Big Big Train - "Bard"
(Treefrog Records 2002, TFCD001)
From Aural Innovations #19 (April 2002)
Big Big Train's new disk 'Bard' is a stately, at times elegiac, and mostly laid back prog record with many 'classical' influences apparent - by that I mean Yes (and in particular, Steve Howe's fretwork) as well as a few lounge jazz flourishes. It is rarely intense, usually competent, always pleasant. Here's how things stack up, track by track.
'The Last English King' opens with a Steve Howesque number. Lead vocalist Tony Muller has absorbed some Peter Gabriel influences, especially on the softer passages. There are some gorgeous three-part harmonies.
'Broken English': Jo Michaels could be opening up a smoky jazz number, featuring a number of interesting time changes, some flourishes of Hammond organ, then an early cut break into a short Rick Wakemanesque - Chris Squire allegro. The song then veers back into the comfortable and stately territory this band claim through most of the record.
"This Is Where We Came In" is another mellow number; "Harold Rex Interfectus Est" is reminiscent of Yes's "Mood For A Day"; "Blacksmithing" is introspective; "Malfosse" is a brief ambient passage; "Love Is Her Thing" returns to the mellow ground broken by "This Is Where We Came In"; "Love Is Her Thing" evokes late 70's Styx; "How The Earth From This Place Has Power Over Fire" is another ambient bridge; "A Short Visit To Earth" is a breathy, mellow quasi-love ode; "Fox Winter" is, for the most part, a breezy soft rock/jazz exercise, only in the first third of the song breaking into a more energetic base and keyboard workout; 'The Long Fishing' wraps up the disk in the well-established acoustic intro - middle jazz break - concluding acoustic bit.
Bard pays homage to its progenitors, and while well executed, breaks no new ground. A good introduction to the roots of the genre, but in fact best described as 'Prog Lite'.
For more information you can visit the Big Big Train web site at: For more information you can visit the Big Big Train web site at: http://www.bigbigtrain.com.
Reviewed by Ian Compton