Big Big Train
Far Skies Deep Time
(2010 - English Electric Recordings - UK)
What a nice surprise from the British progressive band Big Big Train. Their brand new CD (they list as EP but it has 5 songs and plays like a CD, which matches or goes beyond what some other artist sell for full length CD) called “Far Skies Deep Time” is a step back into the classic Genesis era with Big Big Train’s own special stamp. It’s a perfect combination of their best, and an amalgamation of the premium parts of their first three releases. It takes one far back before the neo prog bands came into the picture, and you genuinely get a throw back to the glory days of what most of us progressive music lovers really liked about this entire genre. A fine mix of eclectic classical, jazz rock, ballad, pop, and epic lingering lead guitar lines, sweet melodies, complex songsmithing, and lush keyboards (we all melted with the walls of mellotron and moog bass pedals) with theatrical vocals, magical imagery, and giant audio/visual atmospheres that took us places.
‘Far Skies Deep Time’ gives you five songs with all that. It begins with what could have been off “Trespass” in all it’s delicate guitar and vocal work. After all, it is indeed a cover of Anthony Phillips's 'Master Of Time'. One of the lines in the lyrics go “ Where did the beauty go?” and I say.. RIGHT HERE!. The magic is back!! Flute and all. The vocalist has a similar pitch and delivery of Peter Gabriel/Greg Lake/John Wetton, but not a clone. The two guitarists are especially tasteful, and play just what makes it at it’s best ( I swear you have the ghost of Hackett at times and also Anthony Phillips of course). Many musicians will know just what I am talking about here. It’s the line up of musicians that will make a believer out of even neo prog lovers here.. Nick DiVirgillio (Spock’s Beard and many session recordings you love) on drums, Dave Gregory (anyone know XTC?) on 6 and 12 string guitars, ebow, and then of course, foundation members David Longdon on lead and backing vocals, flute, accordion, mandolin, banjo, vibraphone, keyboards, glockenspiel, percussion, Theremin, Andy Poole on bass guitar, bass pedals, and keyboards and last but not least, Greg Spawton on 6 and 12 string acoustic guitars, electric and bass guitars, and keyboards. There is also a nice guest list including Jonathon Barry (guitar solo on “Fat Billy Shout Mine”), Danny Manners (double bass on “British Racing Green”), Tony Muller (piano on “British Racing Green”) and Martin Orford (keyboard solo on “Fat Billy Shout Mine”).
The music rolls on from gentle to powerful, all the time having a gleaming progressive music lover’s spiral with a cherry on top. Big Big Train have three early progressive rock releases which are all good, but still not top of the morning. I felt they hit a pinnacle with “ Difference Machine” as they took a giant leap forward and combined a Bark Psychosis/ Genesis perfect storm and just blew the minds of a anyone who discovered this gem. The next release “The Underfall Yard” (also has Dave Gregory on guitar) seemed to skate a bit from that exact “Difference Machine” formula, but it did grab the old classic progressive elements and held them dear, and gave any Genesis fan (vocals sound so much like Gabriel at his most delicate) a dose of ‘wish that band still existed” smile. Excellent!! So what we have with ‘Far Skies Deep Time” is a nice tri-fold digipak with booklet that will be a delight for anyone who already loves Big Big Train, and a must have for all people yearning for a realistic taste of the old days when those folklore progressive rock band sounds made the hairs on the back of your neck stand up to attention. If the last epic song on this recording doesn’t do it for you, then you might be dead.
For the uninitiated, buy these three -“ Big Difference”, “The Underfall Yard”, and this one “Far Skies Deep Time”. If you don’t like these, than well, I’m talking to the wrong person . Enjoy and know the art of the original progressive rock bands still does dance around the fire.
© Reviewed by Lee Henderson on November 8th, 2010