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Circus Bar
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Brian Howe
Circus Bar
Frontiers Records
2010
AOR/Melodic Rock
Mark Balogh
www.brianhowe.com
www.myspace.com/brianhowe01
Rating:
4.5 stars

OK, I could say I was having a bit of a writerís block to begin 2010. I guess I could say that if I actually considered myself a writer! But seriously, the new BRIAN HOWE record "Circus Bar" has stripped the entire blockage away! It was just so easy to listen to this albumÖ and subsequently easy to write this review.

Letís jump right into then, shall weÖ

"Circus Bar" comes roaring out of the gates with the aptly titled "Iím Back". HOWE is running on all cylinders with this infectious number that not only showcases that great voice of his but brings back memories of just how well done those albums he did with BAD COMPANY were. Those records were loaded with catchy, memorable songs and "Iím Back" shows more than a few shreds of that sound.

"Lifeís Mystery" is another number that will have you signing along almost instantly. Itís a great song that continues the sentiment HOWE started with "Iím Back"; not only is he back but he appreciates it too! Thereís also an up-to-date vibe running through the songs that doesnít make this sound like HOWE is just trying to capitalize on his past. The vibe I get from the album is similar to the one I got when I first listened to the latest by RICK SPRINGFIELD opus "Venus In Overdrive". Thereís urgency to the songs and it suits the record perfectly.

"Thereís This Girl" brings those modern RICK SPRINGFIELD sounds front and center as it sounds like something off "Venus" with itís familiar yet refreshing sound. "Could Have Been You" has a quirky almost pseudo-calypso feel to it until the melodic and infectious chorus kicks in and has you singing along yet again.

"Surrounded" is another strong number. Itís more of a mid-tempo number but itís just as infectious as the songs before it with its classy chorus and fine musicianship. Itís worth pointing out that the production on "Circus Bar" is top-notch too and that certainly helps further this records message.

The acoustics of "Flying" bring a tender moment to the record and its poignant message is sweet. The track is reminiscent of something you might hear from ex-KANSAS man JOHN ELEFANTEís recent solo work. Itís a nice tune and good change of pace for the record as it reaches it midway point. "How It Could Have Been" starts off with a soft approach much like the previous number but the chorus brings it back to an almost mid-tempo AOR tune.

"My Town" brings the rock back as HOWE gets a little help from the legendary PAT TRAVERS on guitar with this one. It brings back the BAD COMPANY sounds of HOWEís past without being a copy at all. And speaking of the BAD COMPANY days we get the first of two tracks from that era that HOWE has decided to re-record. "How About That" (first featured on 1992ís "Here Comes Trouble") is pretty much a straightforward re-make of the song and even though itís a great tune I question its inclusion. HOWE doesnít seem to have trouble penning a good song as evidenced by the rest of the record so I donít know why heíd have to rely on not one but two BAD COMPANY songs from his back catalog? The other remake is "Holy Water", which I could forgive in this case because it is totally re-arranged to a stripped down piano-influenced number with some great vocals.

"Feels Like Iím Coming Home" is a slow-build type number but it exudes class and is pure AOR while "If You Want Trouble" brings an arena-rock feel and the sound is much like other numbers influenced by HOWEís BAD CO days.

"Feelings" is another slow and gentle tune that sounds like something off the "Karma" release from RICK SPRINGFIELD. Not sure why I keep comparing certain songs off this record to SPRINGFIELD but no worries as itís all good!

The record ends with and "outro" of sorts titled "Little George Street". Itís not so much a song but a feel-good little sing-a-long way to close out a truly great record. Now that my writerís block is behind me I can safely place this one atop an early best of year list for me! Check it out.


Band Lineup:
  • Brian Howe Ė Vocals
  • Brooks Paschal Ė Guitars, Bass
  • Dean Aicher Ė Guitars
  • James Paul Wisner Ė Guitars
  • Pat Travers Ė Guitars
  • Miguel Gonzalez Ė Bass
  • Wayne Nelson Ė Bass
  • Matt Brown Ė Drums
  • Luke Davids Ė Keyboards

 

Track Listing:
  1. Iím Back
  2. Lifeís Mystery
  3. Thereís This Girl
  4. Could Have Been You
  5. Surrounded
  6. Flying
  7. How It Could Have Been
  8. My Town
  9. How About That
  10. Feels Like Iím Coming Home
  11. If You Want Trouble
  12. Feelings
  13. Holy Water
  14. Little George Street

 

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