BRIAN HOWE – Circus Bar [Japan Edition +1] Out Of Print
Long regarded as one of Rock’s legendary voices, BRIAN HOWE (RIP) debuted into the big leagues in 1983 as lead vocalist for Ted Nugent on the “Penetrator” album and fronting its band on the subsequent world tour. In 1984, drummer Simon Kirke and guitarist Mick Ralphs asked Brian to replace Paul Rodgers as the lead singer in Bad Company, and recorded five albums with them. Howe released one solo album after Bad Company called ‘Tangled in Blue’ in the Nineties, but after that, retired from music business.
So it was a great delight that Howe signed a deal with Frontiers Music for this comeback album “Circus Bar“, in this Japanese edition including a bonus track.
Opening with the extremely catchy ‘I’m Back,’ I was stunned how good this sounded from the very start. It’s clear Howe sings as well or better on this album than he ever has before. Some people are just born to sing, and Howe is one of those jealousy-inducing talents. A straight ahead AOR sounding Rock song, Howe seems to be shouting out to his fans (or detractors) that he still has it in him to create incredibly catchy anthems, and he does so here without question.
Keeping with a current sound, ‘Life’s Mystery’ is driven by Brian’s distinct voice, it’s killer tune with major hooklines. With ‘There’s this Girl’ it’s a little like the newer sound that Rick Springfield crafted for this century, You’ll be singing ‘There’s this Girl’ for ages and the guitar solo is to totally die for.
‘Could’ve Been You’ starts a little funky in the verses, but then the chorus is again punchy and in your face. Love the blend / mix of guitar and Hammond organ towards the end, it just rocks.
Back in the day, ballads like “Something About You” and “If You Needed Somebody” brought Bad Company to the top of the charts with Howe. “Surrounded” is another one of those types of songs, and stands alongside them in quality. You can’t deny the warmth of Howe’s voice, his seemingly effortless range and the ease the notes flow from him on songs like this.
Akin Mick Jones / Foreigner, this is one of the best tracks on the album, and fans of his prior releases will glom onto it.
In next track ‘Flying’ Brian enters into the midtempo territory he does so well, and it’s a class piece of work. I am very impressed by this hauntingly acoustic driven piece.
‘How It Could Have Been,’ reminds me a little of Bryan Adams in his better times meets Foreigner and again is a killer strong hook laden song – as most of these are here – and seriously, if I just wrote that for all of this, you really should be sold on this album.
To me, it really is that good. There’s great songs, great sounds, great mix and production throughout here.
‘My Town’ refers to Howe’s home Portsmouth Hampshire, England, where he lived until he was 19. Pat Travers delivers a very cool guitar work for this track.
Brilliantly placed, a remake of “How About That” from his Bad Company years follows, and Howe certainly kept the song’s integrity but has given it a fresh vibe. Love this new version.
Even better is the re-recording of other Bad Co song, “Holy Water,” which used to be a chugging rocker but now is an atmospheric and poignant ballad. In fact, you could argue this version has more to offer than the original. There is orchestration, haunting background vocals, and of course, Howe’s immaculate voice out in front of it all. As far as remakes go, this may be one of the best you’ve ever heard.
Bass and drums kick off the mid-paced ‘Feels Like I’m Coming Home’ as the song grows and again it’s a another winner. ‘If You Want Trouble’ brings to mind Howe’s early ’90s Bad Company period and rocks out big time.
Slowing things down again with, ‘Feelings’ with acoustic guitar and strings present, before the power chords kick in at the chorus. Nice stuff.
Closing the album with a little tongue squarely in cheek in the chanting, an after hours pub style song, ‘Little George Street,’ about the street around the corner from an old favourite long gone Portsmouth music pub called ‘The Salutation,’ which was on New Road, Mr. Howe calls it a wrap.
The Japan edition bonus track is a reworking on ‘I’m Back (Acoustic)’, completely different from the original, with relaxed arrangements and where Howe’s voice shine even more.
“Circus Bar” really is a truly excellent album that I just love, can’t say enough good about it really. It has something for everyone, from modern melodic rock and AOR to classic rock and bluesy rockers in the Bad Company style.
Happinet Corporation Japan ／ Bickee Music ～ 【HMCX-1093】
01 – I’m Back
02 – Life’s Mystery
03 – There’s This Girl
04 – It Could Have Been You
05 – I’m Surrounded
06 – Flying
07 – How Could It Have Been
08 – My Town
09 – How About That
10 – Feels Like Coming Home
11 – If You Want Trouble
12 – What Am I Feeling
13 – Holy Water
14 – Little George Street
JAPAN BONUS TRACK:
15 – I’m Back (Acoustic / New Arrangements)
Brian Howe (vocals)
Pat Travers (guitar)
Brooks Paschal (guitar)
Dean Aicher (guitar)
James Paul Wisner (guitar)
Tyson Shipman (guitar)
Brooks Paschal (bass)
Miguel Gonzalez (bass)
Wayne Nelson (bass)
Matt Brown (drums)
Luke Davids (keyboards)
Out Of Print