Album Review: @SolaceSupplice “Liturgies Contemporaines”

Solace Supplice - Liturgies ContemporainesSolace Supplice, Liturgies Contemporaines, June 15, 2022
Tracks: Le Tartuffe Exemplaire (5:12), Sunset Street (4:12), A Demi-Maux (4:03), Les Miradors (6:46), Cosmos Adultérin (3:57), Schizophrénie Paranoïde (3:14), Au Cirque Des Âmes (4:10), En Guidant Les Hussards (4:19), Liturgies Contemporaines (3:53), Dans La Couche Du Diable (4:46), Marasmes Et Décadence (4:33)

[Edit: I discovered just after finishing this review and posting it that primary band member Eric Bouillette passed away last month. Our deepest condolences to his family and the band. He was an incredibly talented musician and artist.]

For my third review of recent French releases (see 1 and 2), I bring you Solace Supplice’s Liturgies Contemporaines. Ok, I’m cheating. The band is technically based in England, but the lyrics are in French and the primary players are French. The album has a solid soundscape that is both moody and epic, with a variety of musical textures and sounds.

Primary members Eric Bouillette and Anne-Claire Rallo are members of Nine Skies, a fine band that has made some waves in prog circles in recent years. Both are multi-instrumentalists, with Bouillette playing guitars, keyboards, and violins as well as singing. Rallo plays keyboards and bass. They are joined by Jimmy Pallagrosi on drums, Laurent Benhamou on saxophone on a couple tracks, and Willow Beggs (Nick Beggs’ daughter) on bass on several tracks.  

The record opens with an old English-language clip from the BBC. The song quickly dives into a fast-paced guitar-driven gallop, with that BBC clip popping up again periodically. I liked the inclusion of that clip because it elevates the scope of the record just a bit – makes things feel a little bit more epic. 

The title track, “Liturgies Contemporaines,” is probably my favorite on the record. It is brooding and atmospheric, slightly reminiscent of Steven Wilson or Porcupine Tree. The vocals and guitars really shine over the repeating keyboard line and simple drum riff. Bouillette’s vocals really stand out on this song. The tone he creates on this is rather different than on the rest of the record, and I think he sounds best on this song. Sometimes his vocals are a bit monotonous when singing the French lyrics, but his voice is very dynamic on the title track.

Lyrically the album leans on the more obscure, allowing for more interpretation. It also helps that they’re in French, forcing English listeners to either dig deep (lyrics posted on their website), or just appreciate them for the way they sound. Bouillette’s style of singing works well on “Dans La Couche Du Diable.” The song starts quieter with piano and acoustic guitar, over which he gently sings. A pounding guitar and drum riff kicks in with a marching beat, and the vocals march along with it. The result is quite effective, especially as the song builds towards the end. The track swells towards the end as the keyboards swirl in the background. With a little extra working at the end, I think it would have made a better ending track to close the album, as “Marasmes Et Décadence” doesn’t go much of anywhere musically for most of the song until the guitar solo, bass, and keyboard solo kick in at the end. “Dans La Couche Du Diable” sounds more like an album closer to me. 

Bouillette’s guitar work is dynamic throughout the record, with clean solos on “A Demi-Maux” and grittier shredding on “Les Miradors.” The atmospheric guitar on the title track really shows the range of his capabilities, with the guitar contributing to the soundscape and standing center-stage in the second half of the song. The band scatter in some unexpected musical moments to keep us on our toes. Bouillette’s violin on “Au Cirque Des Âmes” has a gypsy jazz feel to it, and the saxophone on “En Guidant Les Hussards” adds a jazzy and atmospheric sound.

I’ve found Liturgies Contemporaines compelling on repeated listens. It has a solid rock drive with multiple textures and a variety of sounds that manages to remain cohesive. The title track really makes the album for me – I just wish it were longer. The songs could have also been edited to flow together a little better, as the general production value strikes me as being a concept album. All the same, the record is worth multiple listens for fans of contemporary prog. Certainly fans of Nine Skies will want to check it out, if they haven’t already. 

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Glass Hammer Release Video from Upcoming Album “At The Gate”

Glass Hammer news from the band:

‘The Years Roll By’ is the first of two music videos from the band’s new concept album.

