Exposé Online banner

Big Big Train — A Stone's Throw from the Line
(English Electric Recordings EERCD0018, 2016, 2CD)

by Mike McLatchey, Published 2018-08-09

A Stone's Throw from the Line Cover art

The Kings Place gigs were the first live performances by Big Big Train in 17 years and of course they were a completely different group back then (you don't even have to backtrack that far to realize this). I've watched a couple videos from these gigs and there are a few on their live Blu Ray, Stone and Steel, as well, and they all cemented me that it's quite possible for a large group of musicians who have only worked in studios together to actually transcend this work on stage. Big Big Train are essentially an octet here but, somewhat invisible in the pictures of the shows, there's also a brass section on the balcony to the upper left. It isn't uncommon for bands to augment themselves with these sorts of sections or even string sections or orchestras, but it is fairly uncommon for hired help to come on board and play this passionately, to truly feel like they're part of the larger group.

There's a feeling here that the band knows their best material. Disc one includes the two big epics from their best album, The Underfall Yard. The second disc the best from their English Electric series. All of these, with some slight exceptions, are written by Greg Spawton, who has to be one of the premiere writers of Genesis-inspired symphonic progressive music today. No matter how lengthy the material is, the pieces tend to be locked down by really excellent melodic themes (usually reprised in the right places) while leaving those to explore various moods and developments, also leaving plenty of room for all the instrumentalists to solo. But no matter how great a lot of these pieces are, when the band develops to a crescendo and that horn section comes in, the music embodies how powerful this style can be. They are absolutely devastating in those moments, in particular in the epic length "East Coast Racer," towards the very end of this collection.

I'll admit the David Longdon penned shorts aren't quite as much to my taste. I skip "Make Some Noise" completely and it's possible "Wassail" will eventually follow that tendency, but these songs are so short they really don't make much of a dent in my enjoyment — they're still as well played as the rest of the music. In many ways these pieces (along with "Uncle Jack" and "Judas Unrepentant") give one a bit of a breather anyway. None of them prevent this from being one of the best live albums of the decade.


Filed under: New releases, 2016 releases

Related artist(s): Big Big Train, Nick D'Virgilio (NDV)

Latest news

2019-11-07
Glenn Smith RIP – Glenn Smith, founder, mandolinist, and primary composer of the DeLand, Florida based prog / fusion band Magnatar, passed away on October 18th 2019 at the age of 68, after a brief illness.  » Read more

2019-11-04
Dino Brassea RIP – Word reaches us of the passing of Dino Brassea, who sang and played flute in Cast for many years. By our count, Brassea appeared on 11 Cast albums between 1994 and 2002. He also released music as a solo artist. » Read more

2019-10-06
Ginger Baker RIP – Legendary English drummer Ginger Baker has died at the age of 80. After coming to fame with Cream in the 60s alongside Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce, he became one of the most recognized and influential drummers of the rock era. On September 25, his family announced that he was critically ill, and on October 6 his death was confirmed. » Read more

2019-08-20
Alex's Hand Seeks Spa Treatment – American / European band Alex's Hand has a new album in the works called Hungarian Spa, which looks to be their biggest and best yet, featuring a large roster of guest musicians. They're seeking funding to take the project on the road, and are looking for help from the crowd of wisdom. » Read more

2019-06-05
Legendary Co-Founder of The 13th Floor Elevators Passes Away at Age 71 – Sadly, Roky Erickson passed away on May 31, 2019. Known as the father of psychedelic music and co-founder of the ground breaking 13th Floor Elevators, Roky had a profound influence on music from the 60s to today. Plagued by his own personal demons, Roky had a difficult life and is now free of these burdens. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Fromuz - Audio Diplomacy – Fromuz is short for "From Uzbekistan," the homeland country for this inspired quintet that took Tashkent by storm a few years ago. Guitarist Vitaly Popeloff leads the band in a series of fusion and...  (2008) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues