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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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English Electric: Full PowerEnglish Electric: Full Power
CD Baby 2013
Audio CD$18.39
$14.40 (used)
English Electric Part 2English Electric Part 2
Import
Ais 2013
Audio CD$8.83
$9.97 (used)
English Electric Part OneEnglish Electric Part One
Import
Ais 2012
Audio CD$11.00
$12.95 (used)
English Boy WondersEnglish Boy Wonders
Import
Ais 2011
Audio CD$11.88
$9.66 (used)
Underfall YardUnderfall Yard
Import
Ais 2009
Audio CD$9.50
$4.92 (used)
Goodbye to the Age of SteamGoodbye to the Age of Steam
Import
Ais 2011
Audio CD$11.00
$21.22 (used)
Gathering SpeedGathering Speed
Remastered · Import
Ais 2011
Audio CD$10.00
$36.50 (used)
Far Skies Deep TimeFar Skies Deep Time
EP · Import
Ais 2010
Audio CD$7.75
$3.86 (used)
Difference MachineDifference Machine
Remastered · Import
Ais 2011
Audio CD$12.56
$11.19 (used)
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BIG BIG TRAIN shows & tickets


  • Big Big Train at Kings Place, London on 14 Aug 2015
  • Big Big Train at Kings Place, London on 15 Aug 2015
  • Big Big Train at King's Place, London on 16 Aug 2015

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 | 109 ratings
Goodbye To The Age Of Steam
1994
3.30 | 104 ratings
English Boy Wonders
1997
3.19 | 84 ratings
Bard
2002
3.64 | 155 ratings
Gathering Speed
2004
3.57 | 207 ratings
The Difference Machine
2007
4.17 | 538 ratings
The Underfall Yard
2009
4.19 | 748 ratings
English Electric (Part One)
2012
4.10 | 560 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)

3.95 | 41 ratings
English Boy Wonders (2008)
2008
4.89 | 84 ratings
English Electric: Full Power
2013

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

2.38 | 25 ratings
From The River to the Sea
1992
3.35 | 11 ratings
The Infant Hercules
1993
4.00 | 146 ratings
Far Skies Deep Time
2010
4.59 | 35 ratings
Make Some Noise
2013

BIG BIG TRAIN Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 From The River to the Sea  by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1992
2.38 | 25 ratings

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From The River to the Sea
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Neo Prog Team

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
4.10 | 560 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
4.89 | 84 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
4.89 | 84 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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 Far Skies Deep Time by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2010
4.00 | 146 ratings

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Far Skies Deep Time
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by GruvanDahlman
Prog Reviewer

4 stars I guess it was inevitable. I sort of had it coming. There was always something about BBT, whenever I approached their music. I have never cared for the name, though. It sounds like one of those pop wonders of the 80's and I can't help but twitch ever so much. But that is just the name and I have gotten past that now. Or something.

The music is, however, brilliant in many ways. I find that there is so much to love and cherish in their output, simply because of the high quality of music and for the genuine britishness found inside. I love all things british and stories of the emerging railways or of the sea or any other story from the past makes me a very happy camper. BBT:s music leads by way of The Kinks a direct line from the past into the future. Someone said that most times prog, these days, aren't really progressive. It is more a business of keeping the greatness from the past and keeping the ragged flag flying still. Maybe that is true. I for one do not really care. For me prog lies in everything from before and transforming it into something genuine and hopefully the band manages to hit a note never played before in that order.

This EP, which in length surpasses most other contemporary full length albums, is, for the record (!), one of those albums that manages to preserve the past and project it into something contemporary. It is british, it is progressive and it is marvellous. From the opener "Master of time", past the fantastic "British racing green" and head first into that gloriuos "The wide open sea", BBT is on top of their game. This is progressive music at it's finest. Sometimes leaning towards pop I get the feeling of (later) Genesis but the progressive movement of the chords and notes are ever so present.

This is a great album. I had it coming. Though I tried to duck the music hit me right in the face. I find it rather brilliant and think that everyone ought to listen, if nothing else, to the epic "The wide open sea". There it is. Divine. Beautiful. Brilliant.

