Lifesigns – Altitude: Album Review

Lifesigns release album #3 – Altitude is worth the wait. A testament to the possibilities of remote recording.

Release Date: March 2021

Label: Lifesigns Music Ltd

Format: CD / digital

Here’s a progressive music album that we’ve caught up with a little after the fact, but within the grand Lifesigns scheme of things, patience is a virtue and there seems to be little gained from being in a needless hurry.

With what seems the standard gap between albums, coming four years on from Cardington, Altitude is the band’s first album with Dave Bainbridge on guitar and knowing his work from Iona, in football terms, it’s a top-notch transfer. Zoltán Csörsz who’s played with The Flower Kings, and Karmakanic is also on board not that you can spot any joins as the quintet gel wonderfully well. Of course, main man John Young is at the core, pulling in some strings from former Steeleye Span man Peter Knight and Juliet Wolff, and the outfit pulls out all the stops on the fifteen-minute opener, that provides the album with a title track. An expansive and all-encompassing arrangement that takes a circuitous route with each band member shining – Jon Poole’s basslines stands out in particular – in between several stop-offs. A big welcome back from Lifesigns.

A couple of Floyd-y references in the opening couple of numbers might alert anyone to pricking up their ears. Dreamy ambiences or heftier, more ominous parts. The gentle atmospheres offer a light contrast – the moments of reflection accompanied by piano and keyboard washes in the first half of Ivory Towers immediately make me think that this one is a beauty. “No-one prepared me for what was to come,” sings John Young before the second part kicks in and defines the contrast of a ‘must return to’ track.

Lifesigns aren’t averse to heading off into some jazzy, almost improvised sounding areas. Check the instrumental part of Shoreline where Mr Bainbridge shows he does fluid shredding as well as wringing emotion from that neck, or feel the band getting stoked as they enter some impressive instrumental parts – the final section of Fortitude following a delicate acoustic guitar part is tremendous as it develops with increasingly intensity, power and excitement.

With repeated plays and the music becoming more familiar, we’re soon leaping from one highlight to another. Last One Home builds into an unexpected high point as we head towards the close of the album. Another exquisitely crafted and glorious Bainbridge solo (this is becoming a habit…), a sentiment that sees challenges overcome and another example of a band bringing their skills to deliver the goods on a John Young composition; just appreciate the chance to wallow and become enveloped in a warm progressive feeling.

Altitude provides an easy-on-the-ear Progressive music experience; not old school with indulgent technicality, hobbits and capes, but a warm and accessible version. The sort that Big Big Train is making its own with superior songwriting, musical excellence, lush production and quality oozing through. Like a rare comet, Lifesigns don’t come around very often, but when they do, you know it’s worth paying attention for something special. A class album.

Altitude album trailer:

Lifesigns online: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

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