Big Big Train | Folklore
Label: English Electric Recordings
Release Year: 2016
Genre: Progressive Rock
Andy Poole – Bass, Keyboards
Greg Spawton – Guitars, Keyboards, Bass
David Longdon – Vocals, Flute, Banjo, Mandolin, Organ, Glockenspiel
Dave Gregory – Electric Guitar
Nick D’Virgilio – Drums
Danny Manners – Double Bass
Rachel Hall – Violin
Rikard Sjöblom – Keyboard, Guitars, Vocal
Some bands think they have to have something new and fresh every year. Other bands live by the notion that quality is better than quantity. Big Big Train are the perfect example that quality wins over quantity. With only nine albums to their credit over a 25 year career, Big Big Train are one of those prog bands that places the emphasis strong on substance. In 2016 with their new release Folklore this becomes the apparent case.
With the time and space in which Big Big Train put out a new album is like two lovers that grow more fond of one another. In this case it is Big Big Train and their fan base. Equipped with world class musicianship, Big Big Train are NOT just another ‘Supergroup’. They are a band that has worked to niche out their own individual sound with its various world renown musicians. Folklore reinforces this very fact.
Folklore is very strong on writing, recording, production on both sides between melody instrumentally and vocal harmony. For those unfamiliar with Big Big Train was founded in 1990 by Andy Poole – Bass, Keyboards & Greg Spawton – Guitars, Keyboards, Bass and later joined by David Longdon – Vocals, Flute, Banjo, Mandolin, Organ, Glockenspiel . David comes to the table with a Peter Gabriel era Genesis vibe about him yet with so much more. Big Big Train have all the hallmarks of classic symphonic progressive rock with folk , medieval and renaissance sophistication. All those elements are subtly put together with a touch of flair and tasteful consideration towards the listener.
Folklore the title track and opening track on the album opens up as if they simulated transcribed symphony orchestra on traditional progressive rock instruments. It soon takes a very Celtic turn. The background harmonies are coordinated like a mini choir giving Folklore warmth and depth inviting the listener into the rest of the album.
London Plane keeps Folklore wide open for a general progressive rock audio pallet with its warm semi acoustical intro. London Plane brilliantly creates such a atmosphere where even new fans of Big Big Train can get a essence of the lucid sophistication Big Big Train uses in its verse, bridges, time signatures and pure old school organ style keyboards. Around the 5:38 mark it takes a slight a subtle heavier turn ever climb towards various time progressions.
Along The Ridgeway begins almost in the vibe of a old jazz standard yet with modern progressive rock elements. This is one of the more eclectic tracks on the album. It is as if they have incorporated portions of 1940’s Big Band orchestra to the modern filter of progressive symphonic rock. There seems to be a conceptual theme building on the album. Many various songs of folklore. At the 3:41 mark a Jon Lord style Hammond Organ element shows up on the keyboards. The lyrical content starts to really allow the listener to think and breathe at this point of the album. The song gently ends as a jazz standard with a mini choir supporting it.
Salisbury Giant starts out in a more modern yet traditional progressive mindset and does it gracefully. It has the heavy warm rhythm section that is running parallel with the very atmospheric stringed section. Once again the band really utilizes harmony as its core strength of this track like every track on Folklore.
The Transit Of Venus Across The Sun opens up with extreme symphonic splendor. It sets the listener in a concert hall waiting for the conductor or band in the case to take its target audience on a mini journey. The intro is so heavily laced with symphony orchestral elements it gives the listener the atmosphere they are preparing to watch a vintage black and white film or going to some recital of sorts. The beautiful use of off time signatures with the vocal melodies and harmonies work both as vocal and instrumental pieces as the heavy jazz elements once again resurface.
Wassail has a very unique rhythm heavy opening old world Celtic intro. Wassail has a very old 15th to 16th century message with a modern progressive renaissance rock element. The rhythmic sections of the drum/bass are very tastefully noticeable. The violin gives a sense of gratitude to the string section. By this point of Folklore you really start to get just as involved with the lyrical arrangements much like the instrumental time progressions. Wassail is a great example of true storytelling with the appropriate instrumental signatures.
Winkie is definitely old world with a modern twist from the start to finish. The galloping intro gives the effect of a man on a horse riding out to get word out as was custom before horseless carriages or automobiles were invented. Winkie is very ironic that the old world instrumental sound is carrying a very modern story and message without getting lost in the intended translation.
Booklands is the epic of Folklore. It starts out with a very polite and inviting guitar based intro before taking a very 1970’s Genesis vibe. The background vocals are brought out and displayed both as a well balanced vocal harmony while maintaining the integrity of the instrumental melody. Lyrically Booklands is the most modern track in its story form. There are some really nice percussion portions with subtle stringed portions that still allow the listener to digest the track without being overwhelmed. The vocals on Folklore at this point are some of the most soulful I have yet to hear in 2016 with this style of progressive rock. Towards the mid point the band really gives a solo clinic of various time signatures.
Telling The Bees is arranged perfectly as the final track on Folklore. It really puts the album in perspective where the listener or even the tightest critics can stop and reflect over what they have heard on the album. Telling The Bees is a very modern yet traditional progressive rock track with much emotion. It also goes out as one of those feel good moments that many people can appreciate as it goes out on a very up tempo vibe.
After hearing Folklore I feel I have come away with a better knowledge of what Big Big Train embody as a band collective. If you have been a long time fan Folklore is the perfect album to embrace and welcome the band back with. If you are new to Big Big Train than Folklore is a perfect introduction to the great body of work the band has created over the last 25+ years. I also believe that the band has added high quality music to its massive body of work that can be very fun for the audience in a live concert setting. I give Big Big Train Folklore a 4.5/5 .
Video Courtesy of : Big Big Train Official Youtube Channel