Lifesigns – Altitude

Posted 160321

Review Erik Neuteboom

Website info. Veteran keyboard player John Young (The Strawbs, John Wetton, Bonnie Tyler, The Scorpions, Fish, Uli Jon Roth, and others) realized in 2008 that he had never done a pure prog album. The band Lifesigns is the direct result of that realization. In 2010, John recruited longtime friend Nick Beggs (Kajagoogoo, Steve Hackett, Steven Wilson, Rick Wakeman, others) to play the bass and Chapman Stick and drummer Frosty Beedle (Cutting Crew) to complete the trio. Their first album, Lifesigns was released in February 2013, featuring guests musicians Steve Hackett (Genesis), Robin Boult (Fish) and Thijs van Leer (Focus). The band started touring the following year with Jon Poole joining to replace Nick Beggs who had other commitments. The line up was completed by former Steven Wilson guitarist Niko Tsonev. Fifty shows were played over the next year with highlights being appearances at Cruise To The Edge in the USA and Night of the Prog at Lorelei in Germany as well as the Ramblin' Man and Cropredy festivals in the UK. In addition to this Live In London a DVD and double audio CD were released. In 2017 a new album entitled Cardington was released, it was  funded via a pledge music campaign that met its target in just 48 hours. The album features guest appearances from Robin Boult (Fish), Dave Bainbridge (Iona) and Menno Gootjes (Focus). Niko decided to pursue his own solo career after having played on the album, and he in turn was replaced in the band by Dave Bainbridge on guitar and second keyboards. February 2020 saw the release of the single Impossible, a radio friendly edit of the track from Cardington, which brought the band to a new audience.  June 2020 marked the end of Frosty's time with the band and the arrival of Zoltán Csörsz, and in January 2021 Lifesigns released its new album Altitude which was crowd funded via this website.

This is my first musical encounter with Lifesigns, the new album (close to 55 minutes) is highly recommended by many of my prog friends so I was very curious to Lifesigns its music. Well, after a few listening sessions I am  impressed: outstanding musicians, an excellent recording sound, melodic, harmonic and very accessible music, and well crafted compositions, I would like to pigeonhole it as ‘radio friendly modern progressive rock’. Especially the tracks Gregarious (catchy beat, pleasant vocals and awesome work on keyboards and guitar), Shoreline (swinging mid-tempo with swirling violin and fiery guitar) and Fortitude (tight beat with flashy synthesizer flights, swirling violin and powerful guitar). Other (more shorter) tracks are dreamy: Ivory Tower (mellow romantic first part, finally rock guitar), Arkhangelsk (soaring keyboards) and Altitude – Reprise (dreamy vocals and violin).

My highlight on this new album is the epic titletrack, the most varied and dynamic one. It starts dreamy with warm piano and vocals. Then an accellaration featuring a tight beat and sparkling synthesizer flights, followed by a harder-edged guitar solo and topped with pleasant vocals. Now back to a mellow atmosphere with tender keyboards, a violin joins, I am blown away, what a wonderful sound, very intense! The musis turns into a tight beat with organ and harder-edged electric guitar, Kansas comes to my mind. Halfway more dreamy with a high pitched female choir sound, blended with slide guitar and warm vocals. The second part delivers a beautiful guitar solo, sensitive with howling runs, goose bumps. Finally dreamy with spacey synthesizer flights and melancholical violin work, what a strong and alternating composition.

Another good song is Last One Home, build around a long guitar solo, reminding me of Andy Latimer with the mindblowing instrumental Ice, very moving and compelling, Guitar Heaven!

I am sure this excellent and accessible new Lifesigns album will appeal to a wide audience!