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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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Grand TourGrand Tour
English Electric Rec 2019
$10.87
$14.89 (used)
FolkloreFolklore
British Electric Rec 2016
$9.68
$13.53 (used)
English Electric: Expanded EditionEnglish Electric: Expanded Edition
Justforkicks 2016
$11.03
$16.15 (used)
Underfall YardUnderfall Yard
Ais 2009
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GrimspoundGrimspound
Justforkicks 2017
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Stone's Throw From The LineStone's Throw From The Line
Justforkicks 2016
$13.74
$17.93 (used)
Merchants Of LightMerchants Of Light
English Electric Recordings 2018
$12.69
$11.99 (used)
Second Brightest StarSecond Brightest Star
Justforkicks 2017
$9.68
$8.41 (used)
Difference MachineDifference Machine
Remastered
Ais 2011
$10.48
$9.48 (used)
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BIG BIG TRAIN discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

BIG BIG TRAIN top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.35 | 168 ratings
Goodbye To The Age Of Steam
1994
3.17 | 167 ratings
English Boy Wonders
1997
3.13 | 140 ratings
Bard
2002
3.64 | 230 ratings
Gathering Speed
2004
3.63 | 297 ratings
The Difference Machine
2007
4.17 | 723 ratings
The Underfall Yard
2009
4.17 | 1003 ratings
English Electric (Part One)
2012
4.09 | 795 ratings
English Electric (Part Two)
2013
3.98 | 531 ratings
Folklore
2016
3.99 | 442 ratings
Grimspound
2017
3.75 | 229 ratings
The Second Brightest Star
2017
4.22 | 166 ratings
Grand Tour
2019

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

4.38 | 69 ratings
From Stone And Steel
2016
4.54 | 58 ratings
A Stone's Throw From the Line
2016
4.25 | 39 ratings
Merchants of Light
2018

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

4.60 | 35 ratings
Stone & Steel
2016

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

4.20 | 46 ratings
English Boy Wonders (2008)
2008
4.86 | 176 ratings
English Electric: Full Power
2013

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

2.26 | 43 ratings
From The River to the Sea
1992
3.08 | 24 ratings
The Infant Hercules
1993
4.03 | 192 ratings
Far Skies Deep Time
2010
4.05 | 83 ratings
Make Some Noise
2013
3.63 | 97 ratings
Wassail
2015
4.15 | 27 ratings
London Song
2017
2.66 | 23 ratings
Merry Christmas
2017
3.57 | 12 ratings
Swan Hunter
2018

BIG BIG TRAIN Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Grand Tour by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Studio Album, 2019
4.22 | 166 ratings

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Grand Tour
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by tempest_77

5 stars Grand Tour is the most recent release from England's most English prog band, though they've gone full European on this record. This is to say, the lyrical focus of the record is no longer on England; the band goes on a 'Grand Tour', so to speak, of the rest of Europe. It's an excellent record, and some of their best work in years.

The album starts off with the brief but interesting "Novum Organum", before launching into the song "Alive". It's a great, upbeat track with a lot of excellent synthesizers and a excellent crossover prog sound. It's not very similar to most of the rest of their work, but it's a great opening statement for the album. "The Florentine" is a longer song, with the band's usual folk influence coming back to the forefront. The track has some great complexity, with some great synth work as well, and some awesome lead guitar towards the end of song. This track shows us that despite exploring some new sounds, they can still do what they're known for, and what they do best: great, complex folk-infused English prog.

"Roman Stone" is the first multi-part suite on the album. It starts off with a very typical Big Big Train section, led by acoustic guitar, but it gets interesting after this section, with a great brief piano and trumpet part. After another, longer, acoustic led section, the song really starts to pick up, with more brass, along with some excellent drumming in a great instrumental middle section. This song, along with "The Florentine", are two key tracks in demonstrating the lyrical focus of the album. "Pantheon" is an instrumental that starts out with strings and a brass section. Another track with great synthesizers, it really gives the band a chance to show off their chops, not that they aren't very well fleshed out on the rest of the album. "Theodora in Green and Gold" isn't the strongest track off of the album. It's a little formulaic, and sounds like it could easily be something from a previous album. Still, it's a good song, and I won't give it more flack than it deserves.