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 English Electric (Part Two) by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Studio Album, 2013
4.10 | 560 ratings

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English Electric (Part Two)
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by Tarcisio Moura
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Itīs very, very hard to write a review of an album I love so much. Try as I might to be objective - and find mistakes or something to rate it less - I still canīt find any other word to describe it. If The Underfall Yard was very good, and English Electric Part One was excellent, then English Electric Part Two is nothing short of a masterpiece. Really, I could never believe Big Big Train could outdo E E Part One, but they did. Here youīll find the band at its peak in terms of creativity, songwriting maturity and musical performances.

Some people here in PA will say it lacks something: weirdness, pointless jams, explicit displays of virtuosity, too few dissonant chords, you name it! And, boy , will I agree with that! But if you, like me, likes a first rate symphonic prog rock in the same vein of the 70īs great acts like Genesis, Yes and co, then youīll love this one. Like those groups this CD is the fruit of team work: no misplaced notes anywhere. Everything seems to fall in place seemlessly, one voice or instrument blending into the other fading ou appearing at the right moments as the music asks for. Bold, and yet tasteful arrangements, beautiful melodies, skillful playing and an energy and conviction rarely seen lately are their strong points. O should mention that David Longdon is becoming one of the best singers in the field, with a astonishing perfomance, both as vocalist and as multi intrumentist throughout the CD.

What strikes me the most is how their songwriting skills grew so much in such short time span. The CD opens with East Coast Racer, a 15 minute+ suite that shows all their potential right from the start, with its several swings and turns, changing moods and time signatures, a real prog heaven. Next comes the relatively simple Swan Hunter. Itīs one of the most beautiful and poignant songs Iīve heard in years, reminding me of masterpieces like Genesis Time Table or the Beatles For No One. Those two tracks alone were enough to garantee at least a 4 star rating for this CD, but, fortunatly, the remaining tracks are all of high quality, quite varied in terms of style, but all keeping the high profile till the very end. I could rave about each tune endlessly, but I think youīve got the point. Tunes like Keeper Of The Alley and The Permanent Way, for instance, are the kind of songs most prog acts would kill to have written them.

In a time where the ego trips seem to rule in prog, this is one of a hell of team work, when technique is used enhance the music not to show off. With a top notch production and a strong sense of direction, this is surely (along with Flamborough Headīs Lost In Time) the best release of 2013. Itīs so subtle some people wonīt notice how powerful it is until they listen carefully and without prejudice. Just like all the masterpieces are.

Rating: 5 stars with honors. Essential!

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 English Electric (Part One) by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Studio Album, 2012
4.19 | 748 ratings

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English Electric (Part One)
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by Tarcisio Moura
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Sometimes you really strike gold at PA! I discovered this band through this site and I must say Iīm quite impressed. Well, the much praised The Underfall yard did not exactly won me over. it was clear that the band was good, but there was something missing yet at that point. Actually the CD sounded a little overworked too. But when I heard the following EP Far Skies Deep Time, I knew they had nailed it! It was the perfect combination of great songwriting, perfect arrangements and excellent songwriting, coupled with outstanding performances. That did the trick. So I was quite anxious to hear what would come next.

English Electric (Part One) is basicly everything I had hoped for: great symphonic prog rock which mixes very well simple, nice melodies with complex arrangements and inspired performances of all involved. The comparisons with Gabriel-era Genesis are not a coincidence. Not only is this band highly influenced by that band, but they also found the right formula that made Genesis the classic band they were (all the elements mentioned before). Still, Big Big Train does not copy Genesis, that of the same matter dutch band Odyssice captured so well 70īs Camel spirit without really sounding like a cover band. Thatīs the difference: BBT (and Odyssice) produce a familiar style of music, but they do too have a personality of their own all along. Thatīs very rare.

