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Circus Movin' On album cover
4.23 | 160 ratings | 16 reviews | 34% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1977

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. The Bandsman (4:25)
2. Laughter Lane (4:11)
3. Loveless Time (5:32)
4. Dawn (7:51)
5. Movin' On (22:23)

Total Time: 44:20

Line-up / Musicians

- Roland Frei / lead vocals, acoustic guitar, tenor saxophone
- Andreas Grieder / flutes, alto saxophone, tambourine, backing vocals
- Marco Cerletti / bass, bass pedals, 12-string acoustic guitar, backing vocals
- Fritz Hauser / drums, percussion, vibes

Releases information

Artwork: Christian Hügin

LP Zytglogge ‎- ZYT 211 (1977, Switzerland)

CD Decoder ‎- 38701 (1990, Switzerland) Remastered by Pädi Schwitter

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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CIRCUS Movin' On ratings distribution

(160 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(34%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(47%)
Good, but non-essential (14%)
Collectors/fans only (3%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

CIRCUS Movin' On reviews

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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
5 stars Circus has a reputation for having one of the more uncommon line-up of the genre - no KB and no electric guitars. Not so for the guitar for there are bits of it although staying discreet, some sounds I cannot see done other by a guitars through effects. This absolute masterpiece ( I strongly insist on this) gradually builds up to a superb climax progressing from one track to the other. Hauser is a real top-notch percussionist and puts in an impressive performace using all sorts of instruments and makes some of the loveliest vibraphone lines since Greenslade in Colosseum. Bassist Cerletti is the only non-Alemanic Swiss but is certainly a impressive bassist and an acomplished guitar player. Grieder and Frei are simply an amazing duo on wind instruments and and together with Cerletti make a superb vocal section. The music is rather unique in some points making you think of VDGG (mostly the saxes but also in one superb section of singing much better than Hammill himself because more melodious) , but also Maneige during the classical influenced moments , Crimson but IMO not much like Tull although this album is loaded with orgasmic flutes.

Bandsmen is a nice tune poppish but intentionally simple , only the unusual line-up intriguing us enough to go on further. Laughter Lane is quite a gem and a solid progression from the opening track but stays in the song format and one knows that much better is to come but this would be a real gem for any other band. With their third track Loveless Time still in song format , we now move in serious business and we are aware that this will be a real interesting Oeuvre that is to come. Movin' On (get the album title?) with Dawn is entirely instrumental (8 min long) and is one of the better example ever of what descriptive music is , and ranks up with some of the masterpieces of impressionist classical composers of early 20th century. In between some realy gloomy athmospheres at the end of the night to the soothing birds calls and wind breezes to the first rays of the sun, this is simply astounding.

And now comes the "piece de resistance". They could've easily made a suite of this 22 min+ number but chose to let it express itself as an entity of its own. This pieces starts of with the most genial rythms sprinkled with sax and flutes lines and 6 min into the number comes in some scatting (no jazz feeling though) with suddendly one of the three vocalist breaking into another scheme making this grandiose. Bass and flutes take over only for Roland Frei to break into this Hamillian-singing worthy of Pawn Heart. We are now just barely half-way through and are now lying on the floor ready for the final blow , the ultimate nail into our coffin. The music flutters by, twiddles , twirls around you and circles , swirls not giving you an instant to recuperate and now comes the blow. The finals verses are shared in the most beautyful call-and-respond manner so well delivered that if have not shot your intellectual wad by now, you must be frigid or impotent. The number closes of with fabulous music unfortunately (the only slight mistake) sticking to close to my fave number from Crimson , Starless.

Wow! Repeated listening in the last four years still have not calmed me down as I shot my intellectual wad just writing this review not even listening to it. I don't know how this album is almost never cited in a desert island list, because this belogs on everyone's . Hurry up at Greg Walker , he still has a few copy of this one and their debut also well worth it. SIMPLY ASTOUNDING.

Review by greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Circus is a not very well known progressive rock band. On this album, it seems no keyboards are used, but it is very hard to believe! The influences seems come from everywhere, as i am going to explain below.