"Ariel" is our second multi-part suite, and starts off with some water sounds and an epic choral arrangement. The beginning is very dramatic and it works very well. After a piano-driven section, the song finally opens up with an organ swell about 3 and a half minutes in. The track is marked by great vocal harmonies and excellent piano and drum work. It's a constantly shifting piece, and it never gets boring. Especially following the weaker "Theodora", it's maybe the strongest track on the album. While I can't tell exactly what the song is about, there is a very strong sense of story throughout the song about a storm, and I enjoy the lyrical continuity throughout the continuous musical changes. "Voyager" directly follows "Ariel", and unlike the Alan Parsons Project song of the same name, this is another sprawling fourteen-minute multi-part suite. It starts off with a rather anthemic sound, and seems to have yet another aquatic themed story, though this time about the ocean rather than about a storm. There's a fair amount of brass throughout the beginning of the song, which is one of the things I noticed about this album in addition to the synthesizers; there's more brass, which I think works really well. Even at this point in the album, having been through nearly 70 minutes of material, I still didn't get tired of the sound, which just goes to show how interesting the band manages to keep their songs. There's a really lovely string-driven section in this song right before the song picks up again which I thoroughly enjoyed. It's the beginning of a fairly lengthy instrumental section in the song that works very well. The instrumental sections on this album are a bit sparse but when they're there, they really work. The song has a fairly epic ending with some outstanding drum work, before bringing it back down and segueing into the closing track "Homesong". A fairly straight-forward acoustic and piano driven track with some decent complexity, it's nothing special, and certainly isn't one of the band's stronger album closers (see "Hedgerow", "Curator of Butterflies", or of course "The Underfall Yard"). However, it's still a solid track, and brings the lyrical trajectory of the album to a close. After the very aptly title "Voyager", and its closing section "Homecoming", "Homesong" brings it back to England, with Longdon singing the refrain "we are home now, we are home now".

All in all, Grand Tour is not the greatest Big Big Train album, nor is it the second greatest Big Big Train album, but it certainly a very strong album, with great synthesizer and brass usage, and some really excellent drum work across the whole album. 9/10.

 Grand Tour by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Studio Album, 2019
4.22 | 166 ratings

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Grand Tour
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by TenYearsAfter

4 stars UPDATE INTERESTING NEW PROG

This highly acclaimed UK prog band is from the early Nineties, this is already its 12th studio-album, after the previous The Second Brightest Star from 2017, and the live album Merchants Of Light in 2018.

You can divide the nine compositions in five shorter tracks (between 2 and 7 minutes) and four epic compositions (between (8 and 15 minutes). First the shorter ones.

Like the very short opener Novum Organum, atmospheric with soaring keyboards, tender piano and wonderful, very emotional vocals, with strong hints from Peter Gabriel (the singer has also that hoarse timbre, adding an extra emotional dimension to the music).

The next song Alive is totally different, after a short Mellotron intro follows a catchy beat with a cheerful atmosphere, close to Neo-Prog, with delicate work on guitar and keyboards (like a Tony Banks inspired synthesizer solo), topped with dynamic drums and again wonderful Peter Gabriel-like vocals, now with a powerful voice.

The other short songs deliver a lot of fine musical ideas and lush instrumentation. A catchy beat, lots of brass, Eighties King Crimson guitar sound and a exciting bombastic finale in Panthenon, impressive and majestic, like the ancient Roman building the Pantheon. The ballad Theodora In Green And Gold starts also contains Neo-Prog and melodic rock elemens with a catchy beat, strong vocals, halfway an accellaration with sensitive electric guitar and finally dreamy with beautiful piano play. And the final track Homesong alternates between mellow and up-tempo with melancholical violin, fluent piano runs, powerful electric guitar, pleasant Hammond waves and strong vocals.

