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Howe, Brian - 2010 Circus Bar

ARTIST: Howe, Brian
ALBUM: Circus Bar
LABEL: Frontiers
YEAR: 2010


LINEUP: Brian Howe - vocals

Brooks Paschal, Dean Aicher, James Paul Wisner, Tyson Shipman, Pat Travers - guitars * Brooks Paschal, Miguel Gonzalez, Wayne Nelson - bass * Luke Davids - keyboards * Matt Brown - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 I'm Back * 02 Life's Mystery * 03 There's This Girl * 04 Could Have Been You * 05 Surrounded * 06 Flying * 07 How It Could Have Been * 08 My Town * 09 How 'Bout That * 10 Feels Like I'm Coming Home * 11 If You Want Trouble * 12 Feelings * 13 Holy Water * 14 Little George Street



What do you get when you cross a classic rock vocalist with a set of punchy and catchy modern rock tunes? Brian Howe's 'Circus Bar' is the answer. The former Bad Company vocalist has been off the map for a few years, not seen since the early part of last decade. Hiding out in Florida, these are exciting times for Howe, who has delivered a nifty album. I'm guessing the only disappointment for him as that his beloved Portsmouth FC has just gone into administration in the English Premier League, consigning them to life in the Championship League among the also-rans of English football. Well you win some and you lose some, but you can't help think that Howe has attempted to jump back into the music scene, bypassing a near decade of trends. Judging by the material on 'Circus Bar', it sounds very much circa 2001-2002, the sort of style which was found on some of the defunct Atenzia Records releases. The album title was named after a little cantina down in Guatemala, where Howe and new producer Brooks Paschal spent a few days writing for the album.

The Songs
'I'm Back' is a statement and a half, and announces the return of Howe in no uncertain terms. The guitars and overall energy are very boisterous. 'Life's Mystery' is unabashedly modern rock, and even 'There's This Girl' emulates what used to be played on U.S radio a few years ago, think of that modern pop/rock sound that bands like Vertical Horizon used to grace us with. Ramping up the fast paced approach is the Energizer Bunny rock of 'It Could Have Been You', one of the album highlights I feel. 'I'm Surrounded' shapes up as a ballad of sorts, acoustic and orchestral elements filling the void. 'Flying' has this mandolin like entrance, which indicates a Mellancamp type direction, a very jangly tune. Returning to the previous energy of the earlier songs, 'My Town' displays an anthemic quality, an obvious direction given the title and lyrics. Howe resurrects a couple of Bad Company hits.. 'How About That' and 'Holy Water' are both given face lifts, 'Holy Water' is a noticeably different arrangement, slower, with the piano and acoustic guitar being the major accompaniment.

In Summary
'Circus Bar' is a far cry from Howe's easily identifiable AOR sound from the 80's and 90's. It's not Foreigner nor Bad Company in its original format, and for many that might put a few of you off. The album is melodic and rampant, spontaneous even, displaying a surprising and youthful exuberance from Brian. For what it's worth, this is a pretty good effort, even though the modern rock style is not really my cup of tea. Anyone liking that modern pop/rock sound which loosely equates to the term 'nu-breed' will feel really at home here.

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#1 | Jez on May 05 2010 11:11:43
I have always been a fan of Brian Howe, even when he was in the much maligned Bad Co. lineup that released 4 quality records with him on board. I had a good feeling about this album even before it hit the decks and I am pleased to report back that it is an absolute corker of an album. AOR with an up to date, fresh sound and some absolute top quality tracks. Check out the opening pairing of 'I'm Back', 'Life's Mystery' and the quite excellent 'I'm Surrounded', 'My Town' and 'How It Could Have Been', all lessons in how to write great songs with good choruses, whilst not overdoing it in anyway. There are even a couple of Bad Co. reworkings in the form of 'Holy Water' and 'How About That' that have been given a fresh coat of paint and sound great aswell. Production is crisp and very nicely done without overdoing it and Howe puts in a great performance and sounds fantastic throughout. I guess that's an all round big thumbs up then and quite rightly so. Superb.

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