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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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Merchants Of LightMerchants Of Light
English Electric Recordings 2018
$12.71
$13.00 (used)
GrimspoundGrimspound
Justforkicks 2017
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Swan HunterSwan Hunter
English Electric Recordings 2018
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FolkloreFolklore
British Electric Rec 2016
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English Electric: Expanded EditionEnglish Electric: Expanded Edition
Justforkicks 2016
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Second Brightest StarSecond Brightest Star
Justforkicks 2017
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Merry ChristmasMerry Christmas
IMPORTS 2017
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Make Some Noise EPMake Some Noise EP
Single
Imports 2013
$45.58
$24.11 (used)
English Boy WondersEnglish Boy Wonders
Ais 2011
$18.99
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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)

3.35 | 164 ratings
Goodbye To The Age Of Steam
1994
3.26 | 163 ratings
English Boy Wonders
1997
3.21 | 136 ratings
Bard
2002
3.67 | 224 ratings
Gathering Speed
2004
3.63 | 289 ratings
The Difference Machine
2007
4.17 | 698 ratings
The Underfall Yard
2009
4.17 | 971 ratings
English Electric (Part One)
2012
4.08 | 770 ratings
English Electric (Part Two)
2013
3.96 | 496 ratings
Folklore
2016
3.97 | 376 ratings
Grimspound
2017
3.80 | 207 ratings
The Second Brightest Star
2017

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

4.37 | 65 ratings
From Stone And Steel
2016
4.58 | 48 ratings
A Stone's Throw From the Line
2016
4.11 | 17 ratings
Merchants of Light
2018

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

4.44 | 33 ratings
Stone & Steel
2016

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

4.25 | 44 ratings
English Boy Wonders (2008)
2008
4.87 | 166 ratings
English Electric: Full Power
2013

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

2.32 | 38 ratings
From The River to the Sea
1992
3.14 | 21 ratings
The Infant Hercules
1993
4.03 | 185 ratings
Far Skies Deep Time
2010
4.05 | 77 ratings
Make Some Noise
2013
3.63 | 88 ratings
Wassail
2015
4.13 | 23 ratings
London Song
2017
2.33 | 15 ratings
Merry Christmas
2017
4.67 | 3 ratings
Swan Hunter
2018

BIG BIG TRAIN Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Merchants of Light by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Live, 2018
4.11 | 17 ratings

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Merchants of Light
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by fuxi
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Having admired Big Big Train for years, and having posted glowing reviews of some of their earlier albums, I wish I could shower this release with unreserved praise. It consists of two discs, and most of the second definitely contains top-level symphonic prog. Any contemporary band that treats its fans to a sequence which includes 'Judas Unrepentant', 'The Transit of Venus across the Sun', 'East Coast Racer', 'Telling the Bees' and 'Victorian Brickwork' (here performed in rapid succession) deserves our admiration. BBT's music may carry echoes of early-to-mid 1970s Yes, Genesis and Jethro Tull, and the band clearly build on a foundation of classic prog, but they come up with a wide range of sensitive, intelligent, impassioned, expertly arranged compositions, and I can't think of anyone working in the same genre today who achieves even half as much. The number of musicians taking part in the venture takes the breath away: for your money you're getting a highly likable lead vocalist, TWO lead guitarists, TWO expert keyboard players, a delightful violinist, a superb rhythm section and a magnificent brass quintet - all of whom expertly collaborate on a quasi chamber symphony level.

By the end of 'Victorian Brickwork' I felt like cheering, but I couldn't help thinking the jolly 'Wassail' (in spite of all its charm) is NOT a suitable album closer. Towards the end of this song, lead vocalist David Longdon repeatedly encourages the audience to sing along, but he never seems to succeed! In fact, there's little audience presence on the album (apart from some enthusiastic applause between the tracks) and it sounds as if all the music was taken straight from the band's monitors, or from whatever the players could hear through the earpieces they wore for the duration of the concerts. I must declare an interest: I was present at the first of these gigs, and I remember how dumbfounded I was when I saw some of the players were smiling blissfully throughout... You see, the things THEY heard were obviously wonderful, but a large part of the audience was subjected to a below par sound system. For most of the first half, all the guitars, keyboards and violin were drowned out by the pure noise of Nick D'Virgilio's drum kit, which needed no amplification. So if MERCHANTS OF LIGHT now comes across as a perfectly balanced recording (with D'Virgilio once again demonstrating he's one of the great prog drummers) this still raises the question if it's an accurate reflection of the music heard at Cadogan Hall.

I also find the first disc less convincing than the second. In spite of some first-rate soloing, neither 'London Plane' nor 'A Mead Hall in Winter' (the supposedly climactic mini-epic) are blessed with strong melodies, and in both cases David Longdon's over-earnest vocals soon irritate the listener. Nevertheless, when taken as a whole, MERCHANTS OF LIGHT must be called a remarkable achievement. I don't want to be a sourpuss and will grade it as 'an excellent addition to any prog music collection'.

