Circa: - 2007


Year of Release: 2007
Label: self-released
Catalog Number: n/a
Format: CD
Total Time: 56:15:00

How is it possible that two members of the seminal band of this genre can release an album of good progressive music and not have it be the story of the year and the most hyped disc of the year escapes me, but that is what happened with a band called Circa: and a disc they put out in March 2007 called, uh? 2007.

Circa: is made up of current and past Yes members Alan White and Tony Kaye on drums and keys, along with frequent Yes collaborator and bassist/vocalist Billy Sherwood and guitarist Jimmy Haun, who played with Sherwood in the band World Trade and was featured as one of the session players on Yes's Union release. At this point you may be saying to yourself? "Hmmm, I'll bet this band sounds like Yes." You would be correct in that assumption.

So it just remains to see if the review of the disc will be a "why couldn't these good musicians produce a disc that sounds like themselves instead of one that has so many ties to the sound and style of Yes?" or, perhaps it will be a load of fawning garbage with glowing approval of each and every minute similarity to the afore mentioned deity. Ok then, I'm definitely not going to do the former and not too much of the later either, I hope. Why? Because you have a pair of musicians who got together with a few others and produced some of the most successful music of Yes's career. Then they play with one or two new people (guys who learned to play by listening to Yes and emulating Yes) and they still sound like Yes. This seems perfectly natural, logical and un-contrived to me, but I suppose I could be wrong. Next, I cannot avoid mentioning some of the similarities of Circa: and Yes, and my language will infer approval because I do like Yes and things that sound like Yes, you see?

This is the story then. White wants to do a disc of good, sometimes retro prog. Kaye wants to do a new band project where he gets to play Hammond organ a lot, like the old days. Sherwood is always full of songs and ideas and he eagerly climbs onboard and suggests his friend Haun to fill out the guitar slot. Haun is a great guitarist who plays a blend of rock, jazz and country twang. And he plays pedal steel. Sound familiar? They write an album's worth of tunes (and two of them were co-written with Trevor Rabin, just in case this disc doesn't already have enough ties to Yes) and release and sell their disc exclusively on the band's website, which seems like a bad idea to me, and is likely responsible in part for the relative??..oh sorry, I digress.

The disc now. Definitely a low budget for packaging, a minimal black and white affair without lyrics. The production of the music however is an entirely different story. Recorded and mixed by Billy Sherwood, the music of Circa: (as far as its sonic qualities go) is superb. Sherwood has engineered and recorded a number of discs and has produced a fair number as well, so he brings a wealth of experience and expertise to the Circa: project. He is a wizard when it comes to tweaking parameters or stacking tracks and 2007 is, from a listening standpoint, a truly beautiful experience. Keyboard parts gleam and twitter through the atmosphere, guitar lines echo and ping off the walls and huge overlapping harmony vocals float on clouds of mist. How's that for inferring approval, huh? And approve of it I do.

From the disc's opening track, the driving "Cut The Ties" to the album's finale, the lengthy and majestic "Brotherhood Of Man," most of Circa:'s initial offering of song is beautiful and powerful, the songwriting unusually inspired, the vocal prowess seemingly unapproachable by mere mortals, the playing by all involved full of depth, emotion and highly expressive.

Not every single second of every tune is sublime, but the highlights of Circa:'s debut are many. The disc's first tune, "Cut The Ties" is an exciting, rollicking rocker that is somewhat reminiscent of "Tempus Fugit" with its speedy bass line that evokes Sherwood's mentor. By the end of this disc I will become convinced that Billy Sherwood is the only bassist I've ever heard who really does actually play like Chris Squire. The second cut, "Don't Let Go," is an extremely clever example of using changes of meter to stunning effect. In this case it is even more stunning because of its simplicity with a verse in 3/4 morphing into a hook laden chorus in 4/4. The instrumental section in 5/4 that follows, like many that will follow in later tracks, is outstanding. The progressions, the arrangements, the playing, all are beyond compare.

"Together We Are" is the penultimate progressive love song, able to musically portray the lyrics' sentiments without a trace of drippy saccharine and thematically strong enough to stand apart from its text and still thrill. Jimmy Haun's guitar work is pretty impressive on the track, as he combines killer 6 string and pedal steel action to simultaneously stroke and pummel the listener.

The disc's most modern track follows, and it is the closest thing to a hit single I've heard coming from this genre in years, "Information Overload". It is a quickly paced vocal showpiece that is like "Big Generator" meets "Owner Of A Lonely Heart." For the hard core types, it also boasts a rocking instrumental section where Kaye and Haun trade licks.

The disc ends with the group's epic, "Brotherhood Of Man." Still seeming relatively short at almost twelve minutes, Circa: packs nearly everything but the kitchen sink into this piece. An intro inspired by "And You And I," pedal steel guitar, thundering Hammond organ, and ethereal harmony vocals, all adorning a gorgeous composition that is thoroughly developed with one beautiful motif on top of another.

It seems to me in retrospect that 2007 was quite a year for progressive rock music, with an unusually large number of fine discs released, and 2007 is without a doubt one of the best of that group. The album is instantly accessible, yet there is no lack of depth to the music here. I found the disc quite addictive and it was weeks before I could get through my mornings without listening to this album once or twice.

Listening to this disc I find myself wondering why Yes has been unable to produce a set of tunes that could stand alongside this material. I have no answer to my own question but with this disc around, who needs a new Yes album? The thing I wonder about now is will Circa: last long enough to put out a sophomore release? Not long ago, I spoke to Tony Kaye and Billy Sherwood prior to a gig and Tony said this, "Oh yeah, there will be a second album. We're all about longevity."

I certainly hope that Tony is right. If, when you're done here, you'd surf on over to Circa:'s website and get a copy of 2007, then maybe he will be right. And I'd feel a little better about the whole thing.


Tracklisting:
Cut The Ties / Don't Let Go / Together We Are / Information Overload / Trust In Something / Keeper Of The Flame / Life Going By / Look Inside / Brotherhood Of Man

Musicians:
Billy Sherwood - bass, vocals
Tony Kaye - keyboards
Alan White - drums, percussion, vocals Jimmy Haun - electric guitars, acoustic guitar, vocals

Discography:
2007 (2007)
Circa: Live (2008)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: July 13th 2008
Reviewer: Tom Karr
Score:
Artist website: www.circahq.com
Hits: 2108
Language: english

  

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