The Last Snows of Winter opens with shimmering bell arpeggios, reminiscent of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells, before blossoming into a flute duo that is bittersweet and romantic, evocative of summer days and bygone times. The track develops into a bold anthem, with passionate strings and an Ennio Morricone type oboe melody, suggesting that the whole piece is a tribute to the passing of Winter and hope in the prospect of warmer days to come.
In The Beginning takes a spiritual trip back to the creation of the Universe, with hypnotic droning sitars, ghostly vocal harmonies and a pulsing tabla beat that builds and evolves into a celebration of life and existence.
A atmospheric bell emerges from the silence to reveal an isolated beach, peaceful and restful in Lost at Shore, with the ghost of a sultry and meandering Saxophone drifting to and fro across the shoreline. Delicious waves of crystal surf break against your feet, and there is time to appreciate the silent call of the sea and hear its mystery. Richly atmospheric and mysterious, Lost at Shore was used on a number of commercials in the 80’s and 90’s and it remains a classic track suffused with romantic atmosphere.
Clifford hits his groove on Rain Trek, a funky jiving electro-pop track with plenty of bounce, which breaks into an uplifting and futuristic choral anthem, before returning to the funky beat. Glassy keyboards and shimmering effects embellish this watery voyage, with mysterious footsteps and thunder, suggesting that there is much more to this aquatic adventure than is obvious. Finally the track seems to lift off into space, with bold arpeggios and a futuristic theme.
Puffy pan flutes seems to suggest a rarefied atmosphere in Hym-Halaya, before the track reveals itself as a rich ballad, with lead Saxophone and keyboards. Then suddenly we switch to a snowy shuffle, with light percussion and icy keyboards, before returning to the warm ballad feel. As indicated in the title, this is very much a tribute to the Himalayas, which becomes further evident with the introduction of vocal chanting, almost a prayer to the mountains. It even sounds like they are singing ‘Halaya’! An unusual and inspiring combination of concept, sound and meaning.
Water Garden can best be described as a moving still life painting of a Japanese water garden, with exotic birds and butterflies flitting between glassy reflections and ever present sunlight.
Re-released on vinyl in 2019 as an extended 12” single, the Lifestream track became popular in Balearic clubs, played by DJ’s receptive to its rich and evocative 80’s beat. Bouncy watery synths and a phasing string section reminiscent of Jean-Michel Jarre’s Oxygene and Equinoxe albums propel the listener on an aquatic experience with psychedelic overtones.
Clifford goes full Ennio Morricone on Plateau, which cannot be mistaken for anything other than a modern day ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’ with diaphanous pan-flute ringing out across the mountain ranges, joined by shimmering strings and lamenting oboe. We are then taken from the icy heights of Plateau to the warm and watery depths of Shimmering Gold, which can only be described as a half-imagined dream of sunlit reflections. The saxophone plays on sunlit waters, drowsy and languid, whilst glassy bells shimmer and pulse, almost teasing you to the edge of sleep; a warm and comforting afternoon nap by the shoreline of some distant shore.
The romantic ballad of First to Love finishes off The Lifespring superbly, with piano, saxophone and a jazzy synth melody line. Vaguely reminiscent of 80’s Americana in feel, this track is full of romance, breaking into a tearful and moving string section, and then returning to a more introspective piano motif, before fading into the night.
The Lifespring is a supremely varied album, which someone manages to hold its cohesion as an album even through all of its variety. Each track is really a little Universe unto itself, and no track is like any other, yet the whole album does manage to sit well as a complete listening experience. The Lifespring is inspiring, certainly, and of course it is superbly produced. But there is more to it than that. There is an optimism and an inventiveness to the album that has kept it sounding fresh and invigorating, even now, more 30 years since its release.