When you think about influences, then comes to mind Van Der Graaf Generator, as reveal the typical sax parts. Some drums parts & sax combinations will easily remind you King Crimson's "In the court of the Krimson King", especially the end of the "Movin' on" track. There are some excellent percussion parts, sounding like xylophone, reminding me Dire Straits' "Love over gold". The beautiful, relaxing & peaceful flutes remind me PFM's "Photos of ghost", the mellow flute parts on the Gryphon albums and the early King Crimson albums. The very dirty effects on electric guitars clearly remind me Jade Warrior, especially on the "Last autumn's dream" album: it sounds like if there was a dirty organ played all the time! There are other electric guitar sounds which slightly remind me the mellow tracks of early Judas Priest ("Rocka Rolla", "Sad wings of destiny" and "Sin after sin" albums). The music is often very delicate and subtle; the acoustic guitars parts are absolutely delightful and VERY refined, like on "Laughter Lane". "Movin' on" is the epic track of the album, lasting more than 20 minutes. The are some great lead & backing vocals which remind me Quebec prog band Harmonium.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by Trotsky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Within the first two minutes of this engrossing album, Circus lays down its platform pretty convincingly. The Bandsman has a rapid fire mix of strong, fast flute lines, potent percussion, jerky (and mildy accented) vocals, the occassional jazzy diversion and some rather personable saxophone playing. Believe me this album turns out to be full of it.

I had never heard a Swiss prog band before hearing this album and I was impressed enough to give it three consecutive spins. I'm still not sure if the style of Circus (a latter day outfit whose debut album came out in 1976) is truly representative of a scene that spawned Mainhorse (including that brilliant gent Patrick Moraz) and Analogy, but this is an entertaining band to listen to. (Incidentally, this group should not be confused with the similarly-named English outfit that featured reed-man Mel Collins.)

There aren't any weak songs among the five pieces here although the moody Laughter Lane, with its heady mix of vibraphone, delicate acoustic guitar playing and Marco Celetti's distinctive bass-work that calls to mind the playing of Wishbone Ash's Martin Turner, is probably my favourite of the shorter songs. Loveless Time is another fascinating track that runs through a range of moods within a relatively short period of time. One strength that Circus has that not every progressive band enjoys is that their music always manages to sound natural ... in other words there are no points where you feel that a change in style or tempo of a particular song was done just to make it complicated.

The fourth piece Dawn is also a quality cut, although at one point I felt convinced that Circus were just a little too much under the influence of Lizard-era King Crimson (perhaps they should have called this group Cirkus, eh?) ... the avant-garde soundscapes, chromatic keyboard runs, dominant saxophone passages, vibrant percussion are all quintessential Tippett/Haskell era King Crimson.

The 22 minute title track makes up more than half the album's running time and it's a real winner as far as I'm concerned. Despite being the lengthiest piece here, it's got the most energy packed in it. Starting in "fusiony" mode with pacey drums under-pinning a New Age flute solo it gradually moves into a passage dominated by modern (for 1977) synth sounds ... at the 4 minute mark there is a vocal harmony section Yes would have been pleased with, (even if the bass does ocassionally reveal that disco was a powerful presence at the time this album was made!) ... the actual "song" part starts around the 9 minute mark and isn't that memorable, although I think the biting guitar fills are excellent ... I was quite charmed by the mellow ambient vocal segment that started at around the 13 minute mark ... and when at the 15 minute mark the bass solo took off underneath the flute lead I was fully won over ... the outro that announces itself at the 19 minute mark is every bit as climatic and exciting as one could expect.

Probably the worst thing about this album is its timing. Coming out, as it did in 1977, when progressive rock was on the retreat, it stood very little chance of ensuring that its "parents" got a chance to make much headway, and sure enough Circus seems to have been lost in the mists of time. It would only be a slight exaggeration to say that this is one of those must-hear great "lost" albums, and although you'll be able to hear a few other bands like King Crimson, Van Der Graaf Generator and Yes at various times during this record, Circus has a distinctly robust character of its own. ... 76% on the MPV scale

Review by Syzygy
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is a true overlooked gem of progressive rock by a highly distinctive and original band. As other reviewers have pointed out, in 1977 the music industry was obsessed with the punk and disco bandwagons so a largely acoustic prog band from Switzerland were unlikely to attract much attention.

The sound of Circus is highly distinctive, probably because they have neither a keyboard player or a lead guitarist. At times they sound like Gentle Giant, particularly the use of tuned percussion and wind instruments, whilst the bass and sax interplay is reminscent of Kraan. The shorter songs could almost be by a band like Supertramp - mid atlantic accents, strummed acoustic guitars and tasteful sax breaks, while the longer tracks call Zappa, King Crimson and VDGG to mind. For all of that, Circus have a sound and style that is very much their own.

The first three tracks are pleasant enough acoustic rock songs. The playing and arrangements are very imaginative, but the material itself is rather ordinary and an album of material like this would be nothing to get excited about.

Track 4, Dawn, is the only entirely instrumental piece on the album, and it is on this 8 minute composition that the album really comes to life. At times this could be an unplugged version of Zappa's early to mid 70s MOI with Ruth Underwood and Napoleon Murphy Brock, featuring John Wetton and Bill Bruford as the rhythm section. The whole thing is played with a surprising lightness of touch, and never becomes dark and dissonant although it does get quite avant garde.

The real meat, though, is the 22 minute title track, that stands up well against any of the better known side long epics from the golden era of prog. This track has an almost Canterbury feel, shifting from section to section with a logic all of its own. It's largely instrumental, with some wordless vocals sung in dazzling 3 part harmony and an almost conventional rock song buried somewhere in the middle. The playing is exemplary throughout, and each member shows off his multi instrumental skills without too much pointless noodling.

There's something on here for fans of just about any sub genre (with the possible exception of prog metal), so I would urge every member of the forum to get a copy and give them some long overdue recognition.

Review by James Lee
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Digging through stacks of obscure albums can give you the impression that mediocre music is the rule...well, here's an exception. A triumph of classic progressive rock from Switzerland, "Movin' On" shines from beginning to end.

CIRCUS has a very unique feel; casually disciplined, with delicate layers of sound and a light groovy feel somewhere between Krautrock and the best Italian prog of the period. Except for some sparing use of Taurus pedals, there are no synths- in fact, no keyboards of any kind. Like much of early-to-mid KING CRIMSON, the flute and sax parts provide a perfect organic counterpoint to the distorted bass and the guitars swimming in effects. Above and below all that is plenty of masterful percussion (the vibes are definitely a highlight) and unforgettable vocals- imagine Peter Hammill with a lighter emotional touch and you're almost there. In fact, sections of the music strongly evoke early VDGG, as well as the aforementioned KING CRIMSON, especially during the heavy sax- and- distortion moments. In addition, classic YES fans should equally welcome the rich vocal harmonies and gritty basslines.

CIRCUS is very smart about the track order, as well; starting with the likeable (and at times almost even danceable) "The Bandsman", each song gets a little deeper and more texturally intricate than the last. By the time you immerse yourself in the moody and shifting "Dawn", you've sampled a bit of everything the band has to offer...but the standout title track is an amazingly varied yet cohesive journey that takes the experience even further.

Any criticisms I have are minor; at times the songs seem to develop with a certain disregard for the overall structure, but the transitions are so natural that nothing ever seems jarring. Frei has a pleasant and unique vocal tone, but with an occasional (and to me, very slightly regrettable) tendency to slip into spoken voice instead of singing. That's about it; this album is very close to perfection. I'll hold back the capstone rating simply because "Movin' On" is thoroughly enjoyable rather than breathtakingly brilliant, but an extra half star on top of my four wouldn't be too much.

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars No one would argue that this band is heavily influenced by Van der Graaf Generator in style - especially through the voice of lead singer Roland Frei who also plays acoustic guitar and tenor sax. Influences from other bands that I see also obvious are: early King Crimson, early Genesis, Gentle Giant and Yes. As I said that Circus is heavily influenced by VdGG in style but in terms of composition, there is a significant difference. I remember reading the history of Van der Graaf, there was a statement that said VdGG wanted to make a difference in their approach to music. As it's very obvious that rock music was predominantly occupied with soaring guitar effects and sonds (sometime distorted a bit or a lot) and VdGG took a bold idea by not using guitar as main instruments in their composition. They used hammond organ and sax instead. That has become the trademark of VdGG music over time. But, Circus did differently. They did not even use any keyboard and the like in their composition. It's a progressive act, I would say. This is enough to say that this album is like Van der Graaf without Hammond organ. Can you imagine it? Yeah . it's a good alternative of VdGG sound. I do enjoy the album very much.

There are three relatively short tracks, one medium (about 8 minute) and one long track called "Movin' On" the title track. Throughout the stream of music produced through this album I find a true joy as what I'm listening is something really classic and legendary even though I never heard this band in the seventies. There is no such thing as good or bad tracks here as each individual track is excellent and also each of them has its own uniqueness in composition (structure and arrangement). The music sometimes change abruptly into jazz music or sometimes in avant-garde mode. All musicians involved are talented ones. Marco Cerletti who plas multi roles playing different kind of instruments: bass, bass pedals, acoustic guitar, and also backing vocals. Andreas Grieder plays flutes, alto saxophone, backing vocals, tambourine. The flutes part is pivotal in this beautifully crafted album. Fritz Hauser plays drums, percussion, vibes. I remember the Gentle Giant format where each musician plays multi role with different kind of instruments.

One thing I need to mention here is the obvious melody which is similar with "Starless and Bible Black" song by King Crimson when they play the last track "Movin' On". It's not exactly the same but they both share similar nuance and sound. But overall the last track which I consider as epic is a great track with combination of many styles.

It's a highly recommended album that any proghead should have it in their collection. The album cover is like Garuda Indonesian Airways logo. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Review by Yanns
4 stars Ok, wow. Just wow.

Now this is an album. This album came to me only because of my good friend Hugues, who orignally discovered this album here and tried to spread the word on it, much like he did with Jan Dukes De Grey.

So when I orignally got hold of it, I listened to it, and it was good and all, but it really didn't catch me. I put it "back on the shelf", maybe for some other time.

The last couple weeks saw me spinning this album a lot, probably twice every day easily. I fell in love with the album. The power and style of this album is unlike any other in prog.

One thing (probably my favorite thing) about the album that needs to be mentioned is the vocals. OH MAN. Roland Frei, on these songs alone, has become one of my favorite singers. His voice is unbelievable, and his backing singers of Cerletti and Grieder are fantastic as well, providing for one of the best vocal sections in all of prog. Seriously.

The band is instrumentally weird. No keyboardist. No electric guitarist. You have your bass, vocals/acoustic guitar/tenor saxophone, flute/alto sax, and drums. May seem weird. Ok, dwell on it for a second. Done? Good, because now you can forget it and listen to the album.

The Bandsman has become one of my favorite prog tracks. You put it on unexpectedly, and you are swept off the ground in a whirlwind of music. The different styles covered in this song alone are fantastic. It also makes you wonder if they really only used those instruments listed above. The themes are amazingly done, providing for a great song.

Laughter Lane and Loveless Time I'll address together, because, for me at least, they are the middle songs in the album. They have these unbelievable ethereal passages. They have mellower sections than the opener of the album, providing for a great contrast and great sections of music. It also has its medieval, magical moments, just futher contributing to the diversity and overall quality of the album.

Dawn is instrumental, and far more experimental than the other songs on the album. It sounds like King Crimson in terms of the instruments and experimentation. Highly, highly enjoyable. I love the fact that they, again, change the type of song that they perform on this album. I find albums boring after a while if it is the same throughout. This is the opposite of that.

The 22 minute song Movin' On is also, to my own ears at least, a lot freer in feel than the rest of the album. It seems to be slightly more jam oriented than structure oriented. The vocal work, is however, is great, and harkens back to the way Yes vocalized earlier that decade. The instrumental work is amazing, and makes for a certainly fine song of epic proportions. Fine round-out to this fine, fine album.

