2012 proved to be a classic year for Progressive Rock music, and one of the many outstanding albums to be released was Big Big Train's 'English Electric (Part 1)' (my album of the year for 2012). Big Big Train have been producing consistently good and increasingly excellent music for a number of years now, and their latest offering, the second part of English Electric, has just been released to much anticipation.
What can be said about this work of art? - for that is what it is. Like much of their work it is immediately evocative of both the heyday of Progressive music from the 1970s and an essential Englishness that the title might imply: there is even a 'guest appearance' from Sir John Betjeman! But although there are echoes of bands like Genesis ('Worked Out' for me has hints of 'Driving the Last Spike' about it) they are in no way seeking to ape their style: here is a distinctiveness all their own.
The music is emotive and emotional; well-written - both lyrically and melodically - and equally well-played; David Longdon's vocals can soar and swoop like a swallow in flight; and how many bands within the breadth of the Rock genre would include strings, a banjo and a brass band in their arrangements?
The songs bring back images of an England from decades past: an England of steam trains, shipyards and coal mines, and of ruined abbeys and butterflies. For a band from the South coast to take this northern 'lad' back to his halcyon days is something that took me aback, but in a good way!
This is part 2 of a collection, and naturally there are echoes in this collection of its worthy predecessor, most notably in 'The Permanent Way' (which perhaps should've closed the album) taking us back to the closer of Part 1, 'Hedgerow', and to its opener, 'The First Rebreather'. Together they present a work that I have no doubt will be looked back on by generations to come as a classic of the Progressive genre. If only more people could/ would listen to such sublime music! And if only we could see this music performed live sometime!