How Do You Solve a Problem Like Spawton?

How do you solve a problem like Spawton?

Yes, that Spawton.

Gregory Marcus Aurelius Spawton.

The guy just doesn’t give an inch.  He doesn’t compromise.  He doesn’t meet anyone half way.  He wants nothing but excellence in a world defined by shoddiness.  So, again, how do you solve a problem like Spawton?

What would Harrison Bergeron do?

Big Big Train live by Simon Hogg
Photo by Simon Hogg.

For years and years, Spawton labored for a vision of true artistic community.  And, through much pain and suffering, he achieved it.  God bless, Spawton, Longdon, Hall, Gregory, Manners, D’Virgilio, Sjoblom, and Poole.

While I don’t have a physical product in front of me as I type this—the tangible Merchants of Light, though, landed safely in Michigan; I just happen to be in Colorado—I am utterly taken with this live release.  Every note makes me want to “see” what’s happening.  Did Manners play that or trigger that?  And, perhaps, is he possessed by the ghost of Dave Brubeck?  Is that bass part played on bass guitar or on keyboard?  Does that D’Virgilio guy resemble some long forgotten Roman god of mischievous beats?

You know, those kinds of questions.

So, yes, I’m rather sad I missed the live concert, and I’m sure part of my longing and heartache as I listen to this gorgeous release is nostalgia for what never was for me.  For those of you privileged enough to have been in the audience, God bless you, too.  There is no band in existence more responsive to its audience than Big Big Train.

Truly, since the release of 2009’s The Underfall Yard, Spawton and Co. have been unstoppable.  They’ve defined the entire 3rdwave of prog, and I’m truly thankful that fellow progarchist Carl Olson introduced me to the band nearly a decade ago.  From the opening moments of The Underfall Yard, I was hooked, and I’ve remained so ever since  That Spawton graciously responded to my initial emails to him was an even greater blessing.

Granted, it might be the advancement of technology, or it might be the audiophilic wizardry of Rob Aubrey, or it might be the sheer power of BBT. . . regardless, the nuances and subtleties of this recording are—at least to me—just astounding.  I would expect this kind of detail from a studio recording, but not from a live recording.  I’ve only had the album for 24 hours, but I’m enthralled (in a good way—not in the way Morgoth enthralled Beren).  I love this album.

Granted, I’m not very good at being critical.  Yet, I can state that though I love everything BBT has done since 2009, I’m much more taken with, say, English Electric and Second Brightest Star, than I am with Folklore.  That stated, I’m finding the live versions of the songs from Folklore simply outstanding on this release.  I find the tracks compelling in a way I didn’t originally.

All of the songs—sixteen total—on Merchants of Light come from the albums or EPs released since 2009. There’s nothing from pre-The Underfall Yard.  Given who made this or that BBT album, this choice makes sense. The band is clearly a creative community, playing to its strengths.

One track, however, stands out above all the rest: “A Mead Hall in Winter.”  The band is just in full artist mode.  When the band plays this song, I’m pretty sure the spheres move just a little more perfectly than perfect.  This song is the “mission statement” of the band, and, frankly, of all good persons who seek to make the world just a bit brighter.  Or, as the band would put it, we must fight against the “fading light.”

How do we solve a problem like Spawton?  We don’t. We pray for seven billion more with his integrity and tenacity.

7 thoughts on “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Spawton?

  1. kruekutt

    I didn’t see how BBT could top what they’d done on Stone & Steel (the streaming audio of those live tracks and YouTube video of “Victorian Brickwork” were what hooked me) and A Stone’s Throw from the Line. One minute into Folklore and I’m convinced. Stunning music, stunning performance; I love what I’m hearing and I’m eagerly anticipating the BluRay.

    Lord willing, if the Train does indeed fulfill their plans and make it across the pond to North America, my wife and I will be there!


  2. MIke Bowler

    I am a lucky man, but not as lucky as some. I am lucky in that I have attended one live show at Kings Place, One at Cadogan Hall and the warm up show at the Anvil in the architectural dystopian masterpiece that is Basingstoke. I was moved by It Bites in their hay days, but I have honestly not seen such brilliant musicianship and performance from an intelligent band since the 1970s, I avoid the word prog because it immediately takes people into stereotype. BBT may be “prog” in the true definition, but they deserve to be judged purely on their ability, their genius, their strive for perfection, driven by Greg, reaching for the far skies, along with his soulmate David Longdon. I hope this becomes the Permanent way, because it is just as good as music can get.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Pingback: How Do You Solve a Problem Like Spawton? — Progarchy | Stormfields

  4. A truly MAGESTIC album and your words are spot on Brad.

    In this mad world filled with MAD leaders like Trump, need I say more BBT`s music lifts the human soirit and reminds me of the beauty that humanity can create.

    May your deity be with you.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Dr Nick

    I’m listening to it right now and getting goosebumps as I’m transported back to that night at the Cadogan Hall. Simply wonderful.

    No need to be jealous of us Brits for too much longer, either: a US tour is on the cards for 2020, it seems…

    Liked by 1 person


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s