…many prog bands are proficient at creating songs that sound like riffs in search of a melody, but these stand out as strongly-composed songs, performed well and sung with style and power.
John Young Band
Live at the Classic Rock Society 2003
9 / 56:28
Fronting the band Lifesigns, John Young has produced three projects packed with his very accesible artfully blended brand of classic rock with decidedly progressive tendencies. Composer / vocalist / keyboardist Young crafts songs that are intricate but easy to get a handle on - melodic journeys with impactful lyrics and just enough structural muscle to let a good band really strut their musical stuff - and that’s just what happens on this eighteen year old live concert performance. John Young Band Live at the Classic Rock Society 2003 shows the seeds of what would become Lifesigns, but don’t think that this is in any way a lesser musical force than Young’s current project - the musical DNA is all here and is very strong.
Other than “Unknown Soldier,” “Childhood’s End,” and the closing instrumental, “Kings,” fans of Young gathered at this show would have been familiar with the songs performed here from his previous two solo recordings. By the way, you’ve gotta’ love the fact that there’s a song called “When I was Young,” which just kind-of ...makes such perfect sense on a John Young Band album!
Aided by the fine talents of Robin Boult on guitars, John Jowitt on bass guitar and vocals, and Dave Stewart on drums and vocals, the live recording brings energy and finesse to the compositions which - even on a first listening - come across as fresh and inviting. In a current musical environment where so many prog bands are proficient at creating songs that sound like riffs in search of a melody, these stand out as strongly-composed songs, performed well and sung with style and power.
Lyrically, the songs are emotional and personal, as a look at titles like the aforementioned “When I Was Young,” and “All Grown Up,” and “Childhood’s End” will attest. There’s also a strong thread of social conscious observations, as the album’s opener, “Significance,” declares: “Got to be strong for the weak ...to be of some significance.” The theme carries through on the self-questioning ballad, “Underside.”
The epic 14 minute-plus “Unknown Soldier” brings the album solidly into a prog space, creating a dreamy atmosphere fired by changing tempos (especially around the ten minute-mark), intriguing drum work, lyrical guitar solos, textural, sweeping keyboards, and John’s effective vocals. Keyboard-driven prog continues with the funky stop-and-go of “Childhood’s End,” which allows the band to show off some real precision playing, as well as quite a bit of emotional power. The almost tribal rhythm of the intro to “Open Skies” shows tougher playing from the ensemble, leaving the album’s only instrumental track, “Kings,” to delight instrumental progressive rockers with almost four minutes of ominous, sinister-sounding musical pleasure.
Like Lifesigns, the John Young Band delivers the goods here with a minimum of self-indulgence and plenty of good taste, intelligence, and style. An enjoyable hour of good music, indeed.
- Bert Saraco
You can see Bert Saraco’s concert photography at www.facebook.com/express.image