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BIG BIG TRAIN

Crossover Prog • United Kingdom


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Big Big Train biography
BIG BIG TRAIN have released five albums including the critically acclaimed "The Difference Machine"(2007) and "The Underfall Yard"(2009).

BIG BIG TRAIN was formed in 1990 by Andy POOLE and Greg SPAWTON. They were joined by Ian COOPER (keyboards), Steve HUGHES (drums) and Canadian vocalist Martin READ. Initial influences on the band's music included Steve HACKETT, Anthony PHILLIPS, IT BITES and PREFAB SPROUT. A demo cassette tape of the band's first songs, recorded on 8-track, was released in October 1991 and was followed by live performances. The demo tape "From the River to the Sea" was re-recorded and released as a self-financed demo CD in May 1992, following which BBT played some higher profile gigs in England.

In January 1993, a second demo tape, "The Infant Hercules" was released and the band then spent the next six months writing the music for its first proper album, "Goodbye to the Age of Steam". This was recorded in a hectic two week period in July 1993. Soon afterwards, BBT signed to the progressive rock label GEP, where they found themselves as label mates of IQ.

"Goodbye to the Age of Steam" was a big leap forward for the band, both in terms of songwriting and recording quality. The response to the album was very positive, culminating in a licensing deal in Japan where the CD was re-released in 1995, with a bonus track.

In the meantime, Ian COOPER had left the band (for family rather than musical reasons) and live performances were put on hold while a replacement was sought and a new album was written.

Recording of BBT's second album commenced in July of 1995 (with Greg filling in on keyboards) and continued, sporadically, until completion 18 months later. During the sessions, a new keyboard player, Tony MÜLLER was recruited. Some of the songs from the new album were debuted at the band's only show from this period at the Astoria, London. "English Boy Wonders" was finally released in autumn 1997, although in an incomplete state as the band had run out of money to finish the album. "English Boy Wonders" combined progressive rock (GENESIS, VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR) with indie-pop influences (XTC, THE CURE.)

Steve HUGHES left BIG BIG TRAIN in September 1998 and went on to join THE ENID. He was replaced by Pete HIBBIT. They were subsequently dropped by their record label, GEP. After a few more live performances, the band's momentum seemed all but spent.

Greg and Andy began work on some new songs with...
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WassailWassail
Import
Imports 2015
Audio CD$8.18
$28.02 (used)
English Electric: Full PowerEnglish Electric: Full Power
CD Baby 2013
Audio CD$14.47
$15.98 (used)
Underfall YardUnderfall Yard
Import
Ais 2009
Audio CD$10.18
$11.46 (used)
Far Skies Deep TimeFar Skies Deep Time
EP · Import
Ais 2010
Audio CD$16.74
$137.99 (used)
Make Some Noise EpMake Some Noise Ep
Single · Import
Imports 2013
Audio CD$7.31
$210.00 (used)
English Electric Part 2English Electric Part 2
Import
Ais 2013
Audio CD$8.91
$4.97 (used)
English Boy WondersEnglish Boy Wonders
Import
Ais 2011
Audio CD$14.35
$11.84 (used)
Gathering SpeedGathering Speed
Import · Remastered
Ais 2011
Audio CD$10.74
$11.90 (used)
English Electric Part OneEnglish Electric Part One
Import
Ais 2012
Audio CD$15.82
$6.60 (used)
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BIG BIG TRAIN discography


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BIG BIG TRAIN top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.43 | 114 ratings
Goodbye To The Age Of Steam
1994
3.30 | 115 ratings
English Boy Wonders
1997
3.20 | 92 ratings
Bard
2002
3.66 | 161 ratings
Gathering Speed
2004
3.61 | 219 ratings
The Difference Machine
2007
4.17 | 567 ratings
The Underfall Yard
2009
4.19 | 790 ratings
English Electric (Part One)
2012
4.11 | 608 ratings
English Electric (Part Two)
2013

