Tag Archives: Big Big Train

What novels are crying out for a musical adaptation?

The Guardian Music Blog asks what novels are crying out for a musical adaptation? I jokingly suggested “Who Moved My Cheese” set to music by The Scorpions, but followed it up with a couple of more serious suggestions.

For starters, L.T.C Rolt’s “Railway Adventure“, which is cheating slightly, because it’s non-fiction. But the story of the birth of the British railway preservation movement when a group of enthusiasts took over the ramshackle Talyllyn Railway in 1950 is exactly the sort of thing that’s meat and drink for Big Big Train.

Second, Iain Banks’ “Espediair Street“. The ficticious band Frozen Gold have been described as being a cross between Pink Floyd and Fleetwood Mac, which suggests the ideal band would be none other than Mostly Autumn. Banks’ description of the wordless “Nifedge” always makes me think of the closing section of “Carpe Diem”. Whether it’s possible to do the Great Contraflow Smoke Curtain justice in Bilston Robin 2 remains to be seen.

Lastly, HP Lovecraft’s “At The Mountains of Madness“. While their Imaginos cycle immediately suggests Blue Öyster Cult, they’re better at high weirdness than out-and-out terror. It really needs Van der Graaf Generator at their most menacing, in the vein of something like “Plague of Lighthouse Keepers”.

What combinations of books and bands would you suggest?

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2013 Albums of the Year – Part One

It’s end-of-year list time again, when every music blogger is compelled to go back through the year’s record releases and try to pick out the best of them,

Let’s get the obvious disclaimers out of the way first. This is not intended to be a definitive list of the very best albums released in the year. For starters all preferences are personal and subjective. And secondly and more importantly, it’s restricted to those records I’ve actually had the chance to hear. There are no doubt a great many awesome releases I haven’t heard yet.

After many repeated listens I’ve managed to whittle the list down to 21 (Why 21? Why not?). The fact that it turned out to be very hard to restrict it to just 21 speaks volumes about how great a year it’s been. One or two big names ended up not making the cut.

So, without further ago, here’s the first half of my list,  Had I not abandoned trying to sort them all into meaningful order as an impossible task, they would be 21 down 11. As it is, they’re sorted alphabetically.

Big Big Train English Electric Part Two

English Electric Part 2The second half of English Electric follows in a similar vein to the first, with their very evocative and very English brand of pastoral progressive rock. The storytelling lyrical focus shifts to northern England and the twentieth century with tales of railwaymen, coal miners and shipbuilders, and it all sounds far more authentic than much 80s-style neo-prog.

Black Sabbath13

Black Sabbath 13Neither quite the masterpiece some hoped for nor the trainwreck some feared, the reunion of Ozzy Osborne, Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler still delivers a very solid piece of work that proves they still have something to say after all these years. If this does prove to be their final album, it’s a worthy addition to their legacy.

The Computers Love Triangles, Hate Squares

The Computers Love Triangles Hate SquaresThe best no-nonsense old-fashioned rock and roll record I’ve heard all year, by a band who sound as as though they have one foot in 1958 and one in 2013, full of short and punchy tunes that hit you right between the eyes. The end result somehow ends up reminding me of some aspects of very early Blue Öyster Cult.

CosmografThe Man Left In Space

Cosmograf - The Man Left In SpaceAn evocative and atmospheric album from multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Robin Armstrong. Though there are guest appearances from Matt Stevens and Nick D’Virgilio amongst others, Robin plays most of the instrumentation from guitars to drums to keys. The haunting title track is a standout, perhaps one of the songs of the year, and there’s a lot to like across the rest of the album.

The Fierce and The DeadSpooky Action

Spooky ActionMatt Stevens and his band in full electric mode mixing progressive rock, post-punk, indie/alternative and metal resulting in the instrumental record of the year. Narrow genre definitions cannot contain this record; it’s the sort of thing that ought to have a huge crossover appeal way beyond the narrow confines of the Prog world.

King BathmatOvercoming the Monster

KingBathmat - Overcoming The MonsterA powerful combination of grungy guitar riffs with progressive rock textures and melodies, sounding like what you might get if you combined Black Sabbath with Spock’s Beard. The end result is a record with a very contemporary feel despite its use of organic 70s sounds, old-school progressive rock reinvented for the 21st Century.

MaschineRubidium

Maschine - RubidiumThe long-awaited début from Luke Machin’s band combines some stunning instrumental virtuosity with a very mature approach to composition. Their complex and ambitious songs are a seamless blend of metal, jazz and rock into, with great use of dynamics and an ear for a good melody. This is the sound of a band from whom we can probably expect great things over the coming years.

Mr So and SoTruth & Half Lies

Mr So and So - Truth and Half LiesThe fruit of a successful Pledge Music project, Mr So and So’s fourth album is by far their most impressive to date. It’s a hugely varied record with some strong songwriting that uses their distinctive dual male/female lead vocals to great effect, and the harder-edged guitar-driven sound strongly captures the power and energy of their live performances.

RiversideShrine of the New Generation Slaves

Riverside - Shrine of the New Generation SlavesRiverside have always been one of Poland’s finest bands, and with the combination of 70s Deep Purple style hard rock riffs and Porcupine Tree style atmospherics they have delivered what might be their best album to date. They may wear their influences on their sleeves to some extent, but they have more than enough creativity of there own to be any kind of pastiche.

Rob Cottingham Captain Blue

Rob Cottingham - Captain BlueA solo album from Touchstone’s keyboard player, aided and abetted by a strong supporting cast including Touchstone guitarist Adam Hodgson and former Mostly Autumn vocalist Heather Findlay. It’s a concept album with a Gerry Anderson flavour, with music reminiscent of Touchstone’s early days, plus the occasional excursion into disco-pop.

Thea GilmoreRegardless

Thea Gilmore – RegardlessAn album of Americana-tinged songs with stripped-down arrangements that emphasise the fragile beauty of the Thea Gilmore’s heartfelt vocals, enhanced this time by a string section to add some extra colour.

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Greg Spawton on East Coast Racer

Mallard at York Railway Museum

Great guest post by Gregory Spawton of Big Big Train on the National Railway Museum blog about the inspiration for the song East Coast Racer, from their latest album “English Electric Part 2″.

I really need to get round to reviewing that album for this blog. Like it’s predecessor it’s steeped in English history and landscapes, telling stories of the heroes in the industrial revolution, all set to music that evokes the spirit of 70s English progressive rock in a way that no neo-prog bands comes close to achieving.

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Postie has just delivered an album by a band named after an O-gauge Hymek…

Posted on by Tim Hall | 2 Comments

English Electric (Part Two) on Pre-order!

Big Big Train announce the pre-order for English Electric (Part Two), the follow-up to the highly acclaimed English Electric Part One.

Big Big Train continues its journey across the English landscape with an album of seven new songs which tell further tales of the men and women who work on and under the land. Along the way, stories are told of the shipbuilders in Neptune’s Yard, of a machine that burned its legend across the pages of the history books, of a keeper of abbeys and a curator of butterflies, and of a second chance at love.

Part One was one of my top five albums of 2012, and I have every expectation that the second part will be every bit as good. Whatever the fate of high street music chains, there’s nothing quite like supporting real music by real musicians by buying direct from the artist.

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2012 Albums of the Year – Part Three

Counting down from Five to Two, we get to the year’s Superb releases. In many previous years any of these might have been a strong candidate for my album of the year. Indeed, the previous album by one of these bands was my album of that year, even though the album listed below is the stronger album. That’s how good a year it’s been. Again, the order is simply alphabetical; these albums are so good it’s next to impossible to rank them into any kind of order.

Big Big TrainEnglish Electric Part One

With music reminiscent of “Wind and Wuthering” era Genesis with hints of Barclay James Harvest and Gentle Giant and lyrics about the industrial revolution, this is a quintessentially English record steeped in the nation’s history and landscapes. With varied instrumentation including strings and brass, it transcends obvious influences and evokes the spirit of 70s pastoral progressive rock far more strongly than any 80s style neo-prog band can hope to.

Mostly AutumnThe Ghost Moon Orchestra

Olivia Sparnenn finds her voice on her second studio album since taking over as the band’s lead vocalist, and makes her mark with some soaring leads that make it clear just why she was shortlisted for the gig with Nightwish. With their signature guitar-driven celtic-tinged classic rock on one side, and a more modern symphonic metal feel on the other, the result is a strong record with one foot in the past and one in the future. It delivers a powerful riposte to those who wrote the band off a couple of years ago.

RiverseaOut Of The Ancient World

Years in the making, the collaboration between singer-songwriter Marc Atkinson and keyboard player Brendan Eyre along with an all-star cast of guest musicians resulted in one of the progressive rock surprises of the year. Marc Atkinson’s emotive vocals recall Marillion’s Steve Hogarth and the keyboard-led arrangements range from simple piano accompaniments to moments of heavy symphonic rock. An album that proved to be well worth the wait.

Stolen EarthA Far Cry From Home

The band that grew out of the short-lived final incarnation of Breathing Space get off to a very strong start with their début album. The combination of Heidi Widdop’s soulful vocals and Adam Dawson’s effects-laden guitar gives a rich sound based around big wall-of-sound rock ballads. There’s a hint of early Mostly Autumn in the Floydian atmospherics, especially with Heidi’s low whistle, but this is a band with their own sound and their own identity. It will be very interesting to see how they progress from here.

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