I had wanted to review a whole bunch of 45s in this post, but I just don't seem to find the time to sit down and write a bunch of reviews, so instead of waiting until I have more reviews ready, I decided to post the one that I have finished. Also because I haven't really seen this particular Christmas single featured on most of the cool Christmas blogs I'm keeping track of. And I think this one definitely deserves some attention, as there has been put a lot of effort in this release.
BIG BIG TRAIN: Merry Christmas (Plane Groovy / English Electric Recordings, PLGS07, United Kingdom, ?? rpm)
Progressive rock group Big Big Train was formed in 1990 in Bournemouth, England, so is already around for more than 25 years, and still includes the two founding members, bassist Andy Poole and guitarist Gregory Spawton. It's funny to know that the name Big Big Train was originally used in the early 1980's by the punk band of Gregory's brother Nigel. Through the 25 years of existence, the band went through many line-up changes, but the core of the band always has been Andy and Gregory. After having been a studio project for most of the 21st Century, Big Big Train returned to the stage in 2015, when they finally found a steady eight member line-up for live shows, including former XTC-guitarist Dave Gregory and former Spock's Beard drummer Nick D'Virgilio. Lead vocalist David Longdon, a member of the band since 2009, also plays flute and keyboards, while the band is completed by keyboard/double bass player Danny Manners, keyboard player Rikard Sjöblom and violinist Rachel Hall. It is also this line-up that recorded the Christmas single. An unique project for the band in two respects. It is the first time Big Big Train recorded a Christmas song and the first time the band released a 7” vinyl single. The single comes in a gatefold cover with beautiful (and I would say, typical progrrock) artwork.
The single is accompanied by a video, that stars actor Mark Benton, who, among other roles, played a man who, together with a friend, represented the UK at a Santa convention, in the television movie Northern Lights. And, as an important side note for a Doctor Who-fan like me, Mark Benton was also featured in the first episode of the new Doctor Who-series, Rose, playing a conspiracy theorist, for whom things did not end so well. In the video, Benton plays a clerk, who seems imprisoned in the routine of everyday life, his life is as a record on repeat, each day the same. In line with the lyrics of the song, memories of the Christmases of his childhood give him new life, and he decided to break away from the rut and make Christmas a celebration of life again. The video does a really good job to capture the true spirit of Christmas, I think.
As always with progrock bands, there is a complete story to be told, and everything, music, lyrics, artwork and video, is connected and helps to tell the story. The 5 minute long 'Merry Christmas' has all a Christmas song should have: sleigh bells, a children's choir (The Chapel Choir Choristers of Jesus College, Cambridge), church bells, even a brass band and the positive Christmas message of 'peace, joy, love and light' to the world. B-side Snowfalls clocks 6.30, so you really get value for money. And the best thing is that for every copy sold, a donation to the Night Stop homelessness charity will be made!
So order the 7" (or CD, as there is also a CD-version) at Burning Shed
Watch the video on Youtube:
Listen to B-side Snowflakes on Bandcamp: