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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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FolkloreFolklore
Import
Imports 2016
Audio CD$19.99
English Electric: Full PowerEnglish Electric: Full Power
CD Baby 2013
Audio CD$16.63
$13.47 (used)
Underfall YardUnderfall Yard
Import
Ais 2009
Audio CD$15.38
$9.14 (used)
WassailWassail
Import
Imports 2015
Audio CD$8.18
$46.00 (used)
Difference MachineDifference Machine
Import · Remastered
Ais 2011
Audio CD$16.99
$13.31 (used)
English Electric Part OneEnglish Electric Part One
Import
Ais 2012
Audio CD$32.21
$21.87 (used)
Far Skies Deep TimeFar Skies Deep Time
EP · Import
Ais 2010
Audio CD$17.36
$31.51 (used)
Goodbye to the Age of SteamGoodbye to the Age of Steam
Import
Ais 2011
Audio CD$14.96
$21.40 (used)
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Big Big Train The Underfall Yard 2010 CD RUSSIAN VERSION MALS 355 USD $19.94 Buy It Now 3 days
English Electric, Pt. 2 by Big Big Train (CD,2013, G.E.P. Records) D'Virgilio USD $5.99 [0 bids]
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Make Some Noise Big Big Train Audio CD USD $21.47 Buy It Now 5 days
BIG BIG TRAIN - Wassail Ep SEALED JUNE 2015 Nick D'Virgilio TOP PROG ! USD $14.36 Buy It Now 6 days
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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)

3.41 | 122 ratings
Goodbye To The Age Of Steam
1994
3.31 | 124 ratings
English Boy Wonders
1997
3.21 | 98 ratings
Bard
2002
3.67 | 175 ratings
Gathering Speed
2004
3.62 | 237 ratings
The Difference Machine
2007
4.17 | 597 ratings
The Underfall Yard
2009
4.20 | 832 ratings
English Electric (Part One)
2012
4.13 | 648 ratings
English Electric (Part Two)
2013
4.50 | 12 ratings
Folklore
2016

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

4.88 | 16 ratings
From Stone And Steel
2016

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

4.29 | 9 ratings
Stone & Steel
2016

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

4.23 | 40 ratings
English Boy Wonders (2008)
2008
4.90 | 119 ratings
English Electric: Full Power
2013

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

2.42 | 29 ratings
From The River to the Sea
1992
3.18 | 17 ratings
The Infant Hercules
1993
4.02 | 163 ratings
Far Skies Deep Time
2010
4.26 | 53 ratings
Make Some Noise
2013
3.64 | 58 ratings
Wassail
2015

BIG BIG TRAIN Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Stone & Steel by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover DVD/Video, 2016
4.29 | 9 ratings

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Stone & Steel
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by fuxi
Prog Reviewer

4 stars I'm breaking my (self-imposed) silence for the first time in more than three years because I really believe this generously filled blu-ray is something special.

Ever since the release of THE UNDERFALL YARD I've been convinced Big Big Train are the best new prog band to emerge from England since the mid-1970s. When I heard BBT were playing a couple of concerts in London in the summer of 2015, I was keen to attend, but by that time, unfortunately, the gigs had already sold out.

Well, here at last is our chance to enjoy four extended tracks from those London gigs, preceded by an even more extensive set of studio rehearsals featuring the strongest tunes from THE UNDERFALL YARD and ENGLISH ELECTRIC. Strangely enough, the line-up that originally recorded those albums never seem to have met until after the albums were released. Most of their performances were "phoned in", so to speak - which may seem a marvel, as THE UNDERFALL YARD in particular sounds quite organic. So the question was if these musicians could make their compositions come alive when finally meeting face to face. And the good news is they tried to achieve this by using an 'extended edition' of the band, featuring multi-instrumentalist and singer Rikard Sjöblom as well as violinist (and singer) Rachel Hall. (Both musicians have since become permanent BBT members and I look forward to future releases by this incarnation of the band.)

I'm glad to announce the band's effort has really paid off. Each of the Real World Studios performances included must have gone through intensive rehearsals, only to be filmed when the band felt they had really nailed the tune. Time and time again you can read from their faces how thrilled they are actually to be performing pieces such as 'Master James of St George' and 'Victorian Brickwork'. At first sight, Big Big Train may not come across as the world's most magnetic live performers. Apart from lead vocalist David Longdon hardly anyone ever seems to move about on stage, and some viewers may be reminded of the earnestness of Steve Hackett or Tony Banks back in the day when 'The Musical Box' got its first airing... But such things hardly matter, since all the playing is masterful, great warmth speaks from the music, and the performers also clearly enjoy singing in unison.

All in all, I don't see a great difference in mood between the Real World Studios performances and the London King's Place material. If I have a gripe, it's that after a few hours this blu-ray starts to sound a little too solemn, and you wish the band had incorporated more up-tempo tunes such as 'Judas Unrepentant' or 'Wassail'. Nevertheless I'll venture to declare that, for all lovers of British prog, this is a release of historic significance! When I bought my own copy, I simply longed to watch Dave Gregory play the magnificent solos that are his trademark, and I was curious to see Greg Spawton and David Longdon in action, as they are BBT's main composers. I have now got to know all these artists a little better, and furthermore I greatly enjoyed breathtaking performances by the likes of Rikard Sjöblom, Nick D'Virgilio and Rachel Hall. So long live Big Big Train - whether they finally decide to embark on a proper World Tour or not!

