The Underfall Yard (2009)

ENGLISH ELECTRIC RECORDINGS EERCD005

Import version released in 2010 with enhanced artwork in mini-vinyl sleeve.

The Underfall Yard Cover

Tracklist:

  1. Evening Star (4:53)
  2. Master James of St. George (6:19)
  3. Victorian Brickwork (12:33)
  4. Last Train (6:28)
  5. Winchester Diver (7:31)
  6. The Underfall Yard (22:54)

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LINER NOTES:

The Underfall Yard was released on 15th December 2009. The 23 minute title track was named as Classic Rock magazine’s ‘track of the day’ in November 2009 and was rated as The Daily Vault’s ‘Independent Album, of the Year’.

The Underfall yard consists of 6 songs:

1) Evening Star

The album has an elegiac air to it and this track sets the mood as well as introducing a number of the album’s musical themes. In the closing minute or so, the brass section sets out the main album theme which is restated in the title track.

2) Master James of St. George

Master James was the great castle-builder of medieval England. This song is one of two about Greg’s father who died in 2007.

3) Victorian Brickwork

The second song about Greg’s father, exploring their fractured relationship before his death. He was a navy man and this song is inspired by his time at sea.

4) Last Train

This was inspired by the true story of Mr Delia who was the last station master at Hurn station, on the border of Dorset and Hampshire. The station was an isolated outpost on a rural branch line which closed in 1935. The newspaper story about the closure said Mr Delia was ‘happy, if a little lonely at times.’

5) Winchester Diver

This is a great true English folk tale. For 5 years, from 1906, diver William Walker worked under the flooded foundations of Winchester Cathedral which was close to collapse. Diving in 20 feet of water and in appalling conditions, he saved the cathedral by shoring up the foundations. The song explores the contrast between the dreadful working conditions he endured and life in the cathedral above him, where life carried on as normal.

6) The Underfall Yard

This is a song about Isambard Kingdom Brunel and the great Victorian engineers. Brunel’s ideas were huge and his achievements just as substantial. He was the kind of man who embodied the enlightenment and his works are symbols of the age of reason. Whilst the song is primarily about Brunel it is also about concerns that the visionary thinking of that era is behind us and we are heading into an age of unreason.
The length of the song allowed other themes to be explored. The idea for the song was initially triggered by Richard Fortey’s book on geology – The Hidden Landscape. In it, Fortey described a journey to the west along Brunel’s Great Western line, where the rocks become older as the miles go past. When Brunel dug into the limestone of Box Hill, he was digging into hundreds of feet of deposits laid down in a shallow sea millions of years ago. This concept seemed to connect the recent past with deep time and the truth of Darwinian evolution which linked back to the enlightenment theme.
The use of a brass band was very important to the song, as it was for the whole album.

As well as these album songs, two other tracks were completed as part of the sessions. These are Fat Billy Shouts Mine and a cover of an Anthony Phillips song called Master of Time.


CRITICAL ACCLAIM:

‘Big Big Train mine a rich and rewarding seam through the heart of an England gone by, conjuring up wistful tales that spring to life thanks to the boundless musicianship and Longdon’s emotive delivery. Everything builds superbly to the majestic, epic title-track, a truly progressive tour-de-force that will take your breath away as it travels its course, unravelling scenes of time past in your mind’s eye. Better still, it maintains its sense of melody and structure through its entire 23 minutes, making The Underfall Yard Big Big Train’s finest album to date.’ Jerry Ewing, Classic Rock Presents Prog

‘Six albums in, and Bournemouth’s Big Big Train just keep getting better and better. With the usual array of star guests (from Spock’s Beard, It Bites, Frost* etc.) and featuring new singer David Longdon, this is an Anglo-prog masterclass. Packed full of tall tales and deep laments, the brilliantly melancholic Victorian Brickwork is a standout.’ Geoff Barton, Classic Rock

‘Big Big Train’s latest release – the British outfit’s sixth since 1994 – would fit neatly between A Trick of the Tail and Wind and Wuthering on any proghead’s playlist. Most tracks hit the nexus of solid songcraft, inspired vocals, intricate acoustic fretwork and classical keyboard lines that defined Genesis in the years immediately following Peter Gabriel’s departure. The 23-minute title track showcases this assemblages impressive talents, recalling the epic sweep and grandeur of Supper’s Ready. In short, The Underfall Yard delivers the kind of music Phil Collins and Co. might have made had they remained true to their prog roots.’ Score 16 out of 16 Nick Tate, Progression

‘I haven’t been to England in years — unless, that is, you count the trips I’ve taken recently while driving through California’s Central Coast listening to Big Big Train’s magnificent new album The Underfall Yard. Simply the most exciting and affecting prog band working today, Big Big Train managed to top 2007’s tremendous The Difference Machine with this magnificent disc, full of epic tales of loss and redemption, decorated with guest shots from luminaries like Nick D’Virgilio (Spock’s Beard), Jem Godfrey (Frost*), Francis Dunnery (It Bites) and Dave Gregory (XTC), and featuring stellar work by the core lineup of Greg Spawton (songwriting/guitars/keys), Andy Poole (production/bass) and newcomer David Longdon (vocals/flute).’ Rated: A and the Daily Vault’s Independent Album of the Year. Jason Warburg Daily Vault

