Grand Tour is the twelfth full-length studio release from beloved British progressive rock act Big Big Train, and comes hot on the heels of 2017's well received Grimspound and The Second Brightest Star. Filled with lengthy tracks and the band's penchant for mixing charming folk, pop, and '70s inspired prog-rock, Grand Tour features nine new songs, performed by the current line-up:
Nick D'Virgilio - drums, percussion, backing vocals, co-lead vocals on "Theodora in Green and Gold", additional keyboards, guitars
Dave Gregory - 6-string and 12-string guitars
Rachel Hall - violin, backing vocals
David Longdon - lead vocals, flute, additional keyboards, guitars
Danny Manners - keyboards
Rikard Sj√∂blom -6-string and 12-string guitars, keyboards, backing vocals
Greg Spawton - bass guitar, bass pedals, additional 12-string guitars
The album kicks off with the moody "Novum Organum", which quickly flows into the bright, melodic "Alive", subtle Yes & Genesis flavors seeping through the arrangement, with plenty of endearing vocal harmonies to be found every step of the way. "The Florentine" is the first of the many epic tracks, ripe with assorted textures, moods, and colors, Hall's violin lovely, Manners' keyboards ever searching, layers of acoustic & electric guitars, and loads of engaging vocal melodies. The epic "Roman Stone" clocks in at just over 13-minutes, a lush, melodic track that contains all the elements that makes Big Big Train such an endearing act to listen to, the violin weeping, the Peter Gabriel-styled vocals of Longdon passionate, the guitars lovely, and the keyboards ever so soothing. A lovely tune. "Pantheon" follows, an instrumental rich with dramatic keyboard sounds, punchy bass, Nick's intricate drumming, and tasty electric guitars. Gregory's fuzzy lead guitar lines, more violin and piano permeate the lush "Theodora in Green and Gold", while the 14+ minute "Ariel" is a moody yet majestic piece, piano, violin, and guitars perfectly interwoven around gorgeous vocal melodies. It's easily one of the albums highlight, Big Big Train reaching for and achieving glorious heights. They follow that up with another 14-minute tour-de-force, "Voyager", another track packed with violin, piano, synths, and pastoral guitar patterns, Longdon's vocals dripping with emotion, and the album closes with the more upbeat "Homesong", D'Virgillio's tricky drum fills and lots of tasty Gregory electric guitar lines snaking through the arrangement, building up to a symphonic climax seeping with Mellotron and brass.
All in all, Grand Tour is a stunningly beautiful album from Big Big Train. While they may lack the bombast and rock firepower of some of their contemporaries, their music doesn't really need it, the subtle yet dense musical arrangements and rich vocal passages more than satisfy time and time again. Gorgeous stuff all around from a band that just keeps getting better and better, now nearly 30 years into their existence.
Novum Organum 02:33
The Florentine 08:14
Roman Stone 13:33
Theodora in Green and Gold 05:38