Frost* Day And Age album review

7 04 2021

Frost* release their fourth studio album Day And Age on May 14 2021. The follow-up to their 2016 album Falling Satellites, Day And Age is available as a limited 2 CD version and a 2 LP / CD edition, as well as a digital release.

Now built around the trio of Jem Godfrey, Nathan King and John Mitchell with guest drummers Kaz Rodriguez, Darby Todd and Pat Mastelotto, the new Frost* album has a feeling of dread and paranoia running through its veins. Day And Age feels very much of it’s time, without referencing current events directly.

Opening with the title track, which thunders along at pace, almost like a proggier Synchronicity era The Police powered by John Bonham. The middle section, with its chilling soundscapes and metal leanings, is a delight to listen to, especially on headphones.

“We’re living in a day and age, when the writings on the wall”

Terrestrial lifts the mood somewhat, with a brighter production, and glitchy keyboard motifs. The percussion styles vary from song to song on this album, so having three very different players was a good decision that has paid dividends. The arrangement is very intelligent on Terrestrial, with one of the albums most compelling songs underpinned by layers that reveal themselves on subsequent listens.

Waiting For The Lie was one of my early favourites. The piano, electronics and vocal led song is very dark and bleak, with the rhythm initially coming from synths and a deep bass drum until the song opens up around the half-way mark. The vocal performance is stellar.

“These are the games that we play”

I won’t give away too many spoilers for The Boy Who Stood Still, as it is a song that works best with few preconceptions, and you will be able to hear for yourself in May, but the track is musically very playful, suiting the subject matter of the very unique lyrics perfectly.

“In the long shadows of the day, he would stand, year after year, watching….”

The first half is very electronic, before morphing into a powerful, more traditional arrangement with very insistent guitar and keyboard lines, and an ending that reminded me of the percussive power utilised by Level 42 in Hot Water (spot the connection, pop-pickers). After about three complete listens to the album, The Boy Who Stood Still has become my favourite song on the album.

Island Life channels The Police (I hear their influence a lot in Frost*, is it just me?), Kevin Gilbert, the late Alan Murphy and Mansun and will surely be the next single from Day And Age. The song is so catchy, its criminal. With more twists and turns than should be allowed in a a four minute song, Island Life acts as a palate cleanser for the darkness that informs the rest of the album.

Skywards is a perfect example of the thoughtful arrangements and production. Percussion breaks drop when least expected, and time signatures shift without jarring the flow. The drum sound is a star on Day And Age, and this is surely an album built to be played LOUD.

Photo by Carl Glover

The second longest track is next, and Kill The Orchestra opens with a 10cc like arrangement (from the Godley & Creme years). Another brutal lyric and a slow building performance that makes the hairs stand on end.

“I’ll be singing when they string you up”

This is a track that took a couple of listens to fully reveal it’s charms, and I would not be surprised if Kill The Orchestra becomes a favourite for a lot of fans. The heavier parts on Day And Age are more restrained and used more sparingly than elsewhere in the Frost* catalogue, and this makes them all the more powerful when they are put to use. The Gilmouresque guitar line at the end is short but sweet, and I love the way it fades into an emotional keyboard riff that hits hard. The lyrical violence cuts deep on this one.

Day And Age closer Repeat To Fade seems to continue and build on the story of Kill The Orchestra, with an Army Of Me (Björk) on steriods drum pattern added to the mix. Production touches such as layered, buried voices and sonar beeps give way to static as the song comes to an abrupt end, with the chorus still ringing in your ears.

“There’s only one way out, repeat to fade”

More so than previous Frost* albums, Day And Age feels very consistent lyrically and musically, with a well thought-out flow to keep your interest piqued throughout the 54 minutes running time. The album also contains two of the strongest new songs I have heard so far in 2021, in The Boy Who Stood Still and Kill The Orchestra. Its still early days, but this might turn out to be my favourite Frost* album to date. I can’t wait for you to hear it.

Available as: Ltd. 2CD Edition / Gatefold 2LP+CD / Digital Album

Buy Day And Age (Ltd. 2CD Edition) from Amazon
Buy Day And Age vinyl (Day And Age (Gatefold black 2LP+CD)) from Amazon

Buy Day And Age from Burning Shed

Frost* Day And Age

Day And Age (11:49)
Terrestrial (05:13)
Waiting For The Lie (04:31)
The Boy Who Stood Still (07:33)
Island Life (04:14)
Skywards (04:13)
Kill The Orchestra (09:27)
Repeat To Fade (06:14)

Jem Godfrey – Keyboards, Railboard, vocals
Nathan King – Bass, keyboards, vocals
John Mitchell – Guitars, bass, vocals
With guest musicians:
Kaz Rodriguez – Drums
Darby Todd – Drums
Pat Mastelotto – Drums

Visit the Frost* website





Big Big Train – The Underfall Yard (Remixed and Remastered) Review

29 03 2021

Big Big Train are releasing their 2009 album The Underfall Yard for the first time on vinyl, as a triple 180g LP in a trifold cover. The set is made up of the original album over 2 LPs with a further album containing 48 minutes of material, including a 2020 studio re-recording of the title track preceded by a previously unreleased brass prelude, and a new song Brew And Burgh.

The Underfall Yard cover

The Underfall Yard (Remixed and Remastered) is also available as a double CD.

The Underfall Yard was the first Big Big Train album to feature David Longdon on vocals and also the first to feature Nick D’Virgilio as the band’s drummer. Former XTC guitarist Dave Gregory appears on most tracks, along with Francis Dunnery (It Bites) and Jem Godfrey (Frost*) on the title track. The 2020 version of The Underfall Yard is a remix as well as remaster, so is the definitive version of one of the most popular releases from the band.

Big Big Train

One of the main upgrades in sound is the separation and space offered in this mix. This is particularly noticeable on the album opener, Evening Star. The choral, wall of sound vocals are so much richer, and when the brass makes it’s first entrance half-way through, it really hits the mark. I’m reviewing this from a digital stream, which sounds amazing but I cannot wait to hear this on vinyl at the end of April.

David Longdon’s stunning vocal arrangements on Master James of St George are really noticeable on this remix / remaster, and the powerful instrumental sections, often underpinned by deep bass notes, fly out of the headphones / speakers.

“But lines get broken
Lines get broken down”

Victorian Brickwork is one of my favourite Big Big Train songs, and is all the more heart-breaking when you read the story behind the lyrics in the updated interview with Greg Spawton conducted by Dave Bowler on the band’s UnderFall Yard micro-site.

“Call up the boys, call them now
Time to bring them home
They will call if they want to”

Last Train is the story of the last day at work for a 1930’s station master, and almost feels like a template for some of the music the band has released since this album.

