Is it any good? A question I asked myself with a little bit of trepidation when the Change Of Heart - Various - Rhythm Divine 2 (Cassette) plonked itself through the letter box on 30 July, and which I have been pondering since. The great record-buying public of Great Britain certainly seem to think so, because it debuted at an impressive number 30 in the charts upon release.
To begin, let us say that this is definitely by the band's own separation on the cd booklet a disc of two halves, and many comments I have seen around the weird and wonderful interweb suggest to me that opinion is sharply divided.
For a band who have made a glorious career out of writing epic songs about the past and England's role in that history, it comes as a wee bit of a shock to have an opening track, The Strangest Times, dedicated to the month Covid lurgy period of varying lockdowns and restrictions.
Given the rather depressing subject matter, it is actually a bright and breezy piece of music which moves along at a fair old rate assisted by some understated piano work and frenetic fretwork, and it is a piece which has grown on me somewhat with repeated listening. The second track, All the Love we can Give, is easily Change Of Heart - Various - Rhythm Divine 2 (Cassette) most difficult to get one's head around.
Written by D'Virgilio and I might mention here that I have found listening to his latest solo work, Invisible, difficult to say the leastit features Longden singing in a tone several octaves below his usual floating range.
However patience does bring its usual reward, and especially pleasing are the ensemble vocal harmonies, with Carly Bryant especially sounding very nice above Longden.
Musically this is a stripped down 'Train, with the extended mid-track instrumental pretty noodly, and NDV treats us to a couple of sung verses, and whilst I now enjoy the track as a whole, it is not going to be a regular on any BBT playlist I create. Black with Ink is the first Spawton written piece on the album, and Longden is mercifully reinstated to his wonderful full self, and Bryant contributes some lovely vocals, which should make watching her live next year something to look forward to.
Deliberately retro in its feel and execution, the closing guitar led section is the first which takes you to that higher plane the band execute so well. Dandelion Clock closes Part One, and is another Spawton effort, and is a short four-minute pastoral piece of music which quite honestly would not have sounded altogether out of place on Nursery Cryme.
This is a very nice, calming, track which will hopefully convince those English Electric bastion of fans who might have been thinking that BBT had lost their collective marbles. So, onwards to Part The Second, and what a treat it is.
If what preceded it was good and it iswe are now into full- blown BBT prog excellence with two instrumental pieces, namely Headwaters and Apollo. The first of the two is only a couple of minutes long and is a rather lovely Sj'blom piano solo, delicate and beautiful, the sort of track you will put on your headphones whilst lying under the sun in some meadow surrounded by nothing but nature.
Apollo clocks in at just shy of eight minutes. It is a fine ensemble piece, and it is great to hear Longden on the flute here, with Aidan O'Rourke providing a flowing violin line.
Once again, we have those old-fashioned keyboards, and these are then three minutes in augmented by that all together fine brass ensemble. This track is BBT at their very best. Yes, it does have a retro feel to it, and this is quite deliberate, but you can only really sit back and let this wondrous noise, with its time signature changes and wall of sound, wash over you. A mighty fine mini-symphony, and easily a highlight of the decade, let alone the year.
Play it loud, with the sunshine above you. The title track follows, and this is Longdon's second of the album. This is another relatively short track, and is again a relaxing pastoral piece, which proclaims our shared humanity and revels in it. Upbeat and very welcome, especially the closing segment featuring more lovely flowing violin work supporting a gentle riff by Sj'blom. Atlantic Cable is split into five movements over fifteen minutes of music, so this is the true epic of the album.
The first part is a lovely flute and piano segment, strongly pastoral and thoughtful before moving into a more traditional folk-rock track. The subject matter is that of bringing together people separated over vast land masses with the building and use of phone line technology, and the final part of the track reprises the Common Ground theme from the title track through a beautiful gentle close following the crescendo which introduces it.
Once again, Longden really does shine with some wonderful vocals track two now being completely forgottenand he is backed once again by some perfect harmonies. The whole musical experience tells a story, with the tempest of Lightning Through Deep Waters especially riveting leading to that gentle close. A wonderful piece of music which most certainly will figure on that BBT playlist.
