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Life Line Project

Symphonic Prog

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Symphonic Prog Specialist
4 stars Last week when the postman rang my bell, I knew it was the latest LIFE LINE PROJECT album that "Erik de Beer" told me he was sending, but when I opened it, found it was a double CD with a lot of nice surprises, like offering us the chance to listen the voices of the three female vocalists (Marion Brinkman-Stroetinga, Maruschka Kartosonto and Anja Sides-Dirkzwager )who have formed part of the band's history.

After listening the double CD, is clear that we are talking about two excellent albums released in one package that starts with "Journey to the Heart of Your Mind", a mixture of concept album and multi part epic.

Despite I don't like the name of the epic (well, we are here to judge the music not the name) we are talking about an excellent 60 minutes song divided in 16 parts:

"Blank Page" is a long and frenetic intro for the album that has fantastic keyboard passages with Erik at his best, a magnificent way of opening the album. Pay special attention to the Baroque organ solo around the third minute followed by a Medieval Harpsichord and flute break, it's breathtaking.

"The Journey Begins" is a nice and melodic song where the sweet voice of Marion Brinkman Stroetinga fuses perfectly with the dreamy and mysterious atmosphere only interrupted by synth explosions.

"Join Us" is a hit and miss track, the keyboard and instrumental sections are delightful (remind me a bit of Rick Wakeman, with fantastic arrangements sadly the vocals are not in the level, in my opinion too operatic and a bit forced. Luckily it's quite short and followed by the extremely beautiful "Doubt", a musical piece that works as a nice melodic interlude with a heartbreaking Spanish guitar and Mellotron sections.

After the calm, usually comes the storm, and that's what happens with "Fight the World", a frantic track that has everything that Progheads like me love so much, as dramatic changes, lush keyboards and restless dynamic, and as we can expect, after the storm the calm returns with the melodic "Longing for my Childhood" where Dineke Viseer offers us a beautiful oboe performance.

Surrounded by two interludes ("Turn The Page" and "Dark Page") the keyboard oriented tracks "Bright Spots" and ""Envy" keep the level of the album at the peak, even when the vocals in "Envy" are not in the level of the music.

The medieval "Miss Fortune" is one of my favorite tracks despite the extremely theatric dialogue by "Liset Dulaart" and a second vocalist that I'm unable to identify, not my cup of tea, but even the most reputed conceptual albums like "The Lamb Lies down on Broadway", have to sacrifice some vocals to maintain the plot, after "Miss Fortune" comes the wonderful Interlude "Forgotten Page" with a very carefully elaborate medieval atmosphere.

in the following two tracks ("The King Of Make-Believe" and "Free !"), LIFE LINE PROJECT hits us with everything they have giving no time to breath, but for the grand finale comes the beautiful "Credo" and it's fantastic vocal work plus excellent electric guitar solo.

Erik De Beer & Company close CD I with "The Last Page" one of the most explosive and brilliant songs that I heard by this excellent Dutch band.

But, this is far from being the end, because It's time to listen CD II called "The Narrow Path" that presents 9 separate tracks that cover all the styles and moods that the LIFE LINE PROJECT has offered us during their relatively short but prolific career.

We can find from Mellotron based tracks to musical pieces performed on grand piano, oboe, flute etc, starting with the mysterious "Turn the Key", the Neo Classical " Miniature 8 La Mélancolie" and ending with the Moog based "The French Wrench", but not forgetting the ever changing epic "The Narrow Path" that has everything a Symphonic fan would love.

Well, if I had to choose between quality and quantity, I'd always go with the first one, but if we find an album with more than 100 minutes of good music, we know we hit the jack pot, so even when I still believe that "Distorted Memories" is the best LIFE LINE PROJECT release, I can't rate The Journey with less than 4 stars.

Report this review (#857682)
Posted Monday, November 12, 2012 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Lifeline Project flew into my radar screen thanks to reading positive reviews on PA and the usual preparatory research on the Net. It sounded like something I would like and I took the plunge. I am happy to say that it was both a wise move and a smart investment as "the Journey" contains some astounding moments, all along its majestic symphonic course. The main man here is keyboardist Erik De Beer, a modern Rick Van der Linden (RIP) and the double CD is divided into 2 suites, disc One being "Journey to the Heart of your Mind" and Two "The Narrow Path". Now, 2 Cd albums that clock in over 100 minutes mean that there will be some "soft" areas that may not appeal to all but so be it.

CD1- "Blank Page" must be one of the finest prog overtures ever, a sweeping and sorrowful musical buffet with loads of synthesizer, harpsichord, church organ and piano, supplemented by assorted sonic effects, as if a score for some cinematographic screenplay. Guitars, bass and drums, as well as flute add to the formula nicely. "The Journey Begins" starts off with some introductory female vocals and then morphs into a massive rock guitar mode with zany synths, booming bass and a mood that works. Things get slightly corny with "Join Us" with some semi-operatic vocal stylistics that makes one chuckle rather than applaud, followed by the brief but lovely "Doubt" where the voice works nicely and the acoustic guitar weaves magic. "Fight the World" resorts to bringing back the raging symphonics with tornado synths and hurricane guitars (Miss Jody van der Gijze is really good!). The mood is tripped up somewhat with some inane vocal duets that do little to impress but the music is damn good! On the other hand, "Longing for my Childhood" is a winner vocally and possesses a cascading electric guitar solo that is jaw- dropping not unlike the Moog solo that follows and the serene oboe spot that stamps its exclamation point fittingly. This is a high watermark track and absolutely admirable. "Bright Spots" is a rockier piece, full of breakneck guitar speed and chugging organ bravado, while the synths swerve like a kite in a crosswind gale. This is another corker. The whisper-led "Envy" is entertaining, faintly spooky and diminutive. "Miss Fortune" is contemporary and quite amusing, well-sung and lusty. There are three interwoven interludes that are as astounding as anything else on the album, "Turn the Page", "Dark Page" and "Forgotten Page" are what makes this suite tick. I am not a fan of the next track as its vocally simplistic, quirky to the point of disinterest but at least the instrumental playing is great, as witnessed by a stellar organ solo, a blistering synth solo that would make Wakeman quake (oh my, wordplay!). At times the vocal work seems like a Meatloaf-like rehash (and I never liked Meatloaf, in music or culinary arts) and I find that style beyond boring. "Free!" has a kick-ass bass solo from Iris Sagan , a De Beer ivory romp once again, and some well-heeled drive that is most delicious. "Credo" is a flute-driven mini-symphony and happens to be gorgeously sung (finally), crowned by a shimmering guitar excursion and an elegant piano solo. All amazing stuff. The closing "The Last Page" is breathtaking in its intensity, range and talent, an inspired instrumental that would please any fan with progressive leanings, the same repeated glorious melody now reaching grandiose heights, oboe and bassoon joining the fret and key board fray.

So, if you temporarily omit the overt-erratic operatic vocal diminishments, the music on CD1 stands nicely on its own, with numerous outbursts of genius.

CD2- "The Narrow Path" is another kettle of fish, mostly instrumental by nature as per the blistering opening keyboard typhoon launch "Turn the Key" which overtly espouses the Van der Linden (Trace, Ekseption) touch, Erik's agile fingers racing over the keys, pummeled along by bludgeoning bass and deft drumming. ELP fans will pee their underwear, I assure you. After the storm, peaceful serenity takes over with the ornate elegance of the neo- classical"Miniature 8 La Melancolie", all piano and flute, utterly engrossing! Another change of pace is the epic title track, "The Narrow Path" a cinematographic suite that sounds like a soundtrack for a WWII movie, a heavy percussion laden doomsday thread that infuses a mischievously meandering oboe, colossal mellotron waves, bombastic guitar and enough twists and turns to qualify as a sonic pretzel factory. When the gurgling organ shows its startling face, the mood gets hot, heavy and sweaty to any progfan's delight. The fiery axe lays down a metalloid barrage, depth charge riffs galore and sizzling tracer fire that only swells the heartbeat, as the gloomy dictatorial lyrics contain references to jihad, dogma, fanaticism and hatred, as expressed by the final stanza "headscarves, signs of weakness become exploding hand grenades, the Cross, the sign of meekness has turned into a gun" Whoa, that's pretty heady stuff , quite in tune with the current tensions of social malaise churning through Western Europe. The music only heightens the desperate angst! A brilliant track indeed. Four short instrumental ditties are next in line, all flowing nicely into another with the playful "Monkey Business" up first where Erik's piano skills are fully developed, yet leaving enough room for the flute to flutter away. "The Happiness Theme" proposes a glittering oboe and electric guitar duet, each soloing mightily spliced by some trembling synthesizer snippets, a happy and exhilarating mood indeed. Amazing stuff! "Collage 11" reverts to a more bucolic theme, a banquet of acoustic guitar, flute and oboe that spirals sunnily into the azure sky, supercilious, lighthearted and windswept. Finally, the fourth piece is back to the neo- classical mold with another "Miniature 6 La Flegmatique" that is piano-driven, oboe- adorned and enchanting. These are all quite interesting and fulfilling interludes before diving into another vocal track "Does it Help?" an older 1991 track that was recorded for this album. Frankly, I find it strangely at odds with the rest of the disc, a spotlessly clean ballad that is at the very best cute but the hackneyed lyrics are somewhat childish to these ears anyway. Musically, the playing is lightweight and plodding, offering up no pizzazz at all but saved by a decent series of guitar solos and its synthy companion, only towards the very end is their any passion. Oh well! "The French Wrench" closes out this epic slice of symphonic album quite tastily, a traditional piece redone by Erik and it's a whoosher to say the least, a power-medieval prog keyboard extravaganza, something Par Lindh would create, with churning buttery organ, glittering harpsichord, ripping synthesizer thunderbolts and raging guitar('coustic and 'lectric) flashes.

I enjoyed this massive 2 CD album a lot, with 70 minutes of pure bliss and 30 minutes of dross. It is extremely rare to find a 2 CD album with 100% perfection, so what's the big deal in giving this release 4.5 rubber dinghies

Report this review (#861867)
Posted Sunday, November 18, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars As a Hammond freak I was immediately struck when I discovered on YouTube the fantastic Life Line Project song "Turn The Key" in which both some incredible Hammond and Moog playing could be heard. I wanted to have more of that and I ordered the album right away, but when I listened to the complete album I was at first disappointed a bit, because there wasn't as much Hammond on it as I had hoped. Then I started to listen more carefully to this well filled double disc and I discovered a beautiful world of great symphonic rock.

The first disc is entirely filled with the symphonic rock epic "Journey To The Heart Of Your Mind" a beautiful composition telling the search of someone for his true self. The music is played by a large band, consisting not only of keyboards/guitar/bass & drums, but also of a woodwind section with a flute, oboe, clarinet and bassoon.

A large number of singers is employed to tell the story. Not all of them are equally good, but I liked the exuberant and seductive Liset Dullaart in the role of Miss Fortune rightaway and of course I was impressed by the beautiful and gentle voice of lead singer Marion Brinkman-Stroetinga.

The second disc is containing shorter compositions, but it certainly equals the first one in strength, with naturally the already mentioned "Turn The Key" (longer than on the YouTube version) and the brilliant almost 12 minutes taking "Narrow Path". Like their fellow countrymen of Focus, the musicians of Life Line Project have some strong inclinations towards jazz (like in "Collage '11" and "the light-footed "Monkey Business"), although the heart of their music is constructed of fully- fledged, well-arranged elaborate symphonic rock.

Of course most of my attention was drawn to the keyboard playing and I have to admit that Erik de Beer is one of the most complete keyboard players of this moment. I like the way he wields his Hammond (check out the little Lord/Blackmore like interlude on organ and lead guitar in "Fight The World"), although he lacks the aggressiveness that is so characteristic for Keith Emerson (and which I love so much) and the deepness of sound that is so characteristic of Don Airey (and which I also love so much), but he is a true virtuoso on the instrument and the same goes for his piano playing and certainly for his Moog playing (at some spots I am certain to hear the sound of a Prophet, but it's not mentioned in the booklet). His harpsichord playing is practically authentic baroque.

