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Argent Circus album cover
3.35 | 79 ratings | 14 reviews | 18% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1975

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Circus (3:50)
2. Highwire (9:05)
3. Clown (5:55)
4. Trapeze (8:52)
5. Shine On Sunshine (4:09)
6. The Ring (1:18)
7. The Jester (3:42)

Total Time 36:51

Line-up / Musicians

- Rod Argent / keyboards, vocals
- John Grimaldi / lead guitar, cello, mandolin, violin
- Bob Henrit / drums
- Jim Rodford / bass
- John Verity / rhythm guitar, bass, vocals

Releases information

LP Epic EPC 80691 / LP Epic 33422

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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ARGENT Circus ratings distribution

(79 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(18%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(43%)
Good, but non-essential (28%)
Collectors/fans only (10%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

ARGENT Circus reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars Send in the clowns

To say I was disappointed with this album when it came out would be an understatement. It was only then that I realised just how big an influence the recently departed (from the band!) Russ Ballard had on the music of Argent. Not only was his song-writing and singing so obviously missing, his quality control was too.

Rod Argent took over all lead vocals, and gave the album a much looser, jazzier feel. Rod is a highly accomplished and talented musician, but his vocal abilities are limited, hence Russ Ballard had previously been the main rock singer for the band. The loss of Ballard can been seen in many ways as paralleling the way Supertramp went when Roger Hodgson left. In that case too, Hodgson was the better singer, but Rick Davies, who has a similarly jazz based voice, chose to take on all vocal duties himself after Hodgson's departure.

"Circus" starts reasonably promisingly, with the keyboards dominant on the title track. From there on however, the album drifts aimlessly from song to song, completely lacking the tight distinctive sound of the Ballard era.

The days of Argent as a force in rock music were clearly behind them, and things were to go further downhill yet.

Review by Sean Trane
3 stars Russ Ballard's departure would prove a difficult task to overcome for Argent, as the group had not only lost a bonafide hit-maker, but their lead singer as well as their guitarist. So Rod Argent's solution came in hiring not one but two guitarists. Indeed John Verity came on as the vocalist and (second) guitarist, while John Grimaldi took over lead guitar. This would of course change considerably Argent's sound and direction. Graced with a good spacey tightrope drawing artwork from the band's own Grimaldi, being appropriate to the album's theme/concept, the rather overused and not original subject of the circus world. The album came out a few months after Ballard 's swan song, the double live album Encore, it could've not possibly have lived up to Nexus' standard, but over the years this one and its successor would get unfairly dismissed.

Emerging from the opening mellotron wash, a furious funky jazz-rock with Rod's Rhodes (I know! Too easy ;-) leading the way to a strange fusion of styles. Later then his piano and organ amid further tron washes give the title track a great presence, vocals appearing only the in the closing section. The 9-mins Highwire is quite a bit different, relying again on jazz-rock, but there are many elements not clicking very smoothly in placen with weak vocals, but the odd searing guitar solo. The closing Clowns is an atrocious multi-vocals cheesy AOR track with uninspired Moog overstaying its welcome by at least three minutes.

The almost 9-mins Trapeze is an excellent opener for the flipside, again relying on a funky jazz-rock reminiscent (of sorts) of Brain Auger's Oblivion with added mellotron. While again hardly perfect (Grimaldi again putting in some good guitar solos), this Rodford-penned track shows a j-r side of the band that was most likely impossible to expand upon with Ballard in the line-up. However the remaining Argent-penned shorter track fail to follow suit. Falling back on the faulty Clown on the other side, Sunshine is another atrocious AOR-ish ballad that probably gave this album its bad reputation. The Ring is a boring instrumental and Jester is a cracky RnR track but again questionable vocal harmonies.

To summarize this jazz-rock concept album (who would've thought this combination possible?) in a few lines is a bit short, but hopefully this review will help shedding a different light on it. You'd never have thought of argent as a jazz-rock group, right. Guess again. Definitely worth most proghead's reappraisal.

Review by erik neuteboom
3 stars Eighteen months after keyboard virtuoso Rod Argent left the famous sixties band The ZOMBIES the single "Time Of The Season" from their last album "Odyssey & Oracle" topped the US charts and sold one million copies! There was a hugh demand to re-group The ZOMBIES but Rod Argent preferred to form his own band to make more progressive music. In '75 ARGENT made his most pro¬gressive and balanced album entitled "Circus". The Hammond organ (omnipresent on earlier records) has almost disappeared in favour of the electric piano (Fender Rhodes and Hohner), Mellotron, Grand piano and the famous Moog synthesizer. The album shows great sense of dynamics and splendid shifting moods: lush symphonic in "Circus" (swirling piano and flowing, a bit fiery electric guitar) and "Highwire" (great guitarsolo, culminating in a duel with Rod's Moog), slow and dreamy in "Clown" and "Shine On Sunshine" and fluent and powerful in the swinging "The Trapeze" (great skills on the Fender Rhodes piano) and "The Jester" (biting guitar and a funny piece of boogie woogie piano). Despite good critics the sales were poor but nowadays this fine album deserves renewed attention.
Review by Progbear
3 stars The first Argent album without Russ Ballard starts promisingly enough with a deafening burst of Mellotron strings. And so it is for the first couple of tracks, both of which feature a mix of symphonic and fusion influences, all driven by Rod Argent's flashy keyboard work.

