BIG BIG TRAIN – Wassail (2015)
Since its foundation in 1990, BIG BIG TRAIN has become one of the finest UK progressive acts releasing great pieces of art. We were already delighted on this blog by their last CD English Electric featured here some time ago, and now the band returns with the delicious EP “Wassail“.
Produced by Rob Aubery of IQ fame and featuring new members violinist Rachel Hall and Beardfish’s guitarist Rikard Sjöblom, “Wassail” finds Big Big Train sounding better than ever.
Big Big Train are unique as they blend melodies like no other, plus the prog rock staple of superb musicianship. Much more than that though is the band’s skill at penning songs that span traditional prog, classic rock, Neo prog and even bits of fusion and melodic rock.
The EP starts with the title track, 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. When David Longdon’s eminently recognisable vocal kicks in it does so with that polished timbre that we have come to associate with this excellent singer. The guitar, bass and drums are polished and immediately resonate with you.
All the harmonies intertwine with Rachel’s charismatic violin and the mould is set for another exquisitely melodic and anthemic offering from this most iconically English of bands.
“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. The vocals are perfectly balanced, lilting and lulling, mesmerising you with their velvety smoothness, the harmonies quite bewitching in their brilliance.
Just when you think the musical inventiveness has run its course, this talented band throw in another curve ball with some intricate guitar work and a jaunty flute note. I love the wah-wah pedal style of the guitar and the evocative keyboards. This is one of their strongest songs to date, a heady mix of melody, vocals and top guitar passages.
“Mudlarks” were 19th century scavengers who eked a living from the sale of anything they could find in the mud of the River Thames at low tide. Modern-day mudlarks search the foreshores of the lost rivers that flow into the Thames, hoping to find traces of London’s history.
The song begins with a delicate piano and elegant keyboard, neatly joined by an articulate violin, the sound is very reminiscent of classic 70’s progressive rock with a modern touch as you catch little fillips of the flute dancing around in the background.
To finish the EP we are treated to a live version of “Master James of St. George”, first released in 2009 on the band’s 6th studio album The Underfall Yard. It’s a lovely piece of music that grows and grows from fairly humble beginnings before it takes over your whole being. 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.
Simply put, Big Big Train is one of the finest progressive music bands around today.
On “Wassail” Big Big Train have just enhanced their reputation as purveyors of unique and sublime progressive rock which is founded on the elemental history of UK. A history that is fundamental to the everlasting allure of this captivating group of musicians.
This is the kind of music that Yes, Asia and Marillion do not dare to create nowadays (or lacking inspiration are not capable of).
01 – Wassail
02 – Lost Rivers of London
03 – Mudlarks
04 – Master James of St George (Live At Real World)
David Longdon – vocals, flute, mandolin, organ, glockenspiel
Andy Poole – bass, keyboards
Greg Spawton – guitar, keyboards, bass
Dave Gregory – electric guitar
Danny Manners – double bass
Rachel Hall – violin
Rikard Sjöblom – guitar
Nick D’Virgilio – drums
BUY IT !