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BIG BIG TRAIN

Crossover Prog • United Kingdom


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Big Big Train biography
Formed in 1990 in Bournemouth, Dorset, England

BIG BIG TRAIN was formed 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 without the rest of the ban...
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BIG BIG TRAIN discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

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

3.36 | 179 ratings
Goodbye To The Age Of Steam
1994
3.17 | 178 ratings
English Boy Wonders
1997
3.14 | 149 ratings
Bard
2002
3.65 | 242 ratings
Gathering Speed
2004
3.64 | 314 ratings
The Difference Machine
2007
4.17 | 769 ratings
The Underfall Yard
2009
4.19 | 1064 ratings
English Electric (Part One)
2012
4.10 | 844 ratings
English Electric (Part Two)
2013
4.00 | 580 ratings
Folklore
2016
4.00 | 493 ratings
Grimspound
2017
3.76 | 256 ratings
The Second Brightest Star
2017
4.04 | 364 ratings
Grand Tour
2019

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

4.40 | 77 ratings
From Stone And Steel
2016
4.44 | 67 ratings
A Stone's Throw From the Line
2016
4.30 | 48 ratings
Merchants of Light
2018
3.00 | 1 ratings
Empire
2020

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

4.61 | 37 ratings
Stone & Steel
2016
4.36 | 8 ratings
Reflectors of Light
2019

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

4.15 | 47 ratings
English Boy Wonders (2008)
2008
4.85 | 185 ratings
English Electric: Full Power
2013
4.20 | 6 ratings
Summer's Lease
2020

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

2.22 | 44 ratings
From the River to the Sea
1992
2.96 | 25 ratings
The Infant Hercules
1993
4.04 | 204 ratings
Far Skies Deep Time
2010
4.01 | 90 ratings
Make Some Noise
2013
3.75 | 105 ratings
Wassail
2015
4.13 | 32 ratings
London Song
2017
3.33 | 27 ratings
Merry Christmas
2017
3.50 | 15 ratings
Swan Hunter
2018

BIG BIG TRAIN Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Summer's Lease by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2020
4.20 | 6 ratings

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Summer's Lease
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by Heart of the Matter

4 stars This compilatory double CD set from the english prog wonders, released via the Belle Antique label in Japan, traces band's history back to some of their earlier work, reaching also to these days.

Big Big Train's long-time collaborator Sarah Louise Ewing prepared some nice cover art, reflecting the collection's title, and just for this occasion the band commited to tape a new instrumental track written by Nick D'Virgilio, the fantastic "Don't Forget the Telescope", which, trust me, you don't want to miss. Also included here, we find "London Song", a nearly thirty-four minutes long unified song cycle, previously unreleased on CD. This version has been enriched with extensive (and truly superb) new instrumental embroidery, which perfectly fits with the notable upgrade in overall sound quality. There's also a new studio recording of "Wind Distorted Pioneers", and the keyboard original parts in "Expecting Snow" has been replaced with brand new ones.

As for the rest, I particularly enjoy the combination of good melody with tasty electric guitar chopping in "Victorian Brickwork", and the spark of irony on "Judas Unrepentant", chronicling the story of an infamous yet lovable paint forger. But it's all too good, and I gave this set only four (instead of five) stars only because it's not an original album, but a compilation.

 Reflectors of Light by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover DVD/Video, 2019
4.36 | 8 ratings

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Reflectors of Light
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by Glaessel

5 stars Sometimes we just need to accept the high level quality of a musical work, high level quality of images, high level quality of sound, high level quality of the instruments used and obviously instrumentists, but mainly a high level experience, "Reflections of Light" is a sublime production/musical/show experience. All the arrangments are perfectly distributed for the keyboards, guitars, violin, rithmic section and horn section, with equality, but not without virtuosity . For me was a delighted travel stuffed with good taste, creativity and too much beauty. The music have many progressive classic references but the with a real fresh flavour, and this live work is the result of so many good recent albuns. So, let's wait for the next chapters, but certainly the band have a great fan here.
 Reflectors of Light by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover DVD/Video, 2019
4.36 | 8 ratings