It runs out of steam quick. One listen to the fluff ballad "Clown" makes you miss Ballard terribly. Argent & Co. should stick to the prog stuff, as they just can't cut it with the song-oriented material, as "Jester" and the soporific "Shine On Sunshine" go on to prove. John Verity's vocals, uncomfortably like that of a Vegas lounge singer on the more balladic material, don't make matters any better. "Trapeze" is the only other saving grace.

Review by ZowieZiggy
3 stars Even if Russ Ballard was not the most prolific song writer of the band, it is true to admit that his absence is sourly felt in this recording.

In terms of prog, this album is a good follower of "Nexus". Of course, Rod is now fully on the command and even if the title track starts on the jazzy rhythm, it is a fine composition which should please any "Argent" fan.

It is needless to say that the keys parts are even more important as in prior releases. The whole bunch of possibilities (including some fine mellotron lines) is present: synth, piano and mellotron as I have already outline of course. This is an extremely good combination for the longest track available on this album to be honest.

The overall feeling when one listens to this album, is that it is more constructed than previous releases. In terms of music, it also meant that those heavy rock sounds were almost forgotten. Still, compositions are catchy, well crafted and superbly interpreted. "Highwire" is a definite highlight.

The quiet side of their music can be experienced as well. It doesn't belong to the most grandiose pieces of music they have ever written and a track as "Clown" is not one of their greatest track but, thanks to a very good instrumental part which raises the level, it is combined with above average vocal which are heading in the direction of the great "10CC".

This album is also the occasion for Rod to get in touch with some jazzier atmospheres. Not really my cup of tea during the long "Trapeze". The middle heavy part and the bombastic finale are saving it though. Not to bad a number at the end of the day (it is 1 AM right now.).

There is even a Beatles-esque melody ("Shine On Sunshine"), full of melancholy. It is of course not really what one was expecting from "Argent" but I have to say that it doesn't sound weak either. On the contrary, it only adds to the diversity of this album, which is pretty much decent so far.

It is true that I am missing these great organ and powerful solo which are alien here. One has to be satisfied with this new orientation which is quite interesting IMHHO.

Three stars.

Review by GruvanDahlman
4 stars I don't claim to be an expert on Argent. I just want to make that clear. I have followed him, somewhat, through the years, starting with The Zombies and into the stuff he did with his namesake band. However, I do think that I have come to some sort of conclusion and that is that the urge to express himself within the boundaries (or lack there of) supplied by the progressive rock genre came creeping up on him. Right up to "Nexus" (the album prior to "Circus") the music was sort of straight forward and not really all that progressive. However, on "Circus" he finally embraced the genre and made an album of pure prog bliss. At least that is what I surmise.

"Circus" is a concept album concerning different areas of performing within the circus. I love a good concept album. It's so prog. The whole album is tightly played and doesn't let go of me for the duration of the album. 37 minutes of extremely tight playing and joyous spirit. There are three tracks that really do stand out amidst these seven wonderful tracks. "Circus" (fantastic overture and pure brilliance for 3 minutes and 50 seconds), "Highwire" (with playful keyboards that turns into drama and suspense at circa 5.40) and "Trapeze". The latter is the pièce de resistance on the album. Amazing instrumentation and full of jazzy progressive drama. AT 5.06 there is a fantastic 10 seconds long section after which the band heads into an amazing hard rock/jazz rock jamming but only for 40 seconds. Bliss! It is that sort of spicy ingredients that fills my cup. "Trapeze" is wonderful. Jazzy, hard rocking and thumping basslines. Lovely!

There are other tracks well worth hearing, such as the gentle "Clown". Beuatiful! Or "Shine on sunshine", which is the finest song Queen never wrote with a prominent mellotron. "The jester" acts as the finale, rounding up the visit to the circus. A great track in it's own rights.

The inclusion of John Verity is a brilliant move. He has such a great voice and delivers passionate vocals througout. Well worth mentioning is the abundance of keyboards. Mellotron, organ, electric piano and moog. What more could be asked for? The bass is great, as are the drums.

