Big Big Train - 'English Electric, Part 1' Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     February 23, 2013    
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Prog songs that are extremely tuneful, melodic and catchy.

Big Big Train (BBT) have been around for many years but to my mind were something of an acquired taste until 2007 when they released ‘The Difference Machine’ and made even greater strides when vocalist Dave Longdon joined them for 2009’s spectacular and rightly lauded album, ‘The Underfall Yard’. Since then they have been a revelation and gone from strength to strength.

Quintessentially English both stylistically and lyrically, they have the wonderful knack of producing Prog songs that are extremely tuneful, melodic and catchy. I am aware that many consider them to be Genesis copyists, mostly due to Longdon’s voice which generally comes across as an amalgam of Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins but musically they explore different areas (closing track ‘Hedgerow’ has more in common with the 60’s Pop of The Kinks and The Moody Blues with a dash of The Beatles thrown in) and Genesis never produced such sublime vocal harmonies as BBT.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine For Melodic Rock Music

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Opening number, ‘The First Rebreather’ is simply superb and another contender for my track of the year. Everything about the song is a delight but the bridge and chorus are spine-tingling in creation and delivery; the harmony vocals are a thing of beauty particularly during the slower middle section which has more in common with Spock’s Beard. The guitar solos (courtesy of Dave Gregory) are concise and wonderfully executed while the extended synthesiser solo at the end is Tony Banks to a tee. With the bar that high can BBT maintain the quality? Yes they can, because every track is so well constructed. ‘Uncle Jack’ is a short, jaunty but oh so sweet ditty which, thanks to the fabulous multiple vocal arrangement, has me in mind of America and Venice doing Prog. Musically, ‘Winchester From St Giles’ Hill’ is redolent of Steve Hackett’s solo work while Longdon’s vocals are splendidly emotive. The music sounds quite straight forward but focus on the instruments individually and you’ll hear some great stuff going on in a very subtle way. Both flute and piano play a prominent part in this lovely song.

The verses of ‘Judas Unrepentant’ do remind me of Genesis (‘Get ‘Em Out By Friday’) with an organ refrain driving it along, the chorus conveys a different and pleasing feel more akin to neo-Prog. ‘Summoned by Bells’ has piano and strings in the vanguard during its early phase and once more Longdon is in supreme form, the middle section having an early Hogarth era Marillion vibe. The nine minutes of this track fly by as it moves seamlessly through its various phases. A demonstration of their versatility comes with ‘Upton Heath’ which has a ‘Graceland’ Paul Simon guitar thing going on underneath the main melody.

Special mention has to go to Nick D’Virgilio whose drumming (and I assume vocal contribution) is understated throughout but no less special for all that. I can’t wait for Part 2, which is due in the early part of 2013.

Gary Marshall

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