Much speculation and anticipation has surrounded the release of Lifesigns and I can confidently say that the finished article has surpassed all expectation by a country mile.
Lifesigns, the project, began back in 2008 when classically trained and accomplished musician, John Young (The Scorpions, The Strawbs, Steeleye Span etc.) began writing the music for what would become a truly mesmerising piece of work. He was joined at this stage by his next door neighbour and Asia sound engineer, Steve Rispin. However, other projects meant that two years would pass before Nick Beggs (Kajagoogoo, Steven Wilson Band) and Frosty Beedle (The Cutting Crew) threw their hats into the ring. The roll-call of legendary musicians was completed by Robin Boult (JY Band, Howard Jones, Fish), Steve Hackett (no introduction needed), Jakko Jakszyk (King Crimson, The Tangent) and Thijs Van Leer (Focus). With a line-up resembling a who's who of music, how could this project fail to deliver results of the highest quality? Lifesigns truly is a benchmark in English progressive rock.
From the opening track, Lighthouse, to the last, Carousel, we are treated to an auditory banquet of the very finest symphonic prog. The vocals and harmonies cause goosebumps to rise at will, as does the unmistakable sound of Nick Beggs' Chapman Stick which brings a distinction to this album like none other I have heard lately. John Young's classical training is evident throughout, and each track is brimful of pleasing harmonies and lilting keys.
The theme of the album is open to interpretation but, for me, familiar objects and situations become metaphors for how we should look to ourselves and our inner voices for answers to the questions we all ask about our existence and how we fit into the universe. The entire piece evolves seamlessly from one beautiful song to the next and I love it. I've listened to this album dozens of times and, each time I listen, I hear something I've not picked up before.
The musicianship is faultless throughout and, given the plethora of superb talent gathered together for this album, it's hardly surprising. Nick Beggs is a genius of the Chapman Stick - the sounds he derives from that instrument are nothing short of other-worldly. The unmistakeable flute contribution of Thijs van Leer on Fridge Full Of Stars lends a mellow, jazz infusion to the mix, and Steve Hackett, Robin Boult and Jakko Jakszyk's acoustic and lead guitar contributions raise the bar to new heights. John Young's keyboards and Frosty Beedle's drums provide the glue that binds all of these remarkable sounds together in one stunning body of work.
Since the album's release earlier this year, the accolades have been piling up - and quite rightly so. Steve Rispin's experience as a producer has helped to create an album that will, undoubtedly be a challenger for the coveted title of “Album of the Year”.
The album was described on the Lifesigns Facebook page as; “...progressive in a nice way with major chords!”. I think that has to be the understatement of the decade. Once you've heard it, I think you will too.
***** Sue Doyle
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