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Big Big Train

Crossover Prog

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Big Big Train The Likes of Us album cover
4.41 | 103 ratings | 9 reviews | 44% 5 stars

Essential: a masterpiece of
progressive rock music

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Studio Album, released in 2024

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Light Left in the Day (6:11)
2. Oblivion (5:28)
3. Beneath the Masts (17:26)
4. Skates On (4:28)
5. Miramare (10:18)
6. Love Is the Light (6:11)
7. Bookmarks (6:23)
8. Last Eleven (7:55)

Total Time 64:20

Line-up / Musicians

- Alberto Bravin / lead vocals, guitars, piano, keyboards, brass arrangements
- Nick D'Virgilio / drums & percussion, vocals, 12-string acoustic guitar, vibes, brass arrangements
- Rikard Sj÷blom / guitars, organ, keyboards, vocals
- Greg Spawton / bass, bass pedals, 12-string acoustic guitar, Mellotron
- Dave Foster / guitars, vocals
- Oskar Holldorff / piano, organ, synth, keyboards, vocals, strings arrangements
- Clare Lindley / violin, vocals, string arrangements

- Dave Desmond / trombone, brass arrangements
- Nick Stones / French horn
- Ben Godfrey / trumpet, piccolo trumpet
- Jon Truscott / tuba
- Brian Mullan / cello

Releases information

Cover: Sarah Louise Ewing
Label: InsideOut/Sony
Format: Vinyl (Black, Ltd Ed. 300 Sky Blue, Ltd Ed. 300 Orange (US), Ltd Ed. 300 Olive Green (World)), Ltd Ed. CD/Blu-ray, CD, Digital
March 1, 2024

Thanks to mbzr48 for the addition
and to Dark Ness & projeKct for the last updates
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BIG BIG TRAIN The Likes of Us ratings distribution

(103 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(44%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(40%)
Good, but non-essential (16%)
Collectors/fans only (0%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

BIG BIG TRAIN The Likes of Us reviews

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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by siLLy puPPy
4 stars One of the major players in the world of modern prog, BIG BIG TRAIN has existed since 1990 but only came to prominent notice with 2009's "The Underfall Yard" which was met with critical acclaim in the world of progressive rock and since then it seems that the band could do no wrong with one album after another receiving the seal of approval by adoring fans and reviewers alike but like all good things, sometimes unforeseen changes occur and BIG BIG TRAIN was completely derailed in 2021 with the shocking premature death of lead singer David Longdon who helped steer the "new" BIG BIG TRAIN into prog stardom. His unfortunate accident left a major hole in the band and fans rightfully questioned the future of a band where Longdon played such a critical role.

After three years of flailing around looking for answers, the band continued to release recordings with Longdon's contributions as well as the 2023 "Ingenious Devices" which featured re-recordings of classic tracks with the original Longdon vocals but the emergency reserves were used up and it was time to take BIG BIG TRAIN to the next level. The answer was a new vocalist of course and after searching high and low the winner emerged as ex-PFM vocalist Alberto Bravin who caught the prog world's attention for his contributions on the PFM album "Emotional Tattoos" from 2017 where surprisingly he was only the backing vocalist as well as the keyboardist but nevertheless his vocals prove to fit in quite well with the band's unique symphonic meets neo-prog stylistic approach.

The first album of new material since Longdon's unfortunate passing, THE LIKES OF US is BIG BIG TRAIN's 18th album and finds a new sound in the process by wisely adapting the musical style and compositions to the new vocalist. The album also finds the band's debut on the InsideOutMusic label. Featuring nine tracks and clocking in at just over 64 minutes, THE LIKES OF US finds the band retaining its classic Genesis and Marilion inspired symphonic prog / neo-prog touches but also with Bravin's contributions, takes on a beefier sound that is more akin to classic Neil Morse led Spock's Beard. In fact Bravin's vocal style is very similar to Mr Morse's except that he doesn't have the strained grasp effect which plagues much of Morse's more recent works.

A powerhouse of sort, THE LIKES OF US is one of those albums where it's obvious every band member played their heart out and the desire to prove that BIG BIG TRAIN was still alive and well is executed in every track. Fortified with strong melodies and a keen sense of musical instrumental interplay, "Light Left In The Day" starts with only a 12-string acoustic guitar accompanying newbie vocalist Alberto Bravin's lyrical delivery but quickly shifts to what sounds like a French horn but then allows a piano run to lead which then becomes arpeggiated as the arsenal of instruments join into to craft a very symphonic setting - a melodic tapestry that goes right for the heartstrings from the getgo. It's clear this album is something special and then it just keeps developing. The Spock's Beard organ and guitar heft join in and the album doesn't let up until it ends. The acoustic guitar motif finds its way across the album's run.

