A Neo-Prog Gem – Lifesigns’ “Altitude”

Lifesimeta-eyJzcmNCdWNrZXQiOiJiemdsZmlsZXMifQ==Lifesigns, Altitude, 2021
Tracks:
 Altitude (15:17), Gregarious (4:34), Ivory Tower (7:45), Shoreline (7:40), Fortitude (10:08), Arkhangelsk (0:57), Last One Home (6:16), Altitude Reprise (1:43)

As the year quickly comes to a close, it’s about time I start to wrap up with some reviews of some of the many wonderful albums released this year. Longtime readers of Progarchy might remember our past coverage Lifesigns, as we talked about them a fair bit in our early days. I’m happy to say that their latest album Altitude is not to be missed.

There’s a strong Marillion influence on the record, which you won’t hear me complaining about. The bass is loud and distinct, and Dave Bainbridge’s crisp guitar solos grab your attention. The keyboards and organs create a Floydian atmosphere, and the whole package, together with John Young’s vocals, create a neoprog masterpiece. When the violin kicks in on the opening track, you realize this is a special record. 

With the first song clocking in at 15 minutes in length, you know right from the get-go that this is going to be a prog album in every sense of the word. The song goes through varying movements, all of which I enjoy. I hear a strong hint of Steve Hackett peppered in one of the guitar solos, which made me smile. There’s a later part of the song where acoustic guitar – possibly a twelve string – starts playing behind some synths, creating a bit of a Genesis sound. But then it blends in electric violin, a dash of saxophone, more synth sounds, and it really draws many different aspects of prog and neoprog together. 

While the opening track is more contemplative, the second song, “Gregarious,” picks up the pace with a bit of a Supertramp style. There is some good cultural critique in the lyrics:

The TV will tell you who’s the master.
Am I allowed to disagree?

“Ivory Tower,” impresses yet again with a familiar yet fresh sound. It’s strongly Marillionesque in melody and overall sound, but it isn’t a copycat at all. It’s just good music in that vein. There are strong elements of contemporary prog here too, with “Fortitude” reminding me of Steven Wilson’s solo work (his progressive stuff, not the pop albums). 

The band goes full Floyd on “Last One Home.” Bainbridge’s long guitar solo is blisteringly brilliant, and it is backed perfectly with a Hammond organ, drums, and bass. This kind of guitar work should feature on every progressive rock album. The song closes out with some pleasant vocal harmonies that grow in a beautiful crescendo. 

Altitude has impressed me more and more upon repeated listens. There are a lot of little things to pick up on throughout, such as the backing female vocals that pop up periodically. The album contains many nods to prog history, which will be sure to please many prog fans, but there’s so much more here to enjoy. The songs are well-written. The lead and backing vocals create a smooth and pleasant atmosphere, and Bainbridge’s guitar-work is worth the price of admission just by itself. Do yourself a favor and check Altitude out before the year ends. 


https://lifesignsmusic.co.uk/home
List with links to international retailers selling Altitude: https://lifesignsmusic.co.uk/international-retailers

Lifesigns – Altitude Trailer – YouTube

Big Big Train to Release New Album in January – “Welcome to the Planet”

Big Big Train - Welcome to the PlanetHoly cow! I wasn’t expecting news of a new Big Big Train album this morning. This just goes to show that this band is one of the few decent things left in this world. Life seems to suck more and more by the hour, but Big Big Train breathe a bit of light into the darkness.

The new album, Welcome to the Planet, is set to be released on January 28, 2022 – just six months after their last album, Common Ground. The new album features contributions from the entire new lineup. Here’s the tracklist:

PART ONE
Made From Sunshine
The Connection Plan
Lanterna
Capitoline Venus
A Room With No Ceiling

PART TWO
Proper Jack Froster
Bats In The Belfry
Oak and Stone
Welcome To The Planet

From the band’s website:

As with Common Ground, Welcome To The Planet sees Big Big Train retain their progressive roots but also take influence from all spheres of music. The album’s opener Made From Sunshine, co-written by guitarist Dave Foster and singer David Longdon, has guitar lines redolent of Johnny Marr and vocal harmonies reminiscent of the Finn Brothers/Crowded House, with violinist Clare Lindley sharing lead vocals with Longdon.

