This is the third album from one of the strongest new Prog bands to emerge from the UK in recent years, originally formed by John Young, Nick Beggs and Martin Beedle, after a few line-up changes, the current band is a veritable whose who of progressive rock, with Young (whose keyboard playing is instantly recognisable) joined by former cardiacs and Wildhearts Bassist Jon Poole, Dave Bainbridge (from Iona and currently in the Strawbs) on guitars and keyboards, long term collaborator Steve Rispin engineering and on additional keyboards and drummer Zoltan Csorsz (formerly from the Flower Kings), whilst the title track itself features violin from Peter Knight (Gigspanner & formerly Steeleye Span) and Juliet Wolff (on Cello) whilst vocalist Lynsey Ward (from the brilliant new prog band Exploring Birdsong) guests on vocals.
This use of talented guests is a Lifesigns tradition, and Altitude follows the highly successful self-titled debut and it’s follow-up the superb Cardington.
With stunning imagery throughout and classy performances throughout, the 8 tracks on here are a superb collection of contemporary English Progressive rock.
John Young of course is no stranger to us here at Spirit having played many times for the CRS in Rotherham, and Lifesigns are one of those bands who you have to see live to get the full experience.
As that’s not on the table at the moment, the next best thing is to pop Altitude in your CD player (other listening options are available) and absorb the sounds as you immerse yourself in it.
I’ve mentioned before in other reviews about how streaming has damaged the construction of albums as albums and ruins the listening experience, luckily Lifesigns know all about how to make and structure a great album, and this is one of those records that you can’t just dip in and out of, to enjoy Altitude you need to give it the time it deserves and play it in one sitting.
Opening with the 15 minute title track, which is one of those beautifully constructed classic tracks that builds and grows, allowing the music to develop, with some sublime solo work from Dave Bainbridge (whose one of the finest guitarists in contemporary Prog) and those warm soulful vocals of John Young that really stand out, the inclusion of the violin and cello, and Lynseys voice which provides a perfect counterpoint to John, show the depth of skill that Lifesigns have as a band.
The shorter Gregarious has a catchy chorus and some excellent keyboard work from John whilst Poole and Csorsz work so well together in anchoring the sound, which allows both JY & Dave Bainbridge to work their sonic magic.
To be honest there’s no bad track on this album, and with 5 tracks coming in well over 6 minutes length, the band have perfected the art of letting the song grown and develop, which is a wonderful thing to hear, and even though the title track is 15 minutes and Fortitude is clocking in at over 10 minutes, you wouldn’t notice, no track outstays its welcome and there’s more musical ideas in some of these tracks than some bands have in their entire career.
Check out the guitar and keyboard work in Ivory Tower for instance which shows the band playing to their collective musical strengths.
Meanwhile the way JY & Dave Bainbridge trade solos during Shoreline is a joy to behold, and the bass of Poole is sublime throughout.
The album rounds off with a slight reprise of the title track, and thus the circle is complete and you don’t realise the time has passed, which is a true skill in writing and performing an album at this level.
Having gone down the crowdfunding route and built up a loyal following on Facebook, Lifesigns have produced a superb contemporary progressive album that sounds fantastic and works so well as a complete immersive piece of music. As a performer and songwriter John Young is just getting better and better, and the current line-up work so well together taking Johns songs and adding their own musical magic to create what is an incredibly strong album and shows that Lifesigns are going from strength to strength.