lunedì 3 aprile 2017

Circus - Circus (2000 Gear Fab Records) 1973

Biography : Circus' only released album is something of a letdown. They attained considerable popularity on the bountiful Madison, WI, rock scene and then throughout the Midwest festival circuit due to their impressive live show and jamming capabilities. And the list of artists that they supported makes for a winning resume. But Circus is not nearly as interesting as albums by fellow scenesters SOUP or Tayles because the band was mostly unable to translate the excitement of their live shows into the recording studio. Instead of a talented improvisational band, it makes them sound more often like a pedestrian blues-rock or hard rock outfit. The band's signature claim to fame is their utilization of synthesizers, particularly the Moog and clavinet, and the instruments do add intriguing textures, but they are unable to conceal the rather plodding, drab songwriting. Their original tunes pale in comparison to even the second-rate tunes by the Allman Brothers Band and the Grateful Dead, two bands that seem to be touchstones for Circus. They simply are unable to muster many melodies that are particularly memorable, and when they do, as on "Fat Boogie Mama," it is borrowed almost entirely even down to the actual hook from Loggins & Messina's "Your Mama Can't Dance." The most interesting original may be "Travlin' Blues," which, contrary to the title, is solid country-rock with a nice banjo solo. It suggests that Circus may have benefited from leaning harder on that genre, at least in the recording studio. That notion is supported by their country-folk version of Ray Davies' "Skin and Bones," by far the best actual song on the album, with its exquisite acoustic slide guitar. The lack of a distinctive artistic impulse is all the more unfortunate because the five members are such outstanding players, even approaching the high skill level of their inspirations. The dual-guitar attack is hardly visionary, but it is thrilling, and Fred Omernik's keyboard work is superb. The lead vocals are nothing special, but the harmonies frequently are, especially when they appropriate the lead. Still, Circus was primarily a live attraction, and a much in-demand one at that. So it is no surprise that the most satisfying performance on the album is the 12-and-a-half-minute jam on the Rhinoceros cut "Old Age," full of awesome organ and synthesizer work and jazzy guitars as well as limber, tribal drumming. It recalls Santana one minute, space rock the next, and groovy early-'70s funk in general. In other words, it is an exceptional interpretation that evokes how strong of a live unit they really were. But as a studio band, Circus was disappointing more often than it was not. A live recording might have made for better listening. Review by Stanton Swihart

01.Fat Boogie Mama 4:09
02.You To Me 4:21
03.Let Me Tell You 4:12
04.Skin And Bones 3:53
05.Arrow 3:31
06.Travlin' Blues 2:45
07.Old Age 12:28
08.C'Mon If You're Comin' 4:09
09.I'm Walkin' 3:19
10.Bar Room Wiggy 3:39

Brett Peterson - Vocals, Guitar
Randy Glodowksi - Vocals, Guitar
Fred Omernik - Vocals, Organ, Piano
Wayne Kostroski - Bass
Ray Cyr - Drums, Congas, Percussion

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