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Eclectic Prog • United Kingdom

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Cirkus biography
Formed from the ashes of bands Moonhead and Lucas Tyson, the group's high standard of musicianship was well known in their native north-east where they attracted much attention and had a devoted following. It was felt that the quintet could achieve success on a national scale, provided management handled matters properly and they got the right breaks. In 1973 they recorded their debut album "Cirkus One" at Sound Associates/Emison & Air Studios and just 1000 copies were pressed up. It is widely regarded by many collectors today as the most musically accomplished private pressing of its kind to emerge out of the UK's then burgeoning progressive music scene, influenced by KING CRIMSON and YES. When in 1975 lead vocalist Paul Robson left the group, his replacement was Alan Roadhouse (ex Halfbreed) who also played the saxophone. With Dogg on acoustic and electric guitars, Derek Miller on keyboards, John Taylor on bass and main songwriter Stu McDade providing backing vocals, drums and assorted persussions, this became the new line-up. As a result the band moved away from their early symphonic style adopting a somewhat more mainstream approach albeit maintaining a certain "Cirkus sound".

In 1977 CIRKUS made an unusual move by touring in a somewhat zany theatre production called "Future Shock". Based on the musical, an LP of the same name was released, although none of the band members wrote any of the material. The LP was issued by Shock Records and is now very rare. The music is of a whimsical and offbeat nature, a far cry from the outfit's prog-rock roots and therefore of limited appeal. A year later a CIRKUS track called "I'm On Fire" was featured on a "Battle Of The Bands" LP but this proved to be their final offering before the five went their separate ways in the early '80s.

In 1994 was released "Cirkus II The Global Cut", where only Derek Miller features from the original line-up. In 1998 the much anticipated and quite magnificent third CIRKUS album "Pantomyne" was finally unveiled. This splendid offering brought original members, and main songwriter, Stu McDade back into the fold and featured cameo performances by an array of other musicians most notably former frontman Alan Roadhouse, who played flute. Anyway "Cirkus One" remains an exquisite album of outstanding creativity much deserving its high standing in the kingdom of progressive rock.

Bio Written by ANDREW

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Buy CIRKUS Music

Prog Temple 2015
Audio CD$9.92
$13.44 (used)
Limited Edition
Groove Attack 2008
Audio CD$3.05
$1.98 (used)
Laylower by Cirkus (2008-03-04)Laylower by Cirkus (2008-03-04)
Audio CD$63.83
Laylow by CirkusLaylow by Cirkus
Audio CD$71.95
Medicine by CirkusMedicine by Cirkus
Audio CD$80.71
Starved Ft Neneh Cherry by CirkusStarved Ft Neneh Cherry by Cirkus
Audio CD$55.10
Medecine [Digipack] by CirkusMedecine [Digipack] by Cirkus
Audio CD$73.95
Right Now on Ebay (logo)
Cirkus The Young Persons' Guide To King Crimson Live JAPAN MADE 2 MINI LP CD NEW USD $37.99 Buy It Now
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CIRKUS discography

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

3.39 | 38 ratings
Cirkus One
2.79 | 5 ratings
Cirkus Two - The Global Cut
3.00 | 7 ratings
Cirkus III - Pantomyme

CIRKUS Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

CIRKUS Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

CIRKUS Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

CIRKUS Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

CIRKUS Reviews

Showing last 10 reviews only
 Cirkus One by CIRKUS album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.39 | 38 ratings

Cirkus One
Cirkus Eclectic Prog

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars "One" is the debut full-length studio album by UK progressive rock act Cirkus. The album was released through RCB (Projects) Ltd. in 1974. The original album featured 9 tracks but there are a couple of CD reissues available containing bonus tracks.

The music on the album is progressive rock but of the more commercial sounding and accessible kind. The tracks are generally not very long and pretty much follow regular vers/chorus structures. In addition to bass, guitar, and drums there are lots of mellotron on the album and also some orchestration. The vocals by Paul Robson are smooth and pleasant. So while this is typically labelled progressive rock this sometimes has more in common with commercial pop/rock than it has with progressive rock.