Now the four long compositions, these sound very melodic and harmonic, with cascades of flowing changing climates and a wide range of instruments, topped with excellent vocals, often with strong emotional undertones. And these epics also contain 76-77 Genesis inspired sumptuous eruptions and finales, featuring the distinctive Moog Taurus bass pedals, majestic Mellotron drops and moving guitar leads, goose bumps, this is top notch symphonic rock!

Like The Florentine that ranges from dreamy with piano to folky with acoustic guitar and mandolin and bombastic with bass pedals, flashy synthesizer runs and awesome Mellotron choirs, topped with often tender vocals.

The varied and dynamic Roman Stone is layered with a wide range of instruments: violin, piano, trombone, flute, Mellotron, acoustic - and electric guitar, and again we can enjoy ver pleasant Peter Gabriel-like vocals.

Ariel is based upon Shakespeare his work The Tempest and delivers lots of tension, due to the huge contrasts in the changing atmospheres, and a wonderful colouring with violin and guitar (like use of wah wah pedal). In the final part a very compelling build-up with intense Mellotron choirs, propulsive drum beats, bass pedals and powerful, ver emotional vocals, in the end a mellow part with tender violin, piano and vocals, wow!

Finally Voyager, often with strong 76-77 Genesis hints, but also lots of brass and woodwind (trumpet, French horn, cornet), this adds a special flavour to the music. In the bombastic eruptions we can enjoy flashy synthesizer flights, a harder-edged guitar solo, powerful Hammond, moving guitar, bass pedals and emotional vocals. Again Big Big Train succeeds to generate a lot of excitement, again Big Big Train delivers many interesting musical ideas, and again this is topped with David Longdon his excellent voice, what a strong bonus on this album!

This review was recently published on the Dutch prog website Background Magazine, in a slightly different version.

 Grand Tour by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Studio Album, 2019
4.22 | 166 ratings

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Grand Tour
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by TCat
Collaborator Eclectic Team

4 stars The band "Big Big Train" has been around for quite a while, has gone through a lot of line-ups, and is quite well known world wide as one of the most famous crossover prog band around. Greg Spawton (bass, guitars, keyboards) and Andy Poole were the co-founders of the band that started (officially) in 1990. Both members would remain with the band until 2018, when Andy departed from the group, leaving Spawton the only original member remaining.

In May of 2019, the band released their 12th full length album called "Grand Tour". This album consists of all original music, where their previous album contained re-worked songs from previous albums. Even though the title "Grand Tour" seems to suggest a live album, it is not. There are 9 tracks on this album, 3 of which are multi-part suites, and the total run time is just over 74 minutes, so it's jam packed with music. The line up for this album consists of Greg Spawton (the only original member as mentioned before) on bass, bass pedals, acoustic guitar and backing vocals; David Longdon (a member since 2009) on lead vocals, flute, additional keyboards, mandolin, and guitars; Dave Gregory (joined in 2009) on guitars; Rikard Sjoblom (joined in 2015) on keyboards, guitars, accordion and backing vocals; Danny Manners (joined in 2012) on keyboards and double bass; Rachel Hall (since 2015) on violin, viola, cello, and vocals; and Nick DVirgillo (since 2009) on drums, percussion and backing vocals. The concept of the album is explained in a thick booklet that comes with the album.

"Novum Organum" starts the album off with a short introductory track. Tonal percussion establishes a moderate pattern with piano and Gabriel-like vocals. The track builds in passion and intensity as other instruments are added in. "Alive" is much more upbeat as synths and keyboards bring in the full band. This track has a much more positive attitude with a basic rhythm and nice harmonization on the chorus with the vocals. The instrumental break approaches a more progressive feel mostly led by guitars and layers of keyboards. "The Florentine" is the first of the longer tracks at 8 minutes. The track centers around Leonardo DaVinci. It begins rather simply with acoustic guitar, mandolin and harmonized vocals. The track has a slightly more complex sound and harmonies build as more voices are added. On the first instrumental interlude, we get a violin that leads the way into a rhythmic change and the continues until the voices come back in. The overall sound of the track remains open and spacious, the emphasis on the layered vocals. The Moog takes over for a cheery solo and then gives up the spotlight to the guitar. The sound becomes symphonic as it continues with choral effects and the apex of a crescendo, then it descends from its climax and slows down quite a bit until the ending.