The 17 1/2 minute "Beneath The Masts" allows all the nerdy prog moves to unleash themselves and it's only the third track. This track meanders through a series of clever moves but ultimately retains the continuity of the sound already established in the first two tracks. In fact the album delivers a classic album "sound" better than many BIG BIG TRAIN albums of the past have with nice mix of dynamics that include piano ballad styled neo-prog moments as well as the classic group harmonies and the already discussed Spock's Beard heavier rock passages. The mixing and production is just magical as every instrument and melodic line is placed perfectly together and the touch of Clare Lindley's violin playing allows touches of classic English folk to bring a timeless element to the band's more modern prog style. The 24 bit high resolution stereo effect serves the warmth and organic nature of the band quite well.

The most commercial sounding track "Love Is The Light" was the second single after the single version of the knottier album version track "Miramare." This piano ballad may provide the ultimate 80s AOR throwback on the whole album but also showcases a more intimate acquaintance with Levin's vocal style where he is allowed to stand out a bit given that the album for the most part sounds like a complete band effort where every instrument has its role and orchestrated in a way that is logical and cohesive. Yeah, this track is a bit too cheesy for its own good but BIG BIG TRAIN is one of the most commercial sounding prog bands in the biz so it's not unthinkable that they would craft a radio friendly tear jerker such as this. Personally i find it to be the worst track on the album but that's just my tastes. The folkier aspects of the track do save it from a complete cheese-fest. The track "Bookmarks" pretty much follows in the same earnest piano ballad style but with better developments making it more interesting.

The album ends with the near 8-minute "Last Eleven" which is the one of the most intricately designed tracks on the entire album. Fortified with the same arpeggiated guitar runs and folky violin lines, the track delivers a series of melodic developments with nice time signature shifts and unexpected hairpin turns that nurture various cadences and then alternate. The group harmonies are intertwined into the mix appearing at key moments and then ceding to the solo performances of Bravin. The track is lighter and fluffier than the rest and sort of elevates the album into the clouds and ends the album making me think that perhaps the album in many ways was a tribute to their departed friend who has passed the baton to a new vocalist. It's a very well executed track and the elements all gel together perfectly. The digital version of the album features the single edit of "Miramare" which is 9 minutes long instead of 10 plus. This brings the digital playing time up to over 73 minutes. Personally i find an edit like this laughable but whatever. I'm not into prog singles so irrelevant.

BIG BIG TRAIN continues the tradition of rocking the accessible corner of the prog universe which is a much needed service considering how many directions the world of progressive rock has splintered since the 1970s. A beautiful melodic album that features brilliantly composed compositions and a top notch group effort. Not only has BIG BIG TRAIN proved that there's life after Longdon but to my ears sounds like they've created a new chapter that is even more exuberant and dynamic as anything they cranked out in the Longdon years. Sure the nostalgia for the past and the grieving process still haunts fans but at least it must be a fine day for BIG BIG TRAIN fans that the band will not only carry on but will flourish in the same way many prog bands like Spock's Beard carried on without a certain vocalist. While BIG BIG TRAIN has never been a top dog in my prog repertoire, i cannot deny they are brilliant at what they dish out and as far as THE LIKES OF US is concerned, i find this album to be much more interesting to my ears than many of the band's previous efforts. Something just clicks and i can't help think that perhaps it's the Bravin addition that shifted things in my likability favor. Whatever the case, a brilliant album (if not perfect) in the next chapter of BIG BIG TRAIN.

Review by richardh
5 stars Big Big Train are one of those bands who never take any real chances but instead choose to deliver stellar playing and top quality writing while never losing sight of the melody. The component parts are all there, already technically one of the best bands on the planet, they have now have a keyboard player who can do the Keith Emerson style keyboard runs in Oskar Holldorff (check out the 17 minute masterpeice Beneath The Masts). There is no doubt in my mind that this is their best album since 2016's Folklore with a 'heaviness' to match.. New vocalist Alberto Braveen has a very appealing timbre and reminds me of Chris Thompson (Manfred Manns Earthband) while the trademark hooks are all very present and correct. Guitar wise Rikard Sj÷blom and Dave Foster dovetail superbly on Oblivion, a heavy up tempo rocker with that BBT trademark vocal hook. Another highlight is the poppier Love Is The Light which is as cheesy as hell. Nothing not to like, plenty to enjoy.
Review by tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars I remember 20 years ago when I first bought a ticket on the Big Big Train, by purchasing "Gathering Speed", a fantastic discovery that I had most positively reviewed a year later. The album garnered praise for its historical revisit of that seminal moment when the Battle of Britain raged above the island's skies, as bombs rained down from the Luftwaffe and Spitfires raced to save the day. I look back at that review and realize that the title certainly applied to my future loyalty, as I have purchased every studio album since, numbering 12 with this new 2024 arrival. "The Likes of Us" is the first full album featuring Alberto Bravin, who has come to take over from the tragically departed David Longdon as lead vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, and he has fit in seamlessly. There have also been some major personnel adjustments as well, notably Dave Gregory, Andy Poole, Danny Manners, and Rachel Hall have moved on. They have handed over their seats to celebrated guitarist Dave Foster, Oskar Holldorf on keyboards and Clare Lindley on violin. Renaissance means essentially rebirth and that is exactly the one word that defines this release.