The material are generally well composed and the sound production is professional, detailed, and well sounding too. In addition to that the musicianship is on a high level throughout, so from a compositional/production/performance perspective "One" is a decent enough album. Itīs all a bit cheesy 70īs kitchy though, and I canīt help to cringe with embarrasment a couple of times during the playing time.

Cirkus lands themselves between two chairs here, as they are probably not progressive enough and a bit too easily accessible to entertain a progressive rock audience, but they are also too progressive inclined to be played in commercial pop/rock radio. Thatīs not always an issue and several other artists have pulled that off over the years, but Cirkus lacks conviction and credibility. Still a 2.5 - 3 star (55%) rating isnīt all wrong, as "One" is still a professional sounding product.

 Cirkus One by CIRKUS album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.39 | 38 ratings

Cirkus One
Cirkus Eclectic Prog

Review by Marty McFly
Special Collaborator Errors and Omissions Team

4 stars Great, just great with one strange trick(s)y thing, bonus tracks are sometimes even better than "real deal", album ones. Depends on what you seek. If it's prog, quite good deal of it (forget about year where this was released, because it more like fits into late 60's with overall feeling (except some more modern elements). Never mind it, that doesn't matter to me much (don't crucify me please), but this album is so much full of emotions, beautiful melodies (Flagship of this topic is April 73) and so dense atmosphere of optimistic sound colors that you then may be struck back by symphonic orchestra arrangements. And playfulness, just listen to guitar on A Prayer, which is really "nice-guy" track amongst other pleasant ones. Welcome to Pleasantville I would say. Including organ "orgasms" (sorry for pun, it was irresistible). Brotherly Love is somehow worse, not managing to attract my attention so much. Even worse, I didn't feel so good while listening it. Probably bad riff or something, nothing big. Those Were the Days is better, but I don't like lyrics (therefore theme of the song - meaning). Title track with name Title Track is quite thrilling, almost reminding "Red Queen to Gryphon Three", doesn't it ?

4(+), amused, charmed, satisfied.

 Cirkus Two - The Global Cut by CIRKUS album cover Studio Album, 1994
2.79 | 5 ratings

Cirkus Two - The Global Cut
Cirkus Eclectic Prog

Review by yalinc

3 stars It is the next project of British after a long break. From five participants of original structure there was only keyboard player Derek Miller. As a matter of fact it was experiment, first attempt at writing in own studio Dereka. Guitarist Paul Baker and vocalist Ian Weatherburg have been involved In record. Wide experience and the collected new material have not made work to participants of collective, to write down and mix ten high-grade tracks. As well as at record of a debut album, the group did not begin to search for skilled producers, serious promotion of a new album and the big circulations (by the way, because to get CD it is practically impossible). But Derek has changed taste and hobby for modern technologies (drum-programming Miller was engaged) is not has gone on advantage. As a matter of fact it is progressive fate, but this time plentifully flavoured with pulsing techno-rhythms. It is necessary to allocate excellent gloomy theme Crime Of Passion, lyrical ballad While I Sleep, vigorous instrumental music of Global Cut with class passes of the keyboard. Dominating flat sounding and boring material, not the main problem of a disk. Group obviously does not suffice former regular song-writer and fine melodist Stu McDade.
 Cirkus III - Pantomyme by CIRKUS album cover Studio Album, 1998
3.00 | 7 ratings

Cirkus III - Pantomyme
Cirkus Eclectic Prog

Review by terryl

3 stars i recently won this off ebay in a most fortunate fashion. Let me explain during the early 2000 I was downloading like crazy. One song off those sessions is Letter to Simone, which is a true gem. Thus began my hunt for this album, which is a bit tough. Imagine you type the band name in ebay, the closest results are usually an album by King Crimson. Searching for the album title doesn't help much also.

then out of the blue, in one of a follow-up email listing "more from this seller" this just shows up there, as cheap as around 3GBP. nobody might have looked for it and bid for it. Of course a used copy on Amazon is on sale for 69USD, so this is a great bargain for me.

As there has been no review from this elusive album, I will try to do this in song-by-song.

