Review – Arc of Life – S/T by John Wenlock-Smith

Lockdown in the UK, and indeed across the world, has brought significant change to all of us. It has also decimated musicians from being able to perform live and has cost them in funds they would have expected to earn from touring and the merchandise sold at shows around the globe. This has meant that many artists have had to adapt to new ways of maintaining contact and, in many cases, using the downtime to work on new or hitherto abandoned projects.

 The upside to this time is the growing number of releases that have emerged and are really something of worth, Steve Hackett’s ‘Mediterranean Skies’ album, Transatlantic ‘The Absolute Universe’ , Lifesigns’ ‘Altitude’ and now this new offshoot from the Yes stable, Arc of Life, featuring current Yes members, Jon Davison and Billy Sherwood, along with some talented friends.

Going under the banner of ‘Arc of Life’ this new album is of interest to most Yes fans and to lovers of the band’s current output. In the continued absence of the full group and any new music from them, this is a more than adequate consolation and has great potential, showing much promise for possibly another band in a similar vein to, and influenced by, Yes.

I say influenced by because this is not a ‘Yes by numbers’ trip, this is a new band making its own way. Admittedly it wears its influences clearly on its sleeve and shows similar characteristics at times, but it is most definitely not a new Yes album under a different name.

This album has ten tracks and each of them have something worthy of listening to, some bearing similarities to Billy’s earlier work with Chris Squire on ‘Conspiracy’ and with Tony Kaye on the ‘Live in Japan’ album, although the presence of Jon Davison does makes a huge difference. Also noteworthy are the other band members, Jimmy Haun, Jay Schellan and Dave Kerzner, who are all vastly experienced and talented musicians in their own right and have all floated around the edges of Yes circles.

The album is a mixture of some shorter radio friendly AOR type songs and three longer tracks that allow for some stretching out. The album opens strongly with Life Has A Way which has a strong chorus to it and lots of keyboard flourishes from Dave Kerzner. It has echoes of a Yes type of sound but it is also subtly different. One thing I will say is that it sounds awesome in the car played at a decent volume, it fair powers along with great bottom end and a very unlike Steve Howe guitar solo from Jimmy Haun. As to be expected, Jon Davison is in fine voice here too.

The next song is a bit more laid back. Talking with Siri is about communicating on an i-Phone, an interesting comment on how we communicate these days but, overall, it is a little bit throwaway in my opinion. You Make It Real is far better with a fine chugging rhythm to it. The song is about nervousness when meeting a potential significant other and about when we can resume meeting face to face again, the song ends on a sustained keyboard tone and is highly effective.

Just In Sight is the first of the longer songs at 6:15, this one has lots of keyboards and sound used throughout with some Chris Squire-like bass lines along with a recurring guitar line and tone to it. This track shows the talents that these guys possess clearly. Especially good is the interplay between Jay Schellan and Billy Sherwood which impresses as you listen and there is a good guitar section at the 3:30 mark that harks back to Steve Howe’s playing before returning to the main song at 4:42 mark. This is definitely one of the stronger songs on the album.

I Want to Know You Better reminds me, sound wise, of Love Will Find A Way from Yes’ ‘Big Generator’ album with its marriage of prog and AOR tones. This is rather a catchy little number, all told with a great keyboard motif in the middle, the chorus also being memorable all making this track ideal for a good radio cut.

Locked Down is the second longer track at 9:46 with compelling Lyrics and a superb bass section running alongside a great guitar solo from Jimmy. It has great vocals from Jon and Billy with fine harmonies too. In fact throughout the entire album the contrast between Jon and Billy is incredibly special and enticing. The song also has very strong and prominent bass lines from Billy, all adding up to what is a very good track indeed.

The penultimate song, Therefore We Are, is a real classic number and one which stamps class all over its 9:30 running time. The bass is again very prominent and, in this song, there are lots of processed and layered vocals in this song but don’t worry, it all sounds excellent and is not overly compressed. The musicianship on this song is epic with another brief guitar flurry from Jimmy and some call and response vocals between Jon and Billy. I think this might be the best track on the album, along with Just In Sight.

The closing number on the album is The End Game which opens with some really strong guitar chords and more of Billy’s cultured bass as Jon sings about the endgame. This is quite a muscular track to conclude the album with and it works well overall and finishes what has been an interesting and varied listen.

Certainly musically this one is a very strong album with lots of good songs, memorable and well recorded and produced. Only Time will tell if this is a one-off or just the first outing of a new band, we will have to wait and see I guess.

Released 12th February 2021.

Order the album here:

ARC OF LIFE – Arc Of Life – CD Jewelcase | Frontiers Music Official Shop

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