Apart from the mighty Yes, few prog bands have a musical history as complicated as Big Big Train. Their 2023 incarnation features just one original member – band founder Gregory Spawton – but even bis role on board the prog rock locomotive has changed over the years. He’s transitioned from guitar based duties to playing bass and bass pedals, making him very much the anchor when it comes to live performance. The band weren’t always about performing in front of an audience, of course; for decades, they were notoriously gig-shy and it was only after the arrival of vocalist David Longdon in 2009 that BBT started to think very seriously about the possibility of returning to the stage.
1973 was something of a banner year for progressive rock. That year, Pink Floyd released their billion selling ‘Dark Side of The Moon’; Genesis released a career best with ‘Selling England By The Pound’; a double whammy from Gong – ‘Flying Teapot’ and ‘Angels Egg’ – cemented their place in the psych-prog underground; both King Crimson and Emerson, Lake & Palmer released albums that would go on to become fan favourites, and Mike Oldfield became an instant national treasure with his ‘Tubular Bells’, despite his Piltdown Man scaring the shite out of a generation of small children.
Back in 2005, prog metal band Suns of The Tundra came to the attention of several die-hard Marillion fans when they supported Kino – a short lived musical project shared between Pete Trewavas and future Lonely Robot man John Mitchell – on their one and only tour. They immediately struck a chord with any Tool fans in the audience, but then seemed to disappear. Taking a decade long break between their second and third albums really didn’t help their career momentum, but from 2015, the band have worked steadily, creating interesting and rhythmic noises that add something of great interest to the UK scene.
Picture the scene: it’s a very cold afternoon in Kent, the rain is absolutely lashing down, and a crowd covered in pac-a-macs has assembled in front of the Prog Stage at the first ever Ramblin’ Man Fair. Weird prog/fusion ensemble Knifeworld have already started to create a buzz online and for some hardened proggers, the band’s early set time has been reason enough to leave their hotel rooms before lunch and brave the near apocalyptic weather.
Formed in 2012, The Prog Collective purports to be the world’s biggest prog rock supergroup. The idea of “supergroup” suggests musicians taking a permanent role; for this band, the reality is somewhat different. Yes, there are a lot of different musicians involved, but many of the famous faces signed up for the Collective only ever play on one or two tracks each. In that respect, as has previously been pointed out, this is just another vehicle for the multi-talented Billy Sherwood to present material that doesn’t necessarily fit his day job as Yes bassist/arranger. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, of course – the likelihood of Steve Hillage, Richard Page and Dweezil Zappa ever being invited to a Yes recording session is less than zero, so Sherwood’s extra-curricular project is more than valid.