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Reflectors of Light
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by rdtprog
Special Collaborator Heavy / RPI / Symphonic Prog Team

4 stars This recording was made at Cadogan Hall. London on two nights. They were some technical difficulties with the sound system. The band didn't check every part of the venue which result in poor sound quality for those who were in the balcony. The band wasn't aware of this until a man from upstairs got angry and started shouting at the band. If the experience of a live show is better than watching the same concert on TV, this is not the case here at least for those who were on the balcony for the first night! The concert shows some basic visuals with projections on a big screen but we can enjoy the amazing surround audio and a style of music that offer some soaring epics, some smooth twists with some classical and folk colors. The music is filling up your room with the vocals, the drums, and the brass section. I was impressed with the drum playing of Nick D'Virgilio. The lead singer is a lot similar to Peter Gabriel's voice and played a big role in the whole music. The setlist is made mostly with the last 3 albums and you won't find a lot of boring moments in this 2 hours and a half concert. Some have criticized the picture quality while this could be true on some shots, the overall picture is nice to me. Recommended!
 Grimspound by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.00 | 493 ratings

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Grimspound
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by emisan

5 stars The first Big Big Train albums that I've heard were Grand Tour and Folklore and it was love at first sight. I was so impressed with the mature sound of this band that I was so eager to try the rest of their discography as soon as possible. One by one, Folklore, English Electric and The Underfall Yard were my favourite BBT albums, but now I think I most appreciate the sound of Grimspound. Brave Captain and A Mead Hall In Winter are one of the most beautiful songs I've heard this year, but the rest of the album sounds so relaxing and in the same time, dynamic and mature. An instant 5-star rating and highly recommended!!
 Grand Tour by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Studio Album, 2019
4.04 | 364 ratings

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Grand Tour
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Reviewer

5 stars These days when I listen to Big Big Train I have to pinch myself, as if there has ever been a band to go through huge progression then it has to be the guys (originally) from Dorset. Okay, so Greg Spawton (these days providing bass, bass pedals, 12-string guitar, brass arrangements as well as co-producing the album) is the only person still there from very nearly 30 years ago, and they have been through a lot, but he never gave up faith and although at one time it was just him and Andy Poole, here is Big Big Train in 2019 producing yet another incredible album. There is no doubt that the line-up changes in 2009 heralded an incredible shift in the band, both in what they were producing and, in the eyes, and ears of both fans and critics. Not only is David Longdon an incredible singer (and multi-instrumentalist), but Nick D'Virgilio brings in many facets (as well as huge cred) while somehow, they also landed guitarist Dave Gregory (XTC)! Since then the band has gone from strength to strength, and while the full line-up is completed by Rikard Sj'blom (keyboards, electric and 12-string guitars, accordion, backing vocals), Danny Manners (keyboards, double bass) and Rachel Hall (violin, viola, cello, backing vocals, string arrangements) they have also brought in an orchestra to help out with proceedings!

This isn't neo prog anymore, but is crossover in its very truest sense as there are times when it seems almost like modern classical with soaring musical sweeps and dips, at others it is almost pop, others melodic rock, yet always with the heart of a prog band who are simply refusing to stay within any preconceived boundaries. This isn't regressive like many 'prog' bands as instead they are going down a track that is firmly of their own making, producing music which is incredibly easy to listen to and enjoyable. Some may say they sometimes go into areas which are often sought out by modern Marillion, but whereas that music can sometimes feel incredibly self-indulgent and too grandiose, this instead feels far more grounded and almost pastoral in comparison. This is an album that can be placed on repeat and it never gets old, never gets tired, and there is always some little musical trick or nuance which keeps the listener wholly engaged and interested.

Rarely bombastic, and always considered, this is adult prog created by people who have all been around the scene long enough to no longer have anything to prove and have instead relaxed into creating music which is a delight from beginning to end. They are no longer those fresh-faced lads who sent me a demo tape and photo well over quarter of a century ago but have matured into one of the brightest stars within the progressive firmament. An album of songs, it is majestic, considered, and downright enjoyable. Sit back, pour a glass of your favourite tipple, turn down the lights, and dive into the world of Big Big Train. All you have to lose are your preconceived ideas of what defines the word 'progressive', and gain a great deal indeed. Wonderful.

 Grand Tour by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Studio Album, 2019
4.04 | 364 ratings

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Grand Tour
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by tempest_77

5 stars Grand Tour is the most recent release from England's most English prog band, though they've gone full European on this record. This is to say, the lyrical focus of the record is no longer on England; the band goes on a 'Grand Tour', so to speak, of the rest of Europe. It's an excellent record, and some of their best work in years.

The album starts off with the brief but interesting "Novum Organum", before launching into the song "Alive". It's a great, upbeat track with a lot of excellent synthesizers and a excellent crossover prog sound. It's not very similar to most of the rest of their work, but it's a great opening statement for the album. "The Florentine" is a longer song, with the band's usual folk influence coming back to the forefront. The track has some great complexity, with some great synth work as well, and some awesome lead guitar towards the end of song. This track shows us that despite exploring some new sounds, they can still do what they're known for, and what they do best: great, complex folk-infused English prog.

"Roman Stone" is the first multi-part suite on the album. It starts off with a very typical Big Big Train section, led by acoustic guitar, but it gets interesting after this section, with a great brief piano and trumpet part. After another, longer, acoustic led section, the song really starts to pick up, with more brass, along with some excellent drumming in a great instrumental middle section. This song, along with "The Florentine", are two key tracks in demonstrating the lyrical focus of the album. "Pantheon" is an instrumental that starts out with strings and a brass section. Another track with great synthesizers, it really gives the band a chance to show off their chops, not that they aren't very well fleshed out on the rest of the album. "Theodora in Green and Gold" isn't the strongest track off of the album. It's a little formulaic, and sounds like it could easily be something from a previous album. Still, it's a good song, and I won't give it more flack than it deserves.

"Ariel" is our second multi-part suite, and starts off with some water sounds and an epic choral arrangement. The beginning is very dramatic and it works very well. After a piano-driven section, the song finally opens up with an organ swell about 3 and a half minutes in. The track is marked by great vocal harmonies and excellent piano and drum work. It's a constantly shifting piece, and it never gets boring. Especially following the weaker "Theodora", it's maybe the strongest track on the album. While I can't tell exactly what the song is about, there is a very strong sense of story throughout the song about a storm, and I enjoy the lyrical continuity throughout the continuous musical changes. "Voyager" directly follows "Ariel", and unlike the Alan Parsons Project song of the same name, this is another sprawling fourteen-minute multi-part suite. It starts off with a rather anthemic sound, and seems to have yet another aquatic themed story, though this time about the ocean rather than about a storm. There's a fair amount of brass throughout the beginning of the song, which is one of the things I noticed about this album in addition to the synthesizers; there's more brass, which I think works really well. Even at this point in the album, having been through nearly 70 minutes of material, I still didn't get tired of the sound, which just goes to show how interesting the band manages to keep their songs. There's a really lovely string-driven section in this song right before the song picks up again which I thoroughly enjoyed. It's the beginning of a fairly lengthy instrumental section in the song that works very well. The instrumental sections on this album are a bit sparse but when they're there, they really work. The song has a fairly epic ending with some outstanding drum work, before bringing it back down and segueing into the closing track "Homesong". A fairly straight-forward acoustic and piano driven track with some decent complexity, it's nothing special, and certainly isn't one of the band's stronger album closers (see "Hedgerow", "Curator of Butterflies", or of course "The Underfall Yard"). However, it's still a solid track, and brings the lyrical trajectory of the album to a close. After the very aptly title "Voyager", and its closing section "Homecoming", "Homesong" brings it back to England, with Longdon singing the refrain "we are home now, we are home now".

All in all, Grand Tour is not the greatest Big Big Train album, nor is it the second greatest Big Big Train album, but it certainly a very strong album, with great synthesizer and brass usage, and some really excellent drum work across the whole album. 9/10.