All in all, symphonic prog fans, basically, need to own this. Despite the fact that this is not a 5 star album, it is basically essential for symphonic lovers. However, others should look into it to, if mine and the other reviews here have peaked your interest. It is a fascinating album, full of treasures and other findings. Very highly recommended. 4/5 stars.

Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars Man it took me long enough to really appreciate this album like most others do. This is considered somewhat of a minor classic and it's certainly one of the best albums to come out of Switzerland. The positives are the unique sound the band produces with no keyboards, lots of sax and flutes and acoustic guitars.

"The Bandsman" builds in sound to open with flute before the vocals come in. He sounds like Peter Hammill without the theatrics. These guys definintely know how to play. Nice drum and sax work here during the prolonged instrumental section. Vocals are back to end it. Great tune. "Laughter Lane" is pastoral to opens with reserved vocals and flute. It picks up before 2 minutes but the tempo continues to shift as it settles quickly. Beautiful sound before 2 1/2 minutes. Again the vocals are almost spoken here. Strummed guitar before 3 minutes then the sound gets fuller with sax and drums standing out.

"Loveless Time" takes it's time to get started as slowly sung vocals come in. A fuller sound around 2 minutes. Nice bass too. It calms down again with flute joining in. I like the bass 4 minutes in. "Dawn" again like the last two songs has no real melody early and is mellow to open. A melody comes in after 2 minutes with sax, bass and vibes.The sound builds. "Movin' On" is the over 21 minute closer and the highlight. Some fuzz early before bass and flute take over. I like the atmosphere here. Lots of mood and tempo shifts on this one.

"Movin' On" is a must listen for fans of Symphonic music. Classic stuff here.

Review by el böthy
4 stars A very impressive work from a band that comes from a country really not know for it´s prog...or music in general really: Switzerland. Yes, Switzerland, the land of banks, clocks, fine chocolate and neutrality gives us this delightful band: Circus. Circus music is a combination of folk and jazz without being fusion, while other elements as symphonic and experimentation are also present in smaller portions of course. The line up consists of bass guitar, acoustic guitars, wind instruments and impressive drumming. The musicianship is really top notch, really spectacular at times, without ever getting too in your face or too weird to understand. Special mention to Fritz Hauser´s drumming, really impressive as I said before, this drummer has it´s roots in fazz and delivers some fantastic rythm´s with a lot of feeling and swing.

The songs are all very alike, which can get a bit tedious at times, but they still remain very good. The bandsman (a surprisingly accesible song yet full of changes) opens the album with some interesting acoustic guitars till the whole band drops. The vocals are very nice, full of melody and quite happy also. Unlike many german bands, Circus´s singer Roland Frei has a very appealing german accent, which only adds as a bonus to the end result, something which as I said before is quite rare.

Laughter lane follows quite in the same direction as The bandsman but softer, with some interesting and gentle instrumentation thrue out the song.

Loveless time is most interesting due to Frei´s singing and saxophone. A very uplifting song. Notice the bass line around the fourth minute, I always find it to be terribly similar to Hendrix Foxy lady riff!!!

Dawn is just what this album need´s to go in another direction, and it does. The song is pure experimentation, instrumental jazz and interesting noices make this a very unique piece of the album.

Movin´on would almoust seem as the second part of the Bandsman, cause it starts quite similar with the acoustic guitars... until drums, flutes and a distorted bass move the piece into a more free jazz section. The first vocal´s are just "da da da´s", no lyrics, just some simple singing, which is still quite good! The vocals with actual words start around the end of the eight minute, here the band takes it nice and calm, for the vocals are definitly the focus point. The distorted bass comes in and out, which makes this song quite unique for it´s use...nice! The song ends again instrumentally in a jazzy way, first calm then shifting to a more intense playing; the bass work at the very end is really impressive! Funny thing, the band stops playing but for a whole more minute the song goes on, and if you listen to very closely you will hear some sort of vibes...strange way to end an album, but it works.

Defenitly to check out, specially if you are into acoustic musik and/or jazz with some good vocals. This is not a masterpiece, but I can´t think you can go any better than this in this kind of genre, so it comes highly recommended from my part.

Review by Sagichim
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars No synths, no problem!!

Coming from a place with not so much interest in progressive music, circus managed to release three albums, this being their second one and regarded as their best moment, but still is quite unknown to prog lovers.Like a lot of prog albums that time, the album consists with 4 short songs on the first side and an epic on the other. Instrumentation is not ordinary but incorporate acoustic guitars and some clean electric ones too, saxophone, flute, vibraphone, drums and bass which is the one you will notice right away, the sound is deep and crispy using some distortion, reminding you of john wetton. The music is eclectic, sophisticated with some jazzy touches reminicent of van der graaf and gentle giant at times, all are done with great sensitivity, the band go from quiet calm moments to rocking parts but without using the help of keys or distorted guitars.

The first side is good overall include two very good tracks and two nice tracks, the sound is mainly acoustic fusing together all those great instruments, but has also those more aggressive parts with that huge bass. Just check out 'dawn' starting out quietly and builds up serving a great mood absolutely delicious. This is one of those albums you should check out mainly for the epic track on side two. And what a good surprise it is, the song has a very good built up and some transitions, going into psychedelic territories as well. From the start you know you're in for a treat, hearing that acoustic guitar breaks into a rocking distorted bass which breaks again, what a wonderful sound. It than keeps on going with that driving bass until it hits that first line of melody, than continuing to evolve further on into a quiet psychedelic part, with beautiful flutes and other sounds, this track maybe include some keys which are not credited or this guys can really create some noises out of what they have. Also to good mention is drummer Fritz Hauser which has that jazzy touch and doing an outstanding work, also playing the vibes. Recording is also fantastic capturing everything so clear and giving this work the treatment it should.

The band certainly knows how to write good melodies and knows how to arrange their ideas with some improvised moments, making this 22 minute epic sounding like a whole piece. In conclusion this is one of those albums you should definitely try, and has a good spot on each prog collector's shelf. Dont miss it.

Review by apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars In December 1976 Circus played at Hans Huber Saal of the Stadtcasino of their homecity, celebrating not only the Christmas coming but also their 75th live concert.Among the pieces performed the band presented a brand new epic track, ''Movin on''.This was meant to be the centerpiece of their upcoming second album, recorded in May 1977 at Sinus Studio in Berne and released the same year again on Zytglogge.

The first side contains four tracks, where the serene side of GENESIS and some slight theatrical, singing vibes meet the complex arrangements of VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR, unleashing influences from Jazz, Classical and Folk Music.The peaceful, almost symphonic atmosphere of the displayed flutes and acoustic guitars prepare for the dominant saxes of Andreas Grieder and Roland Frei, giving space to some sinister instrumental themes with jazzy underlines, the music is suprisingly rich at moments and even becomes powerful with the addition of electric bass and drums.The arrangements are impressive with a dramatic tone and some mellow textures, these two combined reveal a unique atmosphere, starting from singing poetry and ending up to haunting, instrumental textures.The long title-track of the flipside evokes the music of compatriots ISLAND.Almost perfectly arranged Prog Rock, which often reminds of KING CRIMSON's early days, drawing influences also from early-70's Psychedelic/Prog Rock.It's a piece full of cosmic flutes, throbbing bass lines and strong use of vibraphone, passing from light symphonic moves to powerful jams with sax, bass and drums in the forefront, twisting between pastoral themes and majestic, jazzy Prog Rock and containing endless interplays and instrumental battles, occasionally to be interrupted by vocals in the style of GREG LAKE.

Second Circus album places the band among the top Swiss Prog acts of the 70's.Atmospheric, complex and imaginative Prog Rock, which constantly alternates between smooth atmospheres and dark and dense music, despite its mainly acoustic instrumentation.Highly recommended.

Review by Warthur
5 stars What if the Charisma label's prog powerhouses - Genesis and Van der Graaf Generator - had endured a horrible accident on tour in 1970, and had to finish the tour as a hybrid band incorporating members and musical motifs of both groups? The end result might sound something like this second album from Circus.

