English Electric Recordings [Release date 28.04.17] www.bigbigtrain.com
Following hot on the heels of last year’s excellent ‘Folklore’ album Big Big Train are back with another album featuring tales of national heroes, the countryside and family dramas. This album also sees Rikard Sjoblom and Danny Manners help out in the musical composing side of things, joining the main songwriting/composing duo of Greg Spawton and David Longdon.
Opener ‘Brave Captain’ is based on Captain Albert Ball, a WW1 pilot who had 44 confirmed ‘kills’ who was killed in 1917, aged just 20 years old. The music is suitably epic in its feel and reminded me a little of Kansas in the keys/violin arrangements.
One of the Big Big Train’s best songs to date for me. More historical characters form the basis of ‘Experimental Gentlemen’, based on the scientists who sailed on Captain Cook’s ship, HMS Endeavour. Set in three parts, the music manages to convey the wonder the scientists would have seen and noted on their journey.
The album’s songs often link in with previous songs they have recorded like the jazzy instrumental ‘On The Racing Line’, which is about the racing driver John Cobb, who is featured on the ‘Brooklands’ song off the ‘Folklore’ album.
The lovely acoustic whimsy of ‘Meadowlands’ revisits Uncle Jack who appears in ‘Uncle Jack’ and the band’s greatest song to date in my humble opinion, ‘Hedgerow’. Listening to this you want to wander off into the countryside and enjoy the natural beauty, with Big Big Train as your soundtrack.
Judy Dyble, who sang on Fairport Convention’s debut album, guests on ‘The Ivy Gate’, a family tale of loss with a hint of the supernatural. Judy’s vocals fit this folk tune well. Indeed a most of the songs on the album have a more progressive feel, certainly there is less of a folk music feel than can be heard on the ‘Folklore’ album.
‘A Mead Hall In Winter’ features Rikard Sjoblom co-writing the music with David Langdon and it is a real prog rock workout. There are some great 70′s prog musical bits in this one from the organ through to the guitar solos. No one instrument dominates the sound and this is a band who work collectively to produce a piece of band music, no room for ‘look at me’ soloists in this band!
I don’t know how Big Big Train keep on creating the wonderful music they do but long may they continue doing so, simply wonderful to listen to and immerse yourself in. ****1/2
Review by Jason Ritchie
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