Mead Halls in Winter: Big Big Train as Community

Grimspound
Grimspound, 2017.  Art by Sarah Ewing.

One of the wildest and most disturbing aspects of modernity is how compartmentalized everything becomes.  One important thing (a person, an idea, an institution) becomes isolated and, in its isolation, takes on its own importance, its own language (jargon), and, naturally, its own abstraction.

During the past 100 years, a number of groups have tried to combat this.  In the U.K., most famously, there were a variety of literary groups: The Inklings; the Bloomsbury Group; and the Order Men.  In the States, there were the southern Agrarians, the Humanists, the Lovecraftians, and the women (no official name–but Isabel Patterson, Claire Boothe Luce, Dorothy Thompson, and Rose Wilder Lane) who met for tea once a week and shared stories.

The first such known group in the English-speaking group was the Commonwealth Men, meeting in London taverns from 1693 to 1722, attempting to combine British Common Law thinking with classical and ancient philosophy.

Continue reading “Mead Halls in Winter: Big Big Train as Community”

New Big Big Train Releases Announced

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One of two new BBT releases coming July 27, 2018.

According to Louder (formerly Teamrock), Big Big Train will be releasing a single as well as a live album on July 27 of this year.  Interestingly, Tim Bowness will appear on one track as well.

Burning Shed and The Merch Desk are each offering pre-orders of the various BBT releases.

According to Burning Shed, the single (or EP), SWAN HUNTER, will feature the following songs:

  • Swan Hunter (radio edit)
  • Swan Hunter (2018 remix)
  • Swan Hunter (live at Cadogan Hall, London, October 2017)
  • Seen Better Days (the brass band’s final piece, featuring Tim Bowness)
  • Summer’s Lease (live at Real World Studios, April 2017)
Again, according to Burning Shed, the live album, MERCHANTS OF LIGHT, will including the following:
  • Folklore Overture
  • Folklore
  • Brave Captain
  • Last Train
  • London Plane
  • Meadowland
  • A Mead Hall in Winter
  • Experimental Gentlemen part two
  • Swan Hunter
  • Judas Unrepentant
  • The Transit of Venus Across the Sun
  • East Coast Racer
  • Telling the Bees
  • Victorian Brickwork
  • Drums and Brass
  • Wassail
MERCHANTS OF LIGHT will be available as 1) a cd boxset; or 2) vinyl box set (with high-res download).
Cheers!

Streaming Music (Editorial)

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Prog art at its finest–Jim Trainer’s Winchester Diver for Big Big Train.

A great DJ is just a step below a great producer and sound engineer.

From time to time, I’ve considered joining a streaming service permanently.  I’ve toyed around with Spotify, Pandora, and iTUNES.

I just can’t understand the attraction.

There was a time in my life, I really loved radio.  From the years between late grade school and the end of high school (class of 1986), I listened faithfully to Wichita’s KICT-95.  The station introduced me–rather gloriously–to album rock radio, back when radio actually played entire sides of albums.  I got to know the DJs, the music, and their various programs.  I knew when to expect a full album side, and when to expect the latest news in the rock world.  I knew when T-95 broadcast concerts, and I knew when the radio station sponsored bands to play live in Wichita.  It was a golden age of rock.  I was always far more taken with prog than I was with acid or hard rock, but T-95 presented all as a rather cohesive whole, thanks to the quality of the DJs.

But, streaming?  I just don’t get it.  It’s bland.  It’s tapioca.  There’s no personality, no matter how great the music is.

Continue reading “Streaming Music (Editorial)”

Second Spring #3: “The Permanent Way” by Big Big Train

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.

Spawton and Betjeman
Two masters of the word.

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:

  1. Kevin McCormick’s “Storm Front.”
  2. The Fierce and the Dead’s “Part I”

 

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.

 

 

 

A BBT-Inspired Post: The Enchanted Childhood of Christopher Dawson (TIC)

I’m breaking several rules by re-posting this at progarchy–including our rules that stress we should never write about 1) religion or 2) politics.

Apologies!

However, I wrote this piece about the incredible Anglo-Welsh Man of Letters, Christopher Dawson (1889-1970), while not only listening to Big Big Train but while also consciously trying to imitate Greg Spawton’s and David Longdon’s lyric-writing styles into straight prose.  I might have failed miserable, but I had a great time trying.

 

Stories of glass and stone—which told of the holy and sainted—convinced young Christopher Dawson that a saint was a saint not because of his or her individual talents, but as a continuation of the deepest longings and desires of the Church… 1,275 more words

via Etched in Glass and Stone: The Childhood of Christopher Dawson — The Imaginative Conservative

 

 

FAR SKIES DEEP TIME by Big Big Train (2018)

Far Skies, Deep Time.  Even the very title evokes mystery.  Indeed, were there still loads and loads of CD stores, and if I could spend my time browsing them, I would buy this album simply for the title alone.  Even if I knew absolutely nothing about Big Big Train.  I do, however.  That is, I do know about Big Big Train.  In fact, I know a lot about Big Big Train.  I’ve written more about Big Big Train over the last nine years of life than any other single topic, except for my professional work on humanism and the humanists of the 20th century.  And, to be clear, 9 years is just a little less than 1/5 of my life.

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Once blessed, now glorious.  Cover art by the extraordinarily talented Jim Trainer.

Truly, my life is immensely better for knowing the music and stories of Big Big Train.

I’m coming up on a full decade of Big Big Train being a vital part of my personal and professional life.  My kids and wife all know and love the band’s music, and no other band has served as the soundtrack of my last almost-decade more than has Big Big Train.

Continue reading “FAR SKIES DEEP TIME by Big Big Train (2018)”

Big Big Train’s FAR SKIES DEEP TIME Reissued

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To be re-released, March 16, 2018.

According to an email from Burning Shed this afternoon, Big Big Train has redesigned and remastered its 2010 maxi-ep release, FAR SKIES DEEP TIME.  Coming after 2009’s THE UNDERFALL YARD, FAR SKIES DEEP TIME was never seen by the band as a proper studio release, but rather as a compilation of disparate tracks.

Over the last eight years, two versions of the maxi-ep have appeared, one with a remake of Anthony Phillip’s “Master of Time,” and the other with a remake of a very early Big Big Train track, “Kingmaker.”

This 2018 version will be the first to incorporate both tracks onto one release.

Big Big Train is the premier European band of third-wave prog, and this latest release will only add to the group’s massively growing but already sterling reputation.

To preorder from Burning Shed, please click here.

To see our review of “Kingmaker,” please click here.