Winchester Diver has a notable upgrade, with the opening synth line replaced by trumpet in the 2020 mix. The mellotron and flute also sound so warm in this 2020 restoration. I have always loved the album, but believe me, you will be blown away when you hear how it sounds now. It’s like upgrading from a Crosley record deck to a Linn!

The quiet section, with Winchester bells, at around the 4 minute mark also has such depth and clarity.

The 23 minute title track, the final track on the album proper, is a joy to listen to. Greg Spawton’s paean to Victorian engineers is a career highlight. Each individual passage, riff and motif flows beautifully from the one before, never out-staying it’s welcome.

“Using just available light
He could still see far”

Just hearing the main album remixed and remastered would justify the purchase of this new version of the album, but the additional tracks are not mere add-on’s, they work well on their own. Sensibly, they are separate from the main album, so you can enjoy the original concept and flow that you already love.

Songs From The Shoreline features a new 2020 recording of Victorian Brickwork married to Fat Billy Shouts Mine (from Far Skies Deep Time), as well as a new version of the title track. Both versions are studio versions that are informed by the live performances from recent years, along with an additional piece, the brass Prelude To The Underfall Yard. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, brass bands were often used as part of the early 70s musical palette and they have dropped off the radar since, which is a real loss. The sound and feeling evoked can take me back to another time and place, and as someone who spent 5 years living in Yorkshire in my formative years, hearing Prelude To The Underfall Yard is an incredibly moving experience.

The album ends with a new song, written specifically for this reissue. Brew And Burgh is a moving tale (referencing lots of earlier Big Big Train songs – Big Big Train bingo if you will!) of friendship and companionship. A warning, the video may make your eyes rain.

So as a final thought, if you already own The Underfall Yard and are thinking, should I buy the album again? My answer would be a hearty yes. It is such an improvement that you will find yourselves falling in love with the album all over again.

The Underfall Yard
Remixed and Remastered
Evening Star
Master James of St George
Victorian Brickwork
Last Train
Winchester Diver
The Underfall Yard
Additional Tracks
Songs From The Shoreline:
(i) Victorian Brickwork (2020 Version)
(ii) Fat Billy Shouts Mine
Prelude To The Underfall Yard
The Underfall Yard (2020 Version)
Brew And Burgh

Buy from the Big Big Train store
Buy From Burning Shed





Frost* 13 Winters artbook / boxset Review

10 11 2020

Frost* are releasing 13 Winters, a Limited Edition Deluxe 8-disc Artbook that contains remastered (and for Experiments In Mass Appeal a remix/remaster) of their three studio albums, plus the previously digital only Others EP, two live albums, the instrumental version of Falling Satellites, a rarities disc along with an artbook.

Frost* were formed in 2004 by Jem Godfrey, who was known for creating chart-topping hits for acts including Atomic Kitten, Shayne Ward and Holly Valance. Godfrey teamed up with John Mitchell (Lonely Robot, Kino, Arena, It Bites…) and other musicians to explore his earlier roots in progressive rock. Whilst modern progressive rock is at the forefront of Frost*, the songs also expose Godfrey’s pop skills, with strong melodies and hooks.

The Milliontown remaster is a subtle upgrade, with better separation and clarity, making the quieter parts more powerful but the heavy patches hit you hard with their renewed energy. This presents the album in its best light, and it is a pleasure rediscovering the band’s debut album. From the slow-building progressive-pop of Hyperventilate, that sets an early blueprint for the breadth of Frost*’s vision, to one of my favourite songs, the warm and nostalgic Snowman.

Black Light Machine highlights the power of this new remaster, and the closing song, the epic Milliontown, sounds stunning.

Whilst not a favourite of Jem Godfrey, I love the band’s second album, 2008’s Experiments In Mass Appeal. It does have more of an alt-rock feel than its predecessor, and is certainly more guitar based, but the pop sensibility remains. The version of Experiments In Mass Appeal in this boxset is a 2020 remix as well as a remaster.

Along with the rock tracks, such as the title track and Pocket Sun, the album delivers some touching slower paced, more melancholic pieces. My favourite of these is Saline. At times reduced to just a solo piano line, this is one of the most stripped back but hard-hitting tracks the band have ever released. When the strings kick in towards the end, you realise that Saline is such a powerful and emotional statement.

“And I don’t know if I can survive the feeling
Losing all that’s mine”

Falling Down is another personal favourite, and has remained so since its release back in 2008. Andy Edwards contributes some great drum patterns on this intelligent arrangement, as it shifts from light to dark moods. Toys reminds me of mid-period Mansun, and is stuffed to the brim with hook after hook. The Secret Song (aka the hidden track on Wonderland) is a fine way to end the album.

“And I’ll be fine
Don’t worry
Remember me…”

2016’s Falling Satellites is available as the full album plus an instrumental version in the 13 Winters boxset. The album features the mighty Craig Blundell on drums, who leaves his mark early on with Numbers and a song that reminds me of The Police in the verses, Signs. There is a strong feeling of consistency throughout Falling Satellites, which comes across as a real band album, and benefits from a subtle and sympathetic remaster.

Towerblock is a song of change and rebuilding, and the loss of the physical places where some of our memories live. A glitchy, stuttering production full of found sounds makes this track unique in the bands catalogue.

“(They’re all gone gone gone gone gone gone)
The height lines on my bedroom door
(They’re all gone gone gone gone gone gone)
My soldiers hiding under the floor”

Lights Out is another quality mid-tempo pop piece, and freshens the palette mid-way through the album.

Closer To The Sun is a late-night chillout track, with mesmerising percussion work, that mutates mid-song, featuring a solo from Joe Satriani as the arrangement becomes more progressive. Mix those genres Frost*! Which is something they do to even more dramatic effect on The Raging Against The Dying Of The Light Blues in 7/8, which starts off like a modern take on the blues genre before shape-shifting into a completely different beast as the song twists and changes.

The album ends with the short and sparse Last Day.

“Handprints in old concrete
Ghosts we leave behind”

Falling Satellive is the Falling Satellites album (minus opening track First Day) in a live performance with the same line-up as the studio album. The live version of Numbers gives off strong Synchronicity 1 (The Police) vibes. The album is a recording of the band’s gig at Dingwalls, London, in November 2017.

Shorn of a lot of the studio production effects, the songs work well live, with a heightened sense of energy and purpose. Lights Out and especially Closer To The Sun work well in a live environment. Be prepared for an interloper at the end of the final track, by the way. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

The second live album, The Philadelphia Experiment, was recorded in 2009 and features a different line-up, including Dec Burke, Nick D’Virgilio and John Jowitt. It features one of the best humorous uses of intro music I have heard, and a solid set from the first two studio albums, including a live-looping Snowman and an electrifying Milliontown.

13 Winters features the first physical release for the Others EP from earlier in 2020. Featuring a stripped back line up of Jem Godfrey and drummers Craig Blundell / Andy Edwards, Clouda features wonderful harmonies and Exhibit A pushes the tempo to extremes.

