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Articles Home » 2002 Articles » Big Big Train - 2002 Bard
Big Big Train - 2002 Bard

ARTIST: Big Big Train
LABEL: Treefrog Records
YEAR: 2002


LINEUP: Gregory Spawton - guitars, keyboards, vocals * Andy Poole - bass * Tony Muller - keyboards, vocals, piano * Phil Hogg - drums * Martin Read - vocals * Jo Michaels - vocals * Ian Cooper - keyboards

TRACK LISTING: 01 The Last English King * 02 Broken English * 03 This Is Where We Came In * 04 Harold Rex Interfectus Est * 05 Blacksmithing * 06 Malfosse * 07 Love Is Her Thing * 08 How The Earth From This Place Has Power Over Fire * 09 A Short Visit To Earth * 10 For Winter * 11 A Long Finish


It's incredible to think that it's been nine years since Big Big Train's classic 'Goodbye to the Age of Steam' was released. In 1997, their album 'English Boy Wonders' was released and the prog-rock buying public's response was underwhelming at best. Five years (and a couple of personnel changes later) the band have returned with their new opus entitled 'Bard'. One of the most striking things here is the band's new approach - a variety of voices. Their original vocalist, Martin Read, is still present, although taking more of a back seat. Most of the lead vocal duties are handled by keys-man Tony Muller and the newest passenger aboard the big train, Jo Michaels. Having been a fan of the band for some time, I found it strange (although not unpleasant, it has to be said) hearing the Big Big Train 'sound' with female vocals.

The Songs
Jo's presence is most strongly felt on the albums second track, the fourteen minute 'Broken English', where she reminds me a little of Landmarq/Strangers On A Train vocalist Tracy Hitchings. Jo definitely has a better voice, though. 'This Is Where We Came In' has a more classic Big Big Train feel to it, with some fluid bass playing from Andy Poole, whose playing throughout this album is great (check out the funky bass on 'The Last English King'). The trademark piano sound, which had been used to great effect on 'Goodbye..' is not as obvious on 'Bard', sadly. That's not to say you should all panic though.. The atmospheric aspect of Big Big Train's best work can still be found here, most obviously on the (once again) film soundtrack worthy 'Harold Rex Interfectus Est', 'Maffosse' and 'How The Earth From This Place Has Power Over Fire'.

In Summary
This is another good, solid release from a criminally under-rated band. The album is designed to be heard as a whole piece, so it's a little unfair for me to single out any songs, but for me, 'Love Is Her Thing' and the warm sounding 'Blacksmithing' make this album essential listening alone. Despite being a (slight) departure from the bands earlier works, I believe that many fans (we are a select group) will enjoy 'Bard'. As for all of you out there who are still sadly unaware of one of the UK's finest prog bands, check this out and if you like it, it's definitely time to invest in the band's back catalogue!

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#1 | Eric on July 19 2008 23:25:11
Easily one of the best prog albums this decade.
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