 Grand Tour by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Studio Album, 2019
4.04 | 364 ratings

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Grand Tour
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by TenYearsAfter

4 stars UPDATE INTERESTING NEW PROG

This highly acclaimed UK prog band is from the early Nineties, this is already its 12th studio-album, after the previous The Second Brightest Star from 2017, and the live album Merchants Of Light in 2018.

You can divide the nine compositions in five shorter tracks (between 2 and 7 minutes) and four epic compositions (between (8 and 15 minutes). First the shorter ones.

Like the very short opener Novum Organum, atmospheric with soaring keyboards, tender piano and wonderful, very emotional vocals, with strong hints from Peter Gabriel (the singer has also that hoarse timbre, adding an extra emotional dimension to the music).

The next song Alive is totally different, after a short Mellotron intro follows a catchy beat with a cheerful atmosphere, close to Neo-Prog, with delicate work on guitar and keyboards (like a Tony Banks inspired synthesizer solo), topped with dynamic drums and again wonderful Peter Gabriel-like vocals, now with a powerful voice.

The other short songs deliver a lot of fine musical ideas and lush instrumentation. A catchy beat, lots of brass, Eighties King Crimson guitar sound and a exciting bombastic finale in Panthenon, impressive and majestic, like the ancient Roman building the Pantheon. The ballad Theodora In Green And Gold starts also contains Neo-Prog and melodic rock elemens with a catchy beat, strong vocals, halfway an accellaration with sensitive electric guitar and finally dreamy with beautiful piano play. And the final track Homesong alternates between mellow and up-tempo with melancholical violin, fluent piano runs, powerful electric guitar, pleasant Hammond waves and strong vocals.

Now the four long compositions, these sound very melodic and harmonic, with cascades of flowing changing climates and a wide range of instruments, topped with excellent vocals, often with strong emotional undertones. And these epics also contain 76-77 Genesis inspired sumptuous eruptions and finales, featuring the distinctive Moog Taurus bass pedals, majestic Mellotron drops and moving guitar leads, goose bumps, this is top notch symphonic rock!

Like The Florentine that ranges from dreamy with piano to folky with acoustic guitar and mandolin and bombastic with bass pedals, flashy synthesizer runs and awesome Mellotron choirs, topped with often tender vocals.

The varied and dynamic Roman Stone is layered with a wide range of instruments: violin, piano, trombone, flute, Mellotron, acoustic - and electric guitar, and again we can enjoy ver pleasant Peter Gabriel-like vocals.

Ariel is based upon Shakespeare his work The Tempest and delivers lots of tension, due to the huge contrasts in the changing atmospheres, and a wonderful colouring with violin and guitar (like use of wah wah pedal). In the final part a very compelling build-up with intense Mellotron choirs, propulsive drum beats, bass pedals and powerful, ver emotional vocals, in the end a mellow part with tender violin, piano and vocals, wow!

Finally Voyager, often with strong 76-77 Genesis hints, but also lots of brass and woodwind (trumpet, French horn, cornet), this adds a special flavour to the music. In the bombastic eruptions we can enjoy flashy synthesizer flights, a harder-edged guitar solo, powerful Hammond, moving guitar, bass pedals and emotional vocals. Again Big Big Train succeeds to generate a lot of excitement, again Big Big Train delivers many interesting musical ideas, and again this is topped with David Longdon his excellent voice, what a strong bonus on this album!

This review was recently published on the Dutch prog website Background Magazine, in a slightly different version.

 Grand Tour by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Studio Album, 2019
4.04 | 364 ratings

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Grand Tour
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Despite the departure of founding member Andy Poole (wishing you all the best, Andy, and many thanks for all of the great music), Big Big Train have crafted one of the best albums I've heard from them since 2008's The Difference Machine. The return of a more frequent use of a more acoustic, folk-tinged sound combined with continued integral involvement from orchestral instruments (including now-permanent band member, violinist Rachel Hall) as well as a pronouncedly diminished influx of bombast, pretense and Anglo-centricity makes this a much more enjoyable listening experience for me than much of the Dave Longdon-era BBT output.