The Years Roll By is the opening track on Glass Hammer’s At The Gate concept album —set for release on October 7th, 2022.

Bandleader Steve Babb said the following about the new album: “At The Gate completes our sword and sorcery inspired trilogy that began with 2020s Dreaming City. We followed that up with last year’s Skallagrim—Into The Breach.”

For the uninitiated, he went on to explain. “It’s the story of a scarred and battered thief, Skallagrim, who’s had his memory stolen along with the love of his life. He’s got to fight unimaginable horrors and slay hideous creatures and sorcerous villains if he’s ever to reclaim either. Finally, at the end of the last album, his memory is returned, but he finds himself cursed to wait one thousand years for a chance to find his lost love! At The Gate picks up at the end of his tale as he prepares to face the ultimate challenge of his life—to finally rescue his girl and defeat the evil being who has imprisoned her.

“Of course, as with any Glass Hammer concept album, there is more to it than a simple plot. On the surface, it appears to be about magic swords and heroes, but it’s actually a story about confronting evil, how to survive it, and how to face despair and heartache.

And most importantly, it’s about why the pursuit of profound and lasting joy in an often joyless world is worthwhile, even when all available evidence suggests it cannot be found.”  

Babb says he chose to open the album with a ballad. “…something ethereal, something reminiscent of what our fans call classic Glass Hammer. The Years Roll By fits the bill, I think. Of course, there’ll be plenty of metal and prog on the new album. The next music video I plan to release hits really hard!”

Autographed copies of At The Gate are available for pre-order on the Glass Hammer Store website. www.glasshammer.com

Arnaud Quevedo & Friends – Double Album Review

Arnaud Quevedo & Friends - Electric TalesArnaud Quevedo & Friends, Electric Tales, 2020
Tracks: 
Electric Overture (1:32), The Dark Jester (7:24), The Electric Princess Part 1 (9:06), The Electric Princess Part 2 (9:02), Entering… (Impro) (4:11) Mushi’s Forest (6:21), Flower Fields (Impro) (3:26), The Hypothetical Knight (6:24), Hope (5:07), Electric Dreamer (3:49)

Arnaud Quevedo & Friends - RoanArnaud Quevedo & Friends, Roan, Bad Dog Promotions, 2021
Tracks: Aube (1:33), Prologue (4:33) Découverte (8:48), Curiosité (2:26), Féerie (3:22), Dépassement (3:17), Nostalgie (1:56), Ryoko (12:33), Fardeau (1:51), Chrysalide (4:41), Métamorphose (5:50), Épilogue (3:30)

For the second in my series of reviews of French artists (see number 1 here), we have Arnaud Quevedo & Friends, a guitar-centered jazz fusion outfit based in La Rochelle, France. The group centers around Arnaud Quevedo, a guitarist and music teacher at Conservatoire La Rochelle. Bassist Noé Russeil joins Quevedo on both records, as does double bassist Éva Tribolles. Both also provide vocals. Lucille Mille plays flute and sings on Electric Tales, Julien Gomila plays saxophone on that record. There is a much larger cast on Roan, composed of more stringed and blown instruments. While Quevedo plays drums on Electric Tales, that duty is expertly handled by Anthony Raynal on Roan

One of the primary differences between the two records is the lyrics on Electric Tales are in English while they are in French on Roan. I prefer the French vocals because they sound more natural to both the music and for the singers. Some of the English lyrics, like on “The Dark Jester,” are really difficult to understand. 

Jazz is the name of the game here, but it remains tied to the rock world throughout. Electric Tales periodically reminded me of The Tangent, another band that heavily leans on jazz. “The Electric Princess” Parts 1 and 2 are almost entirely instrumental, with some more easily understandable lyrics near the end of part 2. The guitar and flute are prominent throughout, balancing the jazz with a rock feel. Continue reading “Arnaud Quevedo & Friends – Double Album Review”

Big Big Train Update – A Note From Gregory Spawton

A Note From Gregory Spawton

Following the announcement last week about the HRH festival in Leeds being moved to Sheffield in April 2023 (when Big Big Train will not be appearing) and the necessity for us to re-schedule our German, Swiss and French shows until 2023, I would like to thank all listeners for their wonderful support. We entirely understand how disappointing and frustrating this news has been. I am pleased to say that I have some more positive news in this update.

