Thursday, February 19, 2015

Cirkus - 1973 - One Plus...

One Plus

01. You Are (3:20)
02. Seasons (3:37)
03. April '73 (5:04)
04. Song For Tavish (4:35)
05. A Prayer (5:37)
06. Brotherly Love (3:49)
07. Those Were The Days (3:54)
08. Jenny (4:09)
09. Title Track
 a. Breach (4:19)
 b. Ad Infinitum (3:12)

Bonus Tracks from the remastered Audio Archives CD:
10. Castles (2:51)
11. The Heaviest Stone (4:56)
12. Amsterdam (4:03)
13. Melissa (3:22)
14. Pickupaphone (3:26)

Tracks 1-9 recorded in 1973. Tracks 10 & 11 recorded in 1971. Tracks 12-14 recorded in 1976.

- Paul Robson / lead vocals
- John Taylor / bass
- Derek G. Miller / organ, piano, mellotron
- Stu McDade / drums, percussion, backing vocals
- Dogg / electric and acoustic guitars
- Alan Roadhouse (replaces Paul Robson on tracks 12 & 14) / lead vocals, saxophone

Formed from the ashes of bands Moonhead and Lucas Tyson, the group's high standard of musicianship was well known in their native north-east where they attracted much attention and had a devoted following. It was felt that the quintet could achieve success on a national scale, provided management handled matters properly and they got the right breaks. In 1973 they recorded their debut album "Cirkus One" at Sound Associates/Emison & Air Studios and just 1000 copies were pressed up. It is widely regarded by many collectors today as the most musically accomplished private pressing of its kind to emerge out of the UK's then burgeoning progressive music scene, influenced by KING CRIMSON and YES. When in 1975 lead vocalist Paul Robson left the group, his replacement was Alan Roadhouse (ex Halfbreed) who also played the saxophone. With Dogg on acoustic and electric guitars, Derek Miller on keyboards, John Taylor on bass and main songwriter Stu McDade providing backing vocals, drums and assorted persussions, this became the new line-up. As a result the band moved away from their early symphonic style adopting a somewhat more mainstream approach albeit maintaining a certain "Cirkus sound".

In 1977 CIRKUS made an unusual move by touring in a somewhat zany theatre production called "Future Shock". Based on the musical, an LP of the same name was released, although none of the band members wrote any of the material. The LP was issued by Shock Records and is now very rare. The music is of a whimsical and offbeat nature, a far cry from the outfit's prog-rock roots and therefore of limited appeal. A year later a CIRKUS track called "I'm On Fire" was featured on a "Battle Of The Bands" LP but this proved to be their final offering before the five went their separate ways in the early '80s.

In 1994 was released "Cirkus II The Global Cut", where only Derek Miller features from the original line-up. In 1998 the much anticipated and quite magnificent third CIRKUS album "Pantomyne" was finally unveiled. This splendid offering brought original members, and main songwriter, Stu McDade back into the fold and featured cameo performances by an array of other musicians most notably former frontman Alan Roadhouse, who played flute. Anyway "Cirkus One" remains an exquisite album of outstanding creativity much deserving its high standing in the kingdom of progressive rock.

 Indeed this might just be one of the most impressive private release albums ever in terms of production. The quintet (a the standard prog quartet plus Robson as the singer) develops a light rock with some light prog twist and heavy ever-present orchestrations that sort of enhance the compositions (some good concise songwriting), but also renders the rock side of the album unbearably light. Graced with a spacey artwork, the gatefold album actually leads you a bit in error, because of the nine short tracks (all loaded with a heavy- handed orchestra, present on ALL tracks), in majority written by their drummer, are never really far away from possible wide radio- airplay, precisely because of the lush sounding strings.

Most of the tunes are extremely catchy, especially the opening You Are and Those Were the days, as well as the more serious Seasons (penned by keyboardist Miller) and Brotherly Love; but this is nevertheless a prog album as there are clear influences from Yes, Crimson (but not the sombre side of the group) and some other UK proto-prog ala Cressida or Spring. However, there are some sugar-bombs that provoke cavities in the proghead's dentition, such as the overly sweet Jenny and the catchier Song For Tavish (sounding lifted from Bowie). Of the album, clearly the highlight is the two-part 7-min+ Title Track (yes that's its name), where the group shows short signs of upping the ante, but it is quickly calmed down, but picks up again a bit later. Clearly McDade's drums are having a ball on most of the album, but particularly on this track.

While it is hard to call such an album essential, I feel like giving it fourth star, partly because of the extremely positive moods (not always the case with the lyrics, but the music is certainly so) of the album, but also partly because some of my colleague reviewers should maybe get another ear on this little baby.

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