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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 band, more out of habit than with any intention to continue recording as BIG BI...
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GrimspoundGrimspound
Import
Imports 2017
Audio CD$10.33
$10.32 (used)
Second Brightest StarSecond Brightest Star
Import
Imports 2017
Audio CD$9.41
$9.48 (used)
FolkloreFolklore
Import
Imports 2016
Audio CD$9.12
$7.75 (used)
Underfall YardUnderfall Yard
Import
Ais 2009
Audio CD$9.92
$9.91 (used)
Difference MachineDifference Machine
Import · Remastered
Ais 2011
Audio CD$9.49
$9.48 (used)
English Electric Part 2English Electric Part 2
Import
Ais 2013
Audio CD$4.01
$7.23 (used)
Stone's Throw From the LineStone's Throw From the Line
Import
Imports 2016
Audio CD$11.99
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English Electric: Expanded EditionEnglish Electric: Expanded Edition
Import
Imports 2016
Audio CD$14.77
$14.76 (used)
English Electric: Full PowerEnglish Electric: Full Power
CD Baby 2013
Audio CD$188.43 (used)
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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)

3.37 | 153 ratings
Goodbye To The Age Of Steam
1994
3.29 | 154 ratings
English Boy Wonders
1997
3.22 | 130 ratings
Bard
2002
3.67 | 214 ratings
Gathering Speed
2004
3.64 | 277 ratings
The Difference Machine
2007
4.18 | 670 ratings
The Underfall Yard
2009
4.17 | 941 ratings
English Electric (Part One)
2012
4.08 | 750 ratings
English Electric (Part Two)
2013
3.96 | 459 ratings
Folklore
2016
4.05 | 305 ratings
Grimspound
2017
3.80 | 164 ratings
The Second Brightest Star
2017

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

4.42 | 59 ratings
From Stone And Steel
2016
4.64 | 38 ratings
A Stone's Throw From the Line
2016

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

4.50 | 27 ratings
Stone & Steel
2016

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

4.33 | 43 ratings
English Boy Wonders (2008)
2008
4.88 | 158 ratings
English Electric: Full Power
2013

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

2.32 | 37 ratings
From The River to the Sea
1992
3.19 | 20 ratings
The Infant Hercules
1993
4.04 | 179 ratings
Far Skies Deep Time
2010
4.10 | 73 ratings
Make Some Noise
2013
3.64 | 85 ratings
Wassail
2015
4.31 | 16 ratings
London Song
2017
0.00 | 0 ratings
Merry Christmas
2017

BIG BIG TRAIN Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 The Second Brightest Star by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.80 | 164 ratings

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The Second Brightest Star
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by Walkscore

3 stars The Folklore remakes are the best tracks.

Like all BBT albums, this one leaves a really positive impression on first listen. The performances and recording quality are top notch, and the singing is great as usual. However, like some other BBT albums (e.g. Folklore), this one doesn't fare as well on repeated listens. First of all, it does seem like a number of tracks on this album are 'seconds' left of Grimspound for various reasons (perhaps the reason for the title?), with one good reason being these tracks are for the most part slower and lower energy than that album. This is not always a bad thing - the title track stands up OK even though it is fairly slow, and Terra Australia Ingognita is one of the best new tracks here despite being a slow instrumental. Meanwhile Haymaking sounds like it should have been left ON Grimspound, as its folkiness would fit very well on the latter album (as it would have on Folklore). But another reason some of these may have been left off is that some of these tracks are simply not very musical. Skylon, London Stone, and Passing Widow, in particular are not only slow but not sufficiently tuneful. They get boring after only a couple of listens. But it is when one gets to the extended remakes of the two tunes from the Folklore album that inadequacy of many of the other tracks hits home. The remakes (of Brooklands, and London Plane, now here called "The Brooklands Sequence" and "The London Plane Sequence") are really excellent - musical, complex, varied, with new extended parts that really show off the band's virtuosity. Brilliant drumming, great guitar solos, wonderful dynamics. These were already the best two songs on Folklore, and they are even better here (and in their extended versions, together take up half an hour). They really show up what is missing on the rest of The Second Brightest Star, which in comparison is much less dynamic, less musical, less memorable. Without these two extended tracks, the album wouldn't be nearly as interesting. I give this album 7.5 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which is a decent outcome, and equates to 3 PA stars. It is the extended tracks (as well as Haymaking, Terra Australia) that make the album worth having.

 Grimspound by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.05 | 305 ratings

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Grimspound
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

3 stars After losing my long review once again on this site I'll try again with a short one. I'm pretty big on the middle period of BIG BIG TRAIN's discography from the 2007 "The Difference Machine", 2009's "The Underfall Yard", 2010's "Far Skies Deep Time" and 2012's "English Electric(Part One)". I couldn't get into "Folklore" or this one, although I do feel this is a little better than "Folklore".

Songs like "Experimental Gentlemen" and "The Ivy Gate" just don't do anything for me while the opener "Brave Captain" is my favourite. I'm not big on the strings here because they are so safe sounding but most of the album is safe sounding. I like the sections where they amp it up or do something adventerous, but there's way too few of those to make me consider anything more than 3 stars.

Hopefully this works as I press "save" but it's getting to the point on here that I'm having difficulty caring one way or the other. BIG BIG TRAIN is such a talented band who play mature music with meaningful lyrics, but i'll stick to the ones I mentioned in the intro thanks.

 The Second Brightest Star by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.80 | 164 ratings

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The Second Brightest Star
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by cirrusbay

5 stars 'The Second Brightest Star' may not be the 'best' Big Big Train album, but it is certainly my favorite. Where BBT really excels, at least for me personally, is in their acoustic side, when they are at their most beautiful, and this is even more acoustic than 'Gathering Speed', another one of my favorites. There are 2 new absolute gems here, namely, 'Skylon', which has a gloriously emotive melody that makes me want to hear it again and again, and 'The Leaden Stour', which again, has a very beautiful, melancholy type of melody, especially during the instrumental break. This passage is so powerfully beautiful that I am actually quite awed that they seem to be playing the music of my heart. I tend to like many different things musically, especially complex out-there stuff, which this is really not. But it stirs up deeper emotions within me that I almost forgot I had, and relate to very personally. The instrumentals here, by the way, are also wonderful, of which I'm delighted that there are several. 'Haymaking' is a fun piece that calls to mind, as Rachel Hall, the composer of this one describes as riding through the countryside during haymaking season. Aptly put. 'London Stone' is a beautiful acoustic-based instrumental written by Richard and Danny, and 'Terra Australis Incognita' is a moody, contemplative track, sounding very outdoorsy and fall-like. 'Turner on the Thames' is the instrumental intro to 'London Plane', and here they are joined in their entirety. This pastoral gem is probably my favorite of the instrumentals. Also here are the joining of two of my recent favorites, 'On The Racing Line' and 'Brooklands'. Musically, everything about this album, the playing, the arrangement, the production, and the vocals, are absolutely perfect. And yes, those vocals! David Longdon has one of the richest, most beautiful voice I have ever heard, and I'm stating this with as much objectivity as possible. But it's admittedly difficult to be completely objective about something this moving. So, I'm reviewing this album, not for the sake of reviewing critically, but singling it out specifically because it is simply one of the most beautiful collections of music that I have heard of late. I hope for more like this.
 Grimspound by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.05 | 305 ratings

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Grimspound
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Jazz-Rock / Fusion / Canterbury Team

4 stars This band of seasoned veterans has morphed and gelled into a cohesive unit whose compositions set the standard for other symphonic prog bands of this decade.

1. "Brave Captain" (12:37) In my humble opinion, this is one of the best songs BBT has ever done. Where so many times before the music and the story the band is trying to tell feel over-the-top bombastic (for reasons that seem to often escape me), this time everything seems to click. Dave's vocal rendering of the story is nicely restrained. The amazingly evocative section starting at 4:12 is prog perfection. All instrumental contributions are so perfect, Nick D'Virgilo's drumming never more virtuosic and necessary. At 7:20 a mute-effected vocal begins the rendering of the flyer's story. It's so effective that I get goosebumps and tears brimming at my eyes every damn time I listen to it. And when Dave switches out of the closet into the open air to describe the last flight! Amazing! Genius! The instrumental play out with the single phrase "brave captain of the skies" being repeated by both Dave and a choir is perfect (as is the atmospheric "air" sounds as the song fades). (9.75/10)

2. "On The Racing Line" (5:12) organ, piano, bowed double bass open this one before the band breaks into a jazzy-boogie piano-based Nick D'Virgilio instrumental race. This song definitely serves to showcase Nick's amazing drumming: so tight, so concise, so well-integrated into the song--despite its many dynamic and tempo shifts. Great use of strings in support at the end. (9.25/10)

3. "Experimental Gentlemen" (10:01) parts of this song, both melodically and instrumentally, shine as among the best work BBT have ever done. The unfortunate thing is the sometimes awkward, disjointed and inexplicable shifts from section to section (e.g. from the amazing opening/intro to the simplistic singing section at the two minute mark--if there was ever a case to cite an instance in which two entirely separate songs are suddenly and inexplicably melded together, this is one). Fortunately, the melodies and lyrics of the first singing section are engaging. In the fifth minute, the vocals take a break and we settling into a section of very nice instrumental tapestry. But, then, suddenly, at 5:34, we're back to the "experimental gentlemen" vocal theme. The song is playing out like a Broadway reprise--like the introductory music you receive when returning from a musical play's intermission. "The wonder of it all" is a wonderful epithet signaling another switch--to a soft, gentle, and very moving instrumental section which plays out to the song's end. (9/10)

4. "Meadowland" (3:36) with it's 12-string guitar and violin, this one opens quite nicely. Shaping up to be a little more folk-country oriented than I expected, the song continues as an instrumental until the 1:18 mark. Dave's AMERICA-like vocal enters with the strings continuing to weave around behind him sans drums (with organ--and, later, piano). Nice, mellow song. (8/10)

5. "Grimspound" (6:56) a beautiful folky song with wonderfully simple and catchy melodies from both instruments, chords, and vocal lines. I love Dave's voice so much when he is restrained and relaxed. And I LOVE his flute work. At 3:35 the band decided that a little more umph! and bombast were needed. Too bad. What should have been left alone... Nice work from the strings (electric and otherwise) in sixth minute. I do love the choral singings of the Latin phrases at the end. (9.5/10)

6. "The Ivy Gate" (7:27) banjo is the most conspicuous instrumental presence with this one from its opening--until the warbling voice of the great Judy Dyble opens the singing telling the tale of Thomas Fisher. Constructed with ample variety and dynamics, no section, no lyric, no melody sucks me in enough to warrant repetition or research. This is a good song with just average appeal and engagement factor. (8/10)

7. "A Mead Hall In Winter" (15:20) with some very nice instrumental work--especially from the organ--and some awesome multi-voice background vocal arrangements. Again, the melodic lines employed here are simply not as engaging as the instrumental solos are impressive. (8.5/10)

8. "As The Crow Flies" (6:44) very nice, spacious song with the delightful presence of a female vocalist (Rachel Hall) singing the second lead. Flutes, piano, violin, acoustic guitars, organ, all are given ample room to be heard on this one--which is nice. (8.5/10)

Big Big Train certainly have their own style and distinctive sound. They are very polished, very skilled musicians, and their compositional skills and instrumental arrangements are of the highest quality and grade while their sonic renderings of music are always just shy of miraculous. Where they seem to fall a little short--at least, to these ears--is in matching their music to the story that they are trying to tell (or, perhaps better put, in matching their musical expression to the significance of the historical text of their chosen "heroes"). The conundrum they present to me time after time reminds me of the story I've heard so many times about the reactions of Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford, Phil Collins, and Steve Hackett to first hearing the vocal story telling that Peter Gabriel had recorded over their music for The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway.

4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music.

 Goodbye To The Age Of Steam by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Studio Album, 1994
3.37 | 153 ratings

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Goodbye To The Age Of Steam
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by The Crow
Prog Reviewer

3 stars After two interesting demos, Big Big Train released their first full length album back in 1994. And the project started good!