Elsewhere on the album, keyboard player Carly Bryant gets her first Big Big Train writing credit and lead vocal on the captivating title track. The two recent singles The Connection Plan and Lanterna are included along with a winter themed song Proper Jack Froster, a bittersweet tale of childhood. The album is completed by the delicate acoustic Capitoline Venus, the beautiful Oak And Stone  and a pair of dazzling instrumentals, A Room With No Ceiling and Bats In The Belfry, written by guitarist/keyboardist Rikard Sjöblom and drummer Nick D’Virgilio respectively

https://player.vimeo.com/video/637386993?h=aea344b340

Devin Townsend Provides Video Update About Upcoming Albums

Devin Townsend released a video on his YouTube channel today updating us all on his upcoming albums – Puzzle, Snuggles, and Lightwork. Sadly due to supply issues for plastic, the release date is being pushed back to December 3, 2021. Townsend continues to work on the new Lightwork album as well, with the finished record due to the label right before the new release date for the two other projects. More from the man himself:

https://youtu.be/L9t17ldEb44

ProgJect – The Ultimate Prog Rock Experience – Featuring Michael Sadler, Ryo Okumoto, Jason Bieler, Matt Dorsey, and Jonathan Mover

Press Release:

ProgJect

ProgJect is The Ultimate Prog Rock Experience featuring Michael Sadler, Ryo Okumoto, Jason Bieler, Matt Dorsey, and Jonathan Mover performing the classics and epics of Genesis, Yes, ELP, and King Crimson, along with some Pink Floyd, Rush, Jethro Tull, Peter Gabriel, Gentle Giant and more.

Michael Sadler (SAGA) – Lead Vocals, Keys, Bass & Percussion
Ryo Okumoto (Spock’s Beard, Asia, Chris Squire) – Keyboards & Vocals 
Jason Bieler (The Baron Von Bielski Orchestra, Saigon Kick) – Guitar & Vocals
Matt Dorsey (Sound of Contact, Beth Hart, Hannah Montana) – Bass, Pedals, Guitar, Keys & Vocals 
Jonathan Mover (GTR, Marillion, Joe Satriani, The Tubes) – Drums, Percussion, Samples & Vocals

The brainchild of Jonathan Mover, ProgJect came to fruition out of his love for and childhood dream of playing the ‘Prog’ he grew up listening to. “Prog Rock is the reason I play drums,” Mover explains.

After a last-minute call to tour with the premier Genesis tribute band The Musical Box, Mover returned home waxing nostalgic:

I haven’t had that much fun onstage in a long time and was reminded of the reason I began drumming in the first place–Prog Rock. Playing songs like ‘Robbery, Assault and Battery’, ‘Dance on A Volcano’, ‘Wot Gorilla’, ‘Watcher of The Skies’ and ‘Back In NYC’ had me feeling fifteen again and relit the very same fire I felt when I first picked up sticks.
 
What if I put together ‘The Ultimate Prog Rock Experience’, with top players, and pay homage to our favorite Prog giants–Genesis, Yes, ELP and King Crimson, along with some Pink Floyd, Rush, Peter Gabriel, U.K., Jethro Tull, Gentle Giant and more?

With a two-plus hour set that includes Prog classics and epics such as, “Squonk”, “Cinema Show”, “Firth of Fifth’, “Karn Evil 9 – 1st Impression Pt. I & II”, “Siberian Khatru”, “Roundabout”, “Heart of the Sunrise”, “21st Century Schizoid Man”, “Lark’s Tongues In Aspic”, “Xanadu”, “La Villa Strangiato”, “Have A Cigar”, “Wish You Were Here”, “Solsbury Hill”, “Living In The Past” and more… ProgJect is going to drop your jaw and blow your mind.

Watch the ProgJect video trailer: https://youtu.be/_tDxVrl6qZc

From the first full-band rehearsal in late September, 2019, the chemistry was immediate. Rehearsals continued with the band shaping the songs and arrangements, and with their first tour in the works, ProgJect was set to embark on a two-dozen date run from Northeast Canada, down the East Coast and across to the Midwest… and then came Covid.

