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Big Big Train - 1993 Goodbye To The Age Of Steam

ARTIST: Big Big Train
ALBUM: Goodbye To The Age Of Steam
LABEL: Giant Electric Pea
YEAR: 1993
CD REISSUE: 2011, English Electric, EERCD008


LINEUP: Martin Read - vocals * Greg Spawton - guitars * Andy Poole - bass * Ian Cooper - keyboards * Steve Hughes - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Wind Distorted Pioneers * 02 Head Hit The Pillow * 03 Edge Of The Known World * 04 Landfall * 05 Dragon Bone Hill * 06 Blow The House Down * 07 Expecting Snow * 08 Blue Silver Red * 09 Losing Your Way


'Goodbye To The Age Of Steam', the third offering from English progsters Big Big Train, is more concerned musically with creating atmospheres rather than being self indulgent. The album's swirling feel and sometimes hauntingly beautiful songs are a nod to many of the prog giants of the 1970s - the record company press release compares Big Big Train to the works of Genesis co-founder and ex-guitarist Anthony Phillips.

The Songs
The album showcases some brilliant musicianship, especially from guitarist Greg Spawton. His guitar work here is sometimes soft, acoustic and film soundtrack like, a good example being the classical stylings of 'Dragon Bone Hill', which reminds me very much of Steve Howe's 'Mood For a Day' from the classic 'Fragile' album by Yes. At other times, his playing is electric and 'angular' rather than edgy (the album's opening track, 'Wind Distorted Pioneers' shows this excellently). A special mention must be made also to the keyboard player, Ian Cooper, without whom this album would have a completely different feel, as the blankets of keyboards add texture to the overall sound. Something I especially like here is the use of piano, something 'Goodbye..' features extensively and which works better than the usual prog rock synth sound. It's definitely the piano parts blending with the vocals of Martin Read which gives Big Big Train their haunting quality. Martin Read's vocals are quite distinctive, probably best compared to Gary Chandler of Jadis, a band to which I think Big Big Train could be compared, despite their music having more of an acoustic basis. It's very hard to pick out the album's stand-out tracks, as there really are no duds. However, if I were forced to choose, I'd pick 'Edge of the Known World' with its up-beat feel, the acoustic 'Landfall' with an excellent vocal performance from Martin and 'Blow the House Down'. At over nine minutes, 'Blow Your House Down' is probably the centre-piece for the album. It has a very strong arrangement, particularly on the backing vocal harmonies which work excellently against the song's piano base. With its mid-pace, 'Blow Your House Down' could also be seen as the most typically prog piece on the album..

In Summary
'Goodbye To The Age Of Steam' is a modern day classic and it's about time more people discovered it.

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#1 | Eric on May 04 2011 22:43:48
Just reissued with new art work. A must have in any serious prog collection.

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