Posts Tagged ‘Big Big Train’

THE BEST SO FAR OF 2015 (i.e. My “Faves”)

July 5, 2015

This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for several weeks now. I was jostled out of my vegetative state by a couple of recent posts on the premier web site for all things prog: PROGARCHY: Pointing toward Proghalla (the only site you REALLY need to be following! http://progarchy.com/ ) I am constructing this list without the benefit of reading PROGARCHY’s own “The Best So Far” list for 2015 (even though it’s a list for primarily prog metal).

By way of embarrassed admission I must plead lack of funds for not yet owning the new Neal Morse album, Grand Experiment, and the new Steven Wilson album, Hand. Cannot. Erase. Although I have heard most of Wilson’s magnum opus one time from YouTube and other on-line sources, out of fairness to these discs I’m not going to rate them yet…I need proper and extended time with music before making “best of” lists.

sparkAETHER

As it now stands the two runaway albums for me are THE TANGENT: A Spark In The Aether (the genius work of Andy Tillison), and LONELY ROBOT: Please Come Home (the genius work of John Mitchell).   These two albums are almost sure to be in a neck and neck horse race photo-finish as December 31st looms closer and closer. Look for these to be in the 1 and 2 top spots.

Lonely Robot 2

And now, in no particular order, and without any real reviewing comments, I would add the following:

BIG BIG TRAIN: Wassail (sure it’s an EP, but I don’t care…it’s just that darn spectacular and it IS BIG BIG TRAIN…nuff said)

GLASS HAMMER: The Breaking Of The World

THE GENTLE STORM: Diary (the stunning collaboration between Lucassen and van Giersbergen will be near the top 5 I’m betting)

ARGOS: A Seasonal Affair

BEARDFISH: +4636 Comfortzone

ARENA: The Unquiet Sky (great music but also a great weird story inspiration)

JOHN CARPENTER: Lost Themes (I’m a sucker for Carpenter’s stuff but this disc probably will fade out of the top ten and maybe even out of the top 15 or 20; and it’s not really prog is it?)

KARNATAKA: Secrets of Angels

SANGUINE HUM: Now We Have A Light (a sleeper; darkhorse)

MAGIC PIE: King For A Day

My Top-Ten list for 2015 will no doubt have some, or most, of these wonderful slabs of sonic bliss. I can’t wait for the next 6 months of new releases. I can’t wait for the money to actually buy them.

Mellotron set to 11

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June 1st Can’t Get Here Soon Enough…

May 16, 2015

…because there’s never enough BIG BIG TRAIN.

Greg, Andy, David and the gang will be releasing an EP on June 1st (mine is already pre-ordered on Amazon.com [sigh…I don’t like amazon, but it’s easy and I’m lazy].  The EP is titled WASSAIL.

The disc will feature a live bonus track (live is GREAT) but the real treat is NEW MUSIC: three brand new tunes for all of us ‘jones’n’ for our fix of the best band in prog!

Big Big Train are Andy Poole, Danny Manners, David Longdon, Rikard Sjoblom, Nick D’Virgilio, Dave Gregory, Rachel Hall and Greg Spawton

The track list is:

  1. Wassail
  2. Lost Rivers Of London
  3. Mudlarks
  4. Master James Of St George

As I listen to the youtube video of Wassail, I am salivating for not just the EP release but for BBT’s next full length magnum opus. They are somewhat like an English version of Clannad (my favorite celtic band of all-time) especially via the connection and association to a land, people, culture, and ethos.  Infused with the spirit of Ralph Vaughan Williams, Steeleye Span, Strawbs, and Fairport Convention, BUT with their own unique sound & style–Big Big Train is the essence of the “Englishness” of a lost, better, and  perhaps, mythical past.

 

Mellotron set to 11

ARGOS: A Seasonal Affair (a brilliant album…but only if you like Genesis, Marillion, Camel, and Big Big Train)

March 30, 2015

Argos

ARGOS: A Seasonal Affair (2015: MUSEA, Progressive Promotions Records)

ARGOS is:

argosBAND

Thomas Klarmann/ Bass, Flute, Keyboards, Guitars, Lead Vocals

Robert Gozon/ Lead Vocals, Keyboards, Guitars

Ulf Jacobs/ Drums, Percussion, Vocals

Rico Florczak/ Electric Guitars

Guest Musicians:

Andy Tillison, Marek Arnold, Thila Brauss

 

This album (their fourth) is so good I guarantee it will be on many “best of” lists for 2015…or it would be if people knew of ARGOS and actually purchased/heard their new musical offering: A Seasonal Affair. Counting two bonus tracks it’s an 11 track disc that serves up a feast of not neo-prog, but classic goodness ala 1973/4.

Track 1, ‘Vanishing,’ starts with fantasy lyrics and real Porcupine Tree vibe but by the time that Hammond and synths arrive in Track 2 one is hearing echoes of Triumvirat. Track 3, ‘Silent Corner,’ though too starting with a Steven Wilson feel, morphs into a sound dialogue between trance-like meditation and jazzy instrumental fusion. This song is so perfectly constructed that it should be a Classic Prog standby tune!

