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Life - 1974 Life After Death

ALBUM: Life After Death
LABEL: Polydor
SERIAL: 2383 295
YEAR: 1974
CD REISSUE: 2012, Prog Temple, PTCD8001


LINEUP: Roger Cotton - piano, keyboards, lead guitar, lead vocals * Ian Gibbons - keyboards, hammond organ, flute, electric piano, moog, background vocals * Richard Thorpe - bass, lead & background vocals * Paul Thorpe - drums, lead vocals

TRACK LISTING: 01 Riding Around * 02 Oupus * 03 I Don't Want To * 04 Black Eye * 05 Highway * 06 Sleepless Night * 07 Woman * 08 Looking Out * 09 Everybody's Queuing To Be Last * 10 The Plank/Devil On The River

Life's solitary album 'Life After Death' has long been a sought after British obscurity, often and erroneously compared to Uriah Heep although the reasons for this are two-fold. The most obvious parallel is the creepy web covered sleeve photograph reminiscent of Heep's '..Very 'Eavy.. Very 'Umble' album from 1970. The other is keyboardist Ian Gibbons role in the ill-fated Ken Hensley fronted outfit Shotgun which lasted for just a dozen gigs prior to Hensley joining Southern rockers Blackfoot. Seems like a stretch to me and the fact the record was produced by ex Zombies Chris White has only added to its stratospheric collectability, but my guess is those who have put down a briefcase of cash for the original vinyl believing they've found another Uriah Heep without hearing the tunes first, would have been greatly disappointed.

The Songs
That doesn't mean this is a bad album, far from it with a sound more akin to Argent, early American progressive rock and even a little Three Dog Night in the vocal department. There's lots of chunky organ and flashy moves abound although Life played in a loose style and were not quite as technically proficient as say ELP or Yes. 'Riding Around' opens the album with a touch of funk and both 'I Don't Want To' and 'Black Eye' leans towards heavy hook-filled pop and you gotta wonder if Life were just using the trappings of prog as a calculated afterthought? Entirely possible and exemplified deeper into the album with 'Highway' which is very Dixie influenced and very much like the Marshall Tucker Band on their debut with a lengthy flute led bridge while 'Woman' picked by Polydor as the albums lowly single could almost pass for Wooden Nickel era Styx to the untrained ear and just to reiterate, no Uriah Heep to be heard anywhere. Finally, album closer 'The Plank/Devil On The River' sounds like Kansas wrapped in a Union Jack, no two ways about it although the sound of poorly recorded machine gun fire at the songs end is a little odd and frankly unnecessary but it is what it is.

In Summary
Polydor dropped the ball on this one with next to zero in promotion but there was life after Life for Ian Gibbons who went on to work extensively with The Kinks and many other well-known artists although the remaining members were not as lucky. Recently reissued by the mysterious but excellent Prog Temple label on both vinyl and CD with decent sound quality I might add; 'Life After Death' might not live up to a few vendor's illicit sales techniques or uninformed hype nor is it best album you'll ever hear, but it's worthy of your time as long as you know what to expect.

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