Free Passengers Club Memberships/Extensions

If you hold tickets for any of the HRH, German, Swiss or French shows, please contact stationmaster@thepassengersclub.com with a photo of your ticket or the ticket attached to the email for a free three month trial of our digital fan club  – The Passengers Club.

If you are already a Passengers Club member with a one or two year subscription and holding tickets for one of these shows, please contact stationmaster@thepassengersclub.com with a photo of your ticket or the ticket attached to the email for three month extension.

Please be patient as it will take a while to add everyone who applies.

All existing BBT Passengers Club Patrons (whether HRH or German/Swiss/French ticket holders or not) will receive an exclusive download of a live song from the September 2022 tour. This will be a different song to the ones being made available to Tour Patrons.

2022 Tour Patron Packages

Given our touring plans for 2023 (about which more news below), 2022 tour patron packages have been converted to 2022/23 tour patron packages. You do not need to take any action in this regard.  T-shirts have been sent out, tour programmes and laminates can be collected from the September 2022 shows if you are attending; if you are not attending a show, programmes and laminates will be sent out after 7th September.

The September 2022 Tour

Over the last few months we have all spent many hours preparing individually before we convene for rehearsals next week for the shows in September. While we’re thrilled to be bringing Big Big Train back on stage after almost three years, of course we remain enormously saddened that David Longdon is no longer with us.

David’s explicit wish was that BBT should continue and we’re excited about moving forwards and what we can achieve with Alberto Bravin fronting the band. Our shows will celebrate the band’s past and look ahead to the future. Our live set will include one new song. More on this below.

While we’re obviously disappointed that the tour next month will only be brief, we are very much looking forward to these shows. A last few seats remain available for our “family and friends” warm up show near Southampton. Tickets are also available for our shows in Aylesbury and Zoetermeer. We will be filming the  Zoetermeer show with a view to releasing it in the future. Details of the September 2022 dates plus ticket links are here: www.bigbigtrain.com/live

From Wednesday 7th September we will be making September 2022 tour merchandise (tour programmes and T-shirts) available online via Burning Shedand The Bandwagon USA.

Big Big Train on tour in 2023

Prior to the news last week about HRH and the rescheduling of the German, Swiss and French shows, we had already been working on organising some shows for 2023.

2023 looks set to be BBT’s busiest year ever, both recording in the studio (including in Italy) and playing live shows. Currently we are expecting to play up to 20 shows across the UK and continental Europe in autumn 2023, including countries that were not on the original September 2022 tour schedule. We are delighted that this will include the band playing in Italy for the first time. We hope to be able to announce full details of the autumn 2023 tour later this year.

New Music

In parallel with preparing for next month’s shows, we have been working on a number of new songs since appointing Alberto as our lead vocalist. Today we are delighted to share with you the first of these songs. Written by me, Last Eleven features the BBT September 2022 live band – Alberto Bravin, Rikard Sjöblom, Nick D’Virgilio, Dave Foster, Clare Lindley, Oskar Holldorff and myself.

We’re really excited about this song – it’s very personal to me lyrically and the band have put in an amazing performance, including a beautiful vocal arrangement from Alberto and a stunning keyboard solo from Oskar.

The video was created by Steve Cadman.

Summer Shall Not Fade/Door One

In case you missed it, we have recently released a short trailer for the forthcoming Blu-ray/2CD Summer Shall Not Fade, which documents Big Big Train’s show in July 2018 at the Night Of The Prog festival in Loreley, Germany.

Here’s the trailer:

Both Summer Shall Not Fade and David Longdon’s solo album Door One will be released on 14th October. Full details of both releases and purchasing links can be found here: www.bigbigtrain.com 

NDV with Steve Hackett

Congratulations to NDV who will be drumming for nine shows on Steve Hackett’s North America tour in November and December this year, deputising for Craig Blundell.
Details here: www.hackettsongs.com/tour.html 

Gregory on Butterfly Mind by Tim Bowness


I appear on the new wonderful new Tim Bowness album Butterfly Mind on the track ‘After The Stranger’.
More info on the album here https://timbowness.komi.io/

We look forward to seeing listeners at our shows next month.