‘Big Big Train use some instruments you very rarely hear on progressive rock albums like French horn, cello, trombone, tuba and cornet. These somehow curious instruments give the music of BBT a new dimension. Sometimes it seems as if a brass band plays along with the band, but it fits the music very well. What I like most on this album are the influences of early Yes and Genesis. The Mellotron is partly responsible for this retro sound. The guitar and bass parts sound as a treat for everyone who likes the way Steve Howe and Chris Squire play their instruments. The additional solos played by Jem Godfrey (Frost*) and Francis Dunnery (ex-It Bites) on synthesizer and electric guitar lift the music to a higher lever, but even without their contribution, this album would still be one of the musical highlights of 2009.’ Henri Strik Background Magazine

‘This really is a monster of an album. Music, lyrics and the beautiful artwork of Jim Trainer fit together perfectly making The Underfall Yard IMHO by far the best album released this year. The songs are very strong, the musicianship is excellent and the lyrics are beautiful. I would not be surprised at all if in, let’s say, ten years from now The Underfall Yard is considered to be one of the classic albums in prog’s history. It’s an absolute masterpiece.’ Score 10 out of 10 Leo Koperdraat, Dutch Progressive Rock Pages

‘To my ears, Big Big Train has released something that challenges my favourite release (Astra’s The Weirding) for prog album of the year. If you’re a fan of mid seventies Genesis, and appreciate the more symphonic side of neo Prog where virtuoso instrumentation is present, but never usurping sweet melody and excellent song craftsmanship, then this album is for you.’ Progressive World

‘Time will tell if The Underfall Yard remains in my unofficial top 10 albums of all time list. For now, I can’t help myself thinking of the best songs on A Trick of the Tail (“Entangled”,”Mad Man Moon”…) when I listen to this CD. Certainly my best album of 2009, and there has been many good ones (Porcupine Tree, Steve Hackett, IQ…). My highest recommendation indeed.’ Prognosis

‘With this album, Big Big Train album have made it into the big league of progressive rock. The “Underfall Yard” is undoubtedly one of the best albums of its kind in 2009.’ Music in Belgium

‘Big Big Train are the new star in the sky.’ Babyblaue-Seiten

‘With David Longdon on vocals and a brass band in tow, Big Big Train have upped their game to the point where even Transatlantic’s latest offering seems merely paltry and overblown in comparison. Vocals, arrangement, rhythm, concept – everything is nailed on ‘The Underfall Yard’ over the course of six tracks.’ Progarchives

‘In what has been a marvellous year for progressive music, The Underfall Yard, can justifiably claim the crown of progressive album of 2009. From the bold vocal harmonies that introduce the opening track Evening Star to the fading sitar and piano that close the album, Big Big Train take the listener on a hugely enjoyable journey. They maintain an astonishingly high standard of composition throughout the album and I find it difficult to place one track above the others. Many will focus on the epic title track but it would be impossible to remove one track and not feel the whole album would be the weaker for its loss. Particular mention must be made of the addition of David Longdon on vocals. His wonderful vocal arrangements have taken the band to another level. Greg Spawton’s interweaving and layering of musical and lyrical themes add subtlety and beauty to an album that, although impressive on the first few spins, rewards the listener time and again on subsequent visits. Quite honestly, Big Big Train have made a five star progressive masterpiece.’ Progarchives

‘The six songs range from five minutes to twenty-five minutes and each offers a unique portrait of English life in the country. The opening track, “Evening Star”, is an instrumental and perfectly sets the mood; “Master James of St. George” follows with sparse lyrics, but delicate vocals from David Longdon. “Victorian Brickwork” has the band beautifully augmented with cornet, trombone, tuba and cello. “Last Train” sees the band revisiting lyrical themes from their first release and “Winchester Diver” is perhaps the most wistful on the album. Bringing things to a close in a grand fashion is the epic title track (named for a historic port in Bristol). The Underfall Yard gets my highest recommendation.’ USA Progressive Music

‘In terms of the theme and approach you can draw comparisons to the Genesis album Selling England By The Pound, but that would only be part of the story. The whole appeal of the album is its freshness and conviction. There are post-rock elements exemplarised by opener Evening Star which although fairly abstract, introduces one to some of the themes of the album, notably the exquisite use of brass instruments. Nowhere is this more justified than the closing section of Victorian Brickwork. It must have been revelationary when this came together in the studio, the mellotron and trumpet passage augmented by guitar solo is one of those moments that sends the hairs on your neck into spasm.To round things off is the title track, a modern classic, a 22 minute masterpiece. I can’t recommend this album highly enough. it should become part of any self respecting music collection. Rating: 5/5’ Strummerlive.net