Big Big Train - Ingenious Devices

Big Big Train – Ingenious Devices

Ingenious Devices brings together a sequence of songs that were originally conceived by Greg Spawton as a trilogy. The release also includes a short orchestral piece woven into the main event and a ‘bonus’ live track recorded at the Friars, Aylesbury show in September 2022, featuring new lead vocalist Alberto Bravin. Britain’s industrial past and stories of derring-do have always been a rich vein of material for Big Big Train and East Coast Racer, Brooklands and Voyager are the three tracks that make up this particular themed sequence about how mankind has used its ingenuity to extend its reach by the development and deployment of technology.

One of the drivers for re-recording the tracks was the growing commercial success of the band that enabled more orchestral string parts to be incorporated into the music on Grand Tour, including the Voyager track. This gave the band the idea of upgrading the string arrangements on the two earlier tracks to bring the trilogy closer together in sound and feel. Also, this version of East Coast Racer now features the new closing section including the splendidly melodic guitar solo from Dave Gregory, that was debuted in live shows.

With all that has been happening inside the band recently, it seems like a worthwhile project to fill a gap before new music emerges, but is there enough on this release to satisfy the BBT Passengers and the wider prog community?

Over the years the band have set a very high bar for themselves, and this is why I may have become super-critical. For me, this release doesn’t quite meet my high expectations. Yes, the new version of East Coast Racer is superb, but this track is already a classic in the studio catalogue and, as such, does it really require a makeover? Brooklands? Again, it sounds great, but the song remains the same, as the saying goes. Voyager already had the full monty of string arrangements and, apart from sounding cleaner and sharper, the only differences in instrumentation are subtle re-balances. The addition of the short bridge, The Book of Ingenious Devices, between tracks one and two only serves to emphasise how similar in form the three tracks are. It’s not just the lyrical theme that runs through this set, the now traditional BBT tropes also recur. Individually, the tracks stand up for themselves, but collectively the experience of one after another is a bit one dimensional.

The most interesting part for me is the addition of Atlantic Cable and an introduction to Alberto Bravin. It sounds like he will be a good fit for the band, a different kind of voice to David Longdon, but then Mr Longdon’s vocals changed markedly over the years as he grew into the role. I’m confident that the journey with Mr Bravin will be just as enjoyable.

Overall, as a gap-filler, this project has been a worthwhile exercise and it has been executed with the usual expertise in production that we have become used to from Big Big Train, but I will be much more excited when new the band’s next set of new music comes around.

01. East Coast Racer (2023) (15:46)
02. The Book of Ingenious Devices (1:20)
03. Brooklands (2023) (12:23)
04. Voyager (2023) (14:11)
05. Atlantic Cable (live) (15:23)

Total Time – 60:03

Alberto Bravin – Lead Vocals (track 5)
David Longdon – Lead & Backing Vocals, Flute, Acoustic Guitar, Mandolin, Percussion (tracks 1,3 & 4)
Dave Gregory – Electric & 12-string Guitars (tracks 1,3 & 4)
Andy Poole – Acoustic Guitar, Mandolin, Keyboards, Backing Vocals (tracks 1 & 3)
Rikard Sjöblom – Keyboards, Guitars, Accordion, Backing Vocals
Danny Manners – Keyboards, Double Bass (tracks 1,3 & 4)
Rachel Hall – Violin, Viola, Cello, Backing Vocals, String Arrangements (tracks 1,3 & 4)
Greg Spawton – Bass, Bass Pedals, Acoustic Guitar, Backing Vocals
Nick D’Virgilio – Drums, Percussion, Backing Vocals

Record Label: Big Big Train
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 30th June 2023

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