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Big Big Train - 'Grand Tour' Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     April 20, 2020    
 
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With albums like this, is it any wonder Big Big Train are the toast of the Prog scene?

Big Big Train have become a "must-have" band for me; consequently, the wait for this release has been interminable. Has it been worth it? You bet it has because they've gone and produced another classic. The group have moved away from their Britain-centric stories and cast their net wider to reflect on the 17th/18th century endeavour of wealthy young people undertaking an educational rite of passage around Europe. What hasn't changed is the exceptional quality of the music and the lyrics.

'Novum Organum' is a short, pastoral opening that gives way to the rousing 'Alive' which demonstrates the band's ability to write rocky songs as well as epics. It certainly lives up to its title with some fabulous melodies, wonderful harmonies and a terrific synth solo; it's unquestionably a future concert favourite. 'The Florentine' is about Leonardo da Vinci and flows delightfully through various phases as it builds in power and tempo. As with most Big Big Train material, the arrangement and construction are exceptional. The track features wonderful violin playing from Rachel Hall alongside lovely synth and guitar solos. 'Roman Stone' is an epic in five parts which seeks to tell the story of Rome. Splendid melodies and refrains soon burrow into your consciousness, while the vocal arrangements are fantastic. Nick D'Virglio injects some jazzy drum patterns before Hall's violin takes the tempo down for a reflective passage.

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'Pantheon' is an instrumental written by D'Virglio and represents something a bit different in the Big Big Train palette. It taps into other genres as well as referencing Kansas and Jethro Tull. 'Theodora In Green And Gold' is a D'Virglio co-write that includes a magical chorus and another magnificent arrangement. 'Ariel' sees vocalist Dave Longdon channelling William Shakespeare's 'The Tempest' across a multi-faceted, fifteen-minute piece that demonstrates the group's mastery of the long-form song.

'Voyager' is another epic as it covers voyages both ancient and modern, starting in the 4th century BC when Pytheas set sail from the Mediterranean to discover new lands before alighting on the seventies Voyager space missions and their journey across the universe. It's a track filled with memorable refrains as it ebbs and flows. The album closes with 'Homesong' which is initially driven along by D'Virglio's funky drumming, but later the brass injects a nostalgic feel that reeks of returning to old Blighty.

With albums like this, is it any wonder Big Big Train are the toast of the Prog scene?

Gary Marshall

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