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Circa - Circa CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

3.34 | 43 ratings

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Symphonic Team
2 stars Keepers of the flame

Yes has so many offshoots in terms of solo and side projects that 'Yes Related' could almost be a subgenre here on Prog Archives! Almost all members of Yes past and present have released solo albums (and some quite a few of them!) and just to name a few other Yes-related bands I could mention Flash, Badger, Asia, GTR, Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe and Conspiracy. The most recent in this series is Circa whose four members all have previous connections to Yes. Keyboardist Tony Kaye is the member of Circa whose history with Yes goes back the farthest. He was one of the founding members of Yes and played on their three first studio albums before being replaced by Rick Wakeman. In the early 80's Kaye re-joined Yes and recorded a further four studio albums with them including the Union album that brought back as many as eight previous Yes members to write and record as a single unit (on paper at least). The drummer in Circa is none other than Alan White who has played with Yes since 1973 until the present day. The other half of Circa consist of Billy Sherwood and Jimmy Haun who both participated in the creation of the controversial Union album in 1991. Sherwood even co-wrote (and co-produced) one of the songs for that album with Chris Squire (The More We Live) and on the tour in support of Yes next album, Talk, Sherwood was hired as an extra guitarist in addition to Trevor Rabin before he became a fulltime Yes member for Open Your Eyes and The Ladder. After that he has worked with Chris Squire in Conspiracy.

Given the members' history and close association with Yes it should not come as a surprise to anyone that Circa sounds a bit like Yes. Billy Sherwood can even be said to be something of a Chris Squire sound-alike both vocally and on the bass guitar and Jimmy Haun's guitar playing is heavily influenced by that of Steve Howe. As if all these Yes-connections were not enough, Circa also enlists the song writing talents of one Trevor Rabin on two songs and Billy's brother Michael Sherwood (who also played a small part in the Union album) is credited for providing vocoder!

Billy is clearly the artistic leader of Circa and this album is most similar those Yes albums on which Billy played the biggest part i.e. Open Your Eyes and The Ladder. Circa also reminds heavily of the two Conspiracy albums that Billy made with Chris Squire. Influences from 70's and 80's Yes can also be found with equal emphasis on both. For me as a Yes-fanatic I cannot but love the sound of Circa, but unfortunately they do not write as consistently good and memorable material as that of Yes and even Conspiracy. Given how much Circa sounds like Yes it is almost impossible not to compare this with Yes and then it inevitably falls rather flat. Even most of 80's and 90's Yes (some of which this reviewer likes a lot!) outshines this by a wide margin. Don't get me wrong, I have the greatest respect for the people involved and I do enjoy this album, at least to a degree. This is by all means a highly professional recording with several good moments.

When I finally heard this album I had already heard all the songs as they were all featured on the Circa: Live DVD where they were performed live in the exact same running order as on this studio album. But even though I had heard all this material before I cannot say that I really remembered all the songs. Indeed, only a few of the songs here made a strong enough impression the first time around for me to even remember them. Cut The Ties, Don't Let Go and Information Overload are all good songs though that deserves special mention. The rest of the album is by no means bad, but it is certainly not the kind of album that deserves to be performed live in its entirety. On the aforementioned live DVD, the performance of this album is followed by a 40 minute long medley of Yes material followed by Sherwood's own Yes song The More We Live (originally written and recorded for Union, as I said), and in comparison with that, the first part of the show (i.e. the performance of the album under review) simply fails to impress that much.

Hearing the best songs on Circa's debut individually they are highly enjoyable, but the album as a whole tends to drag a bit in the middle. I can therefore only recommend this album to fans of Yes and its massive family tree. There is a lot of great music for the Yes fan to discover in that family tree and given that Circa is not among the offshoots that I would put priority on. Having that said, I'm certain that any hard core fan of all eras of Yes will enjoy Circa too. I would however recommend that you go for the live DVD instead of this studio album as there you get all the songs from this album plus the interesting Yes-medley that I mentioned above and more.

SouthSideoftheSky | 2/5 |


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