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Circus Circus album cover
3.62 | 44 ratings | 5 reviews | 5% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1976

Songs / Tracks Listing

Side A
1. Stormsplineter (2:45)
2. Nowadays (10:49)
3. Sundays (6:56)

Side B
4. Dawntalk (5:07)
5. Room For Sale (15:07)

Total Time: 40:44

Line-up / Musicians

- Roland Frei / lead vocals, 6- & 12-string acoustic guitars, tenor saxophone
- Andres Grieder / flute
- Marco Cerletti / bass, bass pedals, guitar
- Fritz Hauser / drums, vibes

Releases information

LP Zytglogge ‎- ZYT 208 (1976, Switzerland)

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CIRCUS Circus ratings distribution

(44 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(5%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(57%)
Good, but non-essential (39%)
Collectors/fans only (0%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

CIRCUS Circus reviews

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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
4 stars Add on another halfstar really. Certainly rougher and less produced than its successor, this is still very much worth a spin because in many ways their debut sounds like a rough draft for Movin'On. On this album the Van Der Graaf Generator influences sound more evident and one might even say that we can also see some GNIDROLOG traits especially in the harder moments of the second number. You will also recognized passages from Movin'On (or the other way around chronologically speaking) especially on Dawntalk. As you might have guessed the highlight of the album is the last track Room For Sale (15 min of insane wonderland heaven).

I should warn you that the only CD version of this album is on Tachika (in paper sleeve) but I think it presents a defect around the 2:40 min of the second track Nowadays. Wheter this was originaly so or is it a retranscription of Vinyl to CD - let's face it: I doubt Tachika is has asked for the studio master tapes , likely making this a bootleg but they are generally spotless. However can we consider this sort of product as completely politically incorrect? This stuff has been out of print for so long on the official "marketplace" that , if one wants to discover bands like Sloche , Opus-5 , Flame dream, Secret Oyster etc.... We have no choice than to delve into this grey area production. I would not even discuss this issue if this album had been spotless. One must also hear the problem because the track had started so strange and violently that there is also a possibility that this awkwardness was originally intended. Who Knows ? Still very much worth the investigation before the investment. The more adventurous lot of you progheads will appreciate , no doubt.

Review by laplace
3 stars An interesting and rare album from an under-represented country, progwise. "Circus" contains a handful of great ideas sadly stranded by musical pussyfooting and perhaps too much reverence for the classic bands.

"Stormsplinter" opens, and this reviewer was immediately reminded of Aqualung-era Jethro Tull, not only because of the flauty flourish but also thanks to Mr. Frei's voice, which falls halfway between that of the legendary Ian Anderson and Mr. Goldring from Gnidrolog - I noticed the previous, greatly prolific reviewer also drew parallels with that short-lived band. This puts Circus in good company! "Nowadays" follows and is more expansive, linking fun moments with fragile landscapes, and it has to be said that not all of these segments can hope to keep your attention unless you really like happy prog.

Side A's closer "Sundays" has a little muted Genesis about it, thanks to the sensitive guitar play and arrangement of chords. It's pleasant and gentle if not challenging - perfect lazy summer symph-rock.

The fourth song threatens to be more grandiose, what with rolls of timpani and cymbals and such beautiful melodic twiddling, but thanks to its slow pace and short running time, it never amounts to the crescendo you hope for. Still, it is very unpredictable and rewarding via its individual elements - much more of a composition than a rock "song", and it can be said that it introduces the final, feature-length track well enough...

"Room for Sale" is curious, a song this reviewer found disappointing on some passes and entertaining on others. The lengthy introduction is built on two very familiar chords, has a bit of a jam feel and all in all can be considered a little boring. Heresy, I know, but it gets better from there, with a lovely Tull circa "A Passion Play" feel, all acoustic with traditional but pleasing variations. It may be fulfilling to pay attention to the lyrical story, split into musical chapters.

Despite my misgivings, this is the sort of album that's perfect for fans of Genesis, Camel, Tull et al who are looking for something a little more out of the way. In the end, this is a good collection of positive and refreshing songs that remain upbeat even during their minor or sardonic moments.

Review by apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars First of all,it's hard to understand why CIRCUS' debut has only two reviews while their second album has over twenty...that is at least surprising since this album is very strong indeed...The first track is a rather JETHRO TULL-ish rocky intro who has very few elements in common with the rest of the disc...The first epic of the disc is the 10 min. ''Nowadays'',an excellent track with dark atmosphere very much in the vein of KING CRIMSON while the VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR influence comes to mind at the last 3 minutes of the track...The two songs that follow up are classic example of early KING CRIMSON-ish progressive rock with nice acoustic guitars and excellent flute parts...It is very important to notice that the flute here isn't just an additive instrument but Andres Gieder (great flutist) makes the work that the keyboard- or the hammond- or the moog- players do for other well known 70's bands, sometimes he just drives the music where he wants...

Last track of the album is the 15 min. ''Room for sale'' where VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR's or even PETER HAMMILL's solo works come to mind due to the strange dark musicianship and the excellent vocals of Roland Frei reminiscent of PETER HAMMILL's mainly to the style of singing and not the color of the voice...So this is a must have album,full of improvisations,really progressive and I suggest you to add it to your collection...4 FULL STARS...