 Merchants of Light by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Live, 2018
4.11 | 17 ratings

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Merchants of Light
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by The Jester

4 stars To those who are following the "modern" Progressive Rock scene, the name of Big Big Train should sound very familiar. It is one of those bands that have seen their reputation grow with each passing year. Despite that the band has been active since the early 90's, the truth is that they have become extremely popular among the Prog Rock followers during the last decade; mostly with the release of the albums English Electric Part 1 & Part 2 and Folklore.

Big Big Train is a band that gives live performances not so often. So, the 3 live gigs that they gave last year at Cadogan Hall, London, became sold-out immediately. And those gigs were followed by this live album, that has been recorded during these 3 concerts.

Merchants of Light can be found as double CD, including 16 tracks, and a very detailed and "rich" booklet. You also have the option of the 3-vinyl box set, or simply the digital version.

The 16 track set is pulled from the band's last 5 albums, Grimspound, Folklore, The Underfall Yard and English Electric I & II. (But 9 out of the 16 songs are from Folklore and Grimspound). (Also, I was surprised to see that they didn't include any song from The Second Brighter Star, which came out just a few months after Grimspound). The album opens with a string overture, before kicking into a rocking version of Folklore. Right after that, it's time for the wonderful 12-minute-long epic Brave Captain, which happens to be one of my favourites. Song after song the band becomes better and better, until we reach to Swan Hunter, which is one of the best songs this band ever recorded, and one of the album's highlights. David Longdon's voice sounds great, and the whole band gives a flawless performance. And when I say "the whole band" I mean 10 people on stage, including a horn session. And despite the difficulties, the mix and the production are simply excellent, and the album sounds perfect! Merchants of Light is not just a live album, it is an experience. It captures one of the world's best modern Progressive Rock bands at their very best. My Rating would be between 4.00 and 4.5 stars.

 The Underfall Yard by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Studio Album, 2009
4.17 | 698 ratings

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The Underfall Yard
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by TenYearsAfter

4 stars A very strong element in their music on this CD is guest drummer Nick D'Virgilio, what a touch of class and he also contributes on vocals in a very pleasant way on the highlight the concluding title track (featuring guest Francis Dunnery on guitar). Here we can enjoy Big Big Train in its full splendour, more than 20 minutes it's 24-carat symphonic rock delivering lots of captivating shifting moods and a very tasteful colouring with a wide range of instruments, from slide guitar, cello and choir-Mellotron to fiery electric guitar, Hammond organ and a slow synthesizer solo, this is Prog Heaven!

The other five compositions also contain a lot of variety and great atmospheres (often reminding me of 70-77 Genesis along some Yes and Pink Floyd). Remarkably is the varied use of brass - and woodwind instruments, from cornet and trombone to the French horn and tuba. But don't be afraid that these instruments dominate if you don't like cornet or tuba (like me) because due to Big Big Train their excellent compositional skills there is a fine balance with the other instruments like the guitar, keyboards and drums. This leads to very interesting combinations like the violin-Mellotron with a sitar or with a French horn and trombone (both in the opener Evening Star) or a choir-Mellotron as support of a cornet solo (in the long and alternating Victorian Brickwork). Finally I would like to mention that I am delighted about multi-instrumentalist David Longdon his vocals, often evoking Peter Gabriel to me. But that is also due to their use of the Mellotron, twanging guitars and flute, I have no problem that Big Big Train plays in the great tradition of 70-77 Genesis, not at all!

 English Boy Wonders by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Studio Album, 1997
3.26 | 163 ratings

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English Boy Wonders
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by The Crow
Prog Reviewer

3 stars This second effort of the British prog-rock project Big Big Train is a worthy follow up of the good debut Goodbye to the Age of Steam but sadly it does not reach the overall quality of this album.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I think they used lot of previous unreleased material and unused tunes from their past and the result is not so cohesive. They managed to avoid some mistakes like the use of dated keyboards, but not all the compositions are catchy enough to resist successive listening.

Bit Empty Skies starts the album in the right way with a funny riff and a dynamic guitar playing, which leads to the typical Big Big Train stanzas and refrain, beautiful and melancholic at the same time. Brushed Aside is more intimist and piano oriented, with very beautiful guitar solos and strings.

Albion Perfide has a rather strange beginning, but after that we can hear very good vocal melodies and a fine instrumental section which is sadly too long and repetitive. Pretty Mom is a rhythmic tune which acoustics and good vocals, nothing special.