Sixteen months later, ProgJect is back in full-production rehearsals, modifying the set and preparing for their first official tour, starting April, 2022.

Screaming Down the Highway

The other day we received a couple singles composed by Attilla Papp, and they’re a nice progressive take on shorter rock songs. The first, “Screaming Down the Highway,” was released a little over a year ago, and it’s a perfect song for a smoking hot day like much of the American Midwest has been experiencing this afternoon. The songs lyrics were written by Michael Ryan, the vocals sung by Scott Foster Harris, and the track produced by Matthew Williams. Unlike most shorter rock songs that typically might end with the final lyric, the music plays on for a few more riffs, which is a nice touch. 

https://youtu.be/vtYkcD_yOnM

Papp sent us a second track that was released back in December: “In the Paradise.” Somewhere I’m sure we all want to be rather than in this world which seems to suck more with each passing day. “In the Paradise” has some synth overtones, and the lyrics and music have a bit more of a contemporary progressive feel. This song also has an instrumental closing that really shines. Even though it’s a short track, it goes through multiple musical shifts. Papp composed this track as well, and Scott Foster Harris wrote and sings the lyrics. Produced again by Matthew Williams.

https://youtu.be/o1qw_lqHrEw

Reflecting Tull: Reflection Club’s “Still Thick As A Brick”

Reflection Club - Still Thick As A BrickReflection Club, Still Thick As A Brick, March 3, 2021
Tracks: Prelude (2:00), Time Out (4:03), Years on the Fast Track (3:31), Rellington Town (6:17), The Club of Hopeful Pinions (3:47), The Foray of the Sharks (5:45), Sentimental Depreciation (5:19), Nervesoothers (3:09), The Great Dance around the Golden Calf (3:36), Bedlam (5:48), Look Across the Sea (4:24)

Berlin-based progressive rock project Reflection Club have mastered the spirit and sound of the classic era of Jethro Tull. A frequent critique from some people regarding the current wave of progressive rock is that it often sounds like it’s copying the sounds of the 70s – particularly Genesis and Yes. Reflection Club avoid that critique by making it abundantly clear where they get their influence. They aren’t pretending to make their own unique sounds, but they place themselves out on a ledge by blatantly “reflecting” Jethro Tull, because in doing so they have to live up to the hype they’re creating. Thankfully, they do. 

Reflection Club is primarily the creation of German multi-instrumentalist Lutz Meinert together with German guitarist Nils Conrad, American flautist Ulla Harmuth, and English vocalist Paul Forrest. Not surprisingly, Forrest sings in a tribute band called Jethro Tull Experience. He expertly matches the tone and style of Ian Anderson’s voice circa 1972. Lyrics are written by one George Boston… Ok they’re really written by Meinert.

In the style of the original Thick As A Brick, the group created a beautiful hardcover booklet in a magazine style satirizing music magazines, album and concert reviews, and interviews. It’s really quite hilarious if you take the time to read it. The booklet comes with a CD and a DVD, which has the album on a 5.1 mix or a high quality stereo uncompressed stereo mix. The DVD has a slideshow to go along with the album, helping tell the story. The album is also available on vinyl. 

While this music certainly sounds like Jethro Tull, it in no way sounds like a copy of Thick As A Brick. It is a concept album like the original, and the lyrics are written in Anderson’s style. The album is split into 11 tracks, but it’s really one long song with seamless transitions between tracks. The lyrics deal with many of the issues we deal with in our complex modern world. Thankfully there’s no mention of the pandemic.

Continue reading “Reflecting Tull: Reflection Club’s “Still Thick As A Brick””

FROST* Release Video for Title Track off Upcoming Album “Day And Age”

From the fine folks at Inside Out:


Frost* are set to release ‘Day And Age’, their first new studio album in 5 years, on May 14th, 2021. The band’s fourth record features Jem Godfrey once again joined by John Mitchell & Nathan King, as well as 3 guest drummers: Kaz Rodriguez (Chaka Khan, Josh Groban), Darby Todd (The Darkness, Martin Barre) & Pat Mastelotto (King Crimson, Mister Mister). The album also features actor Jason Isaacs.

