Lifesigns - Altitude,
2021 saw Lifesigns back with their third album, and although keyboard player and singer John Young (Qango, Greenslade etc.) is the only person still here from the debut, it is wonderful to see both Dave Bainbridge (Iona and others, one of my favourite musicians) and Jon Poole (Cardiacs, The Wildhearts – and I’ve said it before so I’ll say it again, if you ever come across a copy of his solo Zappa tribute album 'What's The Ugliest Part Of Your Body?' grab it) back for another round. Founder drummer Martin Beedle is not involved this time around, and instead his role is taken by Zoltán Csörsz (The Flower Kings, Karmakanic etc.).
The four guys involved in this release have been involved in many bands, normally more than one at the same time, and given the opportunity live their lives on the road (pre-Covid I saw updates from John of his touring with Bonnie Tyler, while David is often out with The Strawbs), so they all know what they are doing. Zoltán is a very busy drummer, hailing originally from the jazz scene, yet somehow Jon still finds room to make his presence felt, while Dave and John switch between support and providing melodic lead. The result is an album that is both pastoral and symphonic, delicate yet with a swelling beauty, a progressive rock album where the focus is on powerful songs and sympathetic vocals without masses of “look at me” sections. Musically, these guys have absolutely nothing to prove as they have been at the top of the stack for years, and I have been following Dave’s releases for some 30 years now and he has never put out a bad one. So, why would he start now?
But this is John’s band, and he knows what he wants to achieve, and the result is a series of prog songs which are one delight after another. They start with the longest song, the title cut which is more than 15 minutes in length, a real statement of intent. Yet somehow it never seems as if it is dragging, as there is a life and vitality within it which is a delight throughout. The highlight comes near the end, which starts as if it is a solo effort from John, “Last One Home”. Delicate vocals, piano and additional keyboards, Dave lays down some wailing background guitar, while the rhythm section only come in after a few minutes, and then keep it restrained. The guitar solo is a thing of beauty, just notes being gently picked and sustained, bent and glorious. This is a real builder, and as the song progresses everyone ups the ante, both in the layers and complexity of playing, but it never moves far from the original theme and ends with some Moody Blues harmonies which are a delight.
This is a fresh album, full of light and joy, and stands out among the current crop as the restraint within allows the dynamics to build. We end with a reprise of the opener, here less than two minutes in length, which leads us easily into playing the whole thing again. Wonderful.