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 From Stone And Steel by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Live, 2016
4.88 | 16 ratings

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From Stone And Steel
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by Spook76

5 stars Big Big Train is back. After the disappointment of 'Wassail', 'From Stone and Steel' is a breathtaking "new" album by Big Big Train ("BBT"). I say new because this is not a live album in the traditional sense but represents all the current members together in the studio playing some of the greatest songs in the BBT catalog. This is like a remaster coupled with a bit of reimagining the studio originals. Great songs like "Victorian Brickwork" and "The Underfall Yard" get a facelift while the production values are the best of BBT's history when listening in high resolution 96/24. Of particular note, Nick D'Virgilio's percussion has never sounded better on a BBT album.

'From Stone and Steel' also has a wonderful dynamic lacking in most albums today because instead of separate tracts recorded at different times and even different studios all the members of BBT (and guest musicians) were together to record these songs. While some may quibble about the song selection, I think this a must for any BBT fan or anyone looking to be introduced to this wonderful pastoral English progressive band.

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 Wassail by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2015
3.64 | 58 ratings

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Wassail
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by Tarcisio Moura
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Just a small teaser from this fantastic modern symphonic band. Wassail proves once again that those Englishmen are in great shape both as a performing band and, specially, as songwriters. There is just three new songs plus a live version of Master James of St George, but what they produced here in just 25 minutes is once again - quality wise, of course - much more than what I´ve heard in 80 minutes CDs from most of other prog acts lately. Their combination of memorable melodies, complex arrangements and emotional delivering reminds me of a time when symphonic prog also meant great songs. Although hardly a retro band, BBT does own a great deal to the masters of the 70´s.

All tracks are great, but my favorite is surely Lost Rivers of London, a fine composition that has all the elements I like in this genre (elaborated arrangement, inspired solos, mood and tempo changes and a poignant melody line) all wrapped up in just 6 minutes (sometimes less is more)! I´m really looking forward to listen to their next full CD. The recording quality is top notch - even the live track is so well played it´s hard to notice that is not a studio version.

If you don´t know this band, this is a good starting point. If you do, then it is another great addition to your collection. Highly recommended!

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 English Electric: Full Power by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2013
4.90 | 119 ratings

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English Electric: Full Power
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by Quinino
Collaborator Errors & Omissions Team

5 stars My ALL-TIME Greatest #12

When inspiration is mixed together with talent the result, everybody knows, is the crystallization in the form of precious stones of different shapes and colors that shine even in total darkness irradiating waves of joy that cause extreme pleasure eternally.

Global Appraisal

For some years the band was already recording rather pleasurable albums but come 2012 they outdone themselves releasing the first volume of what would later become this extended collection of songs of the highest order.
I underline the mention of "songs" in the sense of little stories expressed in a lyrical/musical identity readily recognizable on its distinct personality and meaning.
I must say I feel impotent to express on words the overwhelming richness of detailed arrangements, vocal harmonies, varied instrumentations (see credits), thoughtful lyrics, everything being so carefully and pleasurably done exuding quality without fail.

Goodies

19 precious stones - 19 no less.

Note: Much preferable to get this "Full Power" as it contains the total of vol. I & II plus 4 extra songs just as good.

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 Wassail by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2015
3.64 | 58 ratings

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Wassail
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by gbjones

4 stars I find that some of BBT's newer stuff is really fantastic, this one included (although it's only 4 songs). I'm not sure why some people are being hard on this disc and giving it low ratings. Three of the songs are new - Wassail, Lost Rivers of London, and Mudlarks (an instrumental), are all excellent. The only criticism I have is that I don't like Master James of St George, not one bit, and I'm not sure why they chose to make a big deal out of this track (I'll listen to that song again once more in case I missed a guitar solo or something). 4 and a half stars.

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 Wassail by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2015
3.64 | 58 ratings

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Wassail
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by Matti
Collaborator Neo-Prog Team

3 stars The star of this 25-year old British, nowadays 8-piece band has grown brighter in the Prog sky in recent years, but sadly I haven't yet listened to any of their albums. Nevertheless this 4-track EP (25 minutes in length) is probably a good introduction to the band's strengths. And one can spot them immediately: a full-blooded sound that leaves enough room for the acoustic folk touch also; powerful vocal harmonies; and tight, effective songs.

At least within this narrow sampling (three new songs unless the live-in-studio recorded 'Master James of St. George' isn't new as well), each one has their individual hooks. On the title track, about the Medieval tradition of banishing the evil spirits away before cider-making, the folk flavour comes out beautifully and the multi-vocal repetition of the word "wassail" is gorgeous rather than irritating. Perhaps my favourite is the near-instrumental 'Mudlarks' that has a vintage prog spirit equivalent to e.g. STEVE HACKETT's classics. In fact the lush info sheet tells that their preceding EP features a version of Hackett's 'Spectral Mornings'.

I'm not necessarily a fan of the somewhat stuffy main vocals of David Longdon, and an EP is always just an EP, but an album's worth of as strong material as this would surely receive four stars from me. I really need to get a closer look at this band.

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 English Electric (Part One) by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Studio Album, 2012
4.20 | 832 ratings

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English Electric (Part One)
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by BillyWhizz

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

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

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

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

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

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 Wassail by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2015
3.64 | 58 ratings

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Wassail
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by someone_else

4 stars A cider with a peculiar flavour

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 Wassail by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2015
3.64 | 58 ratings

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Wassail
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by snelling

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

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 Wassail by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2015
3.64 | 58 ratings

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Wassail
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by MaskedCow

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

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