I must mention the striking cover. A man on a highwire, way up in the ceiling of the circus tent. Two or three colors, drama and beauty. Evocative, maybe that's the word? I can look at the cover for hours. Simply beautiful.

The progressive rock provided by Argent on this album is very jazz-rock and very warm. It is a work of love and passion and I find that it is one of a kind in the discography of the band. You will find progressive touches and flourishes on nigh on any album by Argent (especially "Nexus) but not as focused, devoted and full blown as on "Circus". This album holds a very dear place in my heart and for every listen I walk away with a new experience, a titbit I haven't heard before. A great, underappreciated, somewhat forgotten flower in the garden of progressive rock.

Review by patrickq
2 stars There are points on Circus, especially on the first two songs, 'Circus' and 'Highwire,' where the album sounds like a clever parody of fancy-pants concept albums. The sometimes histrionic lead vocals, echo-chorus backing vocals, and grandstanding synthesizer leads aping guitar solos - - it almost sounds like someone did too good a job at Spinal Tap.

But in a strange, Poe's-Law way, Circus is, by definition, pretty good: after all, it does mimic 1970s concept albums without plagiarizing any single 1970s concept album.

There are also points on Circus where I wish the album had no vocals, or that the words were sung in some language I didn't understand. Musically, some of the compositions are good. For example, the melancholy 'Clown' might have said the proverbial thousand words without any words other than the title; conversely, the near-funk-fusion of 'Trapeze' is very good, but its 7/4 meter hardly evokes the motion, or any other aspect, of a trapeze. Actually, 'Trapeze' exemplifies a core problem of Circus: the concept has to be force-fit in places.

And then there are points on Circus, specifically on 'Shine on Sunshine' and 'Jester,' where the group seems to be genuinely trying to sound like Queen. Between these two songs is the semi-ambient synthesizer piece 'The Ring' - - go figure.

Circus is not a total calamity; 'Clown' and 'Trapeze' are pretty good when you look past the lyrics, for example. But I can't recommend it to anyone other than Argent enthusiasts, and I have to believe that they already have it. For everyone else, I'd suggest looking into some of the concept albums by Alan Parsons Project or Electric Light Orchestra.

Latest members reviews

5 stars I must agree with Johnny! This is the best Argent album by far for me. I have had it on vinyl only for the same 30 years as Johnny. I have been playing it over and over ever since. What fab harmony singing and I love the mixed rhythmic pulses throughout the opening number. It is full of little ge ... (read more)

Report this review (#205116) | Posted by flamenco | Tuesday, March 3, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars 5 Stars. Not burdened with any particular affection for the prior Argent line up prior to recording this-I've enjoyed this from the first time I heard this 30 or so years ago to now. I still delight in the outstanding harmony singing the quality of which is not really challenged anywhere els ... (read more)

Report this review (#196787) | Posted by johnnythelowery | Thursday, January 1, 2009 | Review Permanlink

4 stars The last two Argent albums tend to get written off quickly, which is a real shame as there's much wonderful stuff both on the Circus and Counterpoints elpees. With guitarist/singer/songwriter Russ Ballard gone, the Argent musical direction was now left solely to keyboard man Rod Argent who all ... (read more)

Report this review (#194651) | Posted by Steven in Atlanta | Monday, December 22, 2008 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I'm afraid I'll have to go against popular opinion and say I believe this to be one of Argent's best album. Unlike most Argent fans, I wasn't too bothered to see Russ Ballard quit the band. I've always felt there was a dichotomy in Argent between Russ Ballard's more straight ahead approach t ... (read more)

Report this review (#44764) | Posted by The Mentalist | Monday, August 29, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I've just obtained this and I am enjoying it much more than I anticipated. To my way of listening, this expands upon the best features of Nexus. I love "Tragedy", "Thunder and Lightening", and "Closer to Heaven" as much as the next person, but Russ Ballard and Rod Argent were holding each othe ... (read more)

Report this review (#37099) | Posted by | Monday, June 20, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I think this album, along with Encore, were my first intro to Argent. It's unfortunate that often times when a major player such as Russ Ballard leaves a band, listners are reluctant to give the remaining members an honest listen. It must be difficult to carry on without feeling that they're g ... (read more)

Report this review (#26660) | Posted by | Friday, October 29, 2004 | Review Permanlink

2 stars In 1974, Argent gave of their best with the studio album "Nexus" and an excellent live performance on "Encore". During the following year I waited with baited breathe for "Circus" but was bitterly disappointed. The title track is excellent and full of life but everything else on offer is without ... (read more)

Report this review (#26656) | Posted by | Saturday, January 10, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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