English Progressive Rock band Lifesigns released their third studio album ‘Altitude’ in March 2021. The album was recorded remotely and completely crowd funded. Consisting of eight tracks spanning just over fifty four minutes, all tracks were written by founder and leader John Young, produced by Steve Rispin and John Young, engineered and mixed by Steve Rispin at Lifesigns Studio 2, mastered by Robbie Bronnimann at Recognizer Studios, Bristol, with artwork and cover design by Be Wilde. Musicians on the album include John Young (keyboards, vocals), Dave Bainbridge (guitar), Jon Poole (bass, vocals), Zoltán Csörsz (drums) and Steve Rispin (Engineer, keyboards). Guests include Robin Boult (acoustic guitar), Peter Knight (violin), Juliet Wolff (cello) and Lynsey Ward (backing vocals).
The band initially formed in 2008 by keyboardist and vocalist John Young (Bonnie Tyler, Scorpions, Greenslade, Qango, Asia), drummer Frosty Beedle (Cutting Crew), sound engineer Steve Rispin and bassist Nick Beggs (Ellis, Beggs, & Howard, Steven Wilson, Rick Wakeman, Steve Hackett, Kim Wilde, Belinda Carlisle, Iona, Kajagoogoo, Rockets, The Mute Gods). Their first album, ‘Lifesigns’ was released in February 2013 and featured notable guest stars including Steve Hackett (Genesis), Jakko Jakszyk (King Crimson), Thijs Van Leer (Focus) and Robin Boult (Fish). Shortly after the album’s release, Beggs left to be replaced by Jon Poole (Cardiacs, Wildhearts, Dowling Poole). The touring line-up was completed by former Steven Wilson guitarist Niko Tsonev.
The live album/DVD ‘Under the Bridge - Live in London’ was released in 2015 and was recorded at the Under The Bridge Club at Chelsea Football Club. Their second studio album ‘Cardington’ was released in 2017 and was completely funded via a pledge music campaign that met its target in just 48 hours. The album also features guest appearances from Robin Boult, Dave Bainbridge (Iona, Strawbs, Celestial Fire) and Menno Gootjes (Focus). After the release of the album, Tsonev decided to jump ship to pursue his own solo career, he in turn was replaced in the band by Bainbridge on guitar and second keyboards. ‘Cardington’ reached the top ten in the Amazon national chart and was number 4 in the UK Indie chart, all without any mainstream airplay. In 2020, Frosty Beedle left just before the release of the ‘Altitude’ album, and was replaced by Zoltán Csörsz (Flower Kings, Karmakanic).
The album kicks of in formidable style with the monumental fifteen-minute title track 'Altitude'. Opening with a dreamy cascading piano phrase, that dances over sweeping keyboard flourishes, which gradually build weaving in and out with lush sweeping strings augmenting the mood. The intensity increases when bass guitar and drums enter the fold raising the energy levels to greater towering heights. The insistent piano phrase repeats throughout as do warm cello interludes. Soaring guitar adds to the overall magnitude of the piece and elevates the listener to a higher altitude! This song is about the sorrow, pain and perils of wartime aviation. “Imagine what we could do, no wars flying over you, this is our world no weapons here, one day soon, they'll pass your door, all these things, and so much more”. Stirring vocal delivery from Young.
'Gregarious' is a musically lighter song with a delectably hooky melody line and insistent staccato piano chords dominating. Sumptuously lavish guitar lines from Bainbridge add sparkle. Much critical self-analysis in the lyrics. “Sometimes when we fall, it makes no sense at all, how we criticise, all the things we do, it all comes down to you, how we analyse”.
'Ivory Tower' is awash with atmospheric keyboard layers interspersed with soaring melodic Gilmouresque guitar lines that reach for the sky. Funky bubbling bass kicks in half way through advancing the track to a higher plain of consciousness. This song is about heartbroken lament of broken trust. “When I'm looking for perfection, for an angel in disguise, but something pulls me back towards the night, yeah I'm looking for an answer, for an end to all these lies, and I still believe we'll make it to the light”. A sublimely emotive vocal performance from Young intensifies the sentiment.
'Shoreline' has lashings of lush Moog segments with intricate counterpoint rhythms to trip the listener up. Cosmic melodic solo guitar runs from Bainbridge astound with resplendent vocals from Young conveying the spiritual ambience, sounding uncannily like a certain Peter Gabriel in places! “Take me to the shoreline, and let me stare into the sea, this is where the journey started, as we touch the air we breathe”.
'Fortitude' is a ten-minute epic about seeking inner strength. “Do you care?, Do you care?, waiting for moments, searching for words to say, trying to find a way, find a way here”. A visceral journey juxtaposing between light and shade with moments of tranquil aural space, allowing the listener to catch a breath before diving further into the sonic ether.
'Arkhangelsk' is a very short keyboard soundscape interlude before the penultimate track 'Last One Home' enters. A heart-wrenching ballad which is a re-imagined Quango song, co-written by Young and erstwhile band-mate John Wetton. Young’s emotive vocal delivery is quite remarkable and Bainbridge’s guitar work dazzles throughout. “A wall of sea surrounds him, confronting all his fears, this seething mass sustained him, a friend for all these years, and now the tide is turning, he can feel the undertow, the only sound is water all around”. 'Altitude' (reprise) closes the album with a brief electronic re-visitation of the main theme of the title track.
Overall, the album has a clean smooth and crisp production, impressively rich songwriting with effectively stirring arrangements and formidable musicianship. Sure to appeal to admirers of Prog Rock giants such as Genesis, Yes, Camel, Marillion and Gilmour era Floyd.
Steven C. Gilbert.