Young Band, John - Live At The Classic Rock Society 2003

Year of Release: 2003
Label: Heritage Records
Catalog Number: HR007
Format: CD
Total Time: 56:28:00

A good measure of a band's musicianship is how well they play live. The members of the John Young Band have clearly been around the musical block many times, and their training and experience show with this live recording. Live At The Classic Rock Society 2003 sounds almost as polished as a studio production.

John Young's resume reads like a who's who in music. He is classically trained and has played with (take a deep breath - it's a long list) Bonnie Tyler, Greenslade, Fish, The Scorpions, John Wetton, Carl Palmer, Qango, Asia, Uli Jon Roth, Cathedral, Bon Jovi, Phil Manzanera, Paul Rodgers, Steeleye Span, and Ken Hensley. The band members bring equally impressive credentials to the stage - including Hall & Oates, Fish, I.Q., Jadis, K D Lang, and Camel.

Don't be fooled by first impressions. At first listen, the nine songs on this album sound like easy-listening adult pop played very professionally with some progressive elements. John's vocals tend to be light and upbeat, but frankly the songs don't challenge his vocal capabilities much - which lends a certain consistency to the album, leading to that light-weight first impression. And to enforce that impression many songs start with a pop beat - but thankfully they are soon overwhelmed by a more progressive delivery.

But after second and subsequent listens the progressive elements are much clearer. Listen to the lyrics, then focus on the music behind the vocals and you'll see what I mean. There are tempo changes and layering and keyboard-guitar interplays that will hold your attention and cause the music to grow on you with repeated listens. It is song-oriented music with intelligent, understated instrumentation, overlaid with good vocals singing poignant words to simple yet memorable melodies - all filtered through a pleasing disposition.

Like so many promos, mine had no liner notes, and John's website doesn't have the lyrics for all of the songs; so it's hard to comment on them. But those lyrics I was able to find or hear were deep and introspective yet usually came to a positive conclusion, and the overall timbre of all nine songs is cheerful and optimistic. The last time I wrote that was in a commentary of Jadis's Fanatic, which has a very different sound but shares that upbeat outlook. And it's interesting to note that Jadis' bassist, John Jowitt, is also the John Young Band's bassist.

Standout track is the 14-? minute "Unknown Soldier." It starts with that synth-pop beat, but again, that goes away quickly. This song is a deliberate, head-nodding ballad packed with depth and emotion, and it flows through its moods and tempo changes really nicely as it builds up to a very full sound toward the end, and finally fades out with wonderfully soft vocals over piano. There are several pleasing keyboard and guitar solos and by most definitions it is probably the most 'progressive' song on the album. Again, I don't have these lyrics, but they come across as deep and searching and the Rupert Brooks reference to "Forever England" works well. See, despite the evocative subject matter, John Young once again focuses on the silver lining: Remember that Brooks wrote "If I should die, think only this of me / That there's some corner of a foreign field / That is forever England." This is the message in "Unknown Soldier." I played this track again and again and enjoyed it more each time.

Another favorite is "Kings," the shortest and the only instrumental track on the album. It is reminiscent of King Crimson in parts, and revolves around a simple refrain that is shared and re-explored by the keyboard and the lead guitar. Lots of fun, very elegant.

Considering their resumes, it is a given that this is a group of excellent musicians. The fact that the tunes on this live recording are so well executed is a bonus. The songs are very melodic, if not necessarily the most progressive rock you'll ever hear. They fit somewhere between Jadis, Peter Gabriel, Salem Hill, Mike And The Mechanics and Asia. But give it a chance - you'll probably be pleasantly surprised. I was.

Significance (04:40) / When I Was Young (05:02) / Just One Day (04:41) / All Grown Up (04:26) / Underside (06:55) / Unknown Soldier (14:20) / Childhood's End (08:29) / Open Skies (04:04) / Kings (03:51)

John Young - keys and lead vocals
Robin Boult - guitars
John Jowitt - bass guitars and vocals
Dave Stewart - drums and vocals

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: December 14th 2003
Reviewer: Duncan N Glenday
Artist website:
Hits: 600
Language: english


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