A Giddy Thing has a frantic beginning with tons of keyboards and a good guitar riff, but it lacks some king of magic. Is not bad, but in tracks like these is where this album falls short in comparison of the previous one. Not like Out of It, one of the best tracks of the albums witch marvelous stanzas. One of the hits of English Boy Wonders in my opinion.

Cloudless and Starry and Still has a great bass line and good guitars for a tune which is more animated than the rest of the album. Just like Two Poets Meet , the most Neo-Prog track of the album and a fantastic guitar work which brings Steve Rothery to mind.

28 Years is another little acoustic song with precious lyrics and Reaching for John Rowland is just the opposite. A long and mellotron oriented song, with tons of melancholy and fine progressions. The bass gains protagonism in the instrumental section again, but at this point the albums starts to feel too long. And that's not so good.

Luckily The Shipping Forecast is also one of the best song of the album with a very good vocal interpretation from Martin Read, giving way to Right to the End of the World Tra-La, a forgettable pop song and and Fell Asleep, which has the proper mood to end this album, but not enough quality ending English Boy Wonder in a rather boring and sterile way.

Conclusion: Big Big Train failed to achieve the quality of their debut in this second album, which is too irregular and boring to be considered an excellent addition to any prog rock music collection. And that's funny because although the album sounds more like the modern Big Big Train than the previous one, is not comparable in terms of quality.

Nevertheless, if you are a fan of the band you will surely be delighted with the best parts and some truly enchanting moments that this album hides.

Best Tracks: Big Empty Skies, Out of It, Cloudless and Starry and Still and The Shipping Forecast.

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

 Grimspound by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.97 | 376 ratings

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Grimspound
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by wiz_d_kidd

2 stars Shortly after Grimspound came out, Big Big Train seemed to be the talk of the town. I couldn't click on a prog website without stumbling across news or raving reviews. A friend of mine recommended them, so I took a listen. Sorry to say, I just don't get what all the hype is about.

Overall, this album is not bad. In fact, it is just fine. It just fails to provide (me) with anything that is especially interesting, captivating, or moving. Let's look at some different aspects:

Aside from one instrumental piece, all of the tracks seem to share the same basic construction... play some introductory music, stop playing music and start singing, stop singing and start playing music, repeat several times. Then in the middle of the track, shift gears into a completely different mood.

I'm not a big fan of the either/or trade-off between groovy music and vocals. I like both at the same time. I find it more enjoyable when the band plays and the vocalist sings together, as one entity, not two separate entities trading time in the spotlight.

I'm also not a big fan of abrupt changes in mood, as if a new track has started. It really ruins the mental and emotional picture I established earlier in the song. It's kind of like a novel changing from a murder mystery to sci-fi fantasy half way through. It almost never makes sense.

So what about the quality of the vocals? I find them adequately average. They are pleasant enough, with no unnecessary melismatic runs or annoying note-seeking glides, but they are also of limited dynamic and spectral range. No faults or annoying habits, but nothing to write glowing reviews about, either. However, my ears perked up with interest when the female vocals started, and again when several vocalists harmonized together, but those instances were too few and far between.

And what of the music? There were plenty of musical interludes, and every so often a synth, or mellotron, or Hammond organ would chime in, but not for very long. There was occasional guitar presence, and lots of violin (which I love in prog music), but it was all very restrained, anti-climactic, and non-captivating. And despite enjoying Nick D'Virgilio in other settings, his drumming was constrained to basic background time-keeping. It was almost as if the band were trying their best to purposely restrain themselves. I kept wishing they would unshackle themselves and just let loose. I think they have the chops to do so, and the fact that they didn't (for whatever reason) was disappointing.

Overall, I would say that the album reminded me of a painting of a bowl of fruit on a table. Adequately executed, but lacking anything intriguing, interesting, stimulating, thought provoking, emotional, or adventurous. Worth a look, but nothing to dwell on. And while the artist(s) seemed to have the talent to paint a much more interesting picture, they failed to do so on this one. Two and a half stars.

 Merry Christmas by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2017
2.33 | 15 ratings

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Merry Christmas
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by MaskedCow

1 stars The nadir of the arc of a band which hit the height of their powers with The Underfall Yard, looked they might be able to sustain their peak with English Electric One and Two, then proceeded to take a stomach churning nosedive into near caricature with the heinous Make Some Noise, nauseating Wassail, and ill advised attempt at Prog Folk alchemy which only served to fuse the worst aspects of both genres into an ungainly mess. This unfortunate effort takes the cod swagger of yuletide Slade and crossbreeds it with Greg Lake's outtakes, resulting in an abomination which would surely see the band miming with Dave Lee Travis in the background, should Top of the Pops still be on the box on Christmas Day.
 The Second Brightest Star by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.80 | 207 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
3.97 | 376 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 | 207 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
3.97 | 376 ratings

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Grimspound
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

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.

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

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