Exposé Online banner

Big Big Train — Grand Tour
(Bandcamp no#, 2019, DL)

by Peter Thelen, Published 2019-06-30

Grand Tour Cover art

I’ve been aware of Big Big Train as long as Exposé has been a going concern, since the days of early albums like Goodbye to the Age of Steam and Gathering Speed. I wasn’t all that impressed back then, but in the last ten years or so, albums like The Underfall Yard and the two part English Electric have convinced me that this is a band that I should be paying closer attention to. Here we are, a half dozen albums later with the band’s latest effort Grand Tour – no, it’s not a live album, but a powerful studio statement that shows the band at the best I’ve heard them yet, placing a more substantial distance from their modest beginnings, the grand tour being a reference to a sea voyage. Since I haven’t followed the band that closely over the years, I can’t really comment on the band’s personnel changes over the decades, but the band today is guitarist Dave Gregory, bassist Greg Spawton, keyboardist Danny Manners, drummer Nick D’Virgilio, who also contributes additional guitars, keyboards and vocals, singer and flutist David Longdon (who also contributes additional guitars and keyboards), guitarist Rikard Sjöblom, and violinist and singer Rachel Hall; numerous additional players contribute trombone, euphonium, tuba, trumpet, french horn, and an entire eighteen-piece string section is used as needed. When your lead singer sounds a lot like Peter Gabriel (not the early Gabriel, but circa Security) it’s an almost inevitable invitation to comparisons, but the entire project, from the compositions to the arrangements and harmonies, orchestrations, and the production itself are all amazingly powerful, and certainly worthy of note. The album starts with a few shorter pieces including the early standout “Alive,” and “The Florenine” (if eight minutes is a ‘shorter piece’) and then we move on to the side-long multi-part epic “Roman Stone” that includes all the additional musicians. Nick D’Virgilio’s instrumental “Pantheon” follows, leading into “Theodora in Green and Gold,” where Sjöblom takes the keyboards, a very memorable tune with a catchy refrain. Then we come to two more multi-part side-long suites back to back, “Ariel” and “Voyager,” eight parts and seven parts respectively, both positively excellent. The five minute “Homesong” closes the album nicely. An expansive booklet with artwork and all the lyrics rounds out the package. Thos one is available as a double LP as well. Definitely a landmark release from Big Big Train.


Filed under: New releases, 2019 releases

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

More info
http://bigbigtrain.bandcamp.com/album/grand-tour

Latest news

2020-01-21
Gong Announces UK Tour for 2020 – Having spent the last few years touring the world, including dates in Japan with psych legend Steve Hillage, multiple headline European tours and festivals, America’s Cruise to the Edge festival, a South America headline tour, and a headline performance at Tomorrow Festival in China, the band have won the hearts of both traditional and modern Gong fanbases. During this live journey, Gong has delved further into the truly psychedelic, exploratory, and mind-expanding side of the music. » Read more

2020-01-15
Carlos Alvarado RIP – Carlos Alvarado, pioneering composer, multi-instrumentalist and pioneer of progressive rock and electronic experimental music in Mexico, passed away January 14th, 2020 at age 68 after a two year battle with cancer.  » Read more

2020-01-12
Wolfgang Dauner RIP – Pianist Wolfgang Dauner, one of the pioneers of both European free jazz and jazz rock, has died at the age of 84. With his own groups and with the United Jazz+Rock Ensemble, his playing and compositions were a prominent presence in European jazz from the mid-60s until just recently. » Read more

2020-01-12
Michael Allison RIP – Michael Allison, who since 1997 has been recording as Darshan Ambient, passed away on January 9th after a long and brave battle with cancer. He has been at at the forefront of the new ambient/electronic music scene, with over eighteen releases to his credit. » Read more

2020-01-10
Neil Peart RIP – One of rock music's defining drummers has died at the age of 67. Neil Peart's work with Rush provided one of the templates for percussion in rock, and he certainly ranks in the top ten most influential drummers of the 20th Century. Peart retired from playing in 2015 due to health issues, and succumbed to brain cancer on January 7, 2020. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Sebastian Hardie - Live in L.A. – Live in L.A. is taken from part of Sebastian Hardie's headlining Progfest 1994 set, and represents their first, and only, show since their previous "final performance" in Melbourne way...  (1999) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues