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ALTITUDE

Lifesigns

Neo-Prog


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Lifesigns Altitude album cover
4.02 | 97 ratings | 8 reviews | 32% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2021

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Altitude (15:18)
2. Gregarious (4:38)
3. Ivory Tower (7:42)
4. Shoreline (7:38)
5. Fortitude (10:07)
6. Arkhangelsk (0:57)
7. Last One Home (6:14)
8. Altitude (reprise) (1:50)

Total Time 54:24

Line-up / Musicians

- John Young / keyboards, vocals
- Dave Bainbridge / guitar
- Jon Poole / bass, vocals
- Zoltán Csörsz / drums

With:
- Robin Boult / acoustic guitar (3)
- Peter Knight / violin (1)
- Juliet Wolff / cello (1)
- Lynsey Ward / backing vocals

Releases information

Format: Vinyl, CD, Digital
March 2021 (CD, Digital), May 2021 (Vinyl)

Thanks to mbzr48 for the addition
and to NotAProghead for the last updates
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LIFESIGNS Altitude ratings distribution


4.02
(97 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(32%)
32%
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(38%)
38%
Good, but non-essential (19%)
19%
Collectors/fans only (10%)
10%
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)
1%

LIFESIGNS Altitude reviews


Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by lazland
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Altitude is the third studio album by Lifesigns, the progressive project started by John Young, the keyboardist and vocalist who has worked with a plethora of stellar prog artists, notably Jon Anderson, John Wetton, Fish, and The Strawbs. On this, he is once again joined by Dave Bainbridge on guitars and Jon Poole on bass/vocals, alongside new drumming recruit, Zoltán Csörsz.

There is quite an eclectic mix of styles and composition here, but the honourable mention must go to what must be one of the finest ballads ever put to disc, Last One Home, a quite gorgeous paean to the power of nature, and man's mastery of it. This features precisely the kind of lush melodies, a beautifully understated at first, rising and peaking in intensity as it progresses, guitar solo by Bainbridge which should appeal to admirers of Latimer in particular, and atmosphere which ticks every single box for me. Sumptuous and a standout for the year, the closing passage in particular is deeply moving.

And what of the rest? The title track opens proceedings, and is also the longest at 17 minutes if one includes the reprise at the close. Young is a master of his keys, and the piano especially is rather lovely. There are some haunting backing vocals by Lynsey Ward before the track segues into its major passage. All four play as a really tight unit, and Csörsz in particular stands out for a rather excellent drumming performance. The track includes some nice violin and cello solos by guest artists, and altogether this is a sublime atmospheric piece of music, perhaps let down a little bit by some out of place forays into more jazzy territory in the second third, although this is perhaps a matter of personal taste on my part, because the thoughtful soundscape reasserts itself very strongly to close, including the triumphant return of the strings at the denouement.

Gregarious reminds me so much of Alan Parsons Project that I had to check whether it was, in fact, a cover. It isn't, and the comparison is in no way meant to be disparaging, because they are responsible for some fine music, and this is an extremely pleasant track in the main, although the keyboard noodling prior to the closing section again, I am afraid, is rather out of place with all around it. I don't object to a bit of noodling, but I do like it to fit into the work I am listening to. As elsewhere throughout, Bainbridge produces some lovely guitar riffs.

Another exalted guest, Robin Boult, plays some lovely acoustic guitar on Ivory Tower, with gentle keys as a backdrop, and yearning vocals create an intelligent piece dealing with love and betrayal. On this piece, the move from thoughtful to more charged and pacy music works better. There is some fine fret work from Poole on bass in particular.

Lifesigns are categorised as neo-prog on our site, and the start of Shoreline with its signatures and feel is perhaps the most "neo" as we understand it on the album. Perhaps it is indicative of how my musical tastes have progressed over the years when I state that I find this section unconvincing, but the overall sense of the album reasserts itself from the "Take me to the shoreline" middle section before Young first with a synth solo, and then Bainbridge with his riffs, take us back again. Those of you who think that Marillion were far better with that big Scottish bloke, and Pendragon should never have progressed beyond Kowtow, will get a lot out of this track, but it is the weakest track of the album for me, I am afraid.

The other ten minute plus track is Fortitude. Bainbridge shines again on this piece, which is a very wordy track. I do wish we could have had more than the final two or so minutes of the closing instrumental passage, a wonderful keyboard led section which soars, and is, to me, perhaps an indication that this album, as good as it is, could have been so much more.

At less than one minute, the instrumental Arkhangelsk is too short to really pass judgement on, but I get the impression that the dark mood it suggests could have been extended into something quite interesting.

In parts, this is a really fine album, but my overall impression after many listens now is that these are not sufficient to make this something really special as a whole, which is a shame. If I had rated this after the initial couple of listens, then my rating would have been higher, but, with familiarity, I have no hesitation in recommending it to readers of this review, but with the knowledge that it really could have been so much more.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The Lifesigns sound and song quality is now, after three albums, legendary. I'll never forget the delightful surprise that was 2013's eponymous debut--an album that still sits on the edge for me as to whether it's a masterpiece or not. In terms of aural candy, it definitely is. Though the list of John Young's support cast has shifted, the sound is still great.