I must say that the production of the album sounds professional. The only problem I find in terms of sound is the dated and unfitting sound of the keyboards in some songs. I think for their attempt to create a melancholic neo-prog approach to music the keys are too strident and too much early 80's oriented. And while in other acts like Pendragon or Arena that's not a big deal, in the music of Big Big Train sounds just incorrect.

Nevertheless, Wind Distorted Pioneers introduces correctly the style of the band, despite its dubious initial guitar melody. Melancholic melodies, piano-based sections and some folk elements. Pure Big Big Train! And typical is also Head Hit the Pillow, which starts with a long instrumental introduction with old-sounding keyboards. After that, at 2:28 we can hear an excellent chorus and good bass playing. Fine song!

Edge of the Known World is not so good, because the more rocking tracks of the album are curiously also the worst. Despite the good and complex initial riff and the neo-prog elements, this song is not remarkable. Landfall's start is also very neo-prog at the beginning, especially in the keyboards. After that we can find a beautiful song dominated by the excellent voice of Martin Read and acoustic guitars. The keyboard is a bit annoying in the chorus, but the inspiring guitar solo accompanied by a fine piano melody compensates that.

Dragon Bone Hill is a dreamy instrumental tune played with Spanish guitar and delicate keyboards, and it gives way to Blow the House Down. This song starts very beautifully, just voice and keys in the first two minutes. After that the track becomes a bit more conventional, but very good nevertheless. The instrumental progression is remarkable, and the great melody of bass and keyboards which appear at 4:09 too.

Expecting Snow is another harmless instrumental with Spanish guitar, but this time with drums and bass and some acoustic chords. Not really special. Blue Silver Red is also a bit irregular, with great sections like the one which starts with the words 'So sorry'', and others which are not so good, specially the rockier ones. Nevertheless, this song has another mature and intense instrumental work. This band was good since the very beginning!

Losing Your Way starts with an epic keyboard, and even more epic guitar melody, which leads to another good song. The fans of Marillion will be specially delighted with this one! The acoustic guitar solo is the top of the track, which ended the album in its first edition.

Because Far Distant thing is an extra song added in the remastered edition, obtained from the demo The Infant Hercules. Not a bad one, but pales in comparison with the rest of the album despite the good electrical guitar works which contains. And Expecting Dragons is a new track made specially for this re-edition with the actual line-up. Is a mixture between Dragon Bone Hill and Expecting Snow, adding Big Big Train's modern elements like flutes, strings, better production and D'Virgilio.

This reissue contains also a longer version of Losing Your Way, but I honestly prefer the original.

Conclusion: a good album from a very talented band! The true personality of the band is here, despite being their first official full lenght. So, the melancholic mixture of neo-prog, folk, pop and symphonic prog will surely delight not only the fans of Big Big Train, but also to curious listeners desiring to know the origins of this gifted group of musicians. In my opinion is also not a bad place to start with them!

The unfitting keyboard sound which ruins some sections, alongside some repetitiveness prevent this album to receive four stars. But It's a good album, even very good sometimes, and it has a great singer who sings very catchy vocal lines and a very versatile and delightful guitar work.

I'm willing to hear more of this band!

Best Tracks: Head Hit the Pillow, Landfall, Blow the House Down, Losing Your Way (short version)

My Rating: ***

 The Second Brightest Star by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.80 | 164 ratings

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The Second Brightest Star
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by The Jester

3 stars The Second Brighter Star is the 11th studio album of the English Prog Rock band Big Big Train, that followed the release of their previous album Grimspound, with only two months difference. Grimspound was released at the end April, and 'Brighter Star' at the end of June. That was a little weird, and caught many people (including me), by surprise. As far as I understood (and read), in 'Brighter Star' the band decided to include songs that were not included in their two previous albums, together with a few older songs that have been rearranged. The original versions of those songs can be found in Folklore and Grimspound. In the review I wrote about Folklore, I mentioned that after the release of the two excellent albums English Electric Pt.1 & 2, the band went a step back with Folklore. Grimspound that followed, was a good album, better than Folklore in my opinion, but I'm afraid I can't say the same for this last one. The Second Brighter Star is not a bad album, but is nothing special either. Yes, the usual melodic and melancholic style of Big Big Train is present once more, but the compositions as less inspired and less interesting. (Always in my opinion). The sound is rich, including many instruments and the production is very good, but that's not enough I'm afraid. The best moments here are: The Second Bright Star (the album's opening track), followed by the very interesting rearranged versions of London Plane and Brooklands. This is an album that I could recommend to the fans of Big Big Train, who I can guess that already bought it. As for those who are not fans of BBT, you can try it of course, but I do not recommend it. Better try English Electric Pt.1 & 2, and Grimspound. I don't think I can give more than 3.0 stars here.
 Folklore by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.96 | 459 ratings

