When you search “Prog Rock Definition” on Google, you’ll find the following: “Prog rock is a style of rock music that gained popularity, particularly in the 1970s. It is characterized by classical music influences, the use of keyboard instruments, and lengthy compositions.”
Assuming this definition holds true (although open for debate), we might assert that “Ingenious Devices” stands out as a quintessential prog rock album. Recently available digitally after a prior physical release, Big Big Train has taken three intricate tracks, integrated a 17-piece string orchestra, revamped them at Abbey Road, and even added an unreleased orchestral passage (the title track) along with a live track featuring the strings.
The album’s total runtime approaches an hour, and from the opening track, “East Coast Racer,” a grand and sweeping saga, now gains even greater depth. This expanded section feels reminiscent of a film score, while the new middle segment exudes an exquisite charm with its harmonious grandeur. About 11 and a half minutes into the track, it embraces a distinctly Marillion-esque sound, leading to a concluding solo that feels like an overture.
The title track serves as a refreshing interlude, close to the opening theme of a period drama. “Brooklands” showcases marvelous guitar work intertwined with a touch of whimsy, evoking hints of Jethro Tull or even the ambiance of a 70s TV show.
The reimagined arrangement of “Atlantic Cable” greatly benefits from the addition of strings. Delicate piano melodies intermingle with keys reminiscent of Yes, culminating in a memorable crescendo of guitar.
“Voyager” embarks on a musical odyssey, an exploration of sound that resonates like a journey. The brass instruments echo into the distance, creating peaks and troughs and more deviation than msny manage in a career.
While this endeavor may be preaching to the converted, it’s a fact many prog enthusiasts embrace. Devotees will meticulously dissect each nuance, alteration, and note, and that’s precisely the essence. Prog thrives on own internal validation after all, and therein lies its, well, ingenious nature.
With this release, Big Big Train has dared to push the boundaries even further, and in so doing, have created an impressive evolution.