The overall recording quality of the album is quite good, although the more heavy sounding parts sound a bit too thin, whereas the acoustic and woodwind dominated parts are recorded superbly. It appears that their album was recorded by a monkey ??

It's by coincidence that I bought and discovered this album (thanks to the YouTube clip), but after all I am glad to own this album and it's advisable to anyone who likes his symphonic rock warm and harmonious.

Report this review (#862931)
Posted Tuesday, November 20, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars After having reviewed several albums by my compatriots from LIFE LINE PROJECT I received their latest album "The Journey". This time it appeared to be a double disc set with a lavish booklet containing all lyrics and necessary info with a background of very beautiful pictures, all shot by Helen van der Weck in both the Arabian desert & Ireland.

The first disc contains the full "Journey To The Heart Of Your Mind", a symphonic rock epic of more than an hour, divided into 16 parts all carefully linked together by a beautiful main theme, that reappears in all sorts of shapes, sometimes carrying a vocal part, sometimes in a massive orchestral piece, sometimes in a subtle clarinet/piano duet and even in a solemn pipe organ part. The band already made two earlier attempts to record the complete work and they were so kind to send me copies of both earlier versions and after comparing them, I have to admit that this is by far the best version. In the previous versions the keyboard sounds weren't as massive and vintage as they are in this new version, while in this 2011 version the rhythm section supports the music in a more solid way. The vocals parts all sound much better and the work has been expanded since the earlier versions. It's obvious that this LIFE LINE PROJECT line up with whom Erik de Beer already recorded 4 other albums is far better up to the job than the line ups of the past.

Apart from the basic band, consisting of keyboards, guitar, bass & drums, there is an ample woodwind section (flute, oboe, two clarinets & bassoon) present to alternate with the massive LIFE LINE PROJECT band sound, thus keeping the music interesting and captivating right to the end. Marion Brinkman-Stroetinga is an excellent singer and pieces like "Longing For My Childhood" and "Credo" are all sung in a touching way. I think she fits in with the music perfectly.

This time there are lots of guest-vocalists to fill in the different roles of the story, which is about a person in search of his true self. The pseudo-gospel "Join Us" is leaded by actual L.L.P. singer Maruschka Kartosonto in which she is interrupted by all sorts of people who try to influence her, most of them performed by guest vocalists. There is even a bit of metal with unleashed virtuoso guitars to be enjoyed in parts like "Fight The World" and "Bright Spots". A duel between the bass guitar and the keyboards is fought out in "Free", a piece with fast changing moods and tempos. After the touching Credo the Journey ends with the very oppressive "Final Page" in which the guitars are crying out, carried by a dark and brooding orchestral mellotron dominated background.

The second disc starts of like a rocket with virtuoso up speed solos on Hammond and several Moog synthesizers in "Turn The Key", one of the best pieces on the album. The second disc also contains a number of acoustic pieces, like the two slightly dissonant miniatures for flute & piano and oboe & piano (risky on an album like this, but very well succeeded) and the very beautiful "Collage '11 ", containing both an excellent flute solo by Erik's wife Elsa and a very jazzy piano solo.

The main attraction on "The Narrow Path" is the title piece, a sombre and brooding piece, dominated by the mellotron, interrupted by some beautiful and mysterious pieces by the oboe and the flute and powerful sung by Marion. I think this is one of the best songs from L.L.P., I heard so far.

A cheerful note is struck in "Monkey Business", while "Happiness Theme" provides the album with a very beautiful and powerful symphonic rock theme performed alternating on oboe and lead guitar.

There is even a new recording of an oldie by L.L.P. added, which was written and sung by the very first L.L.P. singer Anja Sides-Dirkzwager, meaning that there can be three generations of L.L.P. singers heard on this album. It's an over 7 minutes lasting symphonic rock ballad, ended by some beautiful soloing on both electric guitar and keyboards. The album concludes in a worthy way with an anonymous French folk tune from the 16th century, leaving the listener with a satisfied feeling.

This album is a milestone in the history of LIFE LINE PROJECT and I think many symphonic rock fans will be pleased with this album, so I decided to reward "The JOURNEY" with 5 stars!

