REVIEW - Lifesigns - 'Altitude' (Album - Self Released)
Trying to cover a number of different genres on the BBMATB page does mean that I can be a 'jack of all trades and master of none' as opposed to some of the more specialist blogs / publications around and while I knew a little about prog rock band Lifesigns and were aware of the individual members' previous activities, I certainly wasn't 'au fait' with their previous two albums, the self-titled 2013 debut and 'Cardington' from 2017. It was therefore a pleasure to receive a review copy of their latest album 'Altitude' released back in March 2021 and the winner of a number of accolades in the Prog Rock press and readers polls at the end of last year. With the music business moving ever further from the major record label model, Lifesigns are a perfect example of following fellow proggers Marillion's lead and being a true independent - releasing albums through crowdfunding, organising their own gigs and tours, and recording at their own studios. 'Altitude' is a result of this self-entrepreneurship and deserves further exposure.
Musically, it's easy to see why 'Altitude' was so well received upon release. Sitting firmly at the accessible end of the Prog rock spectrum (Pink Floyd and Marillion fans may want to investigate, Van Der Graf Generator aficionados may be less enamoured!), the album has eight tracks of superbly played music with a glistening production (courtesy of Steve Rispin - Yes and Asia amongst his credits) and a warm, friendly ambience to the record. The opening title track, 'Altitude' has all the strengths of the band and the album in its epic fifteen minute duration - John Young's (ex Asia / Scorpions) crystalline vocals and dextrous keyboard playing, Dave Bainbridge's (Iona / Strawbs) alternately atmospheric and driving guitars and soloing, Jon Poole's (Cardiacs) fluid basslines and Zoltan Csorsz's (Flower Kings) metronomic and adroit drumming combined with some virtuosic violin work from ex Steeleye Span's Peter Knight and lovely backing vocals from Lynsey Ward - and is a stupendous track from its gentle keyboard intro through its various varied musical passages and onto its long fade-out with keyboard flourishes, tasteful guitar and violin solos.
'Gregarious' develops from a 'bouncy' almost poppy first half into a tight, proggy number with a great guitar solo while 'Ivory Tower' broadens out from a lovely, ethereal tune into a surging, rockier number for its final three minutes. The intro to 'Shoreline' shows Lifesigns' more trickier progressive tendencies in its jagged, jazzy overtones full of changing time signatures and its 'meandering' (in a good way) journey and the ten minute plus 'Fortitude' brings Lynsey Ward's backing vocals to the fore in a textured track that also contains more fine guitar playing from Dave Bainbridge. After a short instrumental interlude, 'Arkhangelsk', 'Last One Home' is a ballad-like piece, very Floydian in nature with Gilmouresque guitar from Bainbridge and Rick Wright type keyboards from Young. Another short piece, 'Altitude Reprise' brings the album to its close, a short, perfect way to round off an excellent album.
Progressive rock fans will delight in this very accomplished third album from Lifesigns, whose combined experience in the music business shines brightly on 'Altitude'. Shows are lined-up for August and in conjunction with 'Altitude' shows Lifesigns are a worthy force to be reckoned with in the Prog rock world and deserves to be heard outside the genre's confines. A 'bit under the radar' they may be, but Lifesigns are well worth searching out if progressive rock (and mainstream rock come to that) is your thing, and 'Altitude' will not disappoint.
'Altitude' along with other Lifesigns releases can be purchased from www.lifesignsmusic.co.uk.