"Roman Stone" is the first multi-part suite (5 sections) and lasts over 13 minutes. A soft guitar and viola bring in the vocals, again sounding very much like Peter Gabriel, but doing it very convincingly. The subject of this track deals with the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. A moderately slow rhythm gives into a somewhat stately sound and a non-traditional song structure, cementing BBT's reputation of being a true Neo-prog style band. To chronicle the entire early Roman history is quite an undertaking for a 13 minute track, but the lyrics are quite rich and things don't really get that cliché and it stays quite believable throughout. Solo and harmonized vocals interact with each other, the song builds beautifully as it reaches the middle, then it quiets as a brass section comes in (where did that come from?). Soon flutes are also added with some piano flourishes, and the individual instruments build in harmonic lines as the drums get more frantic giving us a very nice orchestral feeling. After this, things slow down with a simple viola and voice again, as in the beginning as the vocalist contemplates the fall. This long track is as epic as you expect it to be, with a satisfying ending that ties up the entire track.

The next track "Pantheon" is an instrumental composed by Nick D'Virgilio and his first solo composition for Big Big Train. The combination of strings and brass backed by synths signals that this is going to be good. The drums come in and the brass carries the melody as guitar and synths back things up. After playing the theme, things start getting more complex as the flute come in copying the synth, violin then plays a solo with guitars increasing intensity. All of these instruments work together surprisingly well with a slightly atonal sound just to keep things a bit unsettling, but not overbearingly so. It's quite a nice instrumental with a lot of dynamic, start/stop passages and interesting melodies. "Theodora in Green and Gold" is a more basic song and is based on a mosaic of the Empress. It's a piano-led ballad style, but with an interesting vocal melody. Some of the lead vocals are done by D'Virgilio, hence the differences in vocal timbre in the middle part of the song.

The 2nd multi-part suite "Ariel" comes next. This track has 8 sections to it and lasts over 14 minutes. It's story combines both fact and fiction. The beginning is a simple synth and vocals, solo and harmonized. The sound is quite mournful and sparse. Deep guitars join in supporting the vocal melody with deep notes. A piano and sparse effects begin and more vocals bring in the next section and solo and harmonized vocals work interchangeably. The song moves to a more stately attitude as drums join in. The track continues to develop and build slowly backed by some lovely violin and piano passages. Suddenly, a solid hook is developed with vocals backed by solid guitar. Things get more epic as more string and guitars get the blood boiling, and then it all mellows out again and vocals establish a new melody. The emotional singing and dramatic feel of the track should help this one go down as a favorite in the BBT catalogue. The melody does not follow any real typical structure, but tell it's story quite effectively with a more complex sound. The music builds, thunder effects and a heavy symphonic feel brought on by synths and guitar build everything back up again to quite a lovely peak before it all returns to the more minimal feel of the beginning, returning to the initial melody.

After an epic track like this, what else can you do but follow it up with another epic 14 minute 7-part suite? "Voyager" takes the similar named space vehicle as it's subject. This one begins almost immediately with a full band sound, but at a moderate tempo. It again utilizes solo and harmonized vocals to tell the story, this time, however, backed by brass and the full core band. The vocals are quite emotional and expansive, the brass and cello give it a somewhat lonely and pensive feel when the percussion stops for a while. Drums eventually come back in hesitantly as the violin plays and brings in more vocals. Just before 7 minutes, things become very epic and symphonic as layers of instruments turn this into an orchestral style, becoming very dynamic and then slipping into a suddenly progressive beat and crazy synths and guitars build this into quite a production. Tempos, meters and styles change, and then back off a bit as more vocals come in. By the closing section, things have reached another apex as emotional vocals and instrumental passages build to a climax and then cool off with a piano- led ending.

