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Symphonic Prog • Germany

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Circle picture
Circle biography
This is a German six-piece band (including two keyboard players) that made only one album in 1988 on the Music Vision label. It is 'eine Sonderfertigung der EMI-Electrola GmbH' which means that it is a special release from EMI-Electrola GmbH.

Why this artist must be listed in :
This album is a very melodic and harmonic progrock album. The use of two guitar - and two keyboard players gives the music a very lush sound.

I don't want to eliminate Erik's contribution, but I thought it would be nice to add some information. As fortune would have it, I was able to contact Volker Stern. The following commentary is based on what he told me.

The band was founded in 1984 in Düren Germany. The original lineup was Frank Rövenich on guitar and vocals, Michael Braun on bass, Josef Kirschgens on drums, and Volker Stern on keyboards. In late 1985 they were joined by Andy Franke on lead guitar, and Ingo Jannes on keyboards. This would be the lineup for the debut album. In 1986, "Foreign Skies" was released. The band stayed intact until 1989, when the two newest members (Andy and Ingo) departed. That was when they welcomed Bernd Hilgert on lead guitar. This lineup recorded "Twist of Events" in 1990.

Volker and Frank wrote all the songs. However, they were not exactly Lennon and McCartney. Rarely did they work together on a composition. The main problem was musical vision. While Volker was after a more progressive direction, Frank wanted a more mainstream sound (Volker suggests a comparison between "Harlequin" and "Circles Edge" to see this delineation). After a few concerts in support of "Twist of Events," Josef and Bernd left the band. This, combined with increased struggling between Frank and Volker, led them to dissolve Circle altogether in late 1990.

Volker and Michael still play together, but have made no new official releases. He views it more as a "hobby" now.

H.T. Riekels (with help from Volker Stern)

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CIRCLE discography

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CIRCLE top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.45 | 6 ratings
Foreign Skies
1.95 | 2 ratings
Twist of Events

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CIRCLE Reviews

Showing last 10 reviews only
 Twist of Events by CIRCLE album cover Studio Album, 1990
1.95 | 2 ratings

Twist of Events
Circle Symphonic Prog

Review by bhikkhu
Special Collaborator Symphonic Prog Team

2 stars The battle for musical direction continues on "Twist of Events," and leads to the band's demise. Is it pop, or is it prog? Where prog was the dominant force on "Foreign Skies," pop seems to be winning on this one. There is no overall theme, and there is no epic.

There are moments where there seems to be some stylistic growth. There is a bit of darkness, and even some alternative influence. But the quest for a hit single seems to be taking precedence. Those moments are barely listenable to me. "Don't Fear the Changes" could have been on the soundtrack for a really bad '80s comedy ("Mannequin" anyone?).

It's not all bad. There are some quality songs here. The problem is that none of it is overwhelmingly good. It's average at best for prog, and just plain cheesy for 80's pop. It is too bad Volker couldn't have found a collaborator better suited for what he had in mind. We might have had something very special for a follow up album. As it is, this is just an extrapolation of the problems with first album. It may have some value as a collectible, but not much more than that.

H.T. Riekels

 Foreign Skies by CIRCLE album cover Studio Album, 1986
3.45 | 6 ratings

Foreign Skies
Circle Symphonic Prog

Review by bhikkhu
Special Collaborator Symphonic Prog Team

3 stars CIRCLE is a difficult band to evaluate. In the first place, their albums were pressed in limited numbers, and were never released on CD. Once the music itself is found, then comes the task of deciphering what is going on here. If I hadn't had the chance to converse with Volker Stern, there would have been much more guessing involved. What he told me is plainly borne out on "Foreign Skies." This is a band being pulled in two directions. It is a tug of war between '80s pop, and prog.

The poppier moments aren't really bad, but they are very much of the time. The same is true of the instrumentation, and production elements. There is no doubt that this album came from the mid '80s. The problem is that this can get on my nerves a bit. This is very evident is the opening track, "Why Don't We Fear." If I had just casually found this album, I may have dismissed it right away. Luckily, it is saved when the proggier passages ensue.

The vocals are reminiscent of Supertramp, as are some of the instrumental stylings. It is also very much in line with a lot of the Neo-Prog sounds of the period. There are moments when you might think Mark Kelly was doing a guest appearance. When in full prog mode, it can be very lush and passionate. "More Than a Nightmare" is a very good example of this. There are many moments like this, right alongside some obvious attempts at commercial viability. It's an odd thing to hear, but the quality moments are worth it.

As much as I do enjoy the prog highs here, it is not especially unique. There is nothing that is really going to knock your socks off. It's a rarity, and worth getting if you happen to run across it (and have the capacity to play vinyl). I just wouldn't recommend investing a lot of time and money in tracking it down.

H.T. Riekels

 Foreign Skies by CIRCLE album cover Studio Album, 1986
3.45 | 6 ratings

Foreign Skies
Circle Symphonic Prog

Review by erik neuteboom
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Many years ago I bought this album during my annual 'progrock pilgrimages' to Cologne (Germany) in the known record-store Saturn, one of the largest in Europe. I did this mainly because of the back cover picture featuring two keyboard players, in my opinion this would guarantee great symphonic rock. Well, it did! 1 - Why don't we fear 4.04

This piece starts with pleasant vocals and sparkling piano runs, followed by bombastic eruptions featuring a lush, modern (duo) keyboard sound and powerful electric guitar. The final part contains good duo-electric guitar, culminating in a great build-up guitar solo, very moving and slowly fading away. 2 - Harlequin 3.34

The rhythm is up-tempo delivering a tight and strong rhythm-section, a mellow part with twanging guitars (mid-Genesis echoes) and a percussive keyboard solo. 3 - More than a nightmare 5.47

First a slow rhythm with emotional vocals and warm piano work, then an accellaration with a mid-tempo, inspired vocals, propulsive guitar riffs and a tight rhythm-section. The harmony between the instruments is wonderful and it sounds very pleasant and melodic, featuring some wonderful keyboard eruptions including a short solo and orchestral layers. 4 - Lady 3.37

This one has a mellow climate with delicate piano and fine interplay between sensitive electric guitar and piano and also quick synthesizer flights, the duo-keyboardplay gives the music a very lush sound. 5 - Sweet childhood 6.06

One of the highlights delivering a moving atmosphere with melancholical vocals and wonderful duo-keyboard play. 6 - Nightracer 2.23

This song starts with sensational synthesizer flights, a propulsive up-tempo beat and an applauding crowd, creating a live atmoshpere. Then lots of fluent shifting moods and again sensational synthesizer flights. 7 - Circle's edge 7.10

My favorite track because of the compelling climate featuring great interplay and tension between the lush keyboard sound and the fiery and sensitive electric guitars, culminating in a bombastic eruption with Minimoog-like runs and a choir-Mellotron sound. Halfway we hear pleasant vocals and sparkling piano arpeggio's, very warm. Again Minimoog-like flights and great interplay between the instruments, this is Circle at its symphonic peak! 8 - It's not easy 4.43

A wonderful ballad featuring sensitive, very romantic vocals and fine piano along a warm bass sound. The second part delivers a powerful saxophone solo. 9 - I believe 5.06

After an intro with delicate piano and then bombastic choir-Mellotron, an up-tempo rhythm follows with obvious religious lyrics, the climates shifts from mellow to bombastic with Minimoog-like runs and choir-Mellotron waves. 10 - Beneath a foreign sky 5.07

This track delivers wonderful changing climates, from mellow with twanging guitars and warm vocals to bombastic eruptions with delicate guitar and keyboards and in the end a sensitive electric guitar solo 11 - Final step 2.54

A dynamic final song that delivers a mid-tempo rhythm with lush duo-keyboards including flashy synthesizer flights

I won't say this is a memorable or original album but it sounds so warm and tasteful, this is very pleasant, modern sounding progrock. The warm vocals, inventive duo keyboards and - guitars give this album an extra dimension. If you try Google, you will find it for a decent price with some luck! By the way, thanks to Andrea and Peter for their nice words!

Thanks to erik neuteboom for the artist addition. and to bhikkhu for the last updates

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