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Big Big Train - 'Far Skies Deep Time' http://rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/df/ea/ef/1051_bigbigtrainfarskiesdeeptime_1299010430.jpg Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     March 01, 2011    
 
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Quite an accolade, I can assure you.

Back in issue 39* I reviewed Big Big Train's album 'The Underfall Yard' in very enthusiastic terms, a view that has been reinforced over time. Well, with 2010 coming to a close it looked as if the year would pass without any new product but fortunately the band have seen fit to put out an EP which is another classy slab of classic English Prog.

'Master Of Time' has me in mind of the material that Genesis put out on their singles and EPs around the time of 'Wind & Wuthering' with David Longdon's voice coming across as an amalgam of Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins. Interestingly, the track was actually written by Anthony Phillips (original Genesis guitarist). BBT heard the demo he put on the re-release of one of his albums and decided that it needed a full band treatment. Longdon's beautiful flute, that appears across the CD, also gives credence to the Genesis comparison, but I must stress these guys are no copyists. The instrumental section is splendid featuring both guitar and keyboard solos; and as for the drumming, the ubiquitous Nick D'Virgilio (Spock's Beard) is on top form throughout the CD.

'Fat Billy Shouts Mine' opens with chiming acoustic guitars and some fine orchestration before the tempo suddenly picks up and I'm reminded of Steve Thorne. The chorus changes pace and shows great skill in arranging the song. The instrumental passage is Tony Banks to a tee, circa 'Firth Of Fifth'. It was at this point on about the third listen through that I realised that there's a huge amount going on within these songs but the structures are so good and the production so well defined that they fit together perfectly. The bass work is a case in point, not obvious but so very good when you listen out for it.

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'British Racing Green' is a short, melancholy song that proves that BBT aren't just Genesis clones as Longdon's voice takes on a different tone and the song style has more in common with some of the ballads Spock's Beard have done with D'Virgilio fronting the band. The subject matter (Divorce) may be unpleasant but the song is fantastic. 'Brambling' takes us into The Flower Kings territory, particularly with the guitar sound, and once more it's a finely constructed song with some lovely Hammond Organ underpinning the sound along with Mellotron.

The CD closes with an epic, the near 18-minute; eight part 'The Wide Open Sea' which is absolutely superb, filled with emotion, great playing and full of memorable refrains and melodies. Fans of the Prog genre will delight in the track as it shifts and turns as it unfolds. It starts slowly and in reflective mood before building during part three. Part Four has Longdon sounding a little like Steve Hogarth (Marillion) and of course there's the big finish.
As far as I am concerned BBT have really found their niche with this release and their previous album to the point that they are on my list of bands whose new albums must be bought immediately they become available. Quite an accolade, I can assure you. So hats off to Dave Gregory, Greg Spawton, Longdon and Producer Rob Aubrey for creating something so compelling.

Gary Marshall

(*... of Fireworks Magazine)

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