The last track here is "Homecoming" and starts soft and pensive, like the beginning track, that then suddenly slips into a jazzy style with choppy piano chords and a guitar and violin building up excitement for an amazing and lovely finale. The brass comes back in, the guitars have their last say, and everything comes to a nice end.

This album should go down as one of the band's best. The orchestration is excellent, the vocals are top-notch and emotionally charged, the music is mostly complex and every musician here gets many chances to shine throughout the album. The feel of the album is somewhere between Neo-prog and Symphonic prog, most of the tracks support the progressive claim that the band has as being one of the most well-known and capable bands in progressive music these days, and they prove that quite well in this album. Even with the many changes that the band has experienced, the current line-up is made up of excellent musicians and they sound as if they have been playing together from the beginning. The subjects here are quite epic, and it might seem a little over-ambitious, but the actual theme of the album is rooted in the journey of mankind, so you should expect some heavy subject matter here, however the band handles it all well and somehow stays away from being cliché and are able to stand up to the subject material. This is not only an album that the band's fans and progressive fans should love, but should win over new fans when they put some time into it. Overall, it almost reaches 5 star status, and after more listening, it might come to that, but as far as an early review for the album goes, I can easily say that it is a strong 4 star album, but it is one that I will come back to for reconsideration often.

 Grand Tour by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Studio Album, 2019
4.22 | 166 ratings

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Grand Tour
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by santisoux

5 stars Big Big Train - Grand Tour

An album, the great ones, usually deliver us a sense of continuity, a sense of form that leads to a narrative of sorts, may it be conceptual and abstract (The Dark Side of the Moon) or something thematically more coherent alongside a story (take Tommy, The lamb, Snow, etc.) There are other albums that despite being conceptual deliver a series of individual pieces that connect one with the other and forming a sense of unity, which still, carries the individual spirit of each element (The Raven that refused to sing). This is that kind of album. And album which formally, tonally and in the general idea of the music itself takes us back to the days of English Electric? The opening is a very airy piece, which serves as an introduction to the "single" of the album, it's a promising start. Then it gradually grows in complexity and the music starts to densify, lyrically and musically. In "Roman Stone" is where I think things started to really grow on me, the deliverance of the vocal harmonies and the textures the entire track managed to provide make it one of my favorite songs in the entire BBT catalogue. There is a really beautiful moment where all instruments build up this momentum that continues on and on until the entire theme deconstructs itself, introducing back the vocals. It took me to another site of far from my desk (where I'm listening). The next piece is an instrumental, that allows Mr. D'Virgilio to do what he couldn`t provide in Spock`s Beard, which is a multilayered piece full of intricate elements but generally coherent and not full of the "quirkiness" of The Beard past instrumentals. It connects to another piece where he has involvement, a regular, typical, ballad of Big Big Train (I still prefer Upton Heath). The next two pieces are suites. Ariel, being a more upbeat one, hard at times, but generally so full of energy and emotive moments it's also (in my opinion) one of the highlights of the album. The suite starts as a sort of hymn took me to the shores of the last song of English Electric II, but then, this distorted guitar enters and brings another element of history. It's so full of comings and goings that the entire piece is a very enjoyable ride. Voyager starts with piano and the vocals of Longdon cruising across the universe, it's a perfect way to start a long piece of music. The tempo at around 4 minutes really gets you into the suite; all instruments combine to a beautiful moment of serenity? the story of life comes around. The violin then starts to rebuild everything back again in a typicall environment the band is used to produce, coming close to any climax produced by GYBE. The vocals return for the last two parts and manage to create a very nice ending for the piece, leading directly to the last song. Homesong is a very beautiful ending for a very beautiful album. The ride has been something entirely new, refreshing, bringing Big Big Train back to a new sound as good as the one in English Electric. The sense of storytelling is out there as something to consider.

