Following hot on the heels of ‘English Electric – Part One’ Big Big Train release the second part and this has high expectations, as its predecessor was runner-up in the ‘Prog’ magazine’s ‘Reader’s Poll’, it won prog website DPRP’s album of the year and more importantly made year end ‘best of’ too! Does it match the first part? Just about and I am sure come the year end it will be there. The one thing I miss on this album is a nice wistful piece of folk whimsy like ‘Hedgerow’ of ‘Part One’ but then this is progressive music and the band have explored some new areas.
The song of the album has to be the ode to the disappeared shipyard ‘Swan Hunter’. This is such a lovely piece of music from the melodious vocals of David Longdon through to the brass section and the gentle, yet distinctive guitar playing of Dave Gregory.
Hats off to any band that kick off an album with a fourteen minutes plus epic ‘East Coast Racer’. The sound and feel of the music makes you feel you are on the train shovelling in the coal or sitting as a passenger.
It’s not all trains and lost industrial landscapes though as ‘Leopards’ is a song about a couple meeting up again several years after they parted and seeing if they can start back again. This is a strength of the band as this song is not prog sounding, maybe bar the Yes like harmony vocals and would appeal to listeners put off by a ‘prog’ tag on a band’s music.
‘The Permanent Way’ is the band’s tribute to the working countryside and if you don’t find the chorus uplifting you need to reassess your musical ears! The Tangent’s Andy Tillison guests on organ on this one and his solo comes midway through the song lending a 70’s feel to the proceedings. Danny Manners piano playing is a key part of the song drifting in and out as the song ebbs and flows. Another fine piece of guitar playing by Dave Gregory as well. ‘Curator Of Butterflies’ sees the band in a gentler mode with David Longdon’s vocals taking centre stage.
They have gone and done it again, an amazing musical journey from start to finish. Big Big Train should be on any prog rock fan’s shopping list and anyone for that matter who enjoys an album with a good musical variety and a healthy dose of nostalgia. Another contender for those of Album of the Year lists.
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