Big Big Train - Gathering Speed

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

Gathering Speed is an impressive accomplishment. It is a concept album. The story focuses on a pilot who crashes his Spitfire plane during a wartime mission. This is not a simple theme to cover, yet Big Big Train does it with sheer elegance. Three different vocalists, Sean Filkins, Laura Murch, and Gregory Spanton tell the story. Their voices work extremely well in the narration. The compositions are superb. The story comes across clear. At the same time, it is easy on the ears, never overbearing or overly wordy.

An outfit of five orchestrates enchanting instrumentals. In addition to vocal duties, Sean contributes a blues harp and various percussive instruments. Gregory adds guitars and some keyboards. Inn Cooper does the majority of keyboard arrangements. Andy Poole adds an effervescent bass. The songs click along like the precise gears and hammers to a watch. From the beginning, the music is wound-up tight with potential energy. As it uncoils, it keeps pace and continues to move along gracefully. It never misses a beat. After a few spins, it is still a reliable device and maintains its purpose. The lyrics are poetic at times, sung in an expressive manner. The instrumentals embody the emotion. In the end, it is as much of a story as it is music, but it is miraculous music indeed.

The album is applicable to the current times and reminds us of the value of every soldier. Their lives influence many people. Whether they are pilots or infantry, their sacrifices are huge, affecting families and communities. A war takes it toll in all kinds of ways. Flying a simple mission such as the one can have deadly effects with a long lasting impression. Long after a tragedy or event is forgotten by the masses, its impact remains. A scar can fully heal, but this is not always the case. Usually there is a sensation or impression. Permanent marks are left behind. This album helps to put this in perspective by focusing on the story of one pilot. They leave it up to the listener to multiply these wounds by others affected in similar ways.

The story is told in seven pieces. This seems to be the right amount. Each song tells a different aspect of the story and gives the listener a different angle on the circumstance.

In "Fighter Command," the pilot gets his orders. It is gripping each time it is sung, "Lost and found, we need you to be around."

"Sky Flying On Fire" is in an instrumental that sounds very much like something from the band Izz. It awakens the earlier themes. This segue helps the gears from changing too quickly.

The song "Pell Mell" represents going into battle. The rising vocals, change in pace, and the uncertainty that is expressed, helps give the impression of an ensuing conflict.

Hints of Genesis can be heard throughout the whole album. "Powder Monkey," the longest track, is very much like one of the madrigal pieces from Genesis' Selling England By The Pound.

The album portrays sad footage about a pilot getting his orders and flying to his doom. While this might be the core of the storyline, Big Big Train chooses to finish with an upbeat song. I guess it is their way of saying that life goes on, that sacrifices sometimes have a bright side to them. In this case, the next generation carries on. While this might be the Hollywood ending to a grim story, this song is a fitting end to a sincere and remarkable album.

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: July 25th 2004
Reviewer: Joshua "Prawg Dawg" Turner

Artist website:
Hits: 1272
Language: english


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