 Grand Tour by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Studio Album, 2019
4.22 | 166 ratings

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Grand Tour
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by dannypereznec

5 stars BIG BIG TRAIN - Grand Tour (2019)

I have always said, that Big Big Train, is an unquestionable progressive rock band, permanently goes a step further in its evolution. Since its debut in 1994 and through 11 albums, it has been in constant progress; gaining in sound complexity, composition and technique. And it is absolutely proven that it is so, if one reviews the entire discography of the band. Today we have the new work here, which is the one that consumes the first dozen full Lps of study, recorded by the band. "Grand Tour", is another genius of the British. Inspired by the seventeenth and eighteenth century customs of the Grand Tour, where young men and women traveled to expand the mind; Big Big Train has made an album of songs set in distant lands. Nine tracks lead us to an epic journey by land and sea, through time and space. The journey begins with the brief introductory "Novum Organum" (it is the name of Francis Bacon's book, called "Novum Organum Scientiarum", that is, New instrument of science published in 1620); to enter a journey at full speed, to explore the world, to see the unknown and express the feeling of being alive with, "Alive", a simple and cheerful song used as advancement and dissemination. With folk air and excellent choirs, we continue with the third piece, which for me is dazzling, with the rhythmic changes typical of ProgFolk, taking as reference Leonardo Da Vinci, the visionary painter of fine techniques. This is how this musical segment develops, superbly designed by the band; She is "The Florentine". The remarkable musical moments are continued, with the mini suite, "Roman Stone", inspired by the Colosseum in Rome; fractionated into 4 bright sections. With lyrics and music by Greg Spawton. It begins with The Foundation, with outstanding arrangements of winds and strings; the first break occurs at almost 3 minutes, where the second part of the suite begins: Rise, a highly outstanding instrument. Ne Plus Ultra, the third section, of elegant calm passages, to go growing with tenuous musical intensity until another fantastic change takes place with protagonism of the wind instruments executed superbly by the Big Big Train Brass Ensamble, and here is the beginning of the second instrumental phase of this suite, the phenomenal: Fall, with a blunt work D'Virgilio, the transverse flute of David Longdon enlarged by the bronzes of the Ensamble, with a very dynamic touch to later conclude with the epilogue of Roman Stone, returning to the relaxed sound to finish with great delicacy. "Pantheon", is the fifth track of the 9 that includes the plate; instrumental brilliantly composed by the multi-faceted Nick D'Virgilio and splendidly executed by the entire band, always supported by the Brass Ensemble and the string arrangements, led by Rick Wentworth. Here Nick tries to convey the atmosphere and majesty of the powerful and extraordinary building, used almost 2000 years and is one of the most complete survivals of ancient Rome. "Theodora in Green and Gold", is a very good track, whose music was composed by D'Virgilio and Spawtom, where Rikard Sj'blom (former Beardfish) takes the lead, at the piano and shares voices with Longdon. "Ariel", is a cycle of songs from this spectacular work of BBT, with lyrics and music by David Longdon, divided into 8 remarkable units, which is related to the character Ariel, who is a spirit of William Shakespeare's Tempest. Of melancholic character in almost all its development, with some moments of greater intensity. Longdon's voice is constantly supported by the choirs. Towards the 5 minutes, a noticeable change takes place, creating a more intense atmosphere, soon to return to what is the general spirit of this part of the disc, the dramatism of its music; and I insist on the fundamental role of David Longdon. "Voyager", extraordinary long suite whose composition ran by Greg Spawton, based on travel to explore the solar system, known as Grand Tour. Here the band is manifested with some more vigorous parts, we can appreciate some solos of electric guitar, almost absent in all this work, providing a dose of more strength, if you will, to all this relaxed work of the English. Magnificent also, in all its development. We arrived at the end of the Grand Tour, with "Homesong", also written by Spawton, makes reference to that every trip comes to an end and here counts the return home, England. So maybe, this beautiful song is more like the classic compositions of the band, leaving aside, a little at least, all that anguished but wonderful music that took us through this extensive journey.

Grand Tour, is one step more in positive, for one of the brightest bands of the current progressive.