Fathom is an orchestral piece, whilst Eat is a sample driven song, like Art of Noise on steroids. Drown pumps up the electronics and I look forward to hearing more songs that deviate from expectations from Frost* in the near future (a new album is being written and recorded at the moment).

The final disc is This And That – B-Sides And Rarities. Opening with one of the most ambitious Frost* songs, The Dividing Line is a 16 minute plus track that alternates between Goldfrapp-esque glamrock, quasi-classical / music-box breakdowns and some of the wildest riffage in the bands catalogue. The song is all over the place stylistically, it doesn’t follow the rules and shouldn’t really work, but the absolutely manic joy in the performance captures your attention and is a highlight of this set. The Dividing Line is certainly not for the faint-hearted!

British Wintertime is the strongest song on this disc and one of my favourite Frost* songs – a delicate, emotive goodbye. I never tire of this song, its one I often put on repeat. A beautiful, mesmerising piece of music.

There are four songs in demo form on this disc that offer a preview of how the finished studio tracks developed. The Towerblock demo is mostly found sounds, smashing and crashing over a skeletal arrangement. The demo of Closer To The Sun is interesting to hear, as it is even more electronic than the final version. A short demo take of Last Day is the final vocal track on the This And That – B-Sides And Rarities disc. The instrumental soundscapes of Hyperventilate Hypoventilate Paulstretch Test closes the collection, with its dreamlike waves of stretched sound.

Frost* 13 Winters is a quick and easy way to get hold of the band’s back catalogue, and the albums all sound better than they ever have (not that they originally sounded bad!). The set also includes an artbook containing images from the cover-art shots, an honest / self-critical interview with Jem Godfrey and album notes, including lyrics for the studio albums.


Buy Frost* 13 Winters on CD from Amazon

Buy from other retailers


As well as the limited physical release, the individual albums will be available digitally from the end of November 2020.

Disc 1 – Milliontown (2006) Remaster 2020

  1. Hyperventilate (Remaster 2020) 7:30
  2. No Me No You (Remaster 2020) 6:08
  3. Snowman (Remaster 2020) 3:54
  4. Black Light Machine (Remaster 2020) 10:08
  5. The Other Me (Remaster 2020) 4:48
  6. Milliontown (Remaster 2020) 26:09

Disc 2 – Experiments In Mass Appeal (2008) Remix/Remaster 2020

  1. Experiments In Mass Appeal (Remix/Remaster 2020) 7:54
  2. Welcome To Nowhere (Remix/Remaster 2020) 5:32
  3. Pocket Sun (Remix/Remaster 2020) 4:29
  4. Saline (Remix/Remaster 2020) 6:09
  5. Dear Dead Days (Remix/Remaster 2020) 6:50
  6. Falling Down (Remix/Remaster 2020) 5:50
  7. You/I (Remix/Remaster 2020) 1:05
  8. Toys (Remix/Remaster 2020) 3:05
  9. Wonderland (Remix/Remaster 2020) 5:54
  10. The Secret Song (Remix/Remaster 2020) 8:21

Disc 3 – Falling Satellites (2016) Remaster 2020

  1. First Day (Remaster 2020) 1:39
  2. Numbers (Remaster 2020) 4:21
  3. Towerblock (Remaster 2020) 6:13
  4. Signs (Remaster 2020) 6:35
  5. Lights Out (Remaster 2020) 3:51
  6. Heartstrings (Remaster 2020) 6:20
  7. Closer To The Sun (Remaster 2020) 7:20
  8. The Raging Against The Dying Of The Light Blues In 7/8 (Remaster 2020) 7:49
  9. Nice Day For It (Remaster 2020) 6:37
  10. Hypoventilate (Remaster 2020) 2:00
  11. Last Day (Remaster 2020) 3:25

Disc 4 – Falling Satellites – Instrumentals (2016) Remaster 2020

  1. First Day (Instrumental/Remaster 2020) 1:39
  2. Numbers (Instrumental/Remaster 2020) 4:21
  3. Towerblock (Instrumental/Remaster 2020) 6:13
  4. Signs (Instrumental/Remaster 2020) 6:35
  5. Lights Out (Instrumental/Remaster 2020) 3:51
  6. Heartstrings (Instrumental/Remaster 2020) 6:21
  7. Closer To The Sun (Instrumental/Remaster 2020) 7:20
  8. The Raging Against The Dying Of The Light Blues in 7/8 (Instrumental/Remaster 2020) 7:49
  9. Nice Day For It… (Instrumental/Remaster 2020) 6:37
  10. Hypoventilate (Instrumental/Remaster 2020) 2:00
  11. Last Day (Instrumental/Remaster 2020) 3:24

Disc 5 – Falling Satellive – Live 2017

  1. Numbers (Live at Dingwalls, London, 2017) 4:45
  2. Towerblock (Live at Dingwalls, London, 2017) 7:48
  3. Signs (Live at Dingwalls, London, 2017) 7:18
  4. Lights Out (Live at Dingwalls, London, 2017) 5:40
  5. Heartstrings (Live at Dingwalls, London, 2017) 6:02
  6. Closer To The Sun (Live at Dingwalls, London, 2017) 7:35
  7. The Raging Against The Dying Of The Light Blues In 7/8 (Live at Dingwalls, London, 2017) 7:49
  8. Nice Day For It… (Live at Dingwalls, London, 2017) 6:44
  9. Hypoventilate (Live at Dingwalls, London, 2017) 1:02
  10. Last Day (Live at Dingwalls, London, 2017) 3:45

Disc 6 – Others – EP

  1. Fathers 4:54
  2. Clouda 6:54
  3. Exhibit A 5:35
  4. Fathom 3:58
  5. Eat 4:39
  6. Drown 5:59

Disc 7 – The Philadelphia Experiment – Live 2009

  1. Intro (Live at The Keswick Theatre, Glenside, 2nd May 2009) 2:06
  2. Hyperventilate (Live at The Keswick Theatre, Glenside, 2nd May 2009) 5:55
  3. Wonderland (Live at The Keswick Theatre, Glenside, 2nd May 2009) 4:56
  4. Black Light Machine (Live at The Keswick Theatre, Glenside, 2nd May 2009) 10:29
  5. Snowman (Live at The Keswick Theatre, Glenside, 2nd May 2009) 6:18
  6. Saline (Live at The Keswick Theatre, Glenside, 2nd May 2009) 6:16
  7. Milliontown (Live at The Keswick Theatre, Glenside, 2nd May 2009) 25:58
  8. The Other Me (Live at The Keswick Theatre, Glenside, 2nd May 2009) 7:19

Disc 8 – This And That – B-Sides And Rarities

  1. The Dividing Line 16:50
  2. Lantern 3:45
  3. British Wintertime 6:29
  4. The Forget You Song 2:24
  5. Numbers (Day 1 Demo) 4:14
  6. Towerblock (Day 1 Demo) 3:01
  7. Heartstrings (Demo) 5:00
  8. Closer To The Sun (Demo) 7:16
  9. The Raging Against The Dying Of The Light In 7/8 (Day 1 Demo) 7:54
  10. Last Day (Demo) 2:48
  11. Hyperventilate Hypoventilate Paulstretch Test 8:53

Buy Frost* 13 Winters on CD from Amazon





Lunatic Soul – “Through Shaded Woods” album review

16 10 2020

Lunatic Soul release their new album Through Shaded Woods on KScope on 13 November 2020, on single CD, limited double CD and vinyl.

Lunatic Soul is the solo studio project of vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Mariusz Duda (Riverside). Album number seven Through Shaded Woods explores the darkness of Slavic and Scandinavian folk.

Previous Lunatic Soul albums have been very electronic affairs. Through Shaded Woods is a virtually electronic free zone, with more acoustic and electric guitars than previous releases and for the first time, Duda plays all the instruments.

Through Shaded Woods opens with the hypnotising and trancelike Navvie, an upbeat and rousing call to arms that conjures up “the souls of the dead” and along with several tracks on the album, signals a feeling of rebirth and positivity. Not a bad feeling in these strange times we are currently living through.

The second longest track on the album, The Passage, is one of the most rewarding tracks as you journey Through Shaded Woods. This is the darkest Duda gets on the album, with a piece that starts off relatively bright and sparse, working towards the razor-sharp dark metal riffs that propel the powerful middle section.

“I’m thinking out loud
passing former gods
turned into trees
am I in the real life
or am I in the realm of make-believe”

The riffs fall away quickly but the tempo remains high on one of the strongest tracks on the album.

The title track twists and turns, with light percussion underneath the trademark Lunatic Soul harmonies and a feeling of paranoia, amplified by the heavily processed lead vocal. Lycanthropy lingers in the dark forests of Duda’s lyric.

“eyes on every corner
shining in the dark”

As we hit the half-way mark, the mood of Through Shaded Woods lifts. Oblivion has a wonderful drum and guitar interplay, as melodies sneak in and out of the intriguing rhythm arrangement. Where previously synths would have laid the textures, on this album the same effect is offered by vocal layers.

Summoning Dance is the longest track, and as throughout the whole album, it offers up its secrets over repeated plays. The guitars give the main rhythmic thrust, underpinned by a simple kick pulse. I dare you to keep still whilst listening to Summoning Dance. The music hints at a simpler, more pagan and earth-connected time, and works so much better if you give your full attention and immerse yourself in the performance.

“so why do I feel
like I already failed”

Photo: Tomasz Pulsakowski

The Fountain features one of my favourite Mariusz Duda vocal performances. There is a real lightness of touch, and a lovely slightly rasping timbre that suits the aching melancholy of the song perfectly.

“stream of sounds
wash away the darkness from my soul”

Through Shaded Woods stands alone in the Lunatic Soul catalogue. It works so well as a complete body of work, as it flows with more consistency than previous albums. It has quickly seeped into my soul and is one of my favourite albums of 2020.

Navvie [04:03]
The Passage
[08:57]
Through Shaded Woods
[05:51]
Oblivion
[05:03]
Summoning Dance
[09:52]
The Fountain
[06:04]

Bonus tracks contained on disc 2 of the Limited Edition CD:

Vyraj [05:32]
Hylophobia
[03:20]
Transition II
[27:45]





Airbag – All Rights Removed & The Greatest Show on Earth limited edition vinyl re-issues

9 10 2020

Karisma Records are re-issuing Airbag’s All Rights Removed and The Greatest Show on Earth on November 20 2020 on limited edition vinyl, with both albums remastered for vinyl by White Willow / The Opium Cartel’s Jacob Holm-Lupo.

Airbag’s second album All Rights Removed was originally released in 2011. The 2020 remaster is released as a heavyweight double vinyl in gatefold cover, pressed on red vinyl.

The Norwegian band’s third album The Greatest Show on Earth was first released in 2013, and this 2020 heavyweight vinyl remaster is pressed on blue vinyl.

Jacob Holm-Lupo has offered a subtle and sympathetic remaster for vinyl. No brick-walling here – there is no real volume difference, just a little more punch and the synths really sparkle in this redux. This is the best these albums have ever sounded..

All Rights Removed sees the band shift their sound up a gear. The album opener is a heady mix of classic and progressive rock, with guitarist Bjørn Riis rising to the fore on most tracks.

White Walls is full of Dave Gilmour influenced guitar runs and textures, and is one of my favourite songs in the Norwegion band’s catalogue. Dim the lights and turn up the volume.

The mid-section bass, keyboard and guitar prelude before the song kicks back into full power is a joy to experience.

“Cos nothing ever stays the same…”

The tempo remains constant with The Bridge, before the space-rock of Never Coming Home (it reminds me of Signify era Porcupine Tree) leads into the atmospheric instrumental Light Them All Up.

The album closes with one of the band’s most popular tracks (in terms of 1 million Spotify streams) with the 17 and a half minute Homesick. The song is stunning and this is the best I have heard this masterpiece sound. Heading off into Tangerine Dream and Pink Floyd territory in the mid-section, this is a journey you really want to take.

The Greatest Show on Earth adds a slight metal element to the band’s palette, on top of their more atmospheric layered sound from previous releases.

Redemption is a slow-burning modern prog piece, with spurts of heavy, gasoline fuelled choruses. Silence Grows moves the intensity down a couple of notches, with a powerful song that would not have sounded out of place on David Gilmour’s On An Island album. The instrumental sections sound amazing thanks to the superb Jacob Holm-Lupo vinyl master.

The Greatest Show on Earth is an album built to be heard in one sitting, and so works best in the vinyl format, when you can give it your full attention, and not break into individual tracks on streaming platforms.

There is a great use of vocal harmonies, atmosphere and restraint to build the mood on the albums second longest track, Call Me Back.

Surveillance (part 2​-​3) is the 16 minute album closer. Taking some of the mood of Porcupine Tree’s Stars Die, Surveillance (part 2​-​3) is a story of isolation and moves from an emotive, quite traditional arrangement to something darker and more experimental as it progresses.

“No need for you to be here
The comfort of my TV screen is all that I need”

All Rights Removed & The Greatest Show on Earth are limited edition releases, so if you missed out on getting these wonderful modern progressive albums on vinyl a few years ago, now is your chance. Links to buy the albums on Burning Shed and Amazon are below.





Airbag – A Day at the Beach album review

9 05 2020

A Day at the Beach is the 5th album from Norwegian band Airbag, and is their first studio album in 4 years.

A Day at the Beach features six new songs inspired by the resurgence of 1980s electronica, new wave and movie scores, whilst still retaining the band’s progressive rock leanings.