Best wishes

Gregory Spawton

Big Big Train

New Cosmograf Album Out September 9

0839d079-7846-6a46-5885-3da41b8cbf90Robin Armstrong’s Cosmograf will be releasing their latest album, Heroic Materials, on September 9, 2022.  The album is available for pre-order from Armstrong’s record label, Gravity Dream music, on CD (digipack and deluxe media book edition) and vinyl. The vinyl won’t be available by the date of release, but vinyl purchasers will be able to get a digital download on release day if they want. 

https://www.cosmograf.com
Purchase: https://www.gravitydream.co.uk/product-category/cosmograf/

Big Big Train Cancel Some (Not All) Upcoming Shows

Some sad news for our European friends from Big Big Train. Due to the rescheduled HRH Leeds festival, Big Big Train have had to cancel that show plus shows in Switzerland, France, and Germany due to financial burdens. They will still be playing shows in Aylesbury and Zoetermeer as well as Southampton in September. More from the band:

Following HRH’s announcement on Wednesday about their postponement of the September 2022 festival, please note that Big Big Train will not be appearing at the re-scheduled HRH event in April 2023.

Please hold on to your tickets for now while we discuss the next steps with the festival.

Due to the loss of the HRH Leeds festival, combined with increased tour related expenses, the scheduled shows in Germany, Switzerland and France are now financially unviable this year.

To continue after the festival cancelation would have resulted in financial losses that would have seriously threatened the band’s existence.

We are extremely sorry for the significant disappointment and inconvenience that this news causes.

The German, Swiss and French dates will be rescheduled to 2023. We encourage ticket holders for these shows to retain their tickets and we will provide more news as soon as we can.

Our shows in Aylesbury and Zoetermeer will proceed as planned as well as a “family and friends” warm up show near Southampton. Tickets are still available for all three shows.

An updated list of September 2022 dates plus ticket links can be found here: www.bigbigtrain.com/live.

We look forward to seeing everyone at our remaining shows next month and are extremely grateful for your continuing support, particularly in the light of the difficult news this week.

We will be issuing a further update next week, including news of more exciting touring in 2023 as well as releasing a new song to give you a taste of things to come!

Kind regards,

Big Big Train

Album Review – JPL’s “Sapiens Chapitre 3/3: Actum”

JPL-SAPIENS-3-v3-300x300JPL (Jean Pierre Louveton), Sapiens Chapitre 3/3: Actum, Quadrifonic Records, March 2022
Tracks: Paradis Perdu (5:53), Mon Cercueil (6:08), Alia (La Mahine) (4:50), Dansez Maintenant (5:12), Memento Mori [a. Marche Vers l’inconnu, b. Tempus Fugit, c. La Mort Du Roi, d. Paria, e. Acta Fabula Est] (23:01)

Over the last several months, Progarchy HQ has received a fair number of CDs from France for review. The first such record is the third album in a trilogy of records about the history of humanity from Jean Pierre Louveton, under the alias JPL. Louveton is perhaps most well-known for his work with NEMO, a now on hiatus French progressive rock band (sort of on hiatus – the band is releasing a re-recorded version of an earlier album later this year). Since the lyrics are in French, much of Louveton’s work is likely unknown to all but the most dedicated of English-speaking prog fans.

Sapiens Chapitre 3/3: Actum is the only album of the trilogy I have heard, but I must say it is quite good. It travels the breadth of progressive rock, with hard classic rock elements, forays into jazz and fusion, and swashes of symphonic rock, especially most prevalent in the album’s 23-minute epic, “Memento Mori,” which is split into five tracks on the CD.

As you might expect, since it is the final chapter of a trilogy of records, the album sounds like it is picking up in the middle of a story. There isn’t really a big build-up in the first song, “Paradis Perdu.” It has an instrumental opening for the first few minutes, but it doesn’t strike me as being any sort of overture. Even though I haven’t heard the other albums, I quite like that this one gets right to the point. At 46 minutes in length, the album lacks the fluff that often gets padded into many progressive rock albums today.