The album closes with Endnotes. Another Spawton track, it is again a gentle start with lilting Longden vocals over violin and piano-led soundscapes which puts one in mind of smoky barrooms. The final three minutes once again bring in those smooth brass instruments, and this segment puts me in mind of to me the band's finest hour, namely Victorian Change Of Heart - Various - Rhythm Divine 2 (Cassette). Certainly, Longden reproduces the dripping emotion of that fine work, ably supported by the dreamy music.
What a fine way to close a fine album. This is an album which delights, and rewards persistence. It is an album which reaches out and fills the listener with that joy of life, moreover of that shared experience of living on Planet Earth. It proves that it is possible to make such proclamations without being overly preachy or pointing fingers at one's listeners.
Not quite the perfect five, although Part Two easily qualifies for this rating, but four stars nonetheless for an excellent work which should deservedly figure on most respectable prog writers top ten list for Time to stop worrying.
The future is bright, and that future is the Eastern Line Train. The whole compilation grabbed all nineteen tracks and rearranged them in a way that makes it feel like one continuous story. It's, in my opinion, the best starting point for anyone who wants to get into Big Big Train. It's their most quintessential work. It features strong Genesis influence combined with sweet wind instruments such as flute, tuba, trumpet and trombone, along with string instruments like violin, viola, cello, guitar and momentary harps.
It's a very long work so I recommend you to listen the first CD in one sitting and then the other one. The best Big Big Train work. Here comes another Big Big Train album. I honestly was a bit wary of reviewing it. The record is called Common Ground, and it releases today, July 30th.
You may remember my review for their last record, Grand Tour. I felt like it was a balanced take, but many people took it as primarily negative, and I ended up feeling bad about it. But my opinion remains unchanged on that record. Thankfully, however, Common Ground doesn't fall into all the same traps as its predecessor. Big Big Train comes to us from the Change Of Heart - Various - Rhythm Divine 2 (Cassette), and they have been seeing some changes of late.
One of the things that plagued Grand Tour was the bloated sound, possibly due to the long genealogy of musicians who were involved. Common Ground is definitely scaled back considerably. That's basically half the number of people on the last album. The band's sound has changed somewhat, too. This album isn't as pastoral or retro prog in nature. In fact, though those elements are still present, a more modern, fresh, and even quirky progressive rock has appeared in their place. The music relies on David Longdon's fantastic vocals more than ever, and you'll even hear some heavier rock sections that took me off guard.
The album feels awkward and strange at times, but I've learned to like that about it upon multiple listens. This is such a weird song. David I think sings in a strange baritone, which doesn't sound natural at all, but the song takes it in stride, and there are some wonderful instrumental portions and also vocal spots from other band members.
It shouldn't work, and there are moments that certainly don't, but it overall does feel like a fresh take from this band. And that is what strikes me as most important here. Common Ground isn't BBT's best album, not by a long shot. In my Grand Tour review, I mentioned that the band seemed stuck in a rut creatively, making the same album over and over. Well, I can say with aplomb that this has changed, and that this album represents a renewed creative focus for the band.
Does everything hit just right? Not at all, but the band at least brings new ideas and eras into their sound. Pretty much every song builds on this renewed vision, except for possibly the instrumental "Apollo", which is a good track but definitely could have fit on Grand Tour.
Of course, the track preceding it is also instrumental; "Headwaters" is a piano ballad and absolutely gorgeous. I'd like to hear more of that. Record Research. Rolling Stone. Retrieved Wall Street Journal. ISSN You Tube. Retrieved June 12, City Pages. Archived from the original on January 23, Retrieved 14 January London: Guinness World Records Limited.
ISBN Archived from the original on 13 July Retrieved 17 January Retrieved 21 June Retrieved 18 June Recorded Music NZ. Retrieved December 3, GODCD GODX GODMC Retrieved June 21, Retrieved July 12, Single Top in Dutch. Retrieved 30 June Official Charts Company. Retrieved June 13, Archived from the original on Dionne Warwick. Dionne Warwick in Paris Hot! Greatest Hits: — The Love Collection Soul Divas Tour.
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