BIG BIG TRAIN Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

BIG BIG TRAIN Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

BIG BIG TRAIN Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.22 | 36 ratings
English Boy Wonders (2008)
2008
4.88 | 105 ratings
English Electric: Full Power
2013

BIG BIG TRAIN Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

2.41 | 26 ratings
From The River to the Sea
1992
3.17 | 13 ratings
The Infant Hercules
1993
4.02 | 152 ratings
Far Skies Deep Time
2010
4.27 | 47 ratings
Make Some Noise
2013
3.56 | 34 ratings
Wassail
2015

BIG BIG TRAIN Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 English Electric (Part One) by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Studio Album, 2012
4.19 | 790 ratings

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English Electric (Part One)
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by BillyWhizz

3 stars OK, well this is a well produced album with some good music on it. Unfortunately, and as others have mentioned, all I thought about was early Genesis, brought up to date in terms of production values anyway. Even the conceit is based on that pastoral idea of lost England, using the old railway engine as the vehicle for mourning an England that never was, at least not in this universe. Thinking about it and remembering previous albums, they seem pretty hung up on actual old trains in general, so not just metaphor.

Non controversial and inoffensive to everyone, suitably euphemistic and perhaps a bit wistful of yesterday. It's all very tired and ripped off stuff, packaged up well and with some sound playing and production and some catchy songs, specially the First Rebreather and Uncle Jack, but still that feeling of one step beyond a glorified tribute band never leaves you. As far as it's possible to be a little insulted at the level of plagiarism going on, I was a little insulted. I'm OK now though.

That said, BBT do seem to be at least trying to break away from the early Genesis oeuvre and they deserve a listen, because they're tight and interesting and have a great deal of potential. They are nowhere near as bad as the truly awful, awful, dreadful Freedom To Glide, who practically are a Pink Floyd/ Roger Waters tribute band, without any of the skill and talent of BBT or PF/RW and none of the charm.

This is the sort of stuff appreciated by middle aged solicitors and accountants and the grey, mirthless faces of the damned that haunt the Classic Rock Society do's, (among others) who yearn for a repeat of the music they liked in their youth, because it brings back nostalgic memories and that feeling of inclusion and entitlement to sneer, politely, at different music and those who just aren't bright and cool and underground enough to "get it". Oh god, is that me?

Anyway, if it were original and not so obviously plagiarised it would be outstanding, instead of just OK.

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 Wassail by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2015
3.56 | 34 ratings

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Wassail
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by someone_else

4 stars A cider with a peculiar flavour

Big Big Train has a recent history of mostly excellent releases like The Underfall Yard and their masterpiece English Electric. After cranking up English Electric beyond full power, they have not been idle. They are on their way to become a big big band with Rikard Sjöblom and Rachel Hall added to the line-up. The EP Wassail preceeds a new album to be released sometime in 2016, called Folklore. It contains four tracks which all clock between 6 and 7 minutes.

The end point of the journey took us to Wales, where Jacques de Saint-Georges d'Espéranche a.k.a. Master James of St. George was involved in the building of castles during the late 13th century. This song, which appeared on The Underfall Yard, was recorded live in the studio. Unlike most bonus tracks, this one does not bring the album down. This version, with its orchestration and the superb part-singing, sounds at least as good as the original.

The previous two stops were in London: one within sight of the Thames, the other somewhere above some other river:

Mudlarks is a musical watercolour depicting scavengers on the muddy banks of the Thames in the nineteenth century. This must have been a hard job during the Great Stink. It is a rather jazzy jam with some time signature changes, performed by a tight playing band. It makes me think of Focus somehow. Nice track.

Lost Rivers of London sounds like a soft-pop track with some folk influences. In terms of composition, this one is less strong than the others, but still quite good. The subject, rivers still running underneath the city's surface, may be interesting for someone who has visited London six times and whose eyes have seen only the Thames. Maybe the city will be surprised by a Great Collapse one day when these waters have eroded its foundations.