The album was produced by Asle Tostrup and Bjørn Riis, and befitting the musical content, is lovingly mastered by Jacob Holm-Lupo (White Willow / The Opium Cartel).

Machines And Men acts as a bridge between the progressive rock sound of Identity and Disconnected and a more electronic 2020 direction for Airbag. Guitars give way to Tangerine Dream / New Order referencing synths, but don’t worry, Bjørn Riis is still a strong presence throughout the album. As with all Airbag releases, there is a heavy use of textures, and peaks and flows to keep your attention and hit you emotionally. I particularly love the drum treatments on Machines And Men.

A Day at the Beach (Part 1) is an absolute joy. Decaying guitars and deep bass underpin piano and mid-period Porcupine Tree like synth swirls to deliver one of the most atmospheric pieces on the album.

Into The Unknown continues in a similar, albeit longer vein. The synth riff driving the intro has an 80s Drive soundtrack feel, and the neon pulse and achingly personal lyrics make the track an album highlight. The guitars from Bjørn Riis are restrained but all the more powerful as the track builds, and the drums kick in with a second half that will appeal to Pink Floyd and Prog fans.

Sunsets is one of the biggest surprises on the album,. Opening with an off-kilter drum pattern, and then heading in an almost post-punk direction, with a John McGeoch (Siouxsie & The Banshees / Magazine) guitar sound, before switching to a more traditional Airbag chorus.

The insistent bassline on Sunsets works well with the heavily processed guitar on the verses, and we are treated to a quality Bjørn Riis guitar solo at the half-way mark. Again, the use of textures and ever-mutating arrangements keep your interest piqued throughout.

Listen to an edit of Sunsets below.

A Day At The Beach (Part 2) dials the electronica back into sharper focus, with an pulse-led instrumental conclusion to the song that premiered earlier on in the album sequence.

A Day at the Beach is such a good headphones album, and I cannot wait to hear it played loud through speakers when I receive my vinyl copy in June.

The album closes with Megalomaniac, a slow-building guitar piece that suddenly falls away and then rises powerfully to see the album to it’s conclusion.

“You always get what you want…”

I am a huge fan of electronic music, as well as a lot of progressive rock, and I love it when the two genres intertwine as they do on this album. A Day at the Beach has been a long time coming, but is one of the highlights in Airbag’s catalogue of fine studio albums. The band may have lost two members but they have opened up the possibilities of what they can achieve and how they can tell their stories.

Machines And Men
A Day at the Beach (Part 1)
Into The Unknown
Sunsets
A Day At The Beach (Part 2)
Megalomaniac

Buy A Day at the Beach on CD from Amazon

Buy A Day at the Beach on CD from Burning Shed

Buy A Day at the Beach clear vinyl from Burning Shed

Buy Bjørn Riis A Storm Is Coming CD on Amazon

Buy Bjørn Riis Forever Comes To An End CD on Amazon

Buy Bjørn Riis Lullabies In A Car Crash CD on Amazon





Moonshot – Worlds of Yesterday: A Moonshot Retrospective 1971 – 1992 album review

31 12 2019

The songs on this Moonshot compilation were lovingly curated by Tim Bowness, whose album Lost In The Ghostlight tells the story of Moonshot through the thoughts and musing of lead singer Jeff Harrison.

* To avoid confusion, some of the songs on this compilation have remarkably similar titles, lyrics and music to tracks released by Tim Bowness on his Moonshot inspired Lost In The Ghostlight album, but Jeff Harrison never ripped anyone off man.

Shortly before his final tour and final death, Moonshot mainman Jeff Harrison took to twitter. His confusion in this new digital playground was plain for all to see, and long-time fans were worried, with good reason. Harrison died in suspicious circumstances in January 2019 and it was his wish that Moonshot continue with John Wilkinson as their singer. John was the singer in Moonshot tribute band Apollo 11, and its his voice that delivers the Moonshot classics on this new Bowness curated compilation.

Listening to Worlds of Yesterday, it’s clear that Big Big Train are heavily indebted to Warrington’s finest sons. And a little progshaped bird once tweeted that rock / prog-pixie Steven Wilson has a whole wing in his Surrey Mansion dedicated to his love of Moonshot, the highlight of which is a room filled with 208 of Jeff Harrison’s moth-ridden stage outfits from the ill-fated Rosewater tour of Germany. If that isn’t an endorsement to the genius of the band and their influence, I don’t know what is.

If any members of Genesis heard Worlds of Yesterday, I have no doubt that they would say that this is the best album that Genesis never made. Or they might sue the band. I’m not sure which route they would take to be honest, but I hear Moonshot have the best lawyers Warrington have ever produced and they are poised to spring into litigious action.

On to the music, dear listeners. Album opener Moonshot Manchild is the tale untold of a rockstar out of time and place, a position the many men of Moonshot were likely familiar with. Musically drawing from early Yes, mid-period Genesis and a hint of late period Martin Lee (Brotherhood of Man).

The flashing lights are blinding, you never felt so old”

Stupid Things That Mean The World draws from the shallow-well of Invisible Touch era Genesis, with spurting and spluttering synths hiding the deep pain clearly felt by our prog protagonists. A veritable ear-worm of a song, with a smorgasbord of vintage keyboards powering the track.

Long-time fans of Moonshot will be familiar with the rare band ballad Worlds of Yesterday. Its the sound of a Moonshot wrestling with the changing times, and was a highlight of their many German and Austrian tours. The song was used in a prominent episode of the 80s German TV hit Helga und die Nordlichter, in case you are wondering where you had heard the tune before. The layers of guitar and keyboards on Worlds of Yesterday highlights the links between the world of progressive music and the 80s new romantic / synth bands.

Lost in the Ghostlight is a close cousin of Peter Gabriel’s The Rhythm of the Heat, but is more satisfying as it is shorter. New vocalist John Wilkinson sneers “is it pure or is it art”, a question we have all asked ourselves at some point. Mike Garson-esque piano lines offer solace from the anger in this perky prog-piece. “Is there moooore?” – yes there is, we are only at the mid-point of this compilation. Well sequenced Mr Bowness.

Fans of Phil Collin’s early solo material will love the Roland CR-78 driven bleak as midwinter Nowhere Good to Go. Apparently the lyrics are an apology to Moonshot fans for the many off-key performances and gigs cut-short during the band’s darkest period, when the album sales slowed to a trickle and Eastern Europe became their new playground. Heartbreaking but long overdue, its one of the album highlights.

Many reviewers, on first hearing The Great Electric Teenage Dream, thought Steve Hackett was the guitarist on the song that lit up Moonshot’s later period. This was never confirmed, denied or mentioned again. Prog magazine wrote a lengthy piece on this pastoral beauty, which was sadly dropped and replaced by news of the reformation of Gandalf’s Hoof in 2016. Out-of-time and out of luck once more, the Moonshot madness continued. Fact fans – the mention of “a faceless tweet” in the lyric does not refer to twitter but to Jeff’s love of Owls.

Before That Before became the band’s biggest hit single in the Netherlands. A stripped back power-ballad, with a heavy use of tambourine and reverb-drenched piano, it should have propelled Harrison and co into a Stadium sized orbit, but alas alimony soaked up the proceeds of Moonshot’s final tilt at immortality. Tears are guaranteed to flow when you hear the mournful guitar lines that preface the chorus.

At the time of release, the backing vocals on Before That Before‘s outro were rumoured to be performed by Kate Bush, but they were not.

The album skips towards its end with the prog as your elbow village-fete romp that is The Sweetest Bitter Pill. The original video (look for it on Youtube) featured Harrison stuck on a merry-go-round, that spun for eternity and made him very, very sick. Listening to this new version of the Moonshot classic, it’s clear the song has become a template for many bands, all of whom went onto great success. It would be nice if they gave a little love back, but we know who they are, and the invoice will be in the post.

The vinyl album ends on Distant Summers, a new version of one of the band’s best-loved songs. Welcome back my friends, and get out your lighters, it’s the show that never ends. Stripped of the need to sell records (because, who buys records anymore?), this is Moonshot at its purest. Heavy organs propel the love, longing and a lifetime of regret into a 4.59 progressive rock masterpiece. Listen young pretenders and weep. I’m looking at you Mr White Willow, Jacob Holm-Lupo.

Oh, and the CD version of the album (it won’t be available on streaming platforms as Jeff Harrison did not understand streaming – “if you can’t touch it, how can you hear it”) includes two bonus tracks. The World-Music inspiring You’ll Be The Silence and the theme medley Moonshot Shadows. Can anyone else hear the theme tune to Hill Street Blues in the opening? Nope, just me then. Craftily cutting out recognisable hooks from their lengthy back-catalogue, Moonshot are able to pay themselves extra-royalties, as Jeff Harrison is not listed as co-writer of this track. Resourceful.

So for anyone new to Moonshot, this is a very satisfying introduction to the band. Fans of Genesis, Yes, Barclay James Harvest, The Buggles, The Alan Parsons Project, Argent, Baccara, BruteBeard, Big Big Train, Caravan, Cloop, Christopher Cross, Genesis, Earth and Fire (but not Wind), Egg, ELP, Marillion, Damp, Frost*, Gabriel (Peter), Steve Hackett, John Hackett, Henry Hackett, Hackett and the North, I, Genesis, Rodeo and the Trapeze Boy, Flute and many more from the heady progressive era will find much to love in this purposeful masterpiece.

Don’t be surprised if Worlds of Yesterday is crowned Prog album of the year 2020. You have got 12 months to listen, digest and vote! Look into my eyes – vote you will.

Tracklisting:

Moonshot Manchild
Stupid Things That mean The World
World of Yesterday
Lost in the Ghostlight
Nowhere Good to Go
The Great Electric Teenage Dream
Before That Before
The Sweetest Bitter Pill
Distant Summers

Bonus Tracks on CD Album
You’ll Be The Silence
Moonshot Shadows

Buy the album (CD and vinyl) from Burning Shed

* Most of the anecdotes in this review are not true. If you are a fan of classic 70s and 80s progressive rock, I urge you to investigate this album. You know you will love it!





Be-Bop Deluxe Modern Music deluxe box-set review

7 11 2019

Esoteric Recordings are releasing a re-mastered five-disc deluxe box-set limited edition (comprising 4 CDs and a DVD) of Modern Music, the 1976 album by Be-Bop Deluxe.

This expanded reissue has been newly re-mastered from the original master tapes and features an additional 55 bonus tracks including new 5.1 surround sound & stereo mixes from the original multi-track tapes by award winning engineer Stephen W. Tayler, out-takes from the album sessions, a BBC Radio “In Concert” performance from October 1976, along with a bonus CD of a previously unreleased “official bootleg” of a performance at The Riviera Theater in Chicago in 1976 recorded for FM Radio on Be Bop Deluxe’s first US tour.

The set also includes visual material taken from a session for BBC TV’s “Old Grey Whistle Test” show broadcast in November 1976.

The DVD material (including the 5.1 mixes) is not reviewed here, as review copies were not provided.

Modern Music was the first album to be produced by John Leckie (XTC, Simple Minds, The Stone Roses) who continued to work with Bill Nelson on Red Noise, The Love That Whirls and Getting The Holy Ghost Across.

Modern Music was released just prior to the arrival of punk and new wave, a sound and attitude that would inform Nelson’s releases for the next few albums. The music on this album is a mixture of classic and progressive rock, with wonderful harmonies, nods to early David Bowie (particularly the Ziggy Stardust era) and a covers a variety of genres.

Twilight Capers is a delight – revelling in the genre-switching that was prevalent in this period – moving from ballad, via jazz-rock to reggae – all in the one track! The Doors like end section, with its powerful production touches hits the sweet spot every time.

The light and breezy Kiss Of Light reminds me of the City Boy debut album (a wonderful classic rock band that seems to have been written out of history) that was also released in 1976. Modern Music was written on the road, and seems to be Bill Nelson’s reflections on America at the time.

Nelson writes in the box-set booklet:

“…many of the songs on Modern Music were written in hotel rooms whilst touring America and some of them directly relate to the growing disillusion I was feeling with life on the road.”

The Gold At The End Of My Rainbow is a charming song, written by Nelson at a sound-check, lamenting his faraway love.

The Modern Music suite is the highlight for many fans of this or any Be-Bop Deluxe album. You can hear a snippet of the late John Peel in the suite’s intro to the title track, which radiates West-Coast sunshine.

Down On Terminal Street is overflowing with wonderful lyrical imagery, and I love the way the church-bells chime amongst the heavy guitars and synths in the songs intro and end section.

“The street cafe was closed to all but ghosts
Who glide the alleys searching for their lair”

Make The Music Magic returns to the more commercial sound of the early songs, but in a stripped back acoustic setting.

Disc two of this box-set is a new stereo mix of the album. The mix feels much wider, and individual instruments are noticeably clearer. As are the vocals – you can hear the reverb on Nelson’s vocals on Down On Terminal Street with such clarity, its like hearing the album for the first time. I defy you to not crank up the volume on this new mix.

This disc also includes the stunning 8 minutes long Shine (New Stereo Mix), which reminds me a little of Bowie’s Stay from Station To Station.

Disc three is a BBC Radio One “In Concert” taken from the band’s headlining show from 2 October 1976 London’s Hammersmith Odeon. The highlights of this disc for me are the live takes of Ships In The Night and the 12 minute plus Modern Music. It’s a good quality recording, given its age.

