Big Big Train - Gathering Speed

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

Big Big Train is a Bournemouth, UK Neo Prog band who I've always had an interest in, based on early CD covers and some recommendations. I'd heard some samples from their early releases, which seemed rather bland, and so I buried them forever in my subconscious.

Suddenly, Gathering Speed, their new CD, finds its way into my mail box and I'm thinking I'll give it a cautious listen. I had heard they were still recording but never did I expect the quality of release that Gathering Speed was about to deliver.

Basically, the CD is a concept piece that is set in the summer of 1940 during the Battle of Britain. It tells the story of one of the fighter pilots who is shot down during a combat patrol. A sensitive enough subject matter, but what about the music?

The first track almost reminds me of classic Yes, with vocalist Sean Filkins delivering on the high end, much like Jon Anderson. The second track, "Fighter Command," draws a lot from Genesis during their Lamb? period. This is due to the angelic, yet subtle keyboard work of Ian Cooper, who steals the show on many occasions with his creative and elaborate use of keyboards. Then again, guitarist Gregory Spawton has the Steve Hackett nuance down pat as well.

All this is getting to sound like Big Big Train is a clone band but they are definitely not. The album delivers a pleasant, yet edgy symphonic rock that embraces the old, but brings a modern and personal element into the music. And it puts most Neo bands to shame as well.

Most noteworthy is the fact that this 56 min release has no filler. Each song is well written, well crafted and yields hoards of changes from one track to another. While most Neo bands plough through an album and tracks melt into one another - all sounding the same - Big Big Train gives the ear plenty of variety. They may wear their influences boldly, but they are still their own band.

"Sky Flying On Fire" is particularly good, conjuring up images of "Fountain Of Salmacis" from Nursery Cryme.

My only criticism of the album is that it gets muddy in places, especially because the harmonizing between Filkins and second vocalist Laura Murch don't always gel. Both are decent singers, but their voices seem in conflict with one another on occasion.

The material is generally laid back, with a lot of soft symphonic keyboards and acoustic guitars. Most of the instrumentation also tends to be melodic and this works well by lulling our senses until the next eruption of electric guitar occurs. And guitarist Spawton can rock as well as he can do Hackett.

And the packaging, though not extensive, is well done. We're treated to 3 finely textured watercolours that have a symbolic connection to the CD's theme.

The band looks - from their photos - that they've been around for a while. That maturity and love for prog is in full evidence on Gathering Speed. It is a consistent, solid progressive rock release. All 7 tracks are long, dense, moody and rocking at the same time. While nothing stands out as instantaneous classics, there's certainly few dull moments. This album has everything for the prog fan that is spoiled by the past, yet loves the clarity of modern recordings.

Maybe it's time to check out some of their old stuff?.

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

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: March 7th 2004
Reviewer: RIPZ

Artist website:
Hits: 1225
Language: english


[ Back to Reviews Index | Post Comment ]