Overall, I found this album a missed effort. The sounds are too 80s AOR for me. Actually 1998 gave us magnficent albums like Arena's the Visitor or Tubular Bells III, i found it hard to believe a highly acclaimed band like Cirkus would be doing something like this in the year when Van Halen is led by Gary Cherone, Coldplay is formed, Bruce Dickinson walks off from Iron Maiden, etc. It just sounds like it had been produced 10-15 years, shelved for the whole decade or more and released just before hte turn of the century.

Anyway, the album has some merits. There are many of brief interesting ideas that promise the guys still have it in them, unfortunately it was not developed to a ripen maturity.

Let's go through it now. Live for the Moment by Miller/Weatherburn clocking at 5.15 min, opens up with some atmospheric synths like Pink Floyd or Eloy, but instead the patches of choices sound rather cheesy. The guitar hitting the first note at 1.10 and thus ending any similarity to the said great bands. All the sounds interesting points to mid 80s Foreigners. The refrain part is catchy, but too poppy for me, with some synth fill-ins that sound that they are from the 80s. The chord progression, the riffs, and the song structure are commercial uplifting pop song.

No Fun by McDade (3.53 min) a harder-rocking AOR. The vocal harmonies just is just too torturing for me. Drums are too loud in the mix (true the drummer writes this song, but doesnt need to be so prominent.)

Polariod Pictures by McDade (4.33 min) sounds more reserved. intro sounds good with nice acoustic guitar solo. Mid tempo, good bass sounds and performance throughout. The chorus bit is quite pointless and forgettable. I don't like the vocal harmonies here. Spoken words after second chorus lead into a tempo change is the most interesting part in this song. Sadly it's a bit short.

Letter to Simone (5.03 min) Great ballad with good vocal perfomance. The lyrics, the song structure and the chord progression are obviously radio-single oriented, but it just works. Maybe this is biased as I've listened to this song a thousand times in the past. Nice melotron sounds also. Not sure how popular this got in the late 90s though. The solo doesn't showcase any particular musician but a good passage that is a contribution from all members here. The song nicely ends with acapella chorus, and background melotron. Next tract Fat Cat also by McDade (4.45) starts out quite interesting. Sounds almost techno music, but this is ruined by the main vocal part comes in at around 1.35. The solo has harmonica and guitar interplay, which sounds nice but a bit too thin.

The Pantomime epic (altogether 9.22 min) consists of two parts. Part 1 The End opens with pompous string section and then make way for fast strumming acoustic guitarin majestic 3/4 and vocal. Very very strong melodies here. The string section later develops into some interesting arpeggios (think of all those in Doomsday afternoon). Wonderful, if they can produce everything like this they deserve to be in Symphonic sub-genre rather. The solo is a bit long and everchanging, including good atmosphereic build up to some distorted guitar melodies, which dies down to a flute passage, before a more rocking section with panned distorted guitar and double bass drumming takes the lead.

War and Peace is the part two of the epic sounds terrible with very bad lyrics (please give me peace, peace, peace, please, etc.), but after 1.42 this sounds more interesting with a little counterpart singing. too bad they didn't develop this too much.

Art of Survival by Miller this time, at 9.52 mins long. The intro section sounds interesting with some nice details, but at least the first part upuntil mid solo at late 4 min mark is forgettable. Then a tempo change and the guitar gets to be a bit more agressive (AOR aggressive anyway). at around 7.25 there is a very interesting synth lead melody but unfortunately very brief.

Sweet Dreams by Miller/Weatherburn (6.07) is a nice lullaby in 6/8 that will put you to sleep in a synth paradise. I don't like most of the vocal harmony styles in this ablum, but this song is a good exception. The song should have ended around 4 min mark, but then it develops into something else, something very pointless and 80s-ish, that drags on for a minute and a half. the rest of the track sounds like a sample from the recording section, where the band is jamming with bluesy harmonica lead. I would love to hear this developed in full actually.

I know this will hurt the album's ratings and the fans' feelings, but I can only give it 2.5 stars at most, rounded up of course.

[edit] did I say anything about the cover art? I thought the cover art image here on PA looks like a bad scan. It obviously isn't. There's no lyrics also.

