But 9 out of the 16 songs are from Folklore and Grimspound. It just fails to provide me with anything that is especially interesting, captivating, or moving. This was recorded in a hectic two week period in July 1993. Just for true fans of the band. 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. 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. If you, like I did, years ago, bought my first album from this band just guided by reviews, I can say that there is no bad album on their catalog even though the tend to sound similar, they're all great.
This decision put the band on a more independent and sustainable footing. My Rating would be somewhere between 4 and 4. I have often felt him significantly underappreciated as a drummer and on Grimspound he shows why he should be mentioned with the best of the players in the genre. I couldn't connect with the new stuff. The album opens with a string overture, before kicking into a rocking version of Folklore.
I'm also not a big fan of abrupt changes in mood, as if a new track has started. But don't be afraid that these instruments dominate if you don't like cornet or tuba like me because due to Big Big Train their excellent compositional skills there is a fine balance with the other instruments like the guitar, keyboards and drums. In Goodbye to the Age of Steam, he sang great. Hoarse and out of tone. 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. Great music inside great artwork.
However, in Bard his voice became definitely a shadow of his original one. If you are a fan of the band, you aren't going to regret grabbing this gem as soon as you can. Is not bad, but in tracks like these is where this album falls short in comparison of the previous one. Then I played it again and had my friend in the passenger seat start writing down the lyrics. As always, the performances are impeccable in their skill and musicality. Brushed Aside is more intimist and piano oriented, with very beautiful guitar solos and strings. It's kind of like a novel changing from a murder mystery to sci-fi fantasy half way through.
Pretty Mom is a rhythmic tune which acoustics and good vocals, nothing special. It almost never makes sense. And despite the difficulties, the mix and the production are simply excellent, and the album sounds perfect! Nevertheless, with lack of strength and true interest this time. Now only did I enjoy exploring it, but I also drew strength from it. Any contemporary band that treats its fans to a sequence which includes 'Judas Unrepentant', 'The Transit of Venus across the Sun', 'East Coast Racer', 'Telling the Bees' and 'Victorian Brickwork' here performed in rapid succession deserves our admiration.
I kept wishing they would unshackle themselves and just let loose. Shortly thereafter I purchased English Electric, and then English Electric volume 2, and Big Big Train had a new big big fan. Let's look at some different aspects: Aside from one instrumental piece, all of the tracks seem to share the same basic construction. The title track is decent, more of a straightforward rocker, but fun and certainly good for what it is. But that is also due to their use of the Mellotron, twanging guitars and flute, I have no problem that Big Big Train plays in the great tradition of 70-77 Genesis, not at all! Here we can enjoy Big Big Train in its full splendour, more than 20 minutes it's 24-carat symphonic rock delivering lots of captivating shifting moods and a very tasteful colouring with a wide range of instruments, from slide guitar, cello and choir-Mellotron to fiery electric guitar, Hammond organ and a slow synthesizer solo, this is Prog Heaven! David Longdon's voice sounds great, and the whole band gives a flawless performance.
Conclusion: Big Big Train failed to achieve the quality of their debut in this second album, which is too irregular and boring to be considered an excellent addition to any prog rock music collection. I find it more enjoyable when the band plays and the vocalist sings together, as one entity, not two separate entities trading time in the spotlight. It is one of those bands that have seen their reputation grow with each passing year. So what about the quality of the vocals? The 8-track album is the latest from the band and continues the narrative-in-song approach to which fans have become accustomed. It really ruins the mental and emotional picture I established earlier in the song.
Every time I get a new Big Big Train release, it skyrockets to the top of my personal favorites. Right after that, it's time for the wonderful 12-minute-long epic Brave Captain, which happens to be one of my favorites. It captures one of the world's best modern Progressive Rock bands at their very best. If you are already a fan of the magnificent Big Big Train, simply buy this album if you have not already no thought required. The result is a record that is not catchy enough and easily forgettable. My favorites are The Underfall Yard and Far Skies, Deep Time, and I love English Electric, but this new album, just like the previous one, Folklore, grew on me quickly and gets better with every listen. The bass gains protagonism in the instrumental section again, but at this point the albums starts to feel too long.
The Second Brightest Star will be released on Spotify and other download and streaming services at a later date in July. Sorry to say, I just don't get what all the hype is about. And those gigs were followed by this live album, that has been recorded during these 3 concerts. Set the waybac machine to 1973. Then comes a stretch of say 40 years.