Theo Schop

Report this review (#867355)
Posted Tuesday, November 27, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars Life Line Project deliver beautiful and warm sounding symphonic rock, full of beautiful themes and beautiful arrangements. "The Journey" is a double disc, of which the first one is entirely filled with "Journey To The Heart Of Your Mind", a work of about 60 minutes, describing the search of man looking for his true self. This work contains so many emotional highlights, starting immediately with the main theme, which returns in all sort of shapes throughout the complete story. "Longing For My Childhood" could be a true symphonic rock single with a beautiful theme played by the oboe, a dramatic guitar solo in the middle and so beautifully sung by lead singer Marion Brinkman-Stroetinga. Another great symphonic rock song is the "Credo" in which again Marion proves to be a great singer. To complete the story line there is a large number of other vocalists, but Marion is simply the best.

The band's possibilities can best be checked in pieces like "Bright Spots", "Free"and the "Finale" in which some fantastic instrumental outbursts can be enjoyed, with a major role for keyboard-player Erik de Beer, who gives us a fine display of his Hammond and his Moogs. The guitar leads are all way above the average and all show fantastic melodies.

What I liked in particular are the beautiful interludes played on instruments like the flute, the oboe, the clarinet and the bassoon. Especially the bassoon parts reminded me a bit of Gryphon, one of my favourite bands.

The second disc is filled with shorter compositions, of which some are played by the piano and one of the woodwind instruments only. The title piece of the second disc, called "The Narrow Path" is probably the most symphonic piece I ever heard. Lots of mysterious mellotron parts, lots of tempo changes and again these excellent vocals by Marion.

Both discs of this double album are fantastic, and I can advise everyone to check them out!


Report this review (#872753)
Posted Friday, December 7, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars With the Life Line Project album "The Journey" you get the best value for your money. It's a double disc with a lavish booklet, showing all aspects and possibilities of the band. The first disc contains the complete "Journey To The Heart Of Your Mind", a piece that lasts a bit longer than one hour and tells the story of a man in search of himself. It's a bit like a rock opera, because there are more vocalists participating. Don't expect vocal diarrhoea, because Journey To The Heart Of Your Mind isn't like all these metal operas full of bombastic vocals. The music is the most important thing here and every theme and every chord progression underlines the events in the story. The arrangements are perfect. A woodwind section with flute, oboe, clarinet and bassoon, playing over an accompaniment of acoustic guitars, lutes, harpsichord & piano, gives you moments to unwind between the massive symphonic themes, played by the keyboards and lead guitars. The bass and drums give a solid support to both the beautiful symphonic rock themes and the often more aggressive very seventies sounding Moog and Hammond solos. In fact the keyboard playing by Erik de Beer can easily compete with the best Emerson or Wakeman, although the beauty of his themes remind me a bit more of Tony Banks. The lead vocals are taken care of by Marion Brinkman-Stroetinga, who has an excellent and warm voice. Songs like "Longing for my Childhood" and "Credo" sound beautiful and touching. The voice of Marion is like the heart of the music. The second disc shows a bit more the skills of the individual band members. The flute and the oboe play major parts in acoustic pieces, accompanied only by the piano and in the brilliant unplugged "Collage". "Turn the Key" shows us once more, that Erik de Beer is among the best keyboard players and gives us an overdose of Hammond and Moog solos. The beautiful centre piece of the second disc is the title piece "The Narrow Path" an almost 12 minutes lasting symphonic rock epic against the madness of religious fanaticism. It's a dark and brooding piece with a leading role for the mellotron, that sounds a bit like early King Crimson. An oriental oboe intervention, a lonely flute passage and the beautiful vocals of Marion complete the picture of this song, that is perhaps the best composition on the entire album. A cheerful note is struck with "Monkey Business" with a swinging flute part and a very jazzy acoustic piano solo. After the beautiful symphonic rock ballad "Does it help", well sung and with an almost Hackett- like guitar solo, the Journey ends with an adaptation of an anonymous French folksong. THE JOURNEY is the best way to get to know all the possibilities of Life Line Project and it is one of the best albums I've heard lately and I think this is one of those albums that truly deserve five stars! Whistler.
Report this review (#932002)
Posted Monday, March 18, 2013 | Review Permalink

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