Of course the album would have never worked if they hadnīt have the excellent songwriting hability to match their obvious terrific technique. There are absolute no fillers, with all the tunes being very well done both in terms of writing and, specially, of performances. Itīs so hard to see an album where every instrument, every voice, every note fits in so smoothly (another Genesis trait during their heydey). There are no fillers nor highlights, all the tracks do stand on their own, although the opener The First Rarebreather may be a personal favorite. Certainly BBT finally reached a maturity rarely seen nowadays. Since singer and multi intrumentist David Longdon joined the fold they have been getting better and better with each release. And his flute playing is certainly one of the most interesting features of this record

Ok, some people will cringe upon hearing this CD, claiming the music has nothing original (meaning zanny), that they play too "safe" (nothing to shock you) and break no new ground (even at the expense of the music itself). I wll disagree, since they are quite original on their own way. Itīs quite accessible, I admit it, but still it takes several spins to fully grasp its full richness. And the music is beautiful, skillfully played and imaginatively arranged. To me this is good enough. Wrap it up with an excellent production work and youīll have one of the most stunning works Iīve heard in a long, long time.

Iīm really anxious to get English Electric (Part Two).

Rating: 4,5 stars. Highly recommended!!

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 English Electric (Part Two) by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Studio Album, 2013
4.10 | 560 ratings

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English Electric (Part Two)
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by lazland
Prog Reviewer

5 stars The follow up to the extremely popular Part One, this has, latterly, been re-released as a double cd, with new tracks, and, perhaps, is probably best listened to as part of a whole, rather than separate to, its predecessor.

I am, though, probably, one of the few who rather prefers this to the first English Electric album. This, I suppose, is because I am a bit of a sucker for exceptionally well produced, and played, melodic progressive rock. Some may call it "commercial" (not a helpful word, because, at the end of the day, all acts want to be commercial, i.e. Sell a few copies). I simply call it gorgeous and pastoral, and it has, to me, far more of the feel and structure to it of the exceptionally beautiful The Underfall Yard.

It does not have on it a track of the sublime perfection that is Judas Unrepentant, but, then again, I would struggle to name but a handful of albums in recent years which did. What it does, though, is bring storytelling, in a lush musical environment, to the forefront, and BBT are to be congratulated on this.

Opener, East Coast Racer, and Swan Hunter, especially, carry on the band's fine tradition of addressing social, historical, and, yes, nostalgic issues from an England which simply no longer exists, no matter how much many in rural England, especially, might wish it to be so. The brass and string on East Coast....especially bring that evocative feel to the forefront, and David Longdon is perhaps the only vocalist in the world of bringing such a picture to life, and how well he does it.

Swan Hunter is rather interesting from a personal perspective, because my grandfather worked there before joining the British Army. I am, though, rather surprised that no other reviewer has picked up the fact that, far from being some sort of Genesis influenced clone, this track screams out Crosby, Stills, and Nash in its conception, thoughts, and execution. If this was not written as a tribute to that great trio, then I am so far off the mark as to probably never bother reviewing again. It is, by the way, as lush as it sounds, quite superb.

The whole feel of this album is that of a band that are deeply comfortable in making music that engages the mind and is far more complex in its playing than strikes one in the first few listens, one of the reasons why I have taken an age in reviewing it.

There is not one weak track on this work, and I, for one, really welcome the Hedgerow Revisited wonder that is The Permanent Way. It is the perfect accompaniment to that marvellous track, and both should bookend the whole work. Dorset itself is brought to marvellous life.

I regard this cd as being superior to the first part, which I still find to be too inconsistent to merit a masterpiece rating. This is consistently excellent, the harmonies, lyrics, lead vocals, and musicianship, including the wonderful guest spots, combine to create what is perhaps the finest folk influenced album in many a year. I do not kid any readers of this review when I say that Ian Anderson himself would have struggled to create such a landscape as this in the heady days of Songs From The Wood or Heavy Horses. This is the sound of an English band at the top of its game. Simply listen to the pastoral beauty that is Keeper of Abbeys, and never fail to be moved by the lead guitar solo that bursts onto your consciousness to remind you of folk rock at its best.

After many listens, I believe this trumps the first part, and can only struggle to find any faults. If we had such a rating, I would award 4.5 stars, but awarded the perfect five, if only to highlight just what a sheer joy of life and a beautiful country this album brings.

