The seventeenth track, “The Permanent Way,” on Big Big Train’s ENGLISH ELECTRIC: FULL POWER (2013), might very well be one of the most important songs written and produced during what many call Third-wave Prog.
The album itself, of course, is extraordinary, especially in its building of textures–all of which weave in and out, away and to, near and far, above and beyond.
Not only is the weave exceptional, but so is the actual existence of time during the album, which, depending on how BBT shape the music, slows up or speeds down. As the title suggestions, “The Permanent Way” considers those things that remain, those that stood strong and remain standing. Thus, the song represents a still point, around which time itself flows.
The still point of the song is the profound British poet, John Betjeman, rivaled in stance only by T.S. Eliot in twentieth-century poetic achievement. With brass, guitars, keyboards, bass, and a variety of other instruments, the band slowly approaches the poet. Longdon’s voice gently offers a prelude as homage. The moment Betjeman speaks, Longdon defers, treating the master with all due deference and respect. The result is a majestic whole that brings together past, present, and future. This is what Big Big Train does best. And, frankly, no one does it better.
Past Second Springs:
Inspired by Craig Breaden’s brilliant 104-part Soundstream, I’ve decided to post music that reveals that rock and jazz (and some other forms of music) are not the end of western civilization, but the culmination of western civilization up to this point in time. A second spring, if you will.