the investment even if it's not all ground-breaking on-the leading-edge progressive rock.

- Part One: 1. "Made from Sunshine" (4:04) a totally straightforward lite-rock ballad with Dave on lead vocals and Carol Lindley. Nothing very special here (though the lyrics about a newborn child are touching.) (7.75/10)

2. "The Connection Plan" (3:55) part Jem Godfrey's FROST* part old Jeff Lynne's ELO, this music is smart, concise, and snappy, if not very original. Nice lyrics and professional construction but very poppy. (8.25/10)

3. "Lanterna" (6:29) opens with a sensitivity and style that reminds me of the great songwriting bands of the 60s like The Mamas & The Papas or The BeeGees. GREAT vocal harmonies. At the end of the second minute the song jumps into full rock/prog rock regalia with a great construct, great palette (totally BBT) with great pacing and power and some awesome "classical" piano on display. Just great music. Nice polished lead guitar solo in the solo spot which is interestingly followed by an odd space-ambient outro. Disappointing finish but still my first top three song. (9/10)

4. "Capitoline Venus" (2:27) gently picked acoustic 12-string guitar with Mellotron accompany an impassioned Dave Longdon. Whenever this guy sings about walking in nature with his one true love I just melt. As much as I appreciate all the English history lessons BBT have given us, I believe their emotionality is best channeled through love songs like this--especially with Dave in the lead. My sentimental favorite and a top three song. (5/5)

5. "A Room with No Ceiling" (4:52) An awesome and refreshing opening with some cool, almost jazzy guitar play over some pseudo jazz support from Fender Rhodes, chunky bass, and Nick D'Virgilio's virtuosic (as always) drum play. Organ and accordion dominate the militaristically paced third minute. We're on the Continent! Cool experiment by the band that really works. At 3:30 we move back into the jazzier motif of the opening with bass and Fender Rhodes playing over a quieter rhythm section. The song then fades away with solo accordion playing a plaintive (familiar French?) melody. Definitely a top three song for me--a style I wish the Train would use more. (9.25/10)

- Part Two: 6. "Proper Jack Froster" (6:38) opens with a smooth folk rock feel and sound similar to The Byrds, Fotheringay, The Strawbs, or The Woods Band. It then turns pop-rockier like a Supertramp song or even Genesis' "A Trick of the Tail" with the rhythm section's addition. Eventually enters a more stylistic area of classic folk rock songs that might have reached Top of the Pops heights--especially with the presence of Carly Bryant's sultry vocal in the background and, in the middle, the lead. Excellent pop guitar solo in the second half--equivalent, to my mind, to a Skunk Baxter "Reelin' in the Years" ear-popper. Could be a top three song, but there are others! (9/10)

7. "Bats in the Belfry" (4:54) with Greg's straightforward one-riff bass line, this one has a little cheesy "B-side" feel to it despite Nick's excellent drumming. The horns and "horns" give it a bit of a Chicago/Herb Alpert feel until those Dick Dale guitar lines and organ center. Weird. Then it tries to get soundtrack VANGELISy. Weirder! Must be a Nick composition cuz it sure does showcase him. (8.25/10)

8. "Oak and Stone" (7:12) Pure Longdon-era BBT opening with piano, solo voce Longdon, and excellent banked vocal harmonies. Brushed drum kit give it an old jazz lounge crooner's feel (which is not how I've ever thought of Dave's voice; a crooner he is not.) At 3:15 Greg's upright bass, Rikard's tinkling of the ivory, and Clare Lindley's violin take us into a new section (still jazz loungey) This one just feels like a Dave Longdon swan song just as the final song on 2021's Common Ground, "End Notes" did. Beautiful composition and production if not necessarily BBT's typical style. (13.5/15)

9. "Welcome to the Planet" (6:41) More jazzy horn arrangements open this footlights/stage-ready song--more like an Andrew Lloyd-Weber outtake with the sophisticated vocal arrangements and back-and-forth between Carly Bryant, Dave, the Greek Chorus, and the quiet, spacey and spacious instruments. Quite lovely in an ENID/ELOY/PINK FLOYD way. Carly even goes Clare Torry on us in fifth and sixth minutes--even through the spurt of celebratory New Orleans jazz funeral/wake music that precedes Clare's final lyric. (9/10)

Total Time 47:12

I don't think I've ever heard a BBT album with so much exposure of historical roots, influences, and/or homages; that is, very little here sounds "classic Big Big Train"; a lot of sounds imitative and/or honoring old 1960s/1970s musical styles and palettes. It's interesting, entertaining, and enjoyable and usually works very well--which, in my opinion, is a testimony to the maturity and skill of this wonderful collection of musicians. So, I'm on board: Welcome to the Planet! Long live Big Big Train!

