Cardington is the latest project from Lifesigns, a prog band that combines virtuosity with a strong melodic stance grounded in solid songwriting …
7 tracks / 49:36
The opening moments of “N,” the first track on Lifesigns’ Cardington album, might fool you into thinking that this group will follow the typical format of so many other prog bands. Don’t be fooled. What would, in the hands of many other groups, evolve into a 22-minute arpeggio-fest, is instead a melodic composition featuring tempo shifts, delightful chord changes, and nicely layered vocals. Yes, it’s actually a song – not just an excuse for several minutes of instrumental noodling.
The above is not by any means to diminish the chops of the players on this fine project. Jon Poole’s bass playing provides a solid foundation to the songs and stands out with amazing power and complexity when called for – the bass lines on “Touch” transform the instrument from being a structural element to a prominent melodic voice. Drummer/percussionist Frosty Beedle, despite his name, turns the heat up as the locomotive on this musical train. His playing has great forward momentum, power, and a jazzy elegance, as the ornamental playing at the beginning of the title track attests. Finally, keyboardist, vocalist, and main composer John Young brings a variety of sound-textures and colors with his keyboard playing, whether providing a bed of sound or executing intricate melodic solo runs. Young’s voice is, thankfully, a pleasure to listen to – not only for his excellent execution, but also for his tone and timbre. Too often prog bands seem to fall short in this area, but the vocals here are inviting and layered nicely with smartly-devised harmonies between the three principal instrumentalists.
By now you might be asking yourself, ‘what about the guitar player?’ It gets pretty interesting here, because the core band is, in fact, Young, Beedle, and Poole – but the apparent guitar void is filled by three of the best in the business: Dave Bainbridge (Iona, Strawbs, etc.), Robin Boult (Fish / Howard Jones), and Menno Gootjes (Focus). The guitar work absolutely soars. Cardington is a compositionally-driven album (which is what sets it apart) and not a shred-fest, but what these guitarists add to the songs is nothing less than brilliant playing. In fact, if you’re not familiar with the recorded output of Bainbridge and the brilliant Gootjes, by all means – do yourself a favor and seek it out.
The lyrical content of the songs has been described as ‘hopeful,’ in indeed there is none of the dismal, semi-gothic leanings or pompous pronouncements that occasionally accompany prog albums here. For the more spiritually-inclined, lyrics like ‘I sometimes feel I could not see / The light was there in front of me / I did not hear the words you said / I chose another road instead,’ from “Touch” and the ‘You are freedom – you are freedom now’ refrain from “N” could certainly fit well into a traditional Christian world-view (although I have no idea if this was the writer’s intent). While some of the songs are a bit enigmatic lyrically, the title (and ending) track – as the album art would confirm – is about the dirigible air-ships housed in England’s Cardington sheds in the 1930s. Of course, I first misread the song title as ‘Cardigan,’ which would have made it a song about sweaters, which would have been a bit less interesting…
Fans of Kansas, Yes, Transatlantic and Glass Hammer should welcome Lifesigns as a group well-worthy of their time and attention, and a band that combines virtuosity with a strong melodic stance grounded in solid songwriting.
- Bert Saraco
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