Disc four is a recording from the Riviera Theater in Chicago on 21 March 1976, where Be-Bop Deluxe opened for Thin Lizzy. The band’s set was mixed and broadcast live by the local radio station WXRT-FM. The concert included in the band’s set Bill’s Blues, which was never developed further on record. Sadly this “official” bootleg is for completists only, as at times its not as good quality as the sound of disc 3, and you can see why Bill’s Blues was left unreleased – it’s just a standard blues jam. There is audible distortion / clipping and hiss, so not a disc I will be returning to.

Nevertheless, this is a lovingly curated box-set, topped off with an entertaining 68 page book, that gives context to the band and the individual tracks, along with many previously unpublished images. If you are a fan of Bill Nelson’s work in Be-Bop Deluxe, or are a fan of 70s rock, there is much to enjoy in this box-set.

Pre-order Be-Bop Deluxe Modern Music 4 cd / 1 DVD box-set on Amazon

Disc One: Cd
Modern Music
The Original Stereo Mix:

  1. Orphans Of Babylon
  2. Twilight Capers
  3. Kiss Of Light
  4. The Bird Charmers Destiny
  5. The Gold At The End Of My Rainbow
  6. Bring Back The Spark
  7. Modern Music
  8. Dancing In The Moonlight (All Alone)
  9. Honeymoon On Mars
  10. Lost In The Neon World
  11. Dance Of The Uncle Sam Humanoids
  12. Modern Music (Reprise)
  13. Forbidden Lovers
  14. Down On Terminal Street
  15. Make The Music Magic
    Bonus Track
  16. Shine (B-Side Of Single)

Disc Two: Cd
Modern Music
The New Stereo Mix:

  1. Orphans Of Babylon (New Stereo Mix)
  2. Twilight Capers (New Stereo Mix)
  3. Kiss Of Light (New Stereo Mix)
  4. The Bird Charmers Destiny (New Stereo Mix)
  5. The Gold At The End Of My Rainbow (New Stereo Mix)
  6. Bring Back The Spark (New Stereo Mix)
  7. Modern Music (New Stereo Mix)
  8. Dancing In The Moonlight (All Alone) (New Stereo Mix)
  9. Honeymoon On Mars (New Stereo Mix)
  10. Lost In The Neon World (New Stereo Mix)
  11. Dance Of The Uncle Sam Humanoids (New Stereo Mix)
  12. Modern Music (Reprise) (New Stereo Mix)
  13. Forbidden Lovers (New Stereo Mix)
  14. Down On Terminal Street (New Stereo Mix)
  15. Make The Music Magic (New Stereo Mix)
    Bonus Tracks
  16. Shine (New Stereo Mix)
  17. Forbidden Lovers (First Version)
  18. The Bird Charmer’s Destiny (First Version)

Disc Three: Cd
BBC Radio One “In Concert”
Recorded 2nd October 1976 At Hammersmith Odeon, London

  1. Maid In Heaven
  2. Bring Back The Spark
  3. Kiss Of Light
  4. Adventures In A Yorkshire Landscape
  5. Fair Exchange
  6. Ships In The Night
  7. Twilight Capers
  8. Modern Music
    I. Modern Music
    Ii. Dancing In The Moonlight (All Alone)
    Iii. Honeymoon On Mars
    Iv. Lost In The Neon World
    V. Dance Of The Uncle Sam Humanoids
    Vi. Modern Music (Reprise)
  9. Blazing Apostles

Disc Four: Cd
Live At The Riviera Theatre, Chicago 21st March 1976 –
The Official Bootleg

  1. Fair Exchange
  2. Stage Whispers
  3. Life In The Air Age
  4. Sister Seagull
  5. Adventures In A Yorkshire Landscape
  6. Maid In Heaven
  7. Ships In The Night
  8. Bill’s Blues
  9. Blazing Apostles

Disc Five: Dvd
Modern Music
The 5.1 Surround Sound Mix / New Stereo Mix (96 Khz / 24-Bit) / Original Stereo Mix (96 Khz / 24-Bit)

  1. Orphans Of Babylon (5.1 Mix)
  2. Twilight Capers (5.1 Mix)
  3. Kiss Of Light (5.1 Mix)
  4. The Bird Charmers Destiny (5.1 Mix)
  5. The Gold At The End Of My Rainbow (5.1 Mix)
  6. Bring Back The Spark (5.1 Mix)
  7. Modern Music (5.1 Mix)
  8. Dancing In The Moonlight (All Alone) (5.1 Mix)
  9. Honeymoon On Mars (5.1 Mix)
  10. Lost In The Neon World (5.1 Mix)
  11. Dance Of The Uncle Sam Humanoids (5.1 Mix)
  12. Modern Music (Reprise) (5.1 Mix)
  13. Forbidden Lovers (5.1 Mix)
  14. Down On Terminal Street (5.1 Mix)
  15. Make The Music Magic (5.1 Mix)
    Bonus Tracks
  16. Shine (5.1 Mix)
  17. Forbidden Lovers (First Version) (5.1 Mix)
  18. The Bird Charmer’s Destiny (First Version) (5.1 Mix)
    Visual Content
  19. Forbidden Lovers (BBC Old Grey Whistle Test 1976)
  20. Down On Terminal Street (BBC Old Grey Whistle Test 1976)

Pre-order Be-Bop Deluxe Modern Music 4 cd / 1 DVD box-set on Amazon





Bruce Soord – All This Will Be Yours track-by-track album review

11 10 2019

Bruce Soord, the songwriter and frontman for The Pineapple Thief, has released his second solo album, All This Will Be Yours via Kscope.

An interesting mix of the personal (family life and birth) and the bigger picture (austerity and Brexit) makes for a slightly different take on recent releases from The Pineapple Thief.

Electronic textures and acoustic guitars drive the majority of the songs. The Secrets I Know works well as an opening track, with its sparse arrangement, mainly piano, guitar and layered vocals.

“Move forward at all costs
Protection at all costs
I’m already mourning your loss”

Our Gravest Threat Apart dials up the electronics, and has a naggingly addictive mantra-like outro.

All This Will Be Yours works as a complete album, with songs flowing in to one another, as two distinct pieces (replicating the vinyl experience), so you find yourself adhering to the vision of the album as a thoughtfully curated art-form, not a source of playlists to dip in and out of.

The Solitary Path Of A Convicted Man has some interesting production touches, and a memorable rhythm track, and contains the album’s first Soord guitar solo. The vocals and harmonies are especially strong on this slowly building key album track.

The title track is one of two longer songs on the album. The piano line reminds me a little of Erik Satie’s Gymnopédies when in isolation, but is soon sent to the back of the mix, as powerful psychedelic guitars and a shuffling drum pattern accompany the sirens and mood of an austerity ravaged urban landscape.

