Published on October 7th, 2018 | by Justin G.
The Sign: Signs of Life/The Second Coming (Escape)
One of the earliest (and still most overlooked) projects to come from the Frontiers factory in 2000, The Sign was a supergroup of sorts featuring Terry Brock (Strangeways), Randy Jackson (Zebra) and Mark Mangold (Drive She Said) as well as session appearances by Billy Greer (Kansas, Streets) and Bobby Rindinelli (Ranbow). That’s a lineup with some very impressive track records, and their collaboration on the two The Sign albums – 2000’s Signs of Life and 2004’s The Second Coming – did not disappoint.
The Sign’s albums were keyboard-heavy grand concept albums with huge vocal performances and these big layered background vocals that really take advantage of the fact that they had vocalists of Terry Brock, Randy Jackson, Mark Mangold and Billy Greer’s caliber available. The transition when you have Brock and Jackson on the same tracks are particularly memorable, and really further the storytelling aspect of the songs. This is pomp rock meets AOR in the classic Styx tradition, and it worked extremely well. Signs of Life was on par with another overlooked gem from that era, Kharma’s Wonderland. The Second Coming, which came out four years later, isn’t quite as remarkable, as the songwriting and production dips a bit, but the vocals are still incredible and it was good to see the Aryon story brought to an end.
The Sign was a really remarkable AOR project, but unfortunately didn’t have a huge following. It’s a shame, because they had a huge potential to appeal to fans of bands like Kharma, Styx, Steelhouse Lane, Last Autumn’s Dream and Drive She Said. Both albums have been out of print for quite some time now, so it was exciting to discover that the Escape label was giving them the deluxe reissue treatment this year.
Reissue Notes: Escape reissued Signs of Life and The Second Coming in a deluxe, 2-disc set titled (surprise!) Signs of Life/The Second Coming. Housed in a gatefold digipack, the set has each album, newly remastered, on its own disc, and includes bonus tracks on each disc. It also includes a nice booklet covering both albums. It’s a great-sounding set, and more importantly it puts The Sign back on AOR fans’ radar after a long absence. If you missed them the first time around (or found one but not the other), this set is well worth picking up.
Summary: A great way to look back at this forgotten AOR project