Review by Mellotron Storm
3 stars This was CIRCUS' debut from 1976. It's quite mellow with lots of flute. It's interesting that the vocalist sometimes sounds like Ian Anderson and at other times like Peter Hammill. He sings in a reserved manner for the most part which suits the music here. I should mention that many consider the follow-up to this "Movin On" to be a minor classic.

"Stormsplineter" settles in with vocals quickly as flute plays over top. His vocals remind me of Ian Anderson here. Some impressive bass later. "Nowadays" is barely audible for over 2 minutes then it kicks in. It's quiet again before 4 minutes as contrasts continue. "Sundays" is mellow with keys, guitar, flute and drums standing out. Vocals join in around 1 1/2 minutes. Lots of flute when the vocals stop.

"Dawntalk" doesn't have much going on and no melody until after 2 minutes. Sax and flute arrive later. Some prominant bass too. "Room For Sale" is the over 15 minute closer. It picks up before 2 minutes with flute, guitar, bass and drums. Vocals 4 1/2 minutes in as it settles right down. Some chunky bass 6 minutes in. I like the instrumental section before 10 minutes to 12 1/2 minutes.

A good album without a doubt but the next one is an improvement in pretty much every area.

Review by siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars Not to be confused with the English progressive jazz-rock band of the same name which released a single album in 1969, this CIRCUS emerged in Basel, Switzerland in 1972 and released three albums during the latter half of the 1970s before finally sputtering out in 1982. The band defied the odds and enjoyed a fair bit of success as a prog band in the late 70s when most of the bigger bands had jumped onto the pop rock bandwagon or called it quits altogether.

Switzerland may not have been known for its sheer quantity of prog rock bands from the era but where they excelled was in the quality of some of the acts that this nation produced and along with the band Island, CIRCUS is by far the best prog band that Alpine nation hosted during the golden years of prog. CIRCUS was formed in 1972 and consisted of Marco Cerletti (bass, bass pedals, guitar, backing vocals), Andreas Grieder (flute, alto saxophone, backing vocals, tambourine), Roland Frei (lead vocals, acoustic guitar, saxophone and Fritz Hauser (drums, vibraphone, percussion).

CIRCUS really stood out from pretty much any other prog band and used the time between their formation and the release of their self-titled debut album which came out in 1976 very well. This band produced some of the most complex arrangements of the 1970s and is most famous for its sophomore album "Movin' On" which is one of the most magnificent specimens of prog ever to emerge however even on this debut CIRCUS was firing on all pistons with powerful arrangements that meandered all over the place. This first album is a lot dreamier than the second but still managed to capture a unique essence that sounded like no other.

Part of CIRCUS' idiosyncratic charm was the instrumentation. This was one of the few bands that got away with no electric guitars and instead relied on Marco Cerletti's unique bass playing skill, sound altering pedals and other tricks of the trade. In this way they were very much like Van der Graaf Generator however on this album there are acoustic guitar flavors and lots of crazy demanding flute runs which reminds me more of Gnidrolog. The compositions on the other hand are more akin to the complex conservatory styled bands from the Argentinian scene such as M.I.A. or Crucis however no matter how many comparisons one can attempt, CIRCUS still to this day sounds like no other. Having said that there are also many aspects of Lizard-era King Crimson incorporated.

Unfortunately this debut album often gets ignored but for those who really love challenging complex prog then this one is simply a must. While the short "Stormspieler" starts things off on an atmospheric dreamy tone, the album slower ramps up through the wildly complex arrangements of the 11-minute nowadays and 7-minute "Sundays" before finding a more energetic release on the 5-minute "Dawntalk." CIRCUS really were masters of dynamic shifts with dreamy chilled atmospheric soundscapes that could suddenly burst into classically infused rock heft. This dramatic juggling of dynamics guarantees that this one will surely fly past all but the most attentive listeners keeping focused on every twist and turn but for those who crave such raucousness this one doesn't disappoint.

The highlight is the closing 15-minute "Room For Sale" which fearlessly embarks on one of the most adventurous prog journeys of the entire 70s save the band's even more outrageous adventurism on the band's sophomore album. This track features the most wild bass grooves that change at a moment's notice, fluttering flutes that are both sensual and on steroids and sparse atmospheres that are accented by jazzy outbursts, keyboard heft and even ethnic fusion. While the flute runs oft evoke bands like Jethro Tull and Gnidrolog, they never enter those territories. The instrumentation is excellent as each musician has found his own space to craft counterpoints and there is really no central groove as the entire tapestry of sound is woven together in different notches of tension.

This is another one of those albums where the low ratings don't do it justice and one of the most magnificent albums to be heard. It's symphonic prog, it's prog folk, it's somewhat jazzy and overall very eclectic. The complex arrangements take it over the top as this is some of the most difficult music to wrap one's head around. The album is mostly instrumental but offers plenty of vocal opportunities which somewhat grounds it from becoming too alienating and abstract. With this debut CIRCUS still stands out as one of the most unique sounding bands in prog and should not be overlooked for the perfection of the following album "Movin' On." Perhaps a bit TOO abstract for many trying to latch onto a clear melodic flow but guaranteed to please those who love a challenge when listening to heady nerd fueled prog.

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