Big Big Train - Gathering Speed

Year of Release: 2004
Label: Treefrog Records
Catalog Number: tfcd002
Format: CD
Total Time: 55:38:00

A mere three years ago, yours truly was enjoying the rewards of patience by going through an album called Bard by a relatively obscure British band called Big Big Train after almost dismissing it due to something called first impressions. Three years later, yours truly is going through an album called Gathering Speed by a still relatively obscure British band called, well, you know what, and going through a partially reversed effect after the so-called first impression. Yes, I know you hate me when I start with such longwinded intros, but you know you like it. Come by at midnight. Bring the whips. In the meantime, I arrive at denouement with the grace of a ghost and the deadly two-punch combination of Mohammed Ali: Gathering Speed is a pretty decent offering, but not as good of an album as I had thought upon the first few listens.

Big Big Train had something really good going for itself with the addition of Sean Filkins on vocals, his Phil Collins-esque strain merging well with an approach that moves closer to prime Genesis and a collection of solid and poignant vocal lines that are interspersed throughout the album. Unfortunately, however, the songwriting this time around was not as solid as that on Bard, and thus the band wasn't able to fully capitalize on the newly acquired advantage. So what was the strategic mistake? Well, captain my captain, too much instrumental noodling, which cuts the efficiency of this band's knack for a good vocal melody by a considerable percentage. Knack, you say? What is this knack you speak of? Well, sir, "High Tide, Last Stand," "The Road Much Further On," and "Gathering Speed" have such strong and accessible moments, that it's almost impossible not to be affected emotionally by them when they kick in. Powerful weapons indeed. Good, soldier, dismissed. And send the whipped cream and handcuffs.

Ah, so still curious regarding the mention of prime Genesis? I guess nothing less could be expected from a follower of progressive rock, and the interest can only be egged on if I let you know that the prime Genesis to which I'm referring is that of The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. That is unquestionably the principal, but not sole, point of reference that Gathering Speed touches upon (another strong one being Pink Floyd), and it does so rather well. It doesn't sound like a cheap Genesis clone, although certain moments do come close to the edge thereof, and it still retains familiarity, but more in the fields pertaining to instrumental music than to vocal ones. What other changes in the world of Big Big Train is the connoisseur to expect? Well, a sound that contains much more elements of rock, as opposed to the laidback pastoral nature of Bard. Disappointed? Don't be. It's a move that could make Big Big Train a monster if too much noodling is avoided in the future and one that highlights Andy Poole's extremely tasteful and precise bass work.

So do you get this or not? Well, now who's all edgy from teasing, huh? Serves you right. I told you I wasn't into the whole feather thing. And I like to see you sweat. Turns me on. Well, I would personally hold out to see if Big Big Train can improve upon this formula in the coming years, since Gathering Speed certainly could have used some cutting of the fat. However, I'm also certain that certain progressive listeners will be quite fond of the album regardless of its shortcomings, and thus I can only advise them to visit the website, sample the album, decide for themselves, and never recur to my reviews again, for I'm pathetically broken-hearted due to such dissidence (eh...come back! I was only kidding!). I'll wait for the whips in the meantime.

High Tide, Last Stand (7:06) / Fighter Command (10:44) / The Road Much Further On (8:39) / Sky Flying On Fire (6:04) / Pell Mell (6:36) / Powder Monkey (9:08) / Gathering Speed (7:23)

Steve Hughes - drums and percussion
Andy Poole - bass, recording
Ian Cooper ? keyboards
Greg Spawton - guitars, Keyboards, vocals
Sean Filkins - vocals and blues harp
Laura Murch - vocals

From The River To The Sea (demos on self-released CD) (1992)
The Infant Hercules (demo cass) (1993)
Goodbye To The Age Of Steam (1994)
English Boy Wonders (1997)
Bard (2002)
Gathering Speed (2004/2009)
The Difference Machine (2007/2010)
English Boy Wonders (remade/remastered) (2008)
The Underfall Yard (2009/2011)
Goodbye To The Age Of Steam (remastered/expanded) (2011)
English Electric, Part One (2012)
English Electric, Part Two (2013)
Folklore (2016)
Grimspond (2017)
The Second Brightest Star (2017)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin UK

Added: September 9th 2005
Reviewer: Marcelo Silveyra
Artist website:
Hits: 1186
Language: english


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