1. "Novum Organum" (2:33) sounds like glockenspiel, kalimba, and other hand percussives before piano joins in. Singer Dave Longdon soon enters. At least we try. (4.5/5)

2. "Alive" (4:31) opens sounding just like RUSH's "Subdivisions." A real upbeat, uptempo song to get your blood pumping. (8.75/10)

3. "The Florentine" (8:14) a folk rock opening with mostly acoustic instrumentation and strummed acoustic guitars fills out into a kind of Southern rock-tinged jam in the vein of THE OUTLAWS before coming round to a more majesterial STRAWBS-like finish. (13/15)

4. "Roman Stone" (13:33) (25.5/30)

5. "Pantheon" (6:08) opens like an ANDREW LLOYD WEBER instrumental overture or bridge song before the real song slowly establishes itself, layer by layer, over the full length of the second minute. Surprisingly, it remains an instrumental, though stepping out of its original theatric clothing. (8.5/10)

6. "Theodora in Green and Gold" (5:38) piano-based opening allows Dave Longdon to sing one of his more emotive vocals in a lower, slightly softer register. One of my favorite vocals from Dave since his debut on the The Underfall Yard album. Some nice key and dynamic shifts also make this a top three song from me--including a lead vocal part for (I assume) Nick D'Virgilo in the second half. (9.25/10)

7. "Ariel" (14:28) (26.75/30)

8. "Voyager" (14:03) (27.32/30)

9. "Homesong" (5:12) opens as another folk song like something by IONA before the cool, driving piano, bass, and drums rhythm track settles into play. Horns and other instruments enter during the second verse to enrich the palette while also somewhat drowning out the cool rhythm theme. Electric guitar and violin trade solo flourishes beneath and within the music--even when Dave is singing. It's unusual to have Dave's lead voice mixed this far back into the music. I like it. More like the old BBT. (8.75/10)

Total Time 74:20

B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music and, overall, one of my favorite Big Big Train releases.

 Grand Tour by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Studio Album, 2019
4.04 | 364 ratings

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Grand Tour
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by TCat
Special Collaborator Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

4 stars The band "Big Big Train" has been around for quite a while, has gone through a lot of line-ups, and is quite well known world wide as one of the most famous crossover prog band around. Greg Spawton (bass, guitars, keyboards) and Andy Poole were the co-founders of the band that started (officially) in 1990. Both members would remain with the band until 2018, when Andy departed from the group, leaving Spawton the only original member remaining.

In May of 2019, the band released their 12th full length album called "Grand Tour". This album consists of all original music, where their previous album contained re-worked songs from previous albums. Even though the title "Grand Tour" seems to suggest a live album, it is not. There are 9 tracks on this album, 3 of which are multi-part suites, and the total run time is just over 74 minutes, so it's jam packed with music. The line up for this album consists of Greg Spawton (the only original member as mentioned before) on bass, bass pedals, acoustic guitar and backing vocals; David Longdon (a member since 2009) on lead vocals, flute, additional keyboards, mandolin, and guitars; Dave Gregory (joined in 2009) on guitars; Rikard Sjoblom (joined in 2015) on keyboards, guitars, accordion and backing vocals; Danny Manners (joined in 2012) on keyboards and double bass; Rachel Hall (since 2015) on violin, viola, cello, and vocals; and Nick DVirgillo (since 2009) on drums, percussion and backing vocals. The concept of the album is explained in a thick booklet that comes with the album.