 Cirkus One by CIRKUS album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.39 | 38 ratings

Cirkus One
Cirkus Eclectic Prog

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

4 stars This Northeast England Geordie group had just one self-released album, which had become very sought-after by collectors. Indeed this might just be one of the most impressive private release albums ever in terms of production. The quintet (a the standard prog quartet plus Robson as the singer) develops a light rock with some light prog twist and heavy ever-present orchestrations that sort of enhance the compositions (some good concise songwriting), but also renders the rock side of the album unbearably light. Graced with a spacey artwork, the gatefold album actually leads you a bit in error, because of the nine short tracks (all loaded with a heavy- handed orchestra, present on ALL tracks), in majority written by their drummer, are never really far away from possible wide radio- airplay, precisely because of the lush sounding strings.

Most of the tunes are extremely catchy, especially the opening You Are and Those Were the days, as well as the more serious Seasons (penned by keyboardist Miller) and Brotherly Love; but this is nevertheless a prog album as there are clear influences from Yes, Crimson (but not the sombre side of the group) and some other UK proto-prog ala Cressida or Spring. However, there are some sugar-bombs that provoke cavities in the proghead's dentition, such as the overly sweet Jenny and the catchier Song For Tavish (sounding lifted from Bowie). Of the album, clearly the highlight is the two-part 7-min+ Title Track (yes that's its name), where the group shows short signs of upping the ante, but it is quickly calmed down, but picks up again a bit later. Clearly McDade's drums are having a ball on most of the album, but particularly on this track.

While it is hard to call such an album essential, I feel like giving it fourth star, partly because of the extremely positive moods (not always the case with the lyrics, but the music is certainly so) of the album, but also partly because some of my colleague reviewers should maybe get another ear on this little baby. Never heard the bonus tracks.

 Cirkus One by CIRKUS album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.39 | 38 ratings

Cirkus One
Cirkus Eclectic Prog

Review by bristolstc

5 stars What some people say about this album proves that McCartney was true when he wrote "Some People Never Know." To compare Cirkus and their hugely expensive album to the music of The Beatles may not be wrong, but the group took late 60s influences and melded them together with symphonic keyboards, soaring guitars, and bombastic vocals into something definitely of the prog era, in the context of short songs. When I really listened to this album it took about two seconds for me to love it, but I wondered could anything match that first track "You Are?" Well it does, in fact though that is the best thing on here the group had a formula that worked very much to their benefit and made them sound somewhere between Yes (Paul Robson's voice is so close to Jon Anderson's that it is unearthly) and Fantasy with a little bit of Gabriel era Genesis and a lot of Bowie as well. Every track here is outstanding, the unique vocals and strong melodies augmented by virtuoso musicianship from the guitarist, drummer, keyboard player, and bass guitar player (very good!). A bit of a strange vibe is present on this album in that Cirkus sound like a late 70s pomp rock band without the bad elements of self indulgence and obnoxious posturing that eventually drove even the greatest pomp bands into an unlistenable quagmire (I HATE Kansas and Starcastle so much I won't even review them). "You Are" is really heavy and really loud, but melodic. The rest of the album is melodic progressive rock with lots of string arrangements, where did they get the budget as an unknown group to record this and why wasn't a major label interested? Cirkus have a great singer, that helps, they also have bizarre lyrics that are sometimes unintentionally funny and sometimes intentionally disturbing (anti war track "Brotherly Love"). Cirkus has been one of my very favourite progressive albums for years and yes I would call it a masterpiece of progressive music. The old 80s reissue is good enough, you won't or at least I haven't found an original. The bonus tracks on the CD aren't as good as the album as far as the later ones go, but "The Heaviest Stone" and "Castles" are great if you can get past the execrable sound quality (remember it was only a demo tape). This album is brilliant, I love it and would advise you not listen to your "friends" and make up your mind for yourself. You may be surprised, even delighted by what you will find. A masterwork, that's without question!
 Cirkus One by CIRKUS album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.39 | 38 ratings