- David Longdon / lead vocals and accompaniment, flute, acoustic guitar, mandolin, , strings and metals. - Dave Gregory / guitars - Rikard Sj'blom / keyboards, guitars, accordion, choirs. - Danny Manners / keyboards, double bass - Rachel Hall / violin, viola, cello, choirs, string arrangements - Greg Spawton / bass, bass pedals, acoustic guitar, chorus. - Nick D'Virgilio / drums, percussion, choirs. ' -Big Big Train Brass Ensamble ' -A string arrangements led by Rick Wentworth ' - Cover art: Sara Louise Ewing ' -Graphics: Steve Vantsis For more information on this conceptual work, the album will be published with a bulky internal book, where you can find out more about this story.

 Swan Hunter by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2018
3.57 | 12 ratings

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Swan Hunter
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by axeman

3 stars Good performances as expected. But, for me, the highlight of this EP is Longdon singing Summer Lease, a Filkins era song, from a release that frequently turns up at the top of my list of Big Big Train albums: The Difference Machine. It was that release that had me playing it over and over and started my following this band. I would like to hear more of Longdon's stronger voice on more tracks from DM or even Gathering Speed. It seems that Spawton just matured as a songwriter and composer at GS. And it's not so much that Filkins is a bad vocalist, but I find it very reasonable to say that Longdon, who sings one of my all-time favorite BBT songs, The Wide Open Sea, is the strongest vocalist that they have had.

In the end, what really drags this release down is my lack of interest in hearing a bunch of version of the same song.

 Stone & Steel by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover DVD/Video, 2016
4.60 | 35 ratings

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Stone & Steel
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by Gerinski
Prog Reviewer

5 stars I consider the 2009+ incarnation of Big Big Train to be one of the best and most classy prog bands to have come up from Britain in the recent years, but the fact that they did not have any live video was a bit of a let down, I wanted to see these guys playing their great music. Actually Big Big Train was a studio-only project, they had never played live since 1998. Not only that, this incarnation (with Dave Gregory on guitars, David Longdon on vocals and flute and Nick D'Virgilio on drums) had never played together, the different members exchanged music files and recorded their parts separately in the studio, but the whole band had never played physically together. But possibly the huge success of their 2009 album The Underfall Yard made them consider playing live again.

So in mid 2014 they hired the Real World studios of Peter Gabriel for a week to rehearse and try real live playing, with the intention that if it all went alright they would offer a few live concerts. They engaged the now-full-time- members Danny Manners for additional keyboards and double bass, Rachel Hall for violin and backing vocals, and Rikard Sjöblom of Beardfish for guitars, keyboards and backing vocals. Plus a brass quintet for some of the songs. They recorded the experience on video and after the positive result, one year later in August 2015 they offered 3 concerts at Kings Place in London which quickly sold out.

This Blu-Ray release (also available as streaming or download in Vimeo) documents both scenarios, with 9 songs filmed when playing live in the studio plus 4 songs from the Kings Place concerts. The studio takes are great and give us 2 hours of delight, we get to see the band setting up and a few chats among the members in between songs. The setlist is impressive, with my favourite highlights being "Master James of St George", "Judas Unrepentant", the 23 minute suite "The Underfall Yard" and "Victorian Brickwork". Although the rest of tracks are also strong, we get "The First Rebreather", "Kingmaker", "Uncle Jack", "Summoned by Bells", and perhaps the surprise track is an acoustic version of "Wind Distorted Pioneers" from their 1994 debut album, here with just Danny Manners on the grand piano and Rachel Hall on violin and the rest of the band members doing backing vocals.

The 4 live tracks from the Kings Place concerts deliver almost another 1 hour of pleasure, "Wassail", "Curator of Butterflies", we get a repeat of "Victorian Brickwork" and finally "East Coast Racer". The filming quality is very good and although the band may not be one the most lively on stage the music is so good that it makes for a very enjoyable watching.

But for those wanting to watch the entire Kings Place concerts, they are also available for streaming or downloading on Vimeo in 2 parts, "Act One" and "Act Two", in total around 2 hours with the complete setlist being: Act One: "Make Some Noise", "The First Rebreather", "The Underfall Yard", "Uncle Jack", "Victorian Brickwork" and Act Two: "Wassail", "Summoned by Bells", "Drum Solo / Judas Unrepentant", "Curator of Butterflies" and "East Coast Racer".