"Novum Organum" starts the album off with a short introductory track. Tonal percussion establishes a moderate pattern with piano and Gabriel-like vocals. The track builds in passion and intensity as other instruments are added in. "Alive" is much more upbeat as synths and keyboards bring in the full band. This track has a much more positive attitude with a basic rhythm and nice harmonization on the chorus with the vocals. The instrumental break approaches a more progressive feel mostly led by guitars and layers of keyboards. "The Florentine" is the first of the longer tracks at 8 minutes. The track centers around Leonardo DaVinci. It begins rather simply with acoustic guitar, mandolin and harmonized vocals. The track has a slightly more complex sound and harmonies build as more voices are added. On the first instrumental interlude, we get a violin that leads the way into a rhythmic change and the continues until the voices come back in. The overall sound of the track remains open and spacious, the emphasis on the layered vocals. The Moog takes over for a cheery solo and then gives up the spotlight to the guitar. The sound becomes symphonic as it continues with choral effects and the apex of a crescendo, then it descends from its climax and slows down quite a bit until the ending.

"Roman Stone" is the first multi-part suite (5 sections) and lasts over 13 minutes. A soft guitar and viola bring in the vocals, again sounding very much like Peter Gabriel, but doing it very convincingly. The subject of this track deals with the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. A moderately slow rhythm gives into a somewhat stately sound and a non-traditional song structure, cementing BBT's reputation of being a true Neo-prog style band. To chronicle the entire early Roman history is quite an undertaking for a 13 minute track, but the lyrics are quite rich and things don't really get that cliché and it stays quite believable throughout. Solo and harmonized vocals interact with each other, the song builds beautifully as it reaches the middle, then it quiets as a brass section comes in (where did that come from?). Soon flutes are also added with some piano flourishes, and the individual instruments build in harmonic lines as the drums get more frantic giving us a very nice orchestral feeling. After this, things slow down with a simple viola and voice again, as in the beginning as the vocalist contemplates the fall. This long track is as epic as you expect it to be, with a satisfying ending that ties up the entire track.

The next track "Pantheon" is an instrumental composed by Nick D'Virgilio and his first solo composition for Big Big Train. The combination of strings and brass backed by synths signals that this is going to be good. The drums come in and the brass carries the melody as guitar and synths back things up. After playing the theme, things start getting more complex as the flute come in copying the synth, violin then plays a solo with guitars increasing intensity. All of these instruments work together surprisingly well with a slightly atonal sound just to keep things a bit unsettling, but not overbearingly so. It's quite a nice instrumental with a lot of dynamic, start/stop passages and interesting melodies. "Theodora in Green and Gold" is a more basic song and is based on a mosaic of the Empress. It's a piano-led ballad style, but with an interesting vocal melody. Some of the lead vocals are done by D'Virgilio, hence the differences in vocal timbre in the middle part of the song.

The 2nd multi-part suite "Ariel" comes next. This track has 8 sections to it and lasts over 14 minutes. It's story combines both fact and fiction. The beginning is a simple synth and vocals, solo and harmonized. The sound is quite mournful and sparse. Deep guitars join in supporting the vocal melody with deep notes. A piano and sparse effects begin and more vocals bring in the next section and solo and harmonized vocals work interchangeably. The song moves to a more stately attitude as drums join in. The track continues to develop and build slowly backed by some lovely violin and piano passages. Suddenly, a solid hook is developed with vocals backed by solid guitar. Things get more epic as more string and guitars get the blood boiling, and then it all mellows out again and vocals establish a new melody. The emotional singing and dramatic feel of the track should help this one go down as a favorite in the BBT catalogue. The melody does not follow any real typical structure, but tell it's story quite effectively with a more complex sound. The music builds, thunder effects and a heavy symphonic feel brought on by synths and guitar build everything back up again to quite a lovely peak before it all returns to the more minimal feel of the beginning, returning to the initial melody.

After an epic track like this, what else can you do but follow it up with another epic 14 minute 7-part suite? "Voyager" takes the similar named space vehicle as it's subject. This one begins almost immediately with a full band sound, but at a moderate tempo. It again utilizes solo and harmonized vocals to tell the story, this time, however, backed by brass and the full core band. The vocals are quite emotional and expansive, the brass and cello give it a somewhat lonely and pensive feel when the percussion stops for a while. Drums eventually come back in hesitantly as the violin plays and brings in more vocals. Just before 7 minutes, things become very epic and symphonic as layers of instruments turn this into an orchestral style, becoming very dynamic and then slipping into a suddenly progressive beat and crazy synths and guitars build this into quite a production. Tempos, meters and styles change, and then back off a bit as more vocals come in. By the closing section, things have reached another apex as emotional vocals and instrumental passages build to a climax and then cool off with a piano- led ending.

