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Big Big Train - The Underfall Yard CD (album) cover


Big Big Train


Crossover Prog

4.17 | 786 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars Progressive Rock emerged in the '70s as rock artists decided to go beyond the boundaries of what rock was doing at the time. It earned the name, "progressive", for it was "progressing" rock. It was expanding the boundaries of what had been done before.

But for each discovery along the way, what if someone liked it? Should that discovery never be revisited, simply because to revisit an already-existing idea would be ... NOT progressive? If you had asked the bands of the '70s about this, they might have just shaken their head and wondered what you were talking about, because back then "progressive rock" wasn't yet a term. They were just making music. If they happened to stumble upon something good, something that connected with their audience, they wouldn't complain about that idea being expanded upon.

One of the biggest and most imitated bands of the '70s went by the name of Genesis. Their influence can be heard everywhere in modern day prog, especially in the Neo-Prog and Symphonic Prog genres. IQ and The Watch aren't the only place where you will hear strong Genesis influences.

Big Big Train have, on this album, taken bits and pieces of the sound that Genesis discovered and incorporated them into their own sound. I have seen people say that this album is what Genesis might sound like if Hacket had never left , and I can understand why. But what this album represents to me is further exploration of the musical landscape that was unearthed in the '70s and made famous by Gabriel and the boys.

For sure, the short a capella intro in Evening Star would likely never have occurred in a Genesis album. And there is something about the energy that the band exudes that is different than the energy of Genesis. My feelings in this terms are that Genesis are more pastoral - it evokes ideas of calm hills with sheep bleating and green grass. Big Big Train make me imagine these same hills 100 years later, after the industrial revolution hit. This is the best way I can think to describe the difference in the feeling I get from each band.

The album really picks up for me with the second track, Master James of St. George. I would even go so far as to say that this track is my favorite off of the album. The vocal interplay, the repeated but catchy main chorus, and the energy of the instruments all build together to make "Master James, James, James of St. George" seem like he had quite an epic life with some late tragedy.

Victorian Brickwork recalls early Genesis more than the previous tracks have to this point. It makes me think that this is what it might have sounded like it Phil Collins and Anthony Philips had been in the band at the same time. It starts more subdued, with acoustic guitars and softer singing. It does grow more up beat musically once the electric guitar enters, and the singing grows more powerful, but the song maintains the same lyrical content, a song that seems to be about the end of an era (in fact, that's the feeling I get from the whole album, and it has a feel of melancholy about it as a result). The track continues to trade between the lower intensity and higher intensity quite nicely.

Last Train and Winchester Diver are both similar to Victorian Brickwork, songs that evoke the feeling of an ending with alternations between the harder rocking and softer parts, and each is quite nice in it's own way. Winchester Diver in particular, builds up quite nicely at the end and becomes quite intense.

That brings us to the epic closing title track, "The Underfall Yard", which one would presume takes it's name from the real underfall yard in Bristol (since Big Big Train are British). Going back to our Genesis comparison, I would say that this epic does not quite match Genesis' Supper's Ready in quality and epic-ness. But where Supper's Ready was full of quirky Gabriel-isms, the concept of The Underfall Yard is a bit more concrete. Like the rest of the album, the song continues the theme of time passing and leaving era's behind. And yet, I find that I don't have much else to say about the song - it pretty much sounds like a more epic version of the three before it, which is in no way a bad thing. It has some excellent moments and really impassioned vocals as well. I think my favorite guitar parts from the album are on this track as well.

So to summarise - Big Big Train are definitely further exploring the musical field made famous by Genesis in the '70s, but this is a style of music that will probably always be popular with the prog audience.

TheGazzardian | 3/5 |


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