In the opener, the title track, the Train takes us to a rural environment in wintertime. The listener stumbles in an episode of Midsomer Murders, entitled The Old Serpent Does Not Hibernate, in which a certain Eve White, nicknamed Snow for her beauty and her pale skin, is killed along with her husband after just one bite in an apple injected with poison, shortly before Twelfth Night, apparently to ensure that the Queen of an upcoming yearly event called Wassailing is the uncontested personification of beauty. The murderer from the beginning kills some others in the event - it's Midsomer Murders after all. And the cider of last year's fruit will get a peculiar flavour again. Cheers, inspector Barnaby!

This song has strong folk influences blended with classic rock to make a brilliant composition. In terms of music this one is my favourite track. Nottingham-based David Longdon sings as if he attended many Wassaults in his youth and cherishes their memories. His description of Wassailing, the folkloristic ritual performed in the orchards in the west of England to bless the apple trees, does not need any completion - it is accurate. Yet there are some neo-pagan greets and creeds incorporated: "Blessed be" could be a translation of the title, but for its obviously coven-compliant connotation, just like "a five-pointed star, a sign of who we are".

Overall, this record shows that Big Big Train has succeeded to maintain the high standards of their previous releases. They confirm once more that they are on their way to become one of the big big names of progressive rock. The folk influences, which were perceivable on English Electric (Part One), have increased.

Now only the rating remains: I am not the one who deals out the fivefold kiss, but two apples cut in twain render an appropriate result.

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 Wassail by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2015
3.56 | 34 ratings

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Wassail
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by snelling

4 stars Another fine melodic progressive effort from Big Big Train, who have established themselves these days as one of the best in the business. With the "Wassail" ep, we have 3 solid new songs, plus a live version of "Master James of St. George", from "The Underfall Yard". Of the three new songs, 2 are vocal and one instrumental. Of the 2 vocal tracks, I really like "Lost Rivers of London", which, with its interesting chord changes and rhythm variations, I find to be the better of the two. The melodies here are heartfelt and unique. 'Wassail' is good, but a bit more of a straightforward rock approach. Great keyboard playing and nice instrumental breaks do make this opening track a satisfying listen as well. What's really nice, is to have an instrumental here, in "Mudlarks", which represents a bit of a departure in sound for BBT, with almost jazzy chordings, but retaining the strong sense of melody BBT are known for. Of these three tracks, in some ways, each track is a bit more interesting than the previous, which makes for a nice listening progression. In all, another fine effort not far removed from the wonderful "English Electric" albums, and one I would certainly recommend as a pleasing teaser to the next full length release.

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 Wassail by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2015
3.56 | 34 ratings

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Wassail
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by MaskedCow

1 stars Unrecognizable from the glory of The Underfall Yard and Far Skies Deep Time, and the somewhat lesser but still fine English Electric 1 and 2. The first two tracks here are throwaway shout-along prog-lite, a disappointing journey farther down the path that began at the wretched Make Some Noise. The third track Mudlarks brings some relief, but it too ultimately feels like a step in the wrong direction. Quite why bands hit a rich seam of form only to make wholesale changes for the worse is beyond me, and I'm getting weary of it. A long hard think about what brought their best work is in order.

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 Wassail by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2015
3.56 | 34 ratings

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Wassail
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by floflo79

4 stars The 1st June of 2015, "Wassail", the new EP of Big Big Train, came out. Already in 2013, the band released an excellent EP called "Make Some Noise" (the tracks of this EP were released after on the box set "English Electric Full Power". They don't disappoint us with "Wassail". Between the title track, powerful, between prog, hard rock, folk and celtic music, which is clearly the best piece of the EP, "Lost Rivers Of London" which is a more calm and serious but still great track, "Mudlarks' which is a great classic prog rock track by the band and the live version of "Master James Of St Georges", everything is really good. And I really think that this EP hides a new album coming soon...

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 The Infant Hercules  by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1993
3.17 | 13 ratings

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The Infant Hercules
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars While Big Big Train continued to play gigs at a normal rate, material for a second demo was already written and recorded, this was going to be the second cassette of the band ''The infant Hercules'', my info say that in this format it was released only months after ''From the river to the sea'', but the band states it was launched in January 1993, propably taking about the set of CD-R copies pressed for distribution (featuring a different track order).

So, you shouldn't expect many changes within months after the band's debut album, this is fairly commercial Neo Prog, very British-styled and period sounding, definitely along the lines of JADIS and early PENDRAGON, somewhat inconsistent because of the thin, buried keyboard sound and the average production, but Big Big Train prooved again to be a bunch of musicians, who could come up with memorable tunes, a bit of pomposity in some instrumental parts and trully decent melodies.Search around the late-70's GENESIS' repertoire to find the strongest resemblances, the material is basically pretty lyrical with romantic and clean voices, cool atmospheric breaks, an evident 80's atmosphere akin to the local underground Prog scene and some fiery tunes on guitars.''Show of strength'' is one very good piece in here with good guitar and keyboard work, while the following ''Red five'' even contains minor complexities in its all instrumental approach and some rougher edges in all its aspects.''Kingmaker'', a 10-min. attempt by the band, is, in my opinion, the best cut among all tracks from the band's early demos, very JADIS-like, with dramatic and ethereal moments, lyrical tension and a couple of superb, slow guitar parts.

At this point the whole thing about Big Big Train was to find the way to escape from their influences.Another solid work with a clear 80's-fashioned sound, suitable to those loving raw, underground British Prog.Good stuff.

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 From The River to the Sea  by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1992
2.41 | 26 ratings

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From The River to the Sea
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars The roots of Big Big Train can be found in 1987, when guitarist Greg Spawton decided to move from Birmingham to Bournemouth, where he met bassist Andy Poole.Poole was a big fan of Prog music and a former roadie for The Lens and IQ.The duo decided to record some songs together, leading slowly to the formation of Big Big Train in 1990 with the addition of Ian Cooper on keys, an ex-bandmate of Poole in a band called Arcshine.They recruited Canadian singer Martin Read and 15-year old drummer Steve Hughes and recorded the demo cassette ''From the river to the sea'' on an 8-track recorder from April to June 91'.Following some good gigs, the album was reissued in CD the next year with two more tracks, recorded in early 92'.

At these premature stages Big Big Train had adapted a typical Neo Prog sound akin to ARK, early PENDRAGON, ELEGANT SIMPLICITY and maybe IT BITES, leaning often towards more poppy directions with sensitive vocals, but the music is fairly grounded within the Prog Rock limits with fairly intricate compositions covered by heavy doses of melodic parts.Even if the songwriting skills of the group fail compared to their later days, their underground sound, the strong late-70's GENESIS influences and the decent orchestral synthesizers should have been a nice cure for any starving Prog fan back in early-90's.The album suffers from a mediocre drum programming at moments (responsible for which was Ian Cooper) and an overall thin production, but the compositions are pretty decent, featuring a nice combination of poppier rhythmic tunes, emotional singing, melodic textures with bits from symphonic showering.Of course the atmosphere is maybe too romantic and less captivating with the band reminding more of an early-80's act, but the talent is certainly there: The melodies are good, the arrangements are decent, the pieces are long enough and the flashy, instrumental parts are more than welcome.

Documental album from Big Big Train's baby steps.Typical Neo Prog with little originality, average sound quality but containing some really fine cuts.Recommended, especially if you are a fan of the style.

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 English Electric (Part Two) by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Studio Album, 2013
4.11 | 608 ratings

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English Electric (Part Two)
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by voliveira

5 stars 10/10

The year was 2012 and the prog world was taken by storm by veterans of Big Big Train, who regarded a stage of rise after The Underfall Yard and culminated in English Electric pt. 1, one of the biggest progressive records of recent years. Consolidating in fact the band's career, the album was hailed by various means of communication and figure on a high note here on the site (but lower than it really deserves, in my opinion). And of course, "pt. 1" indicated that there would be a sequel, confirmed to go on sale next year. Here was the question: could the part 2 be as good or fascinating as the first?

Some reviewers may disagree, but for me the answer is a resounding "yes." Not only are we facing one of the greatest masterpieces of 2013, as I found a perfect successor to the first part and one of the greatest albums I've heard in recent times. Where all my love and admiration for Big Big Train have been confirmed.

There are no words to describe what I feel with this band. Their music is as natural, organic , touching... it provides wonderful feelings , thanks to an impressive musicianship. If I believed in reincarnation, I'd say they are the reincarnated Genesis. After all, who needs to go to England when you can close your eyes and imagine what is sung in the lyrics of the BBT? I already mentioned in my previous reviews of the band as I saw the voice of David Longdon as a compromise between Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins, and oh God, this man continues to impress me! It really is now one of my favorite vocalists. Its timbre is beautiful , not to mention the fact of being an extremely talented multi- instrumentalist (as seen in simple Leopards , a track that follows the line of bluegrass Uncle Jack 's previous album ). Andy Poole and Greg Spawton , the creative minds of the band, also move between different instruments ( keyboards and the exceptional guitar tones are the highlights ) and Nick D' Virgilio see an increasingly integrated into the band , offering a range of styles that adapt well to the spirit of each song. And last but not least, the backing musicians that dazzle the listener with brass and woodwind instruments that make the music of the BBT even more organic.

At first listen, I did not think any of the songs (except for East Coast Racer) was a classic worthy of any of the music in Part 1. But well, I was listening to the album more and more, and then ... I was hooked. And then I realized that if this album is not better than predecessor, is on the same level of quality.

He begins with what could be the greatest song the band ever wrote. East Coast Racer is an epic 15 minutes, concentrating over that time everything the band was, is and will be. Opening with a simple piano theme Summoned By Bells of the previous album, she bursts into a song of awesome power, one of the most powerful vocal performances I've heard in my life. Seriously, listen to the climactic section between 9 and 12 minutes. If I could define "paradise", define that part. It is so grand, beautiful and exciting that makes me shiver and fill your eyes. When the music produces this effect on me is because I know it's a masterpiece.

Swan Hunter is a sweet ballad with a delightful work of brass and a beautiful guitar solo . Worked Out is one of my favorites here , I really love your entry (not so Genesis - esque ? Can almost feel that I am listening Sellling England By the Pound that part ) , and always singing the chorus " We are working men , we follow the seam ... " . Warning for the fantastic synth solo at the end of the song. The aforementioned Leopards is more a solo effort Longdon , with some gorgeous vocal harmonies and a great acoustic work.

Keeper of Abbeys begins misleading : its cheesy introduction , "happy -happy -to " and some " la- la- las " in the chorus may sound so annoying to some , but I really like that sort of thing , but there for 2 minutes music offers a wonderful change , and vocal harmonies dictating a new theme . And the instrumental section? By God, I was perplexed . The violin solos and electric sitar listed as one of the album's highlights , making this another favorite of mine . The same is said of the climate The Permanent Way , which revisits the themes of The First Rebreather and Hedgerow previous album fabulous way . Just love it when the vocal harmonies echo the theme music of the stanza . The album closes with the beautiful Curator of Butterflies . At first I was afraid because it is a very different termination epic Hedgerow ( which continues to be the first of my top 3 favorite of BBT , followed by Summoned By Bells and East Coast Racer ) , but then started to approach it much more positive way . After all , I love these post-climatics closings.

In the end, this was a somewhat different experience hearing the first part. Some have accused this album sound different from its predecessor, others to be "more of the same." I just think people are always looking for something to complain about. While for me this was an album in its own right, it was great to see some of the themes explored in the previous album revisited here. And it is certain that this was one of the best albums of 2013, as shocking as its predecessor. A perfect rating of 5 stars in my opinion. Big Big Train is arguably one of the greatest names in modern prog.