From the first seconds of the plaintively crystalline "Light Left in the Day", a warm balm of serenity greets the listener, a calm after the storm symphonic gem, with a well-crafted and glorious melody, first initiated by voice, then an elegant piano elevates the theme to bloom into quite the ride, the original conductor still at the helm, as Greg Spawton's undulating bass powers the rhythmic locomotive, just as the synthesizers flirt expertly with the brass crew. The effortless segue into the stormy "Oblivion" showcases the immaculate ability to transition into a rockier piece, powered by a pummelling rhythm section, dual electric guitar weavings, and a passionate vocal delivery that expresses the sense of obvious pain that can overpower human life, as we all must face ultimately numerous struggles, irrespective of our standing on this blue earth.

And here comes the big big one, (you will excuse the easy wordplay), as the colossal "Beneath the Masks" stretches its rails for nearly 18 minutes of chugging splendour, in presenting an entire journey, lush with abundant poetry and charming musical diversity. Nothing is rushed, samey or unnecessary, each word and each sound like a breathing lung, obeying a resilient heart that keeps pumping its oxygen throughout the body and the soul. Dotted throughout with superb sonic adjustments, the vocal delivery seems utterly genuine and committed. Halfway through, the arrangement picks up a fair amount of steam, as hot coals of fiery keyboard and sizzling guitars are tossed into the musical furnace. Intensity, perhaps even delirium is slain by the manifestation of the mighty mellotron, as the celestial station appears in the skies above, where panacea in ambient lament soothes the senses in impending revelation. A voice and an acoustic guitar awaits in magical awareness, finalizing in a sublime emotionally engrossing finale that crowns this majestic epic.

Respite comes in the form of the pastoral "Skates On", showing off the characteristic British folk tendencies that has an immediacy and a glow that is unique in the musical world, a simple elegance that could make everyone sing along in the pub, warm beer in hand. Some acoustic guitar, violin, and a voice full of hope. Lovely is the word. Another foremost moment is to be found in another epic piece, the 10 minute + of the cinematic "Miramare", a look out to the Mediterranean Sea that conjures a slew of adventurous images, Bravin expertly expressing the beauty of a titanic melody crying out for meaningful words. As is often the case with this storied band of devoted team players, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and no single spotlight needs to shine on one particular performer. They all excel at fusing their evident talent to each other as well as the demands of the composition. This is not just playing or jamming, but an incredible thought process, a steadfast cohesion that explains why any progfan chooses to loyally follow this super group of dedicated musicians.

There is nothing corny about "Love is the Light", a crushingly gorgeous ballad that has a poignancy that veers on tears, not of pain but of pure joy. Bravin delivers a world class performance that oddly enough, reminds me of one of my all-time favourite tracks Anathema's "Dreaming Light" and Vince Cavanaugh's extraordinary vocal. The violin, the guitar and the backing harmony choir combined to put me on my knees in sheer submission. Some may find it a bit cheesy but please let me gently remind everyone that France alone can boast of having over 1200 varieties. It is here as a variation piece that has nothing to do with commercialism or radio friendliness, just a song about passion and hope. "Bookmarks" follows a breezy path, sophisticated in its nostalgic simplicity, the violin still streaking along with a classical piano, elevated by some clever string arrangements. This is perhaps the most orchestrated track here, without any need for thunder or lightning.

The finale serves perhaps to illustrate the immense tragedy of losing a close friend and collaborator, as the lyrics clearly evoke those raw feelings. Hence, on one hand, we have sombre clouds of mellotron slashed by a courageous bass guitar line and on the other hand, facing an optimistic violin, a vocal full of resilient positivity and lyrics that seek to defy the darkness and forge ahead with determined courage and devotion to their craft. Musicians should be pretty adept at taking adversity by the horns and inspired enough to express their suffering as well as surmounting it. "Last Eleven" and this album in its entirety certainly puts a massive exclamation point early on in 2024, offering hope in a gloom-ridden world, proving once again as it has so many times done before, that music can be and often is a healing form of medicine with zero prescriptions, no side effects, and no danger of overdose. The RAF saved the day then, BBT does it today. Renaissance indeed.