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Folklore
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by The Crow
Prog Reviewer

3 stars This is the first I hear of Big Big Train, and therefore also my first review of this band!

When I first listened this album some weeks ago I was blown away. Maybe because this good band was unknown to me till recently and it was one hell of a surprise. But after a few listens this euphoria dismissed a little, although I still think this album is pretty good. The splendid production is also remarkable, despite the loud D'Virgilio drums.

But let's talk about the songs!

The album starts with Folklore, a very appropriate title for a track which mixes wisely symphonic prog, neo-prog and folk elements. The chorus is not so good, but the rest of the song is pure enjoyment with its two splendid guitar solos, being the last answered by another catchy keyboard solo. With this first track I was aware that this band is plenty consolidated and good assembled. Every instrument has its moments and they sound is coherent and cohesive. Very good!

London Plane is a flute-introduced slow piece with beautiful lyrics about this city and an outstanding instrumental section with a lot of jazz influences, perfect for the keyboardist to show off... OK, and D'Virgilio. Along the Ridgeway is also a bit slow. I think the album needed a bit power at this point, but this track doesn't deliver. It has nevertheless fine choirs in the Spock's Beard style and another great instrumental section witch strings and another good keyboard solo.

Salisbury Giant continues the end of the previous song, and Transit of Venus Across the Sun comes with an instrumental introduction of strings and wind instruments. Beautiful and with another great solo, Genesis-reminding guitar melodies but again too slow and a bit boring. This is the verification that this album lacks rhythm, or better structure. I think the songs are good, but they are not in the right order or maybe they are too long. I don't know... But sometimes I find Folklore just dull.

Luckily Wassail comes to rescue the ship with its good vocal melodies, lyrics with roots in the nature and landscapes, powerful drums and a keyboard towards the end which reminds me to Deep Purple! And Winkie follows this pleasant path with a funny text, great bass and good rhythm. The section which starts at 3'38'' is pure magic! My favorite song of the album.

And then comes Brooklands which is not a bad song, but at this point of the album it contributes not so much to its quality apart of giving minutes to the final duration. No surprises here. Nevertheless, its central section is pretty good with more jazzy instrumentation and very good drumming. The drums are maybe a bit loud, but it's impossible to deny the quality of D'Virgilio as a drummer.

Ok, Telling the Bees... This will be short: I can't understand how this band closed this good album with such a lousy and cheesy song. Completely forgettable.

Conclusion: Folklore is a stimulating mixture of symphonic prog with jazz influences, folk tunes, neo-prog and a bit of hard rock from a consolidated band which also delivers a very good sound and production. But it fails to offer a cohesive experience because a pair of dull tracks (Salibury Giant, Transit of Venus Across the Sun, Brooklands), and fairly bad one (Telling the Bees) and an bad tune order in my opinion.

Nevertheless, its good songs (Winkie, Wassail, Folklore, London Plane...) make this album a strong recommendation for modern prog lovers with lots of classic influences, despite not being excellent.

Best songs: Folklore, London Plane, Wassail, Winkie.

My rating: ***1/2, rounded down to three stars.

 From The River to the Sea  by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1992
2.32 | 37 ratings

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From The River to the Sea
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by axeman

1 stars I can't even recommend this for completionists.

I started paying attention to this band with Gathering Speed. I even appreciate most of the songs on English Boy Wonders and a few off Bard. As a person who owns this release, let me warn you off it. There's nothing for you here. I like Spawton as a guitarist, but not here. His leads are leaden and clunky, clear. Read offers some of the worst vocals that he's ever done, even though by Wonders, he's fluid.

