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(41:48, Crimsonic Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Master of Time 7:44 2. Fat Billy Shouts Mine 6:39 3. British Racing Green 3:59 4. Brambling 5:00 5. The Wide Open Sea 17:44 LINEUP: David Longdon – vocals; flute; vibraphone; keyboards Greg Spawton – guitars, bass; keyboards Andy Poole – basses; keyboards Dave Gregory – guitars, e-bow Nick D'Virgilo – drums, b/v With: Martin Orford - keyboards Jonathan Barry – guitars Danny Manners – bass
Prolusion. The UK band BIG-BIG TRAIN has six full-length albums to their name since they started out, the latest of them "The Underfall Yard" from 2009. 2010 saw the band celebrating their 20th anniversary, and while no new full-length album appeared, the band decided to release the next best thing, the album-length EP "Far Skies Deep Time", to celebrate the occasion.
Analysis. Big Big Train is a band that has made quite an impact in the last few years. Struggling personnel-wise and financially for the first half or so of their career, the recent years' renewed interest in progressive rock have rewarded this unit with steadily increasing sales, which, in turn, seems to have inspired the band to craft ever stronger compositions, as the critical acclaim from one production to the next seems to become ever more positive and the commercial impact appears to be on a positive run too. The 41-minute "Far Skies Deep Time" was curiously enough released as an EP. And while I'm one of many who regard any release clocking in at more than 33 minutes to be considered a full-length production, fans will be pleased to be able to purchase this disc at a reduced price. And the price is just about the only reduction at hand if comparing this one to their previous endeavors, as this is yet another high-quality production from this fine unit. Longdon has a fine melodic voice, conveying the moods and messages of the lyrics in a manner oddly resembling Peter Gabriel. In a good way I might add. And the instrumental support does reflect back towards Genesis on occasion too, in particular opening track Master of Time, which stands to reason, as this is a piece written by former Genesis guitarist Anthony Philips. But the vintage symphonic art rock territories are visited and explored extensively also on the tracks originating from Big Big Train themselves: organs, pianos, synthesizers and the Mellotron all get an airing, most often as a part of richly-layered themes of a kind that should please most aficionados of this stylistic expression. An additional trait to this band is that they don't stay put within this niche. Spirited, slightly mainstream-oriented bass- and guitar-dominated themes are a part of the proceedings too, and gentler pastoral passages with slightly more of a folk orientation are another facet of their repertoire. And if you adore lazy, jazz-tinged bass and drum arrangements, British Racing Green is a creation you will adore. The variety in expression is mostly used to explore and enhance different moods rather than to craft challenging and hard-to-conceive musical landscapes however, innovative and arguably adventurous, but within a confined framework. And if you crave an epic-length creation for your musical needs you're in luck too, as final track The Wide Open Sea should fulfill that requirement quite nicely in its close to 18 minutes long and excellent run.
Conclusion. "Far Skies Deep Time" is a delightful creation that should cater quite nicely for those with an interest in symphonic art rock. The emphasis on strong melodies and distinct moods is of a kind that should appeal to fans of the vintage variety as well as those with a soft spot for Neo-prog, and when sold as a low-price EP this should prove to be excellent value for money for all concerned.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: Agst 2, 2011
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