English Electric Recordings [Release date 01.06.15] www.bigbigtrain.com
Big Big Train are back with a new four song EP and the first recordings to feature new members, violinist Rachel Hall and Beardfish guitarist Rikard Sjöblom. I have to admit Big Big Train are one of my favourite prog rock bands as they have the tunes and melodies, plus the prog rock staple of superb musicianship. Much more than that though is the band’s skill at penning songs that span folk, prog, rock and even bits of jazz.
This new EP has been produced by Rob Aubery of IQ fame and starts with ‘Wassail’, a song based on the traditional West Country ritual of making noise to wake the cider apples. In many ways Big Big Train are musical historians, preserving and retelling folklore or past events, in their songs. ‘Wassail’ uses the word wassail to anchor the tune, with a nice keyboard and violin solos midway through.
‘Lost Rivers Of London’ again molds fact into song and is one of their tunes that utilizes the band’s harmony vocals to such great effect. This is one of their strongest songs to date, a heady mix of melody, vocals and subtle guitar passages.
‘Mudlarks’ is mainly instrumental bar ‘mudlarks’ being sung in the middle of the song. There is a little jazz piano playing and keys/guitar interplay, making for a real prog rock wig out! The final song on the EP is a live version of ‘Master James of St George’. I say live, this was recorded last year in the Real World studios sans audience and is set to be released on a upcoming DVD/Bluray recorded at this live session.
If you have yet to sample the musical wonders of Big Big Train this EP is a good a place as any to start. Fans of the band will want this and won’t be disappointed. One of the finest progressive music bands around today. ****1/2
Review by Jason Ritchie
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