Band leader Roland Frei manages to combine Peter Gabriel-esque theatrical vocals, dirty-ass David Jackson saxophone, and acoustic guitar bridging the styles of Anthony Phillips and Peter Hammill (with bassist Marco Cerletti aiding on the Anthony Phillips end of the spectrum with some magnificent twelve-string acoustic guitar), Andreas Grieder likewise adds further saxophone touches and also has a delicate style on the flute reminiscent of Peter Gabriel's oft-overlooked flute contributions to early Genesis, and Fritz Hauser's percussive backing can switch the mood of a track from peaceful and pastoral to haunting and menacing at the drop of a hat.

i was surprised to see that this came out in 1977, because it's reminiscent overall of an approach to prog from substantially earlier in the decade - still rooted in a psychedelic, esoteric underground - and there's a spooky edge to proceedings suggesting that if this were a real circus, it'd be one of those creepy abandoned ones attended by ghosts in the dead of night. Magnificent stuff.

Review by siLLy puPPy
5 stars While much of Europe was winding down out of the progressive rock era and heading to safer grounds while the flood of punk and disco sounds were trumpeting around the world, the Swiss band CIRCUS continued to swim upstream by cranking out some of the most complex sounds of the entire 1970s. While forming in 1972 in Basel, the band nurtured its intelligently designed art form to the point the five members 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) succeed in carving out an utterly distinct niche within the prog universe that to this day still sounds like no other.

One of the most startling aspects of this CIRCUS that came to town for a brief moment and then faded into the obscurity bins for decades to come was that this band crafted some of the most magnificent organic prog sounds WITHOUT electric guitars and even MORE surprisingly the total lack of keyboards. Now THAT should get them into the record books for that lofty feat alone however after CIRCUS unleashed its crafty debut onto the scene in 1976, the band fine-tuned the dreamy oft amorphous nature of its first offering and channeled all those skills into a vibrant and uncanny followup. MOVIN' ON was dropped onto the music world like a prog bomb on steroids and is pretty much unanimously considered the best prog specimen the tiny nation of Switzerland nurtured within its borders. The only problem was that very few were listening yet CIRCUS' sheer determination kept them relatively successful by declining prog terms for a brief moment in the latter 70s. At least in Europe that is.

This phenomenal nugget has been the best kept secret for decades but it seems its time has finally come with CD reissues and a revival of all things prog finally exposed en masse in the internet age. MOVIN' ON consisted of five tracks which included the massive sprawling title track that swallowed the entire B-side of the original vinyl, a trend that was a good five years behind the curve but matched the intensity and quality of anything cranked out by the bigwigs of the early prog years. While the self-titled debut was dreamy and abstract with only moments of melodic constructs to keep the passive listener engaged, MOVIN' ON started out with four accessible shorter tracks that deftly existed somewhere between the guitar-free soundscapes of Van Der Graaf Generator (even Frei's vocals remind of Peter Hammill on the opening "The Bandsman"), the Lizard-era jazz-prog of King Crimson, the flute-filled folk antics of Jethro Tull and Gnidrolog as well as the dexterity craftiness of Yes virtuosity at its "Relayer" era prowess.

"The Bandsman" tackles the crafty visionary prospects of taking the aforementioned influences into a steaming scalding cauldron of magical mojo. MOVIN' ON immediately provides a more direct pipeline to the emotional cortex of the brain due to the more lyric oriented compositions however like some of the great prog bands like Yes or KC, CIRCUS provided some of the most excellent virtuosic backing music and remember that there were no electric guitars or keyboards! With a folky acoustic guitar emphasis the second track "Laughter Lane" sounds a bit like the prog folk nature of Gnidrolog with lots of flute and knotty time signature-rich workouts. The vibraphone offers a jazzy touch. While Fritz Hauser provides some crafty percussive displays, his playing seems reserved as drum rolls provide the proper emphasis when needed. Once again when the saxophone sweetly serenades, the VDGG influences become ever more apparent.