I really don't have much more to say: Big big fan. Listen at your own risk.

 The Second Brightest Star by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.80 | 164 ratings

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The Second Brightest Star
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by axeman

4 stars I actually like this more than Grimspound. I consider the versions of the songs London Plane and Brooklands what they *should* have released on Folklore. So the redone songs don't bother me near as much as hearing the tracks "in full" (as I consider them). And quite enjoyable. A lot of kudos were lobbed at Plane when Folklore came out, but I never saw much in it, Brooklands having always been my favorite prog epic on that album--but given the versions on this release I could easily ash can the Folklore versions and just play the ones here. It's a pleasure to hear more development in these songs.

But, the main reason I prefer this to Grimspound, as many times as I've listened to the latter, I can't remember much clear *division* in the album--other than Brave Captain. Meanwhile, with fewer listens to this release, I can crisply remember the differences between the title song, Leaden Stour, and The Passing Widow. Also, it doesn't wear out its welcome with the "Aren't we artists special" self-indulgence that Grimspound seems to suffer from. Although a huge BBT fan back with Gathering Steam, I could not write a review of that release is I still don't know what it exactly is. Interesting music? No doubt. A pleasure to listen to? Yeah, outside of the air of self-congratulation I mentioned before.

Anyway, I can unabashedly say that I consider this release to be the superior release this year, even with the sort of utility drawer and re-release feel of Star. The title song and Leaden Stour are standouts, and have stuck in my head much quicker than anything from Grimspound. The title song is a an orchestrated ballad, with a slight torch song feel to the bass (Manners?), with segments of soft piano accompaniment to flute and violin, cascading to a Gregory solo accompanied by bright brass. Just a subtle and muted, smoothly flowing arrangement.

Haymaking is a song that moves them into a definitely thicker folk vein, a violin dance of sorts, joined in parts with the flute, and all grounded with a nice melodic bass line. Only broken up toward the end with an interlude of discord from synths, before ending with the spritely violin. Skylon, the third track moves back to the sort of smooth, torch song feel, which seems to suit Longdon's voice. This track moves to a minor key much quicker than the title track-- but still in my opinion differentiable from it. London Stone is an interesting acoustic instrumental, totally takes place between the piano and classical guitar (Sjöblom?). Quite a nice contained piece. The Passing Widow goes back to the piano ballad, and is probably the most poppy song on the album. Well done and listenable, even if I can't say that I'm glad that it's on the release. (Who knows though. Telling the Bees was my least favorite on Folklore, but became a sing-along favorite). It also sounds like there's nary an electric instrument on it as well as the previous piece.

Leaden Stour carries much in the same vein, but it seems the guys knew that they couldn't do another pure piano ballad thing, so there some nice soft jazz guitar and a bass line behind this one. Plus it has a brass intro into their upbeat bridge, a sort of jazz ensemble feel to it. But what's really irresistible is the jazz outro 7 minutes into it.

And as I mentioned before Brooklands and London Plane redux will be the versions of these songs that I'll be playing hence forth.

If there's anything lacking in this release, to me it's what BBT has been increasingly lacking over time. Di Virgillio is from a band that was on Metal Blade records, one of Sjöblom's last albums with Beardfish was pretty heavily rock, Spawton could blaze away on guitar on Difference Machine's Perfect Cosmic Storm and Pick up. I really like the sophisticated variations on pop of the ages these guys are putting out, but would it kill them to just rock out some time?

But one thing that's nice to hear on either albums this year is that they seem to have corrected the mistake on Folklore of burying D'Virgilio down in the mix.

 The Second Brightest Star by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.80 | 164 ratings

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The Second Brightest Star
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by Kingsnake

5 stars Strange little album, but to me the best the band have produced. All of the songs are a straight hit. The album starts calm with a few ballads, some folksongs and jazzy songs.

Skylon and Second Brightest Star are amongst the best progballads have created thusfar.

The icing on the cake, are the two progepics; two extended versions of themes and songs the band used on their previous albums. We can see the albums as a trilogy, and according to the band, this album is the last album in a series of albums that tell the tale of the english countryside and the people living there. I love the concept, and I am curious what the next concept will be.

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

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