Since the bandís first release, Iíve followed British Big Big Train. I still bear in mind their performance at the 1998 edition of the Progfarm Festival in The Netherlands. However, it seemed the prog community has some problems to accept this band. I have to admit, indeed, the first three releases Goodbye To The Age Of Steam (1994), English Boy Wonder (1997) and Bard (2002) donít have the high quality level of bands as Yes or Genesis in the seventies. Fortunately, the tide turned for Big Big Train. Their fourth release Gathering Speed (2004) showed that the band was capable of delivering a distinctive concept album. For the first time, the band revealed their compositorial skills influenced by the above-mentioned bands.
The successor The Difference Machine (2008) proved that Gathering Speed wasnít a fluke at all and their latest effort The Underfall Yard, released in the autumn of 2009, can be seen as their best effort to date. Prog heads no longer can ignore this amazing band! They recorded one hour of the finest music with their new singer David Longdon. Martin Orford (ex- IQ, Jadis) introduced him to join BBT. David also was a candidate to become Genesisí new singer, when Phil Collins quit the band. Ultimately, Ray Wilson got the job and recorded one album with Genesis. David Longdon has a strong voice reminding me ofÖ Phil Collins. Heís a talented musician playing flute, mandolin, keyboards and dulcimer as well. Founding members Andy Poole (bass guitar, keyboards) and Greg Spawton (guitars, keyboards, bass guitar) found other excellent musicians like Nick DíVirgilio (Spockís Beard) and Dave Gregory (Peter Gabriel, ex-XTC) who were willing to contribute on The Underfall Yard.
Big Big Train use some instruments you very rarely hear on progressive rock albums like French horn, cello, trombone, tuba and cornet. These somehow curious instruments give the music of BBT a new dimension. Sometimes it seems as if a brass band plays along with the band, but it fits the music very well. What I like most on this album are the influences of early Yes and Genesis. The Mellotron is partly responsible for this retro sound. The guitar and bass parts sound as a treat for everyone who likes the way Steve Howe and Chris Squire play their instruments. The additional solos played by Jem Godfrey (Frost*) and Francis Dunnery (ex-It Bites) on synthesizer and electric guitar lift the music to a higher lever, but even without their contribution, this album would still be one of the musical highlights of 2009.
Itís time for Big Big Train to travel to the European continent in order to perform a number of live shows. This band certainly deserves a larger audience. I think anyone who is listening to this great album will agree.
****+ Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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