A must for any Big Big Train fan and one of the releases I have enjoyed the most in the last couple of years.

 From The River to the Sea  by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1992
2.26 | 43 ratings

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From The River to the Sea
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by The Crow
Prog Reviewer

2 stars From The River to the Sea is the first full-length demo album by the now famous Big Big Train!

And here their music was fairly influenced by neo-prog band like IQ with strong cheesy pop roots, making the hearing of the album a bit annoying now because this music is very dated now and it just sounds boring and repetitive.

The production is bad, but I'm fine with that because it's a demo! The drums sound is especially poor, and some keyboards are also not very well integrated in the music. But Read's voice is fine, as always. He sang beautifully and with passion before he clearly lost his vocal abilities as we can hear later in Bard.

Best Tracks: To the Sea (I love the chorus!), Returning to the fold (another fine one), River (here the band shows a glimpse of the typical melancholic guitars that would make the band famous in the future) and Downhiling (an IQ influenced song with fine and strong guitars)

Conclusion: Big Big Train was very influenced by the neo-prog sound in the beginning. Therefore, I enjoy hearing this demo albums from time to time, along with their official debut Goodbye to the Age of Steam, which is an evolution of what we can hear in this From the River to the Sea and the posterior The Infant Hercules.

So, if you are a fan of Big Big Train check this one. Otherwise, don't bother with this demo because it's just neo-pop-prog with just a few glimpses of the true personality of this fine British group which was yet to be found.

My rating: **

 Bard by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Studio Album, 2002
3.13 | 140 ratings

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Bard
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by The Crow
Prog Reviewer

2 stars In my opinion, Bard sadly marks the lowest point in Big Big Train's discography...

I do not really know what happened to Martin Read, but he lost almost all of his fine and charismatic vocals through the years. In Goodbye to the Age of Steam, he sang great. English Boy Wonders shows a little decline on his capabilities, but nothing to worry about... However, in Bard his voice became definitely a shadow of his original one. Hoarse and out of tone. That is really sad! No surprise that this album was his last with the band.

The music is the typical symphonic prog with folk elements, tons of acoustic passages, band's trademarks... Nevertheless, with lack of strength and true interest this time. The style of the album feels a bit disjointed, some songs are just too repetitive and the lack of new ideas in comparison with their two previous album is worrying.

The result is a record that is not catchy enough and easily forgettable. Maybe for background music...

Best tracks: some funny moments in Broken English (fine bass lines), Blacksmithing (the best vocal melodies of the album), A Short Visit to Earth (beautiful jazzy passage at 4:27...) and For Winter (the most accomplished song here. I find particularly lovely the female vocals on this one)

Conclusion: the deterioration of Martin Read's vocals along with the boring songwriting, makes Bard the least interesting Big Bit Train album in my opinion despite the fine production and beautiful Jo Michaels's vocals.

Just for true fans of the band.

My rating: **

 Make Some Noise by BIG BIG TRAIN album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2013
4.05 | 83 ratings

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Make Some Noise
Big Big Train Crossover Prog

Review by cirrusbay

4 stars Interesting compilation, blending some of the English Electric songs, 2 of which are edited, with some new songs. Of the new songs, 'Seen Better Days' is my favorite, a real standout and among the best of the tracks from the EE sessions, with powerful emotional melodies, some good chord changes, and that wonderful sense of being outside, with the vast, almost-melancholy sense of open space that only Big Big Train can produce, and produces so very well. 'The Lovers' is also good, and the piano segue way leading into it is very nice. The title track is decent, more of a straightforward rocker, but fun and certainly good for what it is. Not a track however that properly represents Big BIg Train. The other tracks are all good ones, I love each of them, particularly Uncle Jack, Swan Hunter and Curator of Butterflies, but when all is said and done, the only thing from Make Some Noise that is not on EE Full Power, are the slightly shorter versions of 2 songs. Four stars for the quality of the material for any that want more of an intro to the band, but really English Electric Full Power is the one to get instead, their magnum opus.
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