Young, John - Life Underground

Year of Release: 1999
Label: Heritage Records
Catalog Number: HR001
Format: CD
Total Time: 44:17:00

John Young should be a name familiar to some if only by his associations - Uli Jon Roth, John Wetton, Paul Rodgers, and most recently Qango, Greenslade, and Fish. But there is no reason why Young shouldn't be soon known in his own right. Of Life Underground Young says "The obvious solo move would be some kind of instrumental based CD but as I've always had this leaning towards purer song writing I decided it was time to make the jump across to songs rather than just self indulgence! There's a fair amount of angst in there but I guess from a musical standpoint it's a bit of a mixture ranging in style from an acoustic feel to a cross between John Wetton and Peter Gabriel at it's fullest."

While I had read the short bio sheet included with this (and No Commerical Value) when the disks arrived, it has been more a few months since John sent these to me to review. Never liking to write hastily scrawled opinions, I have allowed these two disks to play, their sound hang in the air over the past two weeks. Yet, the first thing that came to mind on my first listen to John Young's Life Underground was how much I was reminded of Peter Gabriel solo, Mike and The Mechanics and John Wetton all at once, and yet not necessarily all at the same time. That Young makes nearly the same comparision tells just how strong it is. I should say early Gabriel solo, the more textured and thoughtful works versus such fare as "Big Time." Later on in the album I thought of Kevin Gilbert.

The music is quiet and understated, keyboards and percussion mainly over which Young sings. The album is subtitled the "The Demos" and this accounts for their sparseness. However, in listening to the album, few of the tracks need any more enhancement, being perfect just as they are. The arrangements are soft, pillowy ... marshmallow's came to mind, but that suggests something sugary and these are not, but they also aren't airey like clouds ... somewhere in between.

The album opens with "All Grown Up" which sounds very familiar and has a very strong Mike And The Mechanics feel. There's a keyboard part that serves the function of either violin or sax, as it at times sounds like either one. It's subtle and barely heard. There are also faint echoes of Phil Collins solo. It took a while, but I realized there were moments on this track that reminded me of "In The Air Tonight" (and another similar track that doesn't come readily to mind, though it's either Collins or Mike and The Mechanics). "Imaginary People" sounds a bit like the acoustic moments of Marillion (Hogarth-era). The keyboards of "Reprise (All Grown Up)" sound as if they are about to play Gershwin's "Rhapsody In Blue" (well, the airline commercial version). "Closer" is a very lyrical track which adds the sound of guitar and sounds strongly of Wetton. Keyboards trill a bit like an accordion on this very laid back track, the gentle breeze of the rhythm underscores the light tinge of melancholy. "Palmistry" starts very low key, creating tension as you expect the track to break open at any minute. It doesn't, though part two picks up the pace with a light, jazzy rhythm - Collins' "Hold On My Heart" would be a good comparison here, especially where the percussion is concerned. The pace picks up a little more during the rap section, but like in Rush's "Roll The Bones" is merely deep voiced, rhythmic singing. I mean, nowadays, one things of highly puncutated lines being spat out when one things of rap.'s more rap by way of Barry White. Still, the tension it builds is never released.

"Nothing At All" and "Ivory Tower" are the most energetic tracks here, the latter getting very close to Gabriel, and featuring bass (or bass-like) tones and percussion up front. "Wings To Fly" is like a lost Gilbert tune, which when you read the lyrics and know even a little bit about Gilbert's personal life ... almost echoes his tragic life. Though I don't imagine Young had this in mind at all when he wrote it, as it's more a matter of vocal delivery than anything ... it's just turned out that way. Just as I'm sure that the first notes of the chorus to "Last One Home" echoes Genesis' "Your Own Special Way." Here again we have keys that sound like a sax -- which I say as there are no credits at all suggesting who played what or that it is anyone but Young. And yet, in "Imaginary People" we clearly get a short sax solo, making me not entirely convinced that the others are keyboarded. Of course, when someone releases a solo album, isn't this what the term really means? And, speaking of solo solo albums, Young's demos fair a 100% better than Collins' finished product on Both Sides.

This a good release to listen to when you're mellow, when you need gentle eddies of sound and voice to relax. And again, for an album of demos, you rarely think that they are.

All Grown Up (5:08) / Closer (4:34) / Palmistry (5:27) / Wings To Fly (2:12) / Last One Home (4:37) / Nothing At All (3:30) / Imaginary People (5:17) / Ivory Tower (6:54) / Life Underground (4:14) / Reprise (2:24)

John Young - everything (it seems)

John Wetton - Battle Lines (1994)
Max Bacon - The Higher You Climb (1995)
Life - Cocoon (1997)
John Wetton - Arkangel (1997)
John Wetton - Live In Tokyo (1997)
Life Underground (1999)
Scientific Breakthrough (1999)
Youngwolf (cass only) (1999)
Qango - Live In The Hood (1999) Political Agenda (1999)
No Commercial Value (2000)
Instrumental Music (cassette only)
Greenslade - Large Afternoon (2000)
Cobra - Hungry For Vengeance (2000)
Urban Sprawl - Beyond The Bridges (2000)
John Wetton - Sinister (aka Welcome To Heaven (2000)) (2001)
Ethereal Energy (2001)
Chris Richardson - Dot.Com Explosion (CR is aka John Young) (2001)
Fish - Fellini Days (and FD bonus disk) (2001)
Greenslade - Live 2001 - The Full Edition (2002)
Fish - Fellini Nights (2002)
Ken Hensley & John Wetton - More Than Conquerors (2002)
John Wetton & Ken Hensley - One Way Or Another (2002)
Just One Day (promo EP) (2002)
Significance (2002)
John Wetton - John Wetton Fan Convention - An Evening With John Wetton (2002)
John Wetton - John Wetton Fan Convention - An Evening With John Wetton Unedited (2002)
Live! Allentown, PA July 20, 2002 (2002)
Bonnie Tyler With The City Of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra - Heart & Soul (2002)
The Shape Of Things To Come (2003)
John Wetton - Rock of Faith (2003)
Mammoth - Larger and Live (2003)
Live At The Classic Rock Society 2003 (2003)

Live At The Whitchurch Festival 6 Aug 2000 (VID) (2000)
Ken Hensley & John Wetton - More than Conquerors (DVD) (2002)
The John Wetton Fan Convention - The Official Convention Video (DVD) (2002)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin UK

Added: February 18th 2001
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 569
Language: english


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