5 fearless memories

Review by A Crimson Mellotron
4 stars Fantastic and experienced Bournemouth-founded prog rock band Big Big Train rise above the adversity of losing a core band member, perhaps even a member that could be considered the face of the band, during their most successful period both critically and commercially. This is how important and impactful David Longdon was for the musical collective he fronted for more than a decade, leading his band through nine great albums. His passing as well as some lineup changes seem to have stirred up the Big Big Train camp, as it has not remained unnoticed how many of the members that defined this Longdon-led lineup also left the band in recent years, for various reasons perhaps. Which leads to a situation in which ex-Spock's Beard frontman Nick D'Virgilio becomes the member with the second-oldest tenure with ...Train, after founding member and bassist Greg Spawton.

In such an unusual situation, many bands would likely tear apart or cease to write, record, or perform music, while Big Big Train have been able to reform in the most interesting way possible. With a "regenerated" lineup, extremely international currently, the band presents its latest release titled "The Likes of Us", the first album of original material after Longdon's passing, but also the first formal introduction of their incredible new vocalist Alberto Bravin, formerly of Premiata Forneria Marconi, well-known Italian prog band from the 70s. Alongside him, new keyboard player Oskar Holldorf, a compatriot of Rikard Sj÷blom makes his official album debut as well.

Musically this new release is quite gorgeous! Big Big Train seem to be as inspired as always in making musical adventures a reality, with their incredible ability of constructing great albums, very melodic and very balanced, delivering enough pastoral and dreamy soundscapes as well as a sufficient number of tasty and proggy moments, simply creating an album full of everything that makes this band special, yet the music sounds uplifting and vigorous, in a way reminding me of their last two albums, as this one seemingly picks off where they last left but this time their work gives off a more cerebral impression, more grandiose and inspired.

Whether it be the lovely opening track, nearly all-instrumental with a tint of Genesis, or the powerhouse 'Oblivion', a song that is a contender for one of their liveliest tracks alongside 'Alive'. Their 17-minute epic 'Beneath the Masts' is a beautiful celebration of modern progressive rock, with the new vocalist fitting in more than perfectly in the larger-than-life musical soundscapes producing by his six other bandmates. Surely the soothing and stable tones of his voice have been a decisive factor upon his selection as BBT's new frontman. 'Skates On' is a more acoustic track on here, once again exquisitely melodic, while 'Miramare' is another strong entry on 'The Likes of Us', with some cinematic instrumental passages and once again brilliant singing. The rest of the album brings out different sides of the band, always remaining true to their goal of presenting the current 'state of affairs' of the band's music.

The album is truly great, not a single unintriguing second of it, very well-produced and assembled, presenting a bit of everything that one might (or might not) expect from Big Big Train, who despite the swooping events within their band's universe, have risen above and have once again reaffirmed themselves as one of the most consistent and important names of modern progressive rock. New vocalist impresses all throughout with his exceptional performance, the music is as good as always, the songs are great, and this album could for some be a surprisingly good discography entry, but nevertheless very important for the band.

Latest members reviews

5 stars Big Big Train, one of the premier prog bands of the 2000s, has been through a lot over the past few years. In 2019, half the band (including guitarist Dave Gregory, Andy Poole, Danny Manners, and string player Rachel Hall) quit, leaving the remaining core members (David Longdon, Greg Spawton, Rikard ... (read more)

Report this review (#3034994) | Posted by BBKron | Wednesday, April 3, 2024 | Review Permanlink

5 stars When Alberto Bravin was revealed as the new vocalist for Big Big Train, bringing with him his previous experience as the lead singer of the Italian band Premiata Forneria Marconi, the transition didn't simply entail entering the studio to record the next album. It was essential to subject him to ... (read more)

Report this review (#3033761) | Posted by Progressive Heart | Thursday, March 28, 2024 | Review Permanlink

4 stars In respect of the UK's railway companies between 1923 and 1947, the "Big Four" was the name used to describe the four largest such companies following the "Grouping" (of a myriad of pre-existing smaller companies). In similar vein, in respect of BBT's output to date, the corresponding Big Four are ... (read more)

Report this review (#3031476) | Posted by tbstars1 | Wednesday, March 20, 2024 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Like all Big Big Train fans, I was very saddened to learn of David Longdon's sudden passing, and was worried that it may mark the end of one of my favorite music groups. Fortunately, this album not only represents a rebirth of sorts, but also quite possibly the best album Big Big Train has ever rele ... (read more)

Report this review (#3028879) | Posted by hpantazo | Saturday, March 9, 2024 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This is a solid four-star album with even a few five star tracks, such as Skates On, Miramare, and Bookmarks. The new vocalist Bravin fits perfectly in this band; he even has more range than his predecessor, which fans will appreciate. Bravin himself wrote the music for the ten-minute Miramare, ... (read more)

Report this review (#3028625) | Posted by gbjones | Saturday, March 9, 2024 | Review Permanlink

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