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 English Electric: Full Power by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2013
4.88 | 105 ratings

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English Electric: Full Power
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by ScarRitual

5 stars Both parts of the English Electric Saga were masterpieces of prog. Combining just the right amounts of classical and modern eclectic prog. This combined work is a mammoth of an album that is absolutely essential in every collection of discerning music lovers, let alone prog enthusiasts. Musicianship is impeccable throughout but it's the songwriting that always occupies center stage. You simply feel not a note is wasted, that every choice made was according to the needs of the songs. Listen to it and prepare to be astonished. To me this is the most important musical statement made in the realm of progin the last 20 years.

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 English Electric: Full Power by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2013
4.88 | 105 ratings

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English Electric: Full Power
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by GruvanDahlman
Prog Reviewer

5 stars At long last I got around to actually listen to these much raved about albums. Their English Electric albums being, as far as reviews go, brilliant pieces of music. Intrigued but somewhat sceptic I listened casually in short stabs, not really focusing on what actually went on in there.

I suppose I at first felt a bit reluctant due to what I perceived as a tad too poppy approach. No, there is nothing wrong with a bit of pop in prog. On the contrary, actually. However humble and receptive I proclaim myself to be, I did think, at first, that pop was the overall dominating style of music and that was not to my liking. But then I had barely listened.

This box contains the two full albums of English Electric, as you probably know already. The full body of the work plus a newly recorded song, "Make some noise". As many have stated already, that song is not their greatest work. It certainly isn't a favorite of mine, I can tell you. From a pure art perspective the box is beautifully made. It's black cover with the rusty emblem on the front is magnificent. The box is constructed as a book, containing details about the recordings, lyrics and the history behind it all. It is, for sure, a beautiful box and packed with amazing photos and stories. Really stunning.

The music, then? The packaging is all very well but what about the music? That is all that matters in the end, no matter how well you package it. Forget what I wrote about this being pop. I mean, it is. In some respects, but it is pure prog. Big Big Train possess a pop sensibility that matches anything the big bands of the 70's and 80's could muster. Genesis, Yes, Marillion... They all had that feeling for writing complex yet (at times) accessible and melodic pieces of music within the framework of prog. That is exactly what BBT does. And in a glorious way, at that. Now, after really having listened to the music, I can tell you it wasn't all love love at first (aural) sight. It came to me, after a while.

The first track I really came to grips with was "East coast racer", the longest epic of the entire duo of English electric. It is a fantastic work of art, the entire 15.45 minutes of it's duration. I really came to terms with the whole album by way of examining the second part of the saga that is English electric. "Worked out" is brilliant, as is "The lovers" with it's stabs of electric piano (played JUST the right way, the way that makes me shiver), the wonderfully melodic "Leopards" and so on. The songs unfolded before my eyes, revealing a kingdom and a plethora of moods and progressive brilliance. After this brekthrough, which came rather quickly I must add, my defences were dismantled and all of my soul lay bare for the invasion of BBT:s exquisite brand of music. Influences ranges from The Kinks, by way of Genesis and the 70's style of prog into the 80's and combines folk, prog, pop into a sense of timelessness that is overpowering and thrilling. (There is even traces of The Byrds in the song "Hedgerow".)

This box, containing the two parts of English electric, is, I think, quite the essential part of any prog collection, if you are into melodic, utterly british (an essential part of their music and a part I love more than anything) and carefully constructed music. It is so well conceived throughout and full of great harmonies, musical intricacy and grandeur, really, that it is hard to not being, at least, smitten by it's honesty and sincerity. I feel overwhelmed and actually very grateful to BBT for putting so much love and energy into this project, allowing me to submerge myself into genial music as this.

In conclusion, this is a brilliant collection of two of the most brilliant pieces of prog made in contemporary times. Maybe not breaking new ground (then again, not many do) but they claim a musical territory that is genuine and personal. A claim of musical territory named Big Big Train, where their own brand of prog ecology is flourishing and reaching for the heavens. I better stop now, before growing all soppy on you all.

Just a last word, give the music a serious listen. Really, do. I implore you.

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