“Mon Cercueil” starts off pretty slowly – perhaps too slowly – but it digs into a nice bass groove in the middle of the track with a brooding layer of synths over the top and complex drumming lifting up the back end. This moves into a faster tempo section with a vocal duet between JPL and Stéphanie Vouillot, who also plays piano on “La Mort Du Roi” and “Paria.” She has a lovely voice which I wish had been used even more on the record. “Mon Cercueil” ends with a great guitar solo that foreshadows the closing of the record.

YouTube – “Mon Cercueil”

“Dansez Maintenant” has a bit of an unexpected surprise with the inclusion of a Hurdy Gurdy played by Marguerite Miallier. The Hurdy Gurdy (vielle à roue in French) is a medieval-period stringed instrument used primarily in European folk music (German metal band Saltatio Mortis also have a Hurdy Gurdy player). It is operated by turning a wheel at the lower end. It adds a very distinctive sound, somewhat similar to how a bagpipe might sound if played at a fast tempo.

“Memento Mori” travels through five different movements, and it is heavy on the instrumentation. There are large symphonic elements, along with a heavier guitar sound in parts. “Tempus Fugit” is a particularly strong track in the way it combines the heavier rock sound with the orchestral tones. JPL’s vocals on “La Mort Du Roi” are more spoken in a quick whispered fashion at the beginning of the track before they are sung in a slower fashion. The band takes its most experimental route on “Paria,” with a fast jazz fusion sound and even a saxophone solo featuring Sylvain Haon. The album closes with a stellar guitar solo from JPL that builds along with the symphonic parts to a satisfying ending to the album, and I suspect also a satisfying ending to the trilogy.

The artwork by Stan Decker is another feather in the JPL cap. Somewhat reminiscent of Roger Dean’s artwork, although distinctively different, the album cover has a lot of detail that draws you in for a closer look. Jupiter in the background, Earth in the center, rising columns of green Dean-esque shapes with alien-looking bugs and flying sea rays roaming the skies. And that isn’t even all of it. The CD booklet and packaging contain further art, which certainly adds to my enjoyment of the record.

Awaken your inner Francophile and check out JPL’s Actum. Musically it will not disappoint, and for the ear accustomed to English styles of singing, the French lyrics and style of singing might be a nice change of pace for you.

Stay tuned for more reviews featuring French artists in the near future.

http://www.jplouveton.com/home-2/
https://www.quadrifonic.com/en/home/552-jpl-sapiens-chapitre-33-actum-cd.html

Bandcamp (CD quality): https://jplouveton.bandcamp.com/album/sapiens-chapitre-3-3-actum
Bandcamp (High Resolution audio): https://jplouveton.bandcamp.com/album/sapiens-chapitre-3-3-actum-hr

The Big Big Book Review: “Big Big Train – Between The Lines: The Story Of A Rock Band”

grant-moon_big-big-train–between-the-lines_bookGrant Moon, Big Big Train – Between The Lines: The Story Of A Rock Band, Great Britain: Kingmaker Publishing, 2022, 271 Pages. 

It seems fitting that a band that has taken such an unusual path to success as Big Big Train should have a book detailing the route they took. Few other artists in progressive rock, apart from perhaps Kate Bush, have reached the successes Big Big Train have accomplished without a heavy grind of international touring.

Grant Moon’s Between The Lines: The Story Of A Rock Band tells in detail how their story unfolded, but it is clear this story is not a roadmap for other bands to follow in their steps. Rather Big Big Train has been a labor of love from the outset, and if it weren’t for the longtime commitment of founders Greg Spawton and Andy Poole, the band never would have arrived where they are now. With that said, to reach beyond the obscure world Big Big Train inhabited pre-2009, a little (or a lot) of luck had to roll their way. David Longdon joining the band for The Underfall Yard, along with Nick D’Virgilio joining as a permanent member after playing on the previous record and Dave Gregory guesting on TUY, poured the requisite coal into the firebox. Members have come and gone throughout the band’s long history, as Moon covers in intense detail, but these three helped provide the signature sound that helped break Greg Spawton’s musical and lyrical ideas to wider audiences.