1. "Altitude" (15:18) a song that gets better and better the farther you get into it, the vocals and lyrics are a bit lackluster while the bass, drums, guitar and keys are quite good. Wonderful aural scapes and an absolutely gorgeous finish. I was hoping for/perhaps expecting the amazing lead and harmony vocals from the band's debut, I'm sad to find myself a bit disappointed. But, then, the sound production value is so beautiful, so clean and multi- dimensional, I'm almost willing to let go of my disappointments. (26.5/30)

2. "Gregarious" (4:38) opens with a bouncy piano sounding a bit like Queen or Foreigner. A bit too much like the quirk of "Cold as Ice" yet weakened by the relative stuffing into the background of John's lead vocal track. I was not expecting this as his warm, intimate voice was one of the highlights of the previous albums. Really nice PINK FLOYD "Comfortably Numb"/GEORGE HARRISON "My Guitar Gently Weeps" section from Dave Bainbridge and the background chorale singers in the fourth minute till the close. (8.5/10)

3. "Ivory Tower" (7:42) Whoa! 4:25 of Steven Wilson's Hand. Cannot. Erase. crossed with Peter Gabriel's "Mercy Street." Then it kicks into part two, drive. Nice music, nice sound--except for the thinness and deeply buried effect on John's vocal track. A song of regret and envy whose lyrics are a bit too simple. (13/15)

4. "Shoreline" (7:38) a jazzy opening turns spacey before still settling into an almost Steely Dan vein. Finally, John's vocal track is brought slightly forward and given a little girth (but still not enough). Keyboards dominate, chord sequencing and background vocals are definitely in the Steely Dan house of pop jazz. Great excursion into jazz fast lane in the instrumental sixth and seventh minutes. A very solid song with excellent musicianship that seems to need a different vocal approach (or lyrical topic). (Where are Donald Fagen or James Grant when you need them.) (13.25/15)

5. "Fortitude" (10:07) nice song structure, chordal flow, and melodic trails. Again, I'm not sure what John's singing about but something here feels meatier--feels like something to which I'm more connected (which is entirely due to the magic of John's voice). Just wish his voice didn't sound so compressed. Interesting tension built from the musical drift in the seventh minute. Brilliantly brought back to warmth and trust by the following vocal and instrumental passages--the latter of which, starting at 7:30 is quite powerful. Great synth work along with deep, throbbing bass. Now this is good prog! The best song on the album! (18.75/20)

6. "Arkhangelsk" (0:57) interesting inclusion on the album--unless it's meant to be the introduction to the next song. (4/5)

7. "Last One Home" (6:14) from the opening piano and synth chords one can tell this is going to be a sad song. It sounds like a pretty blatant lift of Elton John's "Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word"--piano, pace, and vocal melody lines. A song that seems to be about the relationship dynamics of a seaman and his distant wife while the seaman is at sea--the stereotypic idealization of the "sad" life of the sailor and the often solitary sailor's wife. Very nice bluesy guitar solo by Dave Bainbridge--for a full two minutes--in the instrumental middle. (8.5/10)

8. "Altitude (reprise)" (1:50) sounds like a new, trailing verse to STING's "An Englishman in New York." (4.25/5)

Total Time 54:24

For whatever reason, the engineering of the vocals are not as warm and intimate as those on Lifesigns, and, thus, not as effective. (Perhaps there has, in fact, been a weakening of John's voice over the past decade?) Having that gorgeous, engaging voice so "removed" instead of "in my brain" is actually quite a disappointment. John's support crew of Jon Poole, Zoltán Csörsz, and Dave Bainbridge are definitely a winning combination--as are the other collaborator guests. As competent as Jon Poole is, there's just something so magical about the bass/stick work of Nick Beggs. My final impressions are that the music needs to be more dynamic and John definitely has to record, engineer, and mix his wonderful voice back to the front and center of each and every song.

B/four stars; a nice addition to any prog lover's music collection--especially valuable for the two centerpieces, "Shoreline" and "Fortitude"--but, if you've never heard this band's debut, you are really missing out.

Review by kev rowland
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Reviewer
4 stars 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 Zoltan Csorsz (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.

Latest members reviews

5 stars Lifesigns first self titled album saw them in full on prog mode with Nick Beggs onboard then the follow up Cardington showed their more AOR tenancies with Jon Poole replacing Beggs along with another assortment of guitarists. Now this third studio outing has the current line up of John Young, Jo ... (read more)

Report this review (#2536035) | Posted by PeterB | Saturday, April 17, 2021 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I've known Lifesigns since around 2015 when I stumbled upon their debut album 'Lifesigns'. Well, I'd actually owned it for about a year but only had one listen through in a busy year for me. One evening I played it again, this time more attentive and Wow! I played it again and loved the rock/jaz ... (read more)

Report this review (#2529278) | Posted by Dclews | Monday, March 29, 2021 | Review Permanlink

4 stars And here it is... The brand new album "Altitude" of the amazing superproject "Lifesigns". They came in our world, to stay for good. Precious souldrops everyone needs, is given as a gift to all of us. Detailed production with sensible melodies, strong rythm and feeling, and deep , very deep se ... (read more)

Report this review (#2526677) | Posted by MINDFIELDS | Saturday, March 20, 2021 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Website info. "Veteran keyboard player John Young (The Strawbs, John Wetton, Bonnie Tyler, The Scorpions, Fish, Uli Jon Roth, and others) realized in 2008 that he had never done a pure prog album. The band Lifesigns is the direct result of that realization. In 2010, John recruited longtime frien ... (read more)

Report this review (#2525771) | Posted by TenYearsAfter | Wednesday, March 17, 2021 | Review Permanlink

5 stars There have been some wonderful releases so far in 2021 from some awesome progressive rock groups. But, for me, Lifesigns "Altitude" - this is my favorite. Lifesigns are one of those sort of "super groups" for sure. But the difference is; it no longer sounds like "a project" - it now sounds like a ... (read more)

Report this review (#2500802) | Posted by tmay102436 | Monday, February 1, 2021 | Review Permanlink

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