Big Big Train - The Difference Machine

Year of Release: 2007
Label: English Electric Recordings
Catalog Number: EERCD003
Format: CD
Total Time: 54:54:00

Late 1994 I attended my very first prog concert and at the entrance members of a young new band were handing out flyers about their debut album. This was the album Goodbye To The Age Of Steam by Big Big Train. Unfortunately I never got round to listen to the album and I lost track of the band. Until 2007...

For some unknown reason, I found the band was releasing a new album, their 5th studio release, called The Difference Machine. Since this band is around for some 15 years, I figured it was time to listen to their music.

I have given the album a lot of play time and I can say that I really missed out on this band. It is a very warm and atmospheric sounding album that has an excellent and modern production, with very balanced keyboard arrangements, resulting in a classic sounding prog album. The album basically consists of three large pieces, two smaller ones and two filler tracks.

"Hope This Finds You" is a warm instrumental that sets the stage for the music to come. This is followed by the first epic, "Perfect Cosmic Storm." After a somewhat psychedelic beginning, this song turns out to be a true classic. The songwriting is pretty awesome, as is the execution. Musically it is one of the most beautiful prog epics I have heard. Subtle guitar arrangements, solid rhythm and slightly melancholic vocals are featured. The music, and that goes for the entire album, has elements of early Genesis, maybe even a hint of Yes, but also of Carptree and IQ. The booklet revealed to me two well-known guests play on this song: Nick D'Virgillio and Dave Meros from Spock's Beard.

"Breathing Space" is just what we get, before this train moves on to "Pick Up If You're There," the second epic. Here the emphasis is a bit more on the vocals. Although Sean Filins will not end up in my fave singers list, his vocals fit the music very good. Again the arrangement of the song is well done. A bit more uptempo and less psychedelic, but again very beautiful, especially with the vintage keyboard sounds and some nice guitar solos. Notably is the bass player: Pete Trewavas (Marillion), who does an excellent job here.

After the second filler track we move on to the third epic, "Saltwater Falling On Uneven Ground." And for the third time I am impressed by the songwriting. And I wish I had caught this train way earlier. I love the bass in this song, as it really stands out, this time played by Big Big Train core member Andy Poole. This song very much breathes the same atmosphere I felt with the last Carptree album ... mysterious yet enchanting.

The last station on the album is "Summer's Lease," and it is just more of the same: beautiful melodies, warm atmospheres and enchanting music. And I love the saxophone parts by Tony Wright, whose subtle play adds to the beauty quite a bit.

Wow, I really love this album! This is the kind of music you expect on a prog rock album. Not showing off on your instrument, but creating beautiful songs and melodies. The Difference Machine is a timeless album, that will touch the hearts of many music fans. And if you are like I was, not familiar with Big Big Train, I can only say: get this album and enjoy its warm and beautiful songs. I am grateful for finally having discovered this great band.

Hope This Finds You (3:12) / Perfect Cosmic Storm (14:40) / Breathing Space (1:47) / Pick Up If You're There (13:39) / From The Wide Open Sea (1:20) / Saltwater Falling On Uneven Ground (12:38) / Summer's Lease (7:34)

Gregory Spawton - keyboards, guitars, vocals
Tony Wright - tenor & alto saxophone, flute
Becca King - viola
Sean Filkins - vocals
Sean Hughes - drums
Andy Poole - bass
Nick D'Virgilio - drums
Dave Meros - bass

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: January 4th 2008
Reviewer: Marcel Haster
Artist website:
Hits: 1565
Language: english


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