Track 4, ‘Silver And Gold,’ keeps up the jazz/rock rhythms but adds some neat Gentle Giant like vocals. This complex syncopated style of choppy vocals makes another pleasant appearance on bonus track 11, ‘Black Cat.’ Track 5, ‘Lifeboats,’ may be my favorite song and all by itself it worth buying the album for. The song hearkens back to the great classics of Gabriel era Genesis or even Fish era Marillion. The squiggly Mellotron and synth keys put an actual smile on my face.

Thinking then that ARGOS had peaked; they delivered their magnum opus in the 12:32 multi-layered and multi-part epic ‘Not In This Picture.’ The interplay between synth strings, keys, and Hammond produce more Genesis brilliance with a touch of both Pink Floyd and, surprisingly, Big Big Train. There is a rural English countryside appeal to much of the vocal delivery. These Germans sound like a classic undiscovered Canterbury band.

This respectful nod to the Canterbury scene continues with Track 7, ‘A Seasonal Affair,’ as the beautiful melody and gorgeous piano hearkens back to Pete Bardens and Camel.

This is simply a groove laden album with handsome low-key vocals swathed in meditative and achingly beautiful washes of color and fragrance. It’s like Passport meets Yes with an extra dose of both Genesis and Steve Rothery guitar runs.

ARGOS, formed in 2005, and hailing from Mainz and Greifswold Germany needs to be put on a much larger stage as this album is Prog magic which should be part of every Prog aficionado’s collection.

A telling sign of how good it is (how good it MUST be) is that mega-genius and musical polymath Andy Tillison is one of the guest musicians (along with Marek Arnold on Soprano Sax and Thila Brauss on keyboards). This album truly bears that distinguished mark of excellence that is Tillison!

Progressive Promotions Records deserves to placed on the permanent radar of all Prog fans, and this album needs to sell. It is available for around $20.00 at Amazon.com, while ARGOS’ 2012 album, CRUEL SYMMETRY is available at CD Baby for a reasonable price.

ARGOS info at:

http://www.progarchives.com/artist.asp?id=4316

https://www.facebook.com/pages/ARGOS/7061742082

http://www.progressive-promotion.de/

 

Mellotron set to 11

Foundations: Current Great Does Not Negate Past Good

March 16, 2015

Many times a famous band has an original vocalist who remains beloved, famous, and well remembered even after only a brief partnership and many years of passing. Deep Purple, for me and many, will always conjure up the singing of Ian Gillian (Smoke on the Water, Highway Star, Woman from Tokyo) and to a lesser extent David Coverdale (Burn, Soldier of Fortune). But who can forget the original vocalist Rod Evans? Evan had a great “set of pipes” and His Kentucky Woman cover along with the iconic Hush remain enshrined in Rock’s Hall of Fame by alumni of the late 60s and early 70s.

And for all fellow prog-heads one only need say GENESIS or MARILLION to kick-start heated arguments and scathing “put downs” Vis-a-vis vocalists. I love Phil Collins but in my estimation Peter Gabriel, whose voice is simply better, will always be the voice of the band. Conversely, though original singer Fish is viewed by many as “the” voice of MARILLION, I have come to appreciate and love the style, emotions, and sound of “H” even more!

This long way around the barn brings me to a very brief observation.

The voice and performance of vocalist Martin Read on BIG BIG TRAIN’S, English Boy Wonders is simply wonderful! I will no doubt be reviewing this somewhat neglected masterpiece at a later date. To be sure, I think Read’s successor Sean Filkins was an even better fit in the band and had a more appealing voice, Read was sooo good! And current vocalist of BBTDavid Longdon, though HE has probably the best voice in prog today (he sings like a Seraph), Read was sooo good!

Part of the prog ethos which separates it from the ephemera of pop music is that it cares deeply about its musical heritage, patronage, and origins. So concluding this long-winded “shout-out,” I can only heartily recommend English Boy Wonders for all of the current reasons any “thinking man” should love BIG BIG TRAIN; but ALSO for the soothing, feeling, heartfelt, and bravura vocals of Martin Read—you sir are not forgotten!

Mellotron set to 11

A Beautiful Song; Tell Your Own Uncle You Love Him!

February 26, 2015

What a perfect little gem of a tune to put a smile on your face (especially if you’re in a wintry and frigid part of America or the UK).

‘Uncle Jack’ (written in honor of lead vocalist David Longdon’s uncle) is the second track on BBT’s 2012 album ENGLISH ELECTRIC PART ONE. It appears as the third track of disc one on their Double album (with extra tracks) of 2013 FULL POWER.

This is a song totally immune from the criticisms sometimes leveled at bands like Mumford & Sons as being only tepid ersatz folk rock or roots-rock. No! This song is so genuine and earthy that you can taste the ‘bangers & mash’ and smell the stout (or coffee).

That first 20 seconds, once the banjo (Dave Gregory) takes off, has one grinning, bopping the head, and tapping the foot. Then when the vocal harmonies join in with the lead of David Longdon you’re in heaven–which is fitting since Longdon truly has a voice of an angel.

This song has one thinking of the perfect meld of Jethro Tull and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, only far better than both!

What a salutary love poem to localism, rootedness, and earth; GKC would be smiling…heck, Wendell Berry too.

Mellotron On!


The (n)EVERLAND of PROG

Searching For Lost Chords

Stormfields

Christian Humanism in a Post-Modern World

Progarchy

Pointing toward Proghalla