What does it sound like?:
Much anticipated by a very loyal fan base, the increasingly prolific Big Big Train are back with a new album. The scope of “Grand Tour” moves beyond the quintessentially English material they have long been associated with. This time we are taken on a European Grand Tour passing through ancient Rome, admiring Leonardo De Vinci and mourning the loss of a Romantic poet. We also get a trip to the stars on board the Voyager exploratory space craft.
If you’ve enjoyed their pervious offerings you’ll love this one. If you haven’t then you’re unlikely to be convinced as it contains all the hallmarks that the “passengers” have come to expect. Brass bands, storytelling, intricate drumming, complex interplay between keyboard and guitar and strong, clear vocals.
The album packaging is a thing of beauty containing plenty of explanatory articles and some truly stunning artwork.
I like Big Big Train, I like them a lot. I’ve seen them live (twice) and will be seeing them again at the Hackney empire in November. That said, I’ve never been quite able to put my finger on it, but there is something missing. Mrs S probably nailed it the other day when she tolerated a few tracks and said “you can always tell it’s them can’t you”. I think that’s it, you always know what you are going to get. Despite the variety of available instrumentalists, it is a little comfortable. They have an embarrassment of riches too large to cram into a single package which leaves some of the younger band members in the background which for me detracts from the energy.
If I’m honest I’d like to hear more variation in the vocals (they have enough frontmen within their ranks!). In fact the stand out track on this record is “The Florentine” which uses dual vocal harmonies throughout. It is a breath of fresh air from the normal vocal pallet that comes across as accurate, tuneful, clear but slightly academic in its story telling. I’d like to hear something a little more raucous from time to time.
It’s a small complaint as this album delivers some brilliant musicianship, some very clever arrangements and songs you can really listen to. Knowing them as I do, they’ll be working hard on delivering these arrangements for the forthcoming live shows. They will absolutely carry that off, they are that good.
What does it all *mean*?
Another clean sweep at next years prog awards!
Goes well with…
It’s a natural progression from the back catalogue. If you are listening to the stream, you are missing out. The album packaging is a brilliant side dish.
Might suit people who like…
Genesis, Fairport etc