The last track here is "Homecoming" and starts soft and pensive, like the beginning track, that then suddenly slips into a jazzy style with choppy piano chords and a guitar and violin building up excitement for an amazing and lovely finale. The brass comes back in, the guitars have their last say, and everything comes to a nice end.

This album should go down as one of the band's best. The orchestration is excellent, the vocals are top-notch and emotionally charged, the music is mostly complex and every musician here gets many chances to shine throughout the album. The feel of the album is somewhere between Neo-prog and Symphonic prog, most of the tracks support the progressive claim that the band has as being one of the most well-known and capable bands in progressive music these days, and they prove that quite well in this album. Even with the many changes that the band has experienced, the current line-up is made up of excellent musicians and they sound as if they have been playing together from the beginning. The subjects here are quite epic, and it might seem a little over-ambitious, but the actual theme of the album is rooted in the journey of mankind, so you should expect some heavy subject matter here, however the band handles it all well and somehow stays away from being cliché and are able to stand up to the subject material. This is not only an album that the band's fans and progressive fans should love, but should win over new fans when they put some time into it. Overall, it almost reaches 5 star status, and after more listening, it might come to that, but as far as an early review for the album goes, I can easily say that it is a strong 4 star album, but it is one that I will come back to for reconsideration often.

 Grand Tour by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Studio Album, 2019
4.04 | 364 ratings

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Grand Tour
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by santisoux

5 stars Big Big Train - Grand Tour

An album, the great ones, usually deliver us a sense of continuity, a sense of form that leads to a narrative of sorts, may it be conceptual and abstract (The Dark Side of the Moon) or something thematically more coherent alongside a story (take Tommy, The lamb, Snow, etc.) There are other albums that despite being conceptual deliver a series of individual pieces that connect one with the other and forming a sense of unity, which still, carries the individual spirit of each element (The Raven that refused to sing). This is that kind of album. And album which formally, tonally and in the general idea of the music itself takes us back to the days of English Electric? The opening is a very airy piece, which serves as an introduction to the "single" of the album, it's a promising start. Then it gradually grows in complexity and the music starts to densify, lyrically and musically. In "Roman Stone" is where I think things started to really grow on me, the deliverance of the vocal harmonies and the textures the entire track managed to provide make it one of my favorite songs in the entire BBT catalogue. There is a really beautiful moment where all instruments build up this momentum that continues on and on until the entire theme deconstructs itself, introducing back the vocals. It took me to another site of far from my desk (where I'm listening). The next piece is an instrumental, that allows Mr. D'Virgilio to do what he couldn`t provide in Spock`s Beard, which is a multilayered piece full of intricate elements but generally coherent and not full of the "quirkiness" of The Beard past instrumentals. It connects to another piece where he has involvement, a regular, typical, ballad of Big Big Train (I still prefer Upton Heath). The next two pieces are suites. Ariel, being a more upbeat one, hard at times, but generally so full of energy and emotive moments it's also (in my opinion) one of the highlights of the album. The suite starts as a sort of hymn took me to the shores of the last song of English Electric II, but then, this distorted guitar enters and brings another element of history. It's so full of comings and goings that the entire piece is a very enjoyable ride. Voyager starts with piano and the vocals of Longdon cruising across the universe, it's a perfect way to start a long piece of music. The tempo at around 4 minutes really gets you into the suite; all instruments combine to a beautiful moment of serenity? the story of life comes around. The violin then starts to rebuild everything back again in a typicall environment the band is used to produce, coming close to any climax produced by GYBE. The vocals return for the last two parts and manage to create a very nice ending for the piece, leading directly to the last song. Homesong is a very beautiful ending for a very beautiful album. The ride has been something entirely new, refreshing, bringing Big Big Train back to a new sound as good as the one in English Electric. The sense of storytelling is out there as something to consider.

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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