Cirkus One
Cirkus Eclectic Prog

Review by erik neuteboom
Prog Reviewer

3 stars This album showcases the problems with the current rating on Prog Archives because my rating alternates between a 2 star possibility ("for fans only") and 3 stars ("good but not essential"). In my opinion it does harm to this album if I categorize it as 2 stars but giving it 3 stars could mislead progheads while reading the review. So I rate it with 2,5 stars and I will tell you why. As a huge fan of the Early British Progressive Rock Movement (bands like Gracious, Rare Bird, Julian's Treatment, Spring and Beggar's Opera), I was very curious to this album so I bought the original LP many years ago (so I have not heard the bonus tracks on the CD re-issue). In that time it was a kind of 'cult album', in my opinion that's the reason why in general the expectations towards this album are a bit high, also with me when I listened to it. To me this album sounds as pleasant variant on the abovementioned bands but less compelling and less interesting. The vocals are OK, we can enjoy some waves of the unsurpassed Mellotron and the climates sound warm but I miss a spark, only at some moments I got a bit excited. My conclusion: don't expect progrock at the level of Beggar's Opera, Spring or Gracious, just enjoy this fine music if you want to be pleased by the very distinctive sound of the early Seventies British Progressive Rock Movement. And now I have to click on 3 stars .. I just explained you why.

 Cirkus One by CIRKUS album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.39 | 38 ratings

Cirkus One
Cirkus Eclectic Prog

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

3 stars (2,5 *) Dieter's review is not clearly 'wrong' anyhow, but I'd like to give a little more positive insight to this curiosity. I borrowed it 2 years ago without ANY knowledge about the band, but as soon as I had listened to it I categorized it as prog/art rock of the minor league and as a good example of the big amount of mostly one-album arty British groups of the early 70's. And that obscure field is always very interesting to visit and sometimes quite rewarding too - although I wouldn't risk my own money with it. The CIRKUS' music didn't hit me like e.g. SPRING and CRESSIDA had done, but I liked it generally. The singer Paul Robson is quite OK if you don't mind a bit naive emotional character in his singing, and the band's sound is pleasant; yes, it is dated for the year '73 (it even has some Mellotron that was beginning to be passé, sadly) but so what. Often it is the datedness that appeals to old school progholes.

My thought of this being recognizably prog (lesser but anyway) is based more on the sound and arty arrangements than the composition structure, which isn't exactly mindblowing or 'progressive' in the strict sense. I must confess my memory of the album is now limited to only a few tracks. 'Seasons' and 'Song for Tavish' I remember liking, and the soft songs 'Prayer' and 'Jenny'. The former has a spiritual feeling and the latter tells of a woman who wants to become friends with a kid in the playground cos she can't have own children. Your imagination can continue the story even into a psychotic kidnapping thriller if you like. The bonus tracks didn't impress me if I remember right. But all in all an album worth hearing if you get a chance.

 Cirkus One by CIRKUS album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.39 | 38 ratings

Cirkus One
Cirkus Eclectic Prog

Review by hdfisch
Prog Reviewer

2 stars BEWARE!, folks interested in progressive rock! This rare record has not much to do with that! Moreover the band's name (spelled with a 'k') should not be mixed up with the Swiss band CIRCUS who did the great album "Movin' On" four years later. Actually for me it looks rather odd to have both in the same category supporting once again the idea to consider ART ROCK as a kinda "grocer store" which is really not justified especially since it had been revaluated just recently by the addition of bands like VDGG,KC or Gentle Giant.

I've been heard already since a while that there was an English band with this name existing in the 70s and just for curiousity I was looking for them and now finally I was able to borrow the remastered CD (luckily I did not have to spend any precious bucks). So what type of music we can listen to here? I would say rather 60s alike sounding simple albeit nicely orchestrated songs to be compared let's say with some of the early work of ELO. Actually overall very nice to listen but definitely sounding too much dated for the year of 1973. Probably the only track eventually deserving the term ART ROCK (in the original meaning that was nothing else than Progressive Rock) would be the one called "Title track" which is as well the longest one and subdivided into two parts. But I doubt that just this song is sufficient to make the album worth buying for a prog fan. The bonus tracks on the CD are by the way not worth mentioning at all.

Only interesting for the general collector of 60s/70s music! (Thus an undoubtful case for a 2-star rating, at least on this place here!)

Thanks to Sean Trane for the artist addition.

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