Album review: LIFESIGNS – Altitude

Lifesigns - Altitude

Lifesigns Music [Release date: 08.03.21]

There are certain bands aren’t there that make you wonder “why aren’t this band massive?” and Lifesigns undoubtedly fall into this category.

Essentially the band of keyboard wizard John Young, whose eclectic career has included playing with bands and artists as diverse as Yes, Steeleye Span, The Law (with Paul Rodgers), Scorpions and Bonnie Tyler, and who has assembled for this album a coterie of exceptional musicians – not least Jon Poole (The Dowling Poole), Peter Knight (Steeleye Span) and Robin Boult (Fish).

Added to this stellar cast is fretmeister Dave Bainbridge (Iona) who brings his considerable six string talents to bear all over ‘Altitude’ – to dizzying effect.

‘Altitude’ is the third album from the band following their superb debut ‘Lifesigns’ in 2013 (which also included bass maestro Nick Beggs) and sophomore, critically acclaimed, ‘Cardington’ from 2017.

Recorded remotely (as so many have been lately), ’Altitude is an object lesson in melodic progressive rock – its sweeping keyboard flourishes and insistent ear-worm riffs blending beautifully with Bainbridge’s soulful guitar to produce a rounded, and musically diverse album.

Fans of the likes of Marillion, Genesis and Camel will find much to enjoy here – fans of the more challenging end of the prog spectrum should probably look elsewhere.

There are highlights everywhere, not least on the fifteen minute opening title track ‘Altitude’ whose cascading piano arpeggios give a delicious foretaste of the joys to come, with Peter Knight’s violin adding that je ne sais quoi and Bainbridge’s occasionally jazz-inflected fretwork contributing to a track that epitomises what the melodic prog genre is all about.

The high-points come thick and fast – ‘Gregarious’ with its Gilmouresque solo from Bainbridge, the Marillion-like keys of ‘Ivory Tower’, the jazzy feel and anthemic chorus of ‘Shoreline’ and the juxtaposition of light and shade on the ten minute epic ‘Fortitude’.

However, the highwater-mark is probably reached with ‘Last One Home’ – piano-led, but the plaudits scooped up by a heart-rending solo once again from the outstanding Mr. Bainbridge.

Although Young and Bainbridge will take the curtain calls, the band is a wonderful, cohesive whole with Poole’s bass playing rock-solid and the drumming of Zoltan Csörsz – amazing considering he had never met his bandmates – being a late replacement for Frosty Beedle on the drum-stool.

Inevitably there are traces of Genesis, Yes, ELP, Marillion and ‘Floyd here but which melodic prog album doesn’t? – those bands defined the genre – but Lifesigns have a sound that is all their own and with John Young have a great songwriter with an outstanding skillset and a voice tailor-made for this music.

Just one issue that should be flagged up is the price of the album – it’s hard to find it at anything less than twenty pounds.

Perhaps that’s why they’re not massive…

That said, it’s worth every penny.    *****

Review by Alan Jones

Alan sequences ‘The Eclectic Mix’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio on the first Sunday of the month at 18:00 GMT.  Expect some prog!

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