"Loveless Time" starts off a lot like the debut album sounds, that being amorphous and electronically ambient with flutes echoing in the background. This chill pill moment continues even once the vocals join in however the track picks up the pace and becomes a frenetic jazz-rock sensation with lots of time signature deviations all the while keeping that dreamy spell-casting atmospheric nebulousness of the vibes and flute with the distant strumming of the acoustic guitar. While a common trait with CIRCUS this track seems to display the band's uncanny ability to change dynamics, keys, tempos and ability to weave independent counterpoints together without anything feeling the least big forced. The last of the "short" tracks, the near 8-minute "Dawn" continues the dreamy spaced out feel while an excitable bass emerges from the ethers. The vibes and flute speak to each other as the instrumentation evokes a wildlife having a conversation. After 2 minutes it completely fades out and shifts gears into a totally new compassion with erratic vibe tinklings and a jazzy sax lead along with a Chris Squire approved bass riff. As the bass becomes stuck in a cyclical loop the other instruments improvise a jazzy feast for the ears.

Although the entire album is the highlight, the tracks slowly build up both intensity and complexity and culminates with the whopping 22 1/2 minute title track which sounds like an entire album's worth of ideas in its own right. Starting off with a thundering roar of bantering bass fuzz, fluttering flute and processed electro-acoustic guitar sounds, this track wastes no time grabbing the prog aficionado and taking them to prog paradise like a totalitarian tornado whisking Dorothy and Toto off to see the Wizard. The instruments congregate like a murmuration of starlings squawking about but then suddenly the entire flock scatters and replaced by a vocal harmony segment that evokes those moments on The Yes Album only with a touch of Gentle Giant nonconformity. It becomes clear after about six minutes that this title track is sort of like a prog funhouse like visiting different rooms that offer different tastes of prog excellence along with little transitions evoking the walking distance between destinations. With seamless transitions between disparate themes, CIRCUS proves on this track alone that had this band emerged five years earlier in a jolly ole English setting that it would have gone down as one of the best prog bands EVER! The rest of the track only continues the prog wet dream come true. A true top 10 prog composition in my world.

CIRCUS was truly the cream of the crop and although the prog scene had seriously diminished, MOVIN' ON was somewhat of a delayed final conclusion for the entire 70s prog scene climaxing with the grace-of-god grande finale title track. Due to its modicum of success within the European continent with enough prog fans to offer a small base, CIRCUS did manage to stick it out a few more years however the band pretty much followed the trend of dumbing down its musical style on its third and final album "Fearless, Tearless and Even Less" which was released three years later in 1980 and then broke up two years later. This second album MOVIN' ON found the band at its creative peak which also remained one of those magnificent lost gems for decades to come while the progressive rock scene was relegated to the closet while less complex forms of musical expression were thrust into the spotlight. As far as crafty complex prog albums go, it doesn't really get any better than MOVIN' ON. This ranks right up there with "Close To The Edge," "Selling England By The Pound" or any King Crimson album. This album is consistently excellent from beginning to end and should be on everybody's all time favorite list!

Latest members reviews

5 stars This is for me one of the few albums to take to the desert isle (agreeing with the other reviewer). True: the end of Movin'On is too close to King Crimson to a point where I would think it was totally intenational and meant to be a tribute. All songs are great regardless if short or long. Ever ... (read more)

Report this review (#296654) | Posted by sbernardelli | Sunday, August 29, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I can't recommend this band enough as they truly shine as a unique voice in 70s progressive. Their unusual line up instruments, well documented in other reviews, doesn't distract, rather, it creates are very singular feel and atmosphere through pensive and haunting arrangements and melodies. T ... (read more)

Report this review (#246900) | Posted by Area70 | Wednesday, October 28, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars -4.5 stars Well, in my opinion, Movin' On really sounds like a chance meeting between Van Der Graaf Generator and Yes. In so, there are a lot of intricacies between bass, percussion, and guitar parts. Similar to Van Der Graaf Generator, Roland Frei's vocals are very prominent and standout th ... (read more)

Report this review (#38877) | Posted by | Friday, July 8, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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