Since the purpose of the book is to provide you with the juicy details, I’ll spare you any further plot summary and rather speak to the qualities of the book itself. For starters, it’s a beautiful product. Rather than being a simple paperback or even traditional hardback book with maybe an insert of color or black and white photos somewhere in the center, Between The Lines is a large coffee-table style hardcover book. The cover features a lovely dusk photograph of the band playing at Night of the Prog in Loreley, Germany, in 2018. Each page is printed in two columns, and the book is filled with both color and black and white photos from the band’s history and digging even deeper into certain member’s pasts. There are also some great photos of Sarah Ewing’s album artwork in process. Put simply, the book makes an attractive addition to a progressive music fan’s collection. Certainly any diehard Big Big Train fan will have already purchased it.

As a relatively longtime fan of the band (since 2013), I have followed Big Big Train very closely for close to a decade. I’m not on Facebook, so I’m not a part of the band’s public facebook group, although I’ve perused it before. I’ve also never attended any of their live concerts, but with the exception of Bard and the band’s first two demo CDs, I have all of the band’s albums on CD, including the rare English Electric: Full Power, my first Big Big Train purchase. I also have all of their Blu Rays and even the digital video download of the Kings Place shows. I have all of the band’s recordings (including Bard and the early demos) in my iTunes, and I’m a proud charter member of the Passengers Club. I signed up as soon as it was announced. All of that to say, even though I’ve followed the band more closely than any other band of which I am a fan, there was a lot for me to learn within the pages of Moon’s book. For instance, the band experienced growing tensions both internally and externally during their intense period of growth. While seemingly at the top of the world, Longdon underwent a difficult collapse of his marriage as the band continued to expand. As the group sought to push into live performances, tension mounted between founders Spawton and Poole, which eventually ended in the latter being pushed out of the band. The band kept many of these tensions away from the public eye, yet they still managed to create some of the finest music the genre has ever known. Moon shines a light on both aspects of the band’s career.

Moon seemingly hides nothing in this book, which is comprised heavily of edited interviews with the band’s members, both past and present. The nice thing about that is we get both sides of the stories, with Moon doing his best to present the truth somewhere in the middle. Additionally we get detailed explanations about how each member came to board the Train, and we even get a look at David Longdon and Nick D’Virgilio’s involvement with Genesis during the Calling All Stations sessions, including input from Tony Banks himself. The book also gives hints at some of the band’s future plans, even teasing a reissue of Bard. Between The Lines ends on the sad note of Longdon’s passing and Sarah Ewing encouraging the band to keep going.

Since Moon is a journalist, the book, his first, is written in a very journalistic style. The prose is often very informal and sometimes grammatically incorrect, which is common in journalistic writing. It is also very British, which is to be expected. Some of it can be a bit jarring. It’s one thing to repeat expletives or phrases like “cock-up” in a quotation, but it’s another thing to use them in narrative prose. Even if that is more common in UK English, to my American eyes I found it unnecessary. Such language works fine in a quotation – I always keep it in place when I transcribe my own interviews with artists. For a book, especially one covering such serious and top tier music, it would have been better to have more formality in the non-quotation parts.

With that said, I found the book to be a very enjoyable read. I read most of it this weekend on the couch as I’ve been sick with a cold. The narrative drew me onwards as it filled in the gaps in my already pretty expansive knowledge of Big Big Train’s history. I particularly enjoyed reliving the energy of band’s triumphant rise following English Electric. It’s hard to believe so much time has passed. I remember so many of the events as they happened, even if I experienced them from afar. I remember closely following social media the weekend of the King’s Place shows in 2015, and it was exciting to read a well-crafted narrative of the preparation for and execution of those shows, as well as the other live shows the band have performed since.

The insights the band members, past and present, give to their roles in the band is perhaps the most interesting aspect of the book. Big Big Train’s music is densely layered, and it is all too easy to get lost in the complexity and appreciate the sound as a whole. Having the members explain how and what they contributed helps break things down, giving us fans a peak into the band’s writing process. The book also gives loud voices to members of the band who may have been quieter around the press, particularly Andy Poole, Rachel Hall, Dave Gregory, and Danny Manners. I found the well-rounded approach Moon took in representing the members to be very refreshing.