The band are pleased to launch an animated clip for an edit of the album’s title track, ‘Day And Age’. Watch it now here: https://youtu.be/RmiAmW3sgHs

Jem Godfrey comments: “Day And Age is about how we have become a planet full of transmitters. Everyone has the power to convey their thoughts far and wide. However nobody is listening because they’re too busy transmitting.”

Watch the previously released video for the track ‘Terrestrial’ here: https://youtu.be/wda09d-QdUk

‘Day And Age’ was recorded over the course of 2019 and 2020, featuring 8 tracks and striking cover artwork by Carl Glover of Aleph Studios (Steven Wilson, Marillion, Steve Jansen). The album will be released on Limited 2CD (including a bonus disc of instrumentals), Gatefold 180g 2LP + CD (with etching on Side D), and as Digital Album.

Pre-order now here: https://frost-band.lnk.to/DayAndAge

1.  Day And Age 11:49
2.  Terrestrial 5:13
3.  Waiting For The Lie 4:31
4.  The Boy Who Stood Still 7:33
5.  Island Life 4:14
6.  Skywards 4:13
7.  Kill The Orchestra 9:27
8.  Repeat To Fade 6:14

Continue reading “FROST* Release Video for Title Track off Upcoming Album “Day And Age””

The Big Prog (Plus) Preview for Fall 2020!

As always seems to be the case, there’s tons of great music coming out between now and Black Friday, November 27. Below, the merest sampling of upcoming releases in prog and other genres below, with purchase links to Progarchy’s favorite online store Burning Shed unless otherwise noted.

Out now:

Simon Collins, Becoming Human: after 3 solo albums and Sound of Contact’s acclaimed Dimensionaut, Phil Collins’ oldest son returns on vocals. keys and drums; his new effort encompasses rock, pop, prog, electronica and industrial genres. Plus an existential inquiry into the meaning of life! Available on CD from Frontiers Records.

John Petrucci, Terminal Velocity: the Dream Theater guitarist reunites with Mike Portnoy on drums for his second solo set of instrumentals. Plus Dave LaRue of the Dixie Dregs and Flying Colors on bass. Expect lotsa notes! Available on CD or 2 LP from Sound Mind Records/The Orchard.

The Pineapple Thief, Versions of the Truth: Hot on the heels of their first US tour, Bruce Soord and Gavin Harrison helm TPT’s latest collection of brooding, stylized alt/art rock, honing in on the post-truth society’s impact on people and relationships. Available on CD, BluRay (with bonus track plus alternate, hi-res and surround mixes), LP or boxset (2 CDs/DVD/BluRay) – plus there’s a t-shirt!

Rikard Sjöblom’s Gungfly, Alone Together: Sjöblom spearheads a thoroughly groovy collection on vocals, guitar and organ, with Petter and Rasmus Diamant jumping in on drums and bass. Heartfelt portraits of daily life and love that yield extended, organic instrumental jams and exude optimism in the midst of ongoing isolation. Available on CD and LP (black or deep blood red vinyl).

[Upcoming releases follow the jump …]

Continue reading “The Big Prog (Plus) Preview for Fall 2020!”

Remembering the Genius of Porcupine Tree

2018 release
The 2018 release.  2 CD/1 Blu-ray from Kscope.

Porcupine Tree, ARRIVING SOMEWHERE. . . (Kscope, 2018).  2 CD/1 Blu-ray package.  A re-release of the 2007 title on DVD.

Though it originally came out over a decade ago, Porcupine Tree’s ARRIVING SOMEWHERE . . .–its live show from Chicago, October 11-12, 2005–has just been re-released by Kscope in a very nice 2 cd/1 blu-ray book.

When it first came out on DVD in 2007, I had purchased it immediately. Of all the concerts I own on varous forms of video, ARRIVING SOMEWHERE . . . has been in constant play, rivaling only Rush’s TIME MACHINE and Talk Talk’s LIVE IN MONTREUX for most played.

Now, having it on CD and blu-ray reminds me yet again how incredible Porcupine Tree was in the first decade of this millenium. Admittedly, between 2001 and 2010, I was rather obsessed with the band. To me–all pre-2009 and, thus, pre-UNDERFALL YARD–no other band had reached as far and as perceptively as had Porcupine Tree. The band seemed the perfect fusion of prog, pop, and psychedelia–in its music as well as in its lyrics.

Continue reading “Remembering the Genius of Porcupine Tree”

Life shouldn’t be about the Drama

220px-Yes_-_Topographic_Drama_-_Live_Across_America_cover

Yes: Topographic Drama – Live Across America

Now does the world really need another Yes album? The past few years have seen the current incarnation of the band tour, bringing to life full album shows, and the albums that have been played in their entirety have been Fragile, Close to the Edge, The Yes Album, Going for the One and on their latest jaunt Drama and excerpts from Tales from Topographic Oceans, and with the shows have come several double disc sets Likie it is Bristol Colston hall & Like it is at the Meza Arts Centre.

I have to admit some bias here, as I saw this incarnation of Yes (The Howe, White, Downes, Davison, Sherwood) at Colston Hall on their UK leg, where they played Drama in it’s entirety on stage and thoroughly enjoyed it.

So, before I get into the nitty gritty and I certainly don’t want to stir up a hornets nest but…..I will broker no arguments as to whether or not this is Yes, it says Yes on the tin, it has Steve Howe and Alan White who have been mainstays longer than they haven’t, Geoff Downes credentials are beyond reproach, and Billy Sherwood and Yes have had intertwining careers for over 20 years, and he was handpicked by Chris Squire to stand in (and sadly replace) him in Yes, with Jon Davison fitting in perfectly, this to me is Yes in spirit, and even though there’s no original members left, does that matter? No, no it doesn’t. I am sure some people miss Jon Anderson, but as he’s concurrently touring with Trevor Rabin and Rick Wakeman, then brilliant news. Two bands playing Yes music, fantastic for the fans and it means different songs get an airing.

The music is spiritually uplifting and moving, (and Yes have a special place in my heart being the first prog band I really got into) and so I don’t really think that we should sully the music and the memories by getting into petty discussions as to whether a band is a band or not. This is Yes, and that’s my final word on that subject.

Now this album is a game of two halves for me, containing as it does my favourite Yes album, and one of my least favourite of the 70’s Yes albums.

Drama, is the definitive Yes album for me, it is so sharp, so crisp, everything is so right about this record, that hearing it live is a dream come true for a Yes fan.

From the opening Machine Messiah, the brilliant Man in a White Car, the pounding Does it Really Happen with the thundering bass of Billy Sherwood more than deftly stepping into the great mans shows, and with Into the Lens and the stunning Tempur Fugit, this line up Yes (3/5ths of the band that made Drama BTW) have picked up where it left off and given it the rebirth and reinvigoration it needs. Geoff Downes is all over those keyboard sounds, whilst Steve Howe plays like a man half his age, Alan White is still the mainstay on the drums. Drama is like a neglected jewel in the attic, and this line up have polished it and brought it back to where it should be, at the heart of the bands set.

Topographic Oceans meanwhile, left me under whelmed when I first heard it, and sadly nothing has changed, the band do their best, and there is nothing at all wrong with the bands performance and again Billy Sherwood comes in for huge praise as to how he steps into the band, his bass rumbling and thundering, you get distracted and listen and think it’s the great man himself. (Having seen him live Billy really does own the stage, and seems genuinely overwhelmed by the positive reaction his performance gets).

I enjoyed it enough to listen to once, but then, that’s why there are skip buttons on the CD player.

The additional tracks from other albums including a rousing Heart of the Sunrise, a brilliant Roundabout and then, the old warhorse itself Starship Trooper, dusted off and brought out for its umpteenth live release.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the song, I think this version is as good as any of the other live ones, I just think maybe they could throw something into the mix from albums like The Ladder, Fly From Here or Subway Walls from Heaven and Earth to truly reflect the bands history. I especially think anything from Fly From Here would be perfect due to its close relationship with the Drama material.

In other words, to answer my original question, does the world need another Yes live album? As it’s got Drama on, performed in it’s entirety, or course it does, you’d be mad not to want to listen to Drama live.