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 English Electric (Part One) by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Studio Album, 2012
4.19 | 748 ratings

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English Electric (Part One)
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by m2thek
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Ever since the release of The Underfall Yard, a question I asked myself fairly often was 'Is the modern incarnation of Big Big Train one of my favorite bands, or is this just one of my favorite albums?' Far Skies Deep Time certainly pushed me in one direction, and fortunately with the release of English Electric Part 1 I can definitively pick a side and say, yes, they are one of my favorite bands. While the album manages to be both better in almost every way, yet not quite as good as TUY, its addition solidifies Longdon-era Big Big Train as a great modern symphonic band.

Avoiding that last comparison to TUY for now, let's talk about what Big Big Train's overall sound is like. They are listed here as Crossover, but they are now obviously Symphonic. There is a strong balance between structured, melodic instrumental passages with powerfully sung ones. Instrumentally there is also a good balance between guitar and keyboard (as well as other eclectic instruments) which all take the lead about the same amount. While the music found within the songs is great, I think the most important thing about this band is that they are very concerned with crafting their albums as complete pieces, and English Electric is no different: you'll find repeated musical and lyrical themes, the songs are structured in a logical way in regards to mood and length, and the albums as a whole are kept to reasonable lengths. Another important aspect of Big Big Train's music is their lyrical content. Lately they've been interested in telling real world stories through their music, and EE takes this to the extreme with each song telling the tale of a noted Englishman, whether they were socially famous or just important to one of the band members.

So, how has this changed since the last album? Surprisingly a lot. TUY was critically and commercially Big Big Train's most successful album so it's very refreshing to see them treat their new material so differently. Most importantly, EE is sonically miles ahead of TUY. If I could find one complaint about the previous album it's that while all of the songs were great, there was a lack of diversity. Taking a look at how the first four songs start out, it's like they made a specific point to be as diverse as possible: a gloomy guitar line starts the first song, warm banjo strumming the second, pastoral flute and piano the third, and furious organ and guitar to start the fourth. The choice of instruments has also been expanded; as mentioned, the banjo makes an appearance, as well as multiple flute and violin passages. There is a return of the brass band from TUY as well as the addition of a few female vocal harmonies. Judging EE on these textural elements alone, it is expertly made and it would be challenging to find a contemporary album that could stand up to it. The quality of the production is also stellar, and even at the conclusion of the album where 1,000 things are going on you can hear everything perfectly.

The only area that I find TUY overshadowing this album is in the composition. English Electric is a more adventurous album in terms of song structures compared to its somewhat formulaic predecessor, and because of this, it is hit or miss. About half of the songs here are spectacular and the emotional climaxes, when they pay off, are really hard hitting and even surpass some on TUY. However, some of the songs in the middle section drag on a bit , some of the stylistic choices can be a little boring, and the only attempt to recreate a passage from the previous album (the ethereal brass coda of 'Victorian Brickwork') falls pretty flat in comparison. While the songs can be a little inconsistent, a really special note must be made for the closer, 'Hedgerow,' which contains one of the most beautiful musical moments I've ever heard which is only so effective because of the seven songs that come before it.

Even though the sum of the individual songs doesn't have the same success of the last album, English Electric Part One is still a great overall package. The wonderful thing about the album is that it is clear that the whole piece was the main focus and you're really rewarded for listening from start to finish. Furthermore I'd go so far as to call it one of my favorite arranged albums ever and I could listen to the instrumental diversity all day (and have in fact repeated the closer on multiple occasions). A year later it's clear that this is one of 2012's best, and comes in as a close second for Big Big Train's best album. Simply put, this is must-hear material and we can only hope that their next main album continues the band's masterful approach to composing albums as a whole.

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 English Electric: Full Power by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2013
4.89 | 84 ratings

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English Electric: Full Power
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by merid1en

5 stars Usually I find myself offended by bands releasing box sets of previously presented material for the sake of the almighty buck. However, in this case I find myself elated with "Full Power", as its not just a rerelease but a different engine. If you have ever watched the Godfather Parts 1 & 2, and then watched the Godfather Saga you will know what I mean. Not only adding the 4 new tracks, but reordering them to make sense of the new material has added value rather than repacked 2 excellent albums. The sum of the parts is greater than the 2 wholes.

Well done boys, well don

4.6 stars

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