Between The Lines proved to be an enjoyable and engaging read about one of my favorite bands. It is clearly oriented towards the already-engaged fanbase, but anyone with a strong interest in the current wave of progressive music will find this book an interesting read. Beyond that, the book tells the story of a band’s non-traditional rise to success quite separate from the record label establishment. As such anyone interested in that aspect of the music industry should certainly give the book a read. There’s more than one way to set a course for the stars.

Bryan Morey

Purchase the book here: https://burningshed.com/store/bigbigtrain/grant-moon_big-big-train–between-the-lines_book

Upcoming Live Big Big Train Album and David Longdon Solo Album

gr0k6A bit late to the news on this one, but in case you haven’t heard, Big Big Train recently announced they will be releasing a live Blu-ray/2CD set from their 2018 show at Night of the Prog in Loreley, Germany. The live album will be called Summer Shall Not Fade

The band have also announced that David Longdon’s solo album, Door One, will be released. The record was 90 percent finished at the time David Longdon Door Oneof David’s tragic passing back in November. Both the live BBT album and Door One will be released on October 14, and they are available for pre-order individually and as a bundle from Burning Shed (UK/Europe/worldwide) and Bandwagon (USA) [embedded links are for the bundle].

Some additional info from the band (also available at their website: https://www.bigbigtrain.com/door-one/):

Door One was recorded with a core of four musicians: drummer Jeremy Stacey (King Crimson, Noel Gallagher, Sheryl Crow, The Finn Brothers), bassist Steve Vantsis (best known for his work with Fish), saxophonist Theo Travis (Steven Wilson, Soft Machine, Gong) and David’s longstanding friend and former 1990s Gifthorse band mate Gary Bromham (Bjork, Sheryl Crow, George Michael) who contributed guitar, backing vocals, keyboard parts and textures.

Door One, borrowing the nickname for a recreation ground in Nottingham near where David grew up, has a musical personality that is distinct from his work within Big Big Train even though Gregory Spawton plays acoustic guitar on two songs. Gregory Spawton: “David was aware of my passion for 12-string guitar and said he had a song called Love Is All which he wanted me to play on. I recorded my parts for the song a few days after David died. Although he was gone, it felt like it was one last precious moment of making music together.

The album’s eight songs are highly personal and follow a lyrical journey from darkness to enlightenment, from the intense and raw first single ‘Watch It Burn’, channelling David’s love of The Who, to the folk inflected ‘There’s No Ghost Like An Old Ghost’, which recalls David’s Dyble Longdon album with the late Fairport Convention singer Judy Dyble, and ‘Love Is All’, the gorgeous ballad which closes the album.

Gary Bromham: “Having worked with David on and off for over 35 years, we talked extensively about the influences for the album. He was very interested in the sonic textures created by David Bowie and Brian Eno in his Berlin Trilogy of albums. The atmospheres and use of ambience were a huge source of inspiration and a big factor in the making of Door One. My brief was to add what David termed ‘aural dimensions’ to the album. He said, ‘You know the brief.’ I subsequently had to take on a wider role with David’s passing, but Patrick Phillips and I were definitely on the same wavelength when it came to manifesting some of this at the mixing stage, with these goals in mind.”

The album’s stunning artwork is by Sarah Louise Ewing with graphic design by Steve Vantsis. Sarah’s cover portrait of David is from a photograph by Sophocles Alexiou.

In The Times, Dominic Maxwell said of David “Having taken a long time to get where he wanted to be, Longdon tried not to waste his precious time.” Door One is a testament to a very special artist whose creativity was continuing to flourish.

Album Review – The Tangent – Songs From the Hard Shoulder

tangent-hard-shoulderThe Tangent, Songs From the Hard Shoulder, Inside Out Music, June 10, 2022
Tracks: The Changes (17:06), The GPS Vultures (17:01), The Lady Tied to the Lamp Post (20:52), Wasted Soul (4:40), In the Dead of Night / Tangential Aura / Reprise (Bonus Track) (16:11)

The Tangent never cease to inspire, amaze, and mystify. Two years after Auto Reconnaissance, the band’s follow-up Songs From the Hard Shoulder might be their proggiest yet. Auto Reconnaissance was my favorite Tangent record since 2015’s Spark in the Aether, and Songs From the Hard Shoulder is a more than worthy successor. But where Auto Reconnaissance may have been a great place for new listeners to jump into the band’s work, this record may be a bit daunting for that. It is, after all, made up of three epics each over 17-minutes long, one shorter track, and a 16-minute bonus track cover of a UK song mixed with some Tangential noodling. This isn’t a record for the fainthearted, but it will reward you if you give it the chance. 