B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of crossover progressive rock music. Take away the first two songs and you'd have a masterpiece.

Review by kev rowland
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Reviewer
5 stars On 20th November 2021, BBT vocalist David Longdon died in hospital after an accident at his home. This obviously had a major impact on the band and everyone who knew him, yet they had just completed their latest album so what to do with it? David was very proud of the recording, and in conjunction with his partner, the band made the decision to release it in January 2022. Of course, this meant I had not heard it prior to David's passing, so it is quite possible that my review is impacted due to that knowledge, but I will attempt to remain as objective as possible. Although the band had changed to a quartet for the previous release, 'Common Ground', they were now operating as a septet with no guests whatsoever. David Longdon (lead vocals), Gregory Spawton (bass), Rikard Sj÷blom (guitars, keyboards, vocals) and Nick D'Virgilio (drums, vocals) were now joined permanently by three musicians who all performed on the previous album as well, Carly Bryant (keyboards, lead vocals), Dave Foster (guitars) and Clare Lindley (violin, vocals).

Unlike most progressive bands, Big Big Train have become more prolific as they have got older: it took them twenty years to release their first seven albums, yet in the last ten they released eight, and at a much higher quality as well. Not bad for a band I have now known for more than 30 years, and this was their fifteenth (yes, I include the CD version of 'From the River To The Sea' as their debut as that was how we regarded it at the time). They have increased much of the complexity which was found on 'Common Ground' yet maintaining the freshness and light so that one never feels overwhelmed or smothered and instead is taken on a journey where one does not know where or how it is going to lead. The result is exciting and enthralling as one is taken into a world full of beauty and surprises. One can understand why David was proud of this as his vocals are outstanding, but there are lengthy passages where he makes no appearance at all, yet the music is still vital and engaging.

The violin lets the band move in folkier directions when the time is right, and they also allow themselves to play in standard time and be commercial when they want, and then go off at tangents at others, always with a harmony to the arrangements which is superb. Greg combines with Nick to provide wonderfully melodic and powerful basslines which cuts through the gentler aspects, grounding the music so it never goes too far in any direction but instead stays core to the vision. The result is possibly the finest BBT album of their career, but instead of looking forward to the follow-up we now wait to see what happens next. That there will be a next was never in doubt, and in March the band announced their new singer is Alberto Bravin of PFM.

This is a wonderful album. Do not listen to it in sadness at David's passing, but instead treat it as the triumph it is, an incredible piece of work.

Latest members reviews

4 stars BIG BIG TRAIN is the singular group that I knew later on, not knowing where to place them, at a time when I was lacking the voice of Peter GABRIEL; in short a group stamped english group with a lot of sizes as musicians. Album in two parts, here we go: 'Made from Sunshine' bucolic, playful, ... (read more)

Report this review (#2781683) | Posted by alainPP | Wednesday, August 3, 2022 | Review Permanlink

4 stars A SOLID four stars. Very impressive. This album is a cut above their more recent albums, which were pretty darn good to begin with! Greg Spawton is back, writing or contributing to a majority of the forty-seven minutes (you may remember he was the major contributor on the watershed album Underfa ... (read more)

Report this review (#2713746) | Posted by gbjones | Monday, March 28, 2022 | Review Permanlink

5 stars It's truly a tragedy to think that this is the last Big Big Train we will hear with David Longdon, who is easily the reason why the band is as critically acclaimed as it is now. He singlehandedly leveled-up the quality of the band in general and provided a great sense of musicality and musicians ... (read more)

Report this review (#2696167) | Posted by Nhelv | Tuesday, March 1, 2022 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Rarely does a band manage to release albums very often and that they are of great quality. Almost always the tendency is to repeat themselves and, in the worst case, they only achieve a mediocre job. Compared to his previous work, the interesting "Common Ground", his latest release is reduced t ... (read more)

Report this review (#2692343) | Posted by JohnProg | Sunday, February 13, 2022 | Review Permanlink

3 stars It's sad writing this review, reflecting on the recent loss of the great David Longdon. This is his final album and it's hard to believe that we won't hear him ever again as, for me (and probably many others) he was the distinctive sound of Big Big Train. It's hard to imagine them carrying on with a ... (read more)

Report this review (#2677094) | Posted by Wisdom Moon | Thursday, January 27, 2022 | Review Permanlink

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