Album Reviews

Brian Howe – Circus Bar

Released by Frontiers Records– 2010

Review Added March 09, 2010

Released By: Frontiers Records 26th FEB 2010
Running Time: 51:15
Style: AOR

1. I’m Back
2. Life’s Mystery
3. There’s This Girl**
4. It Could Have Been You
5. I’m Surrounded**
6. Flying**
7. How It Could Have Been
8. My Town
9. How About That**
10. Feels Like Coming Home
11. If You Want Trouble
12. What Am I Feeling
13. Holy Water**
14. Little George Street
Hot Tracks**

Vocals – Brian Howe
Guitar – Brooks Paschal, Dean Aicher, James Paul Wisner, Tyson Shipman and Pat Travers
Piano/Strings – Luke Davids
Bass – Brooks Paschal, Miguel Gonzalez and Wayne Nelson
Drums – Matt Brown

In the chorus of the opening track on CIRCUS BAR, BRIAN HOWE comments “I’m Back, And I Want You To Notice”. Well, mission accomplished Mr Howe, welcome back. Boy, it really has been a long time since we have heard from BRIAN HOWE, his last solo release TANGLED IN BLUE was released way back in 1997, it was re-released in 2003 as TOUCH but was still the same album.
Before that, he of course recorded a handful of highly successful albums as the second lead singer in legendary group BAD COMPANY, and prior to that found some fame as the lead singer on TED NUGENT’S classic album PENETRATOR. There has been many questions as to why HOWE has been absent from the scene from so long, but we won’t go into that as we have a brand-spanking new album to review.

The overall sound and style of CIRCUS BAR (Named after the bar the band used to drink at after recording sessions) is a bit different from what we have previously heard from HOWE and the closest comparison I can make is a combination of latter day STAGE DOLLS mixed with some GOO GOO DOLLS. It’s basically a modernized version of a softer AOR sound, but there’s one main thing that makes the album an essential purchase regardless of the genre you want to put it in, and that’s the absolute classy and brilliant vocals of BRIAN HOWE. Yes, his vocals are easily as good as ever, and as time has passed his voice has gathered a slightly maturer husk to accompany the already spectacular smooth, soulful AOR sound he is known for.

The album won’t be for everyone though, as it’s definitely a softer, smoother sound than his BAD COMPANY days, but if you’re looking for something to kick back on a lazy Sunday with, CIRCUS BAR will fill your needs tenfold. There is one track that recalls the harder rock edge of HOWE’S past called IF YOU WANT TROUBLE which funnily enough calls back memories of the BAD COMPANY song HERE COMES TROUBLE. There a quite a few standout tracks on the album, “I’M SURROUNDED, FLYINGandTHERE’S THIS GIRL” all feature stellar vocal performances from HOWE and will all feature somewhere in my favorite songs of the year.

There is also two tracks on CIRCUS BAR that have been brought forward from HOWE’S BAD COMPANY days. The first if the two is “HOW ABOUT THAT”, which in itself doesn’t deviate far from the formula of the original, but the updated sound and maturer vocal delivery ensure that it’s worth hearing. The second of the remakes, and a clear stand-out song of the album is “HOLY WATER”, which is a total re-interpretation of the original that doesn’t keep much except for the lyrics and the song structure. Whilst the original was a blues drenched melodic rocker, the re-imagined version is a very haunting piano ballad that somehow manages to add a new spin on the interpretation of the lyrics. The only thing that disappointed me about the whole album was closing track “LITTLE GEORGE STREET”, not because I didn’t like the song, quite the opposite actually, it’s just that it only goes for 53 seconds and hints at something that could have been turned into another excellent song.

Casual listeners expecting something similar to HOWE’S eighties output may be a bit disappointed with the approach taken on CIRCUS BAR, but any fans of the amazing voice of BRIAN HOWE, or any fans of slightly softer, but perfectly executed AOR music need this in their collection for sure.

Written by Zeezee

Ratings Zeezee  10/10

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