Lifesigns: the first wave in the new British prog tsunami
Why? Because on that day, the first wave in the tsunami of brilliant new British prog rock will be available to the discerning listening community in the form of Lifesigns.
Let me tell you a little bit about it. First, it is another prog-ject following on from Kompendium’s Beneath the Waves and Genesis Revisited II that both had guest lists straight out of prog central casting. Also, three of the main players from those albums, Steve Hackett, Nick Beggs and Jakko Jakszyk will be appearing on Lifesigns.
Heading up this album is John Young, the classically trained composer, keyboards player and vocalist whose CV includes stints with Asia, the Strawbs, Greenslade, Fish, Uli Jon Roth and his own John Young Band. He also tours with Bonnie “Total Eclipse of the Heart” Tyler.
After such an illustrious career, John decided six years ago he ought to write a prog album which would draw together all the musical influences in his life including classic bands of the 70s such as Yes and Focus.
To cut a long story short, John moved to the delightfully named town of Leighton Buzzard in the Home Counties of England where his next door neighbour was music producer Steve Rispin to whom he started playing some of his musical ideas, usually late at night. Nick Beggs is also resident in this town and John invited him to be a central collaborator to Lifesigns. Frosty Beedle, drummer with Cutting Crew, who had a huge hit with (I Just) Died In Your Arms Tonight, became the third musical member of the core Lifesigns group with John and Nick.
So where is this all leading? Well last January, John and Nick invited Martin Reijman, my prog partner in crime, and me to come and hear an early version of the album.
By way of explanation, Nick and I go back a long long way – over 30 years – back to when I was working as a reporter on the local paper in Leighton Buzzard, but that’s a story for another time.
We had also met John both via Facebook and at a gig so it was an real honor to be among the first to hear the genesis of Lifesigns. Eighty five per cent of the album had been completed then and we were both struck by its classic British prog style, full of uplifting melodies, harmonies and instrumentation. By then, Steve Hackett had also added a couple of his signature flourishes to the arrangements.
After that, John also secured the services of one of his heroes, the legendary Thijs Van Leer of Focus who provided some lovely flutelines, then guitarists Jakko from King Crimson and Robin Boult, who has played with Fish.
The months passed and John got back in contact to say the album had been completed and Esoteric Records would be releasing it. He invited us back to hear the finished article but unfortunately Martin was unwell on the day in question and is still to hear it. So I returned alone to Steve Rispin’s studio in a beautiful part of rural Buckinghamshire to hear the album and meet Frosty, and John of course.
Well, the finished article was sensational. It was quite mind-blowing to think of the various processes and mixes the music had been through to achieve the final sound. Lifesigns is one of those quintessentially classic British prog albums (with a dash of Dutch artistry) which takes you on a long and memorable journey through some very special sonic landscapes.
The opener Lighthouse nearly knocked me off my chair with its wall of sound that conjured up crashing waves. As John is keen to point out, the theme of the album is life itself and is open to any interpretation the listener may want to put on it.
The three of us ended up at the local bar in the neighboring village where John recounted an extraordinary story of a meeting he had with another of his heroes, the brilliant Patrick Moraz of Refugee, Yes and the Moody Blues in the bar of the Los Angeles’ Hilton Hotel. Maybe one day, I will take a verbatim note from John of the story and share it with you here.
Anyway, that’s the background to Lifesigns which I hope you will all hear and adore, made by a group of incredibly charming guys who genuinely love making the music. It was a real privilege to have been a party to its progress last year.