Oh, the jazz. Besides Andy Tillison’s lyrics, my favorite aspect of The Tangent’s music is their use of jazz. It permeates their sound, but it doesn’t overpower the rock. Theo Travis’ work on saxophone and flute particularly stand out to me on this record. It’s always brilliant, but it strikes me as more prominent here. Or maybe I’m just noticing it more this time around. Either way, it’s great. 

The instrumental jamming is front and center on this record. It’s always been there, but it is unmistakably the core of this record. How could it not be with songs this long. “The GPS Vultures” is a 17-minute long instrumental! But don’t let that fool you. It never bores. It ebbs and flows, as any longer track should. There are solos from every band member, there’s experimentation, and there’s general jamming. Maybe some of the crinkly experimental passages of computer-synth noise could be excised, but those don’t last long. 

Lyrically “The Changes” finds Tillison wrestling with the last 2+ years, how we dealt with that, and what we do going forwards. He uses personal stories from the band to give an example of what it is they lost during lockdowns before pointing out that his story is just one of millions. He points out that things weren’t so hot before all this, so what’s the point in going back to the way it was? In an interview with Progarchy, he made sure to explain that he wasn’t making a political statement but rather a cultural critique. After all, cultural critique is where he excels, in my opinion. 

Speaking of that, “The Lady Tied to the Lamp Post” is peak Tillison. The song tells the story of an encounter Tillison had with a homeless woman, and he uses that story as a lens to comment on the social crisis of homelessness. It’s a powerful track, particularly near the end when he reminds the listener that all of us aren’t much more than a few clicks of a mouse on somebody’s computer screen before we too are out on the streets. In the end he calls for more humanity in the way we treat those less fortunate than ourselves.

At over 20 minutes, this song covers a lot of ground. It opens quiet with Tillison singing over a mix of light drums, piano, and subtle guitar. It moves into a much more fast-paced section that’s pure prog, as Tillison tells more of the story. At 9 minutes in, Tillison delivers an especially passionate high-note that certainly surprised me. A second longer instrumental passage follows, most of which is good. There’s about 30 seconds that we probably could have done without, but it moves into an industrial-sounding passage that works quite well. The fast-paced section with Steve Roberts’ drums leading the way returns to finish off the story. 

Tillison’s vocal delivery really sells the story on this track, as well as on the opening song. Throughout the album he uses his various styles of singing, including his regular voice, his talk-singing, and his shout-singing when he’s really worked up. He uses these to accentuate his particular points, adding in an element of acting to the performance. Is his voice for everyone? Probably not, but it sounds great to me. 

If you’re like me you might be surprised at “Wasted Soul.” In his interview with Progarchy, Andy explained how much of an influence Earth, Wind & Fire and other African American music from the 1970s was on him musically. This song is pure 70s funk and soul. That’s not music I’m particularly well-versed in, but “Wasted Soul” is a great track. It has a catchy up-temp beat with a great horn section. It shows the versatility of the band, and it’s a fun closer to a somewhat weird record. 

I’ve listened to this album a lot over the last month or two, and I’m still not sure if I like it better than Auto Reconnaissance or not. The last album had a more accessible balance of shorter tracks to longer ones, but I’ve found myself engrossed with Songs From the Hard Shoulder each time I’ve put it on. Andy’s lyrics almost always draw me into reflection (I’ve been turned off by some of his more overtly political lyrics in the past), which is always a good thing. This is art, after all, and good art should make you think.  The icing on the cake with The Tangent is stellar music performed by one of the most unique bands on the scene today. They really don’t sound like anyone else, even when they’re wearing their influences on their sleeves. Their sound is their own, which makes them a joy to listen to. While Songs From the Hard Shoulder might be difficult for newcomers to get into, it’s still a great album I’ll be happy to return to for years to come. 

https://www.thetangent.org