The more optimistic Time Does Not Exist reflects on the beauty of new life and new hope triumphing over the world outside, and is Soord at his most personal. The track contains a warm and evocative vocal performance that will be an album highlight for many listeners. I love the evolution in the arrangement and slightly out-of-character drum pattern that takes the song to it’s conclusion.

One Misstep is the nearest to a more traditional Pineapple Thief sound, with the ever-present sirens of modern life seeping through the mix. I love how found-sounds are almost used as instruments at times in All This Will Be Yours.

“This new darkened future, Is this who we are?”

You Hear The Voices is the longest track on the album, coming in at just under 7 minutes. Whether a lament to climate-change, or a breakdown of a relationship (physical or economic) makes no difference. Loss is painful and reverberates forever.

My favourite track on the album, You Hear The Voices builds layer by layer, with a gentle nod towards the soundscapes of the earlier collaboration with Katatonia’s Jonas Renkse on the Wisdom of Crowds.

“You can’t re-write your dreams
Or re-negotiate your terms
This is our ocean now”

Images by Steve Brown

A bleak, neglected cemetery is the location for Cut The Flowers, with its brutal tale of time moving on, leaving love and memories to decay and eventually disappear. A heavily distorted bass-line duels with synths and drum machines, reminding me of Mariusz Duda’s Lunatic Soul albums.

The theme of loss continues with final track One Day I Will Leave You.

“So don’t mourn my passing
I was always passing through
And I’ll always be with you”

All This Will Be Yours is book-ended by songs referencing our short time on Earth, whilst touching on the effect we have whilst we are here – either through introducing new life, or damaging what we are leaving behind for others (through our political choices or through our trashing of the planet’s resources).

The mix of the personal and the political is a brave decision, and whilst Soord makes clear his anger at the state of our world, there is optimism to be found within the songs. And like many of us, I feel maybe he sees the younger generation as the ones who can drive us away from the cliff-edge.

“This new darkened future, Isn’t who you are”

Buy Bruce Soord – All This Will Be Yours Deluxe Edition BoxSet from Amazon
Buy Bruce Soord – All This Will Be Yours on CD from Amazon
Bruce Soord – All This Will Be Yours on 180gm vinyl from Amazon

The Secrets I Know [02:24]
Our Gravest Threat Apart [04:14]
The Solitary Path Of A Convicted Man [03:44]
All This Will Be Yours [06:04]
Time Does Not Exist [03:33]
One Misstep [04:00]
You Hear The Voices [06:54]
Cut The Flowers [04:35]
One Day I Will Leave You [05:17]





Big Big Train – Grand Tour album review

28 04 2019

Big Big Train release their new studio album Grand Tour on May 17th 2019. As with all Big Big Train albums, the songs tell stories that steer clear of the usual topics touched upon in modern rock music. The new album is inspired by the 17th and 18th century custom of the ‘Grand Tour’, where young men and women travelled to broaden the mind.

The band state that the Grand Tour takes you on an “epic journey over land and sea and through time and space…” with songs “…inspired by the legacy of the Italian Renaissance genius, Leonardo da Vinci; songs telling the story of the rise and fall of Rome…and of the shipwreck of a great poet, lost in a tempest off the coast of Italy.”

It’s clear that a great deal of thought has gone into the sequencing of Grand Tour, with clear ebbs and flows as the album progresses. Although there are three lengthy epics as part of Grand Tour, album opener Novum Organum is short, sweet and succinct. A percussive synth bell backing slowly builds as piano and voice enter the soundscape.

“For science and for art”

The albums lead single Alive is an uplifting track that showcases the quality production and intelligent arrangements that filter through on every track. The backing vocals and vocal interplay is a noticeable highlight on Alive and many of Grand Tour‘s tracks. I love the bass and drums duel around the three-quarter mark.

The Florentine features some of the most intricate performances on the album. Around 3 minutes into the track, a naggingly addictive guitar line teases in and out of the strings and Nick D’Virgilio’s intricate drum parts. The outro seemingly has lyrical nods to the Elvis Costello / Clive Langer song (also recorded by Robert Wyatt), Shipbuilding. Or maybe Close Your Eyes by no-man?

Roman Stone is a movement in five pieces, and became one of my favourite tracks on the album after the first few listens. The mood and pace shifts from melancholy progressive textures, to dark jazz interludes, then to a more pastoral (a term you will read in a lot of Big Big Train reviews) and gentle pace. Greg Spawton delivers a masterclass in powerful, and at times restrained, bass playing to underpin a complex, shifting arrangement.

“Trade new gods for old gods”

Pantheon is a haunting instrumental track, and the most progressive performance on the album, with some delicious time-signature twists and turns. Theodora in Green and Gold features soaring Fripp-like guitar lines and David Longdon is joined by Nick D’Virgilio on lead vocals for the middle eight.

Ariel is the longest track, and contains the albums most powerful vocals from David Longdon. The various vocal parts throughout the eight different sections are simply stunning – with warm, multi-part harmonies slipping in and out of the evolving arrangement. By the end of the 14 minute plus track you will be left breathless.

“Laudanum plays the poet’s soul like
Orpheus’ lyre, Prometheus’ fire”

Except there is no respite, with another 14 minute track, in the shape of the gentler Voyager carrying on the story of exploration, this time far away from our planet, lifting off into space.

The changes between the sections on Voyager are more subtle, so it has more of a feel of one continual piece. The orchestration on this track, and indeed the whole album, elevates the bands music to new heights. The feeling of elation as Voyager returns will stay with you long after the song has ended.

As I mentioned earlier, the sequencing is top class. Ariel and Voyager are two long tracks that would not normally be placed side by side on an album, but in this instance placing them together feels right. Fans of Porcupine Tree and Pink Floyd are likely to fall madly in love with Voyager, a modern progressive masterpiece.

The theme of a return continues as the album wraps up with Homesong. Feet firmly back on the ground, the song lifts your mood with familiar imagery, and an appreciation of the places and the landscapes that we love.

“We are home now
We have found a way back home”

Grand Tour is an album that rewards you with repeated listens, which is the sign of an album that will stay with you over the long haul. The album has so many strong lyrical, vocal and musical highlights, that picking out a favourite is difficult, but the final three songs are such a powerful statement, and it’s rare for an album to have so many emotional highs in swift succession.

The more I play Grand Tour, the more I become convinced that this will turn into my favourite Big Big Train album so far.

Novum Organum (2:33)
Alive (4:31)
The Florentine (8:14)
Roman Stone (13:33)
Pantheon (6:08)
Theodora in Green and Gold (5:38)
Ariel (14:28)
Voyager (14:03)
Homesong (5:12)

Buy Big Big Train’s Grand Tour on CD from Amazon

Buy Big Big Train’s Grand Tour on vinyl from Amazon

Buy Big Big Train’s Grand Tour on CD from Burning Shed

Buy Big Big Train’s Grand Tour on